Farish and the Fear of the American City



Quotes: “Using a curious mixture of graphic and sanitized language, magazines and the experts they consulted produced nuclear fear while simultaneously rationalizing and containing it – a strategy that was central to Cold War civil defense efforts.”


In the quote above, Farish explains how the government was able to manipulate the way the public perceived nuclear threats. He argues that the way in which scientists or governmental officials presented the threat of nuclear war was not to quell the public’s anxiety, but instead to centralize their fears. Farish continually discusses how the government would use visual aids written by credible scientists that would demonstrate the destruction a nuclear bomb would cause to specific cities. Connecting the threat of nuclear warfare to something as familiar as New York City charged peoples fear of Soviet threats even more. Farish connects this heightened idea of fear to the influx of white families into suburbia because they felt as though cities were easy targets for the enemy. Farish asserts that these disaster scenarios had incredibly power in altering the way the public viewed the “American city.”


Additionally, Farish argues that scenes of Hiroshima fostered an obsession with images of disaster scenarios in American cities. After 9/11 the images of smoke billowing from the Twin Towers became commonplace, but not because of a fascination with destruction. The images of the Twin Towers were and still to this day are used to foster support for the War or Terror. Calling up this graphic image of a iconic American skyline burning has the power to evoke the same emotions that person felt when the first saw the attacks (fear, rage, sadness) and reinvigorate their desire to support government anti-terror efforts. In both cases (Hiroshima and 9/11) the images of each city are so unique and shocking that they can be used as powerful rhetorical devices and as Farish frequently discusses images can be incredibly influential in shaping public opinion.


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