PERSUADED TO PREPARE: RHETORIC AND A COLD WAR FALLOUT SHELTER
Hollar-Zwick, Carol M.
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Between 1958 and 1962, at the height of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, a Wisconsin physician collected government pamphlets on civil defense, articles from medical journals and news magazines, and other information on radioactive fallout and fallout shelters. He assembled the documents in a three-ring binder, which he stored in the fallout shelter that he designed and had constructed in the back yard of his home in July 1960. The physician responded to a rhetoric of preparation from the federal and state governments and from his profession to prepare for nuclear war, a campaign of persuasive education that stood in for what would have been a tremendously expensive and less-than-guaranteed system of public shelters. Designed to induce American households to build private fallout shelters in their basements and yards, preparedness rhetoric combined fear of death in nuclear attack and assurance of survival through preparation. He was one of few who acted; most Americans throughout the 1950s ignored the government's exhortations to do the same. The historical contexts of the documents, the way the documents reached the physician, the arguments the documents made, and his response to the arguments are discussed in this thesis. Using historical accounts, archival documents from the Wisconsin Bureau of Civil Defense and the State Board of Health, and bound volumes of medical journals and magazines, I place the binder documents in the historical contexts and rhetorical situations in which they were created and circulated. Using Burke's definition of rhetoric, I develop a definition of preparedness rhetoric and analyze the content of significant documents the physician saved in the binder. Further drawing on Burke, I consider the physician as an actor, a participant in a larger, national conversation about civil defense, rather than as a passive receiver of preparedness rhetoric. Drawing on actor-network theory developed by Latour, I trace the web of connections among the federal government, state government, the medical profession, and the physician to show how various documents in the binder may have reached him. I point out intertextual connections among the binder documents and provide information about bomb technology, radiation, shelters, fallout, patient care, and life after nuclear attack. In drawing together these threads, I consider why a doctor in the late 1950s might have felt especially compelled to prepare for nuclear war.
Cold War - social aspects
Nuclear bomb shelters - United States