Monday, April 06, 2009


New America paranoids have a very special flavor of craziness. It's the belief that the country will be devastated by an electromagnetic pulse attack and that not enough is being done to combat the grave threat.

For over a decade, the paranoia has regularly trickled into movies and television, a plot prop in which the country is tossed back to the time of "The Man Who Shot Liberty Vallance" -- its technology destroyed by electromagnetic pulse, and everyone forced to live by their guns and the twin facilities for making the homestead into a bunker and dealing with interlopers and badmen through brute force. (Example of EMP in culture: The most recent big movie featuring electromagnetic pulse doom was the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still.)

Electromagnetic pulse (or EMP) attack crazies fall into two main categories. DD will deal with the first -- those who believe enemies are plotting to launch a nuclear bomb actuated EMP attack on the US (think the opening salvo in the WW III movie, The Day After), in this post. The second variety -- those who believe terrorists are about to field electromagnetic pulse rayguns and hand grenades -- will be addressed this afternoon.

Currently, the first contingent is now led by Newt Gingrich, as noted by Jason at Armchair Generalist last week here.

Since at least 2006, Gingrich has flogged the danger of electromagnetic pulse attack in speeches and editorials no one not paid to do so would voluntarily read.

The latest emission from Gingrich (posted at dodgy Newsmax) is part of a hard sell for two things -- a fiction book on electromagnetic pulse attach for which the celebrity pol wrote the introduction, and a push for continued expansion of ballistic missile programs.

"One to three missiles tipped with nuclear weapons and armed to detonate at a high altitude — to achieve the strongest EMP over the greatest area of the United States — would create an EMP 'overlay' that triggers a continent-wide collapse of our entire electrical, transportation, and communications infrastructure ... Within weeks after such an attack, tens of millions of Americans would perish ... We most likely would never recover from the blow," encapsulates it.

Build more ballistic missile defense now! Or buy a copy of the book for which Gingrich wrote the introduction. Called "One Second After," it's a techno-thriller survivalist tale penned by fellow Gingrich EMP crazy, William Forstchen.

"In a Norman Rockwell town in North Carolina, where residents rarely lock homes, retired army colonel John Matherson teaches college, raises two daughters, and grieves the loss of his wife to cancer," reads its Booklist blurb on on Amazon.

"When phones die and cars inexplicably stall, Grandma’s pre-computerized Edsel takes readers to a stunning scene on the car-littered interstate, on which 500 stranded strangers, some with guns, awaken John’s New Jersey street-smart instincts to get the family home and load the shotgun."

It's the result of an electromagnetic pulse attack, throwing the country back to the themes of Liberty Vallance (the Edsel, presumably, is an update of the horsedrawn buggy) with Matherson as strong Tom Doniphon, only he already has the girl locked up and won't be superseded by lawyers and statehood.

"Food becomes scarce, and societal breakdown proceeds with inevitable violence; towns burn, and ex-servicemen recall 'Korea in ’51' as military action by unlikely people becomes the norm in Forstchen’s sad, riveting cautionary tale, the premise of which Newt Gingrich’s foreword says is completely possible," reads the opinion, furnished for about a nickel a word.

"As severe as the global financial crisis now is, it does not pose an existential threat to the U.S," reads another opinion piece from an EMP crazy, published by the Wall Street Journal about five months ago.

"The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have proven how vulnerable we are," it thunders, in case you have been remiss and forgotten to be very afraid.

A freighter from Iran pulls up to the US coast and launches a nuclear-tipped missile over the United States. Electromagnetic pulse attack!

"An EMP attack is not one from which America could recover as we did after Pearl Harbor," it continues. "Such an attack might mean the end of the United States and most likely the Free World."

So build more ballistic missile defense, an industry for which I am a lobbyist, writes the author. Well, no, he didn't write all of that. But the editors should have made him.

Editorials on ballistic missile attack from EMP Crazyville occur regularly, one or two every four to six months.

For another generic example (only the names delivering the script change), DD cites an old piece from the Reg, postdated two year ago:

"No one has done more than Curt Weldon to warn the nation against the potentially 'catastrophic' threat of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack . . " wrote right-wing arms-trade/national defense pundit Frank Gaffney for the Washington Times.

"[Weldon] has sought another closed-session of the House to apprise his colleagues, who remain largely uninformed of this megathreat, and to rouse them to the sort of decisive action they previously took on missile defense."

A few weeks later, Curt Weldon -- a Congressman from Pennsylvania -- had his political career ended by popular vote.

"The nightmare scenario is this: A rogue nation like North Korea or a stateless terrorist like Bin Laden gets hold of a nuclear weapon and decides not to drive it into a large city but rather to launch it on a Scud-type missile straight into the atmosphere from a barge off the East Coast," read the editorial.

Keep in mind that when talking about electromagnetic attack, anything goes. It's old but immortal Fortress American voodoo, crap - in other words, a threat which can be glued on anyone: teen hackers, Russia, Cuba, China, North Korea, Iran, al Qaeda, even Saddam Hussein and a half dozen enemies we haven't found, like maybe you.

And if someone doesn't have the bomb quite yet, such as Iran, let alone the multi-megaton one to be notionally used to induce a national computer-scorching atmospheric electromagnetic wave, it's no obstacle. Suspend disbelief. Common sense, after all, is a handicap to outside-the-box thinking.

Part Two of An Endless Bounty of EMP Crazies.


Anonymous Robert H. Tyrka, Sr. said...

Apparently you haven't read the U.S. Government's commission's report on EMP:

I will be interested to read your reactions to it.

1:00 PM  
Blogger George Smith said...

Oh, yes I have. But it's repetitive and numbing to have to read the same proclamations and predictions of menace from the same handful of national experts, over and over and over.

See, for example, this notice from GlobalSecurity on one of a few EMP Commission reports.

It's five years old. But those who follow the mania know that everyone renews the arguments whenever they can with no substantive changes.

Entitled "Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack," it was yet another analysis that delivered news of very bad things coming if the nation does not act.


"Several potential adversaries have or can acquire the capability to attack the United States [with electromagnetic pulses]," write the authors. "A determined adversary can achieve an EMP attack capability without having a high level of sophistication," they continue.

Russia, China, North Korea and Iran are named as potential plotters of electromagnetic attack. But anyone, including terrorists, could be in on this. It is difficult to know.

In an EMP attack everything would fail, everything is at risk, readers are told. Traffic lights would conk out (page 9), trains would halt (page 36), cars would stall and create giant traffic jams (page 37), and no one would eat because the "food infrastructure" would be burned out (page 40). Starvation would roam the land and punishments would be Biblical. Such weaknesses "invite and reward attack if not corrected" conclude the EMP attack experts.

Although effects would seem like Yahweh had commanded the destruction of the United States, the report still recommends that "correction is feasible and well within the Nation's means and resources to accomplish."

The "corrections" recommended by the experts on EMP attack start with annihilating the enemy before he strikes. "We must hold at risk of capture or destruction anyone who has such weaponry, wherever they are in the world" and "The methods and materials that could encourage an EMP attack must be added to the current list of threats being sought out and annihilated."

1:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Because "thinking outside the box" involves basing all your knowledge about EMP and it's effects from Hollywood movies, fiction, the mass media, and political agendas. Read a physics book...they are much less biased.

No offense...but it sounds like you may have an agenda as well:)

3:37 PM  

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