The recent Japan tragedy brings into sharp focus the ongoing debate concerning nuclear power.
The loss of life and vast property destruction to a global economic power brings into focus with increased acuity the longstanding debate over nuclear power and the right's insistence that concerns about its inherent danger is a non-existent canard being promulgated by the lunacies of a panic stricken left.
Concerns about the potential danger of nuclear power are met with the same measure of ridicule as trepidations about climate change. All too often points raised by scientific sources are trivialized by talk show noise and false bravado. It is given traction by the ranks of listeners who derive comforting assurance by such verbal broadsides.
Rush Limbaugh has been a voluble and persistent source of comments to a sea of faithful listeners eager to devour such appetizing morsels. In the cases of such disturbing instances of global tragedies occurring through climate and nuclear dangers, comfort via an "ignorance is bliss" scenario can be more understandable than other subjects in the Limbaugh lexicon.
It is easy to see why Limbaugh has seen fit to ridicule concerns over global warming and nuclear power meltdowns. Here is a former male nurse working in Sacramento, California who caught a break in the form of becoming a radio talk show host. He soon learned that tuning in to the disgruntled precipitated huge audiences.
Limbaugh marketed right wing anger so well that he moved from status as a local Northern California phenomenon to national syndication, decreeing his New York City studio with the lofty title of Excellence in Broadcasting, or EIB for short.
The Cape Girardeau, Missouri born and bred Limbaugh has no training or expertise in science, but this was of no consequence. Books, papers and pronouncements from the top scientific minds in the world, including numerous Nobel Prize laureates, were ridiculed and scoffed at.
When Limbaugh trained his verbal guns on nuclear power he found a kindred spirit that he quoted frequently. Dixie Lee Ray was an ardent champion of nuclear power who had been President Richard Nixon's chairperson of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, the first woman to hold that position. Ray would later serve a term between 1977 and 1981 as governor of Washington.
Ray had a background in science as a marine biologist. She appeared on the popular CNN program Crossfire once to debate the subject of nuclear power with an Australian scientist. Whenever the scientist made points familiar to and eagerly embraced by a main body of current scientific thought he would be interrupted by Ray.
Limbaugh's champion behaved in a manner characteristic of right wing talk show spokespersons. She used the cardinal rule of responding to a logical presentation, which requires thought and concentration, with a buzz word appealing to emotion.
In Ray's case that meant repetitiously hurling the name "Hollywood." The film "The China Syndrome" dealt with a nuclear meltdown. It supplied Ray with an inviting target. Whatever the scientist revealed was ridiculed as "Hollywood science" that was divorced from the real world.
Not only was Hollywood a code word that the hard core right's talk show hosts constantly denounce since their listeners so frequently equate it with Sodom and Gomorrah and treason. The film starred Jane Fonda, hated by the right for her outspoken opposition to the Vietnam War.
Another point of interest involving Dixie Lee Ray occurred in 1992 while an Earth Summit involving 172 nations was being held in Rio de Janeiro. Al Gore attended as a United States delegate.
Ray accepted an invitation to be a keynote speaker at a Nevada convocation advertised in U.S. right wing circles as an alternative to the disturbing conference occurring in Brazil. A pale, deeply wrinkled, emaciated woman puffing fervently from a cigarette proudly exclaimed that their meeting was an alternative to "all those nuts in Rio."
Earth Summit activities would certainly involve lunacy to the heavily smoking spokesperson for the Rush Limbaugh and Dixie Lee Ray movement. After all, the lunacy preceded controversies over global warming and nuclear power.
There was that infamous Surgeon General's Report on links between cigarette smoking and cancer. The lady scoffing about lunacy in Rio, based on her unreserved smoking while on camera, might well have gained additional satisfaction by ridiculing that anti-smoking report of those smarty pants researchers believed by Washington, D.C. federal government infidels.