Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Lawrence S. Wittner and David Samuels, "Atomic John: The Bomb as Fetish," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 1-2-09, December 29, 2008.

  In the midst of this chilling evasion of the broad issues raised by nuclear weapons, it is worth remembering that millions of people—including many Americans—have gone beyond fetishizing the bomb to addressing in word and deed more profound issues.

"Atomic John," an intriguing article that appeared in the New Yorker on December 15, 2008, is particularly remarkable for what it reveals about the inability of some Americans to confront the consequences of the U.S. atomic bombing of Japan.

On the surface, it is the story of John Coster-Mullen, a 61-year-old "truck driver" from Waukesha, Wisconsin, who, through years of painstaking effort, has succeeded better than the ostensible experts have in constructing a precise model of the weapon that annihilated Hiroshima. This is a formidable intellectual achievement, and the author of the article, David Samuels, emphasizes this fact. Moreover, Coster-Mullen has made available his findings about the bomb's technology in a self-published book and on the Internet.

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