Karl Grossman Media Criticism Military Opinion WMD

Why Is There More Media Talk About Using Nuclear Weapons Than About Banning Them?

Peter Morrell at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

By Karl Grossman / FAIR

It’s of critical importance—indeed, existential importance—to the world: the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. And a coalition of peace organizations in the United States is charging that media are acting like the treaty “does not exist.”

The Nuclear Ban Treaty Collaborative is waging a campaign to encourage press coverage of the treaty, which, it argues, “provides the only pathway to a safe, secure future free of the nuclear threat” (Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance Newsletter6/22).

In the words of the UN, the treaty is “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.” It was adopted by the UN General Assembly—with 122 nations in favor—and opened for signature in 2017. It was entered into force in January 2021. 

But its provisions only apply to nations which are party to it. Countries with nuclear weapons—including the United States, Russia and China—have not. Instead, “so far, they have refused, boycotted meetings, and even pressured countries not to sign on,” the Federation of American Scientists has noted (FAS1/22/09).

While the UN works to abolish nuclear weapons, spending on them is increasing in some countries (totals in billions). The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICANW) has calculated that last year, the United States spent over $84,000 per minute on nuclear weapons (ICANW, June 2022).

Media attention vital 

Media attention is vital if the TPNW is to become a reality. But as the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance (OREPA), a member of the Collaborative, explained in its June newsletter

The last time the New York Times mentioned the TPNW was October of 2020, when Honduras became the 50th nation to ratify the Treaty, triggering its Entry in Force. In all the coverage of nuclear weapons since then, including a surge since Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, the TPNW has not been mentioned once.

National Public Radio has had four significant reports about nuclear weapons in the last three months, including a seven minute report on Sunday, March 27. None of the reports mentioned the TPNW—the last time NPR mentioned it was in January 2021 when it reported on the Treaty’s entry into force, noting it was a significant treaty becoming international law. Since then, crickets.

CNN is marginally better. A search of the website for “nuclear weapons” turns up almost daily reports; but the Treaty on the Prohibition on Nuclear Weapons gets only one mention—an op-ed on May 3 from Ira Helfand, co-president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

The Collaborative is calling for media to cover the treaty whenever reporting on the threat of nuclear weapons.

Plenty of nuclear talk

Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of OREPA, said in an interview: 

What became alarming was that there was a revival of coverage of nuclear weapons after Vladimir Putin made his threat. In all those articles we seemed to be locked into Cold War thinking which ignores the reality that an alternative to “mutually assured destruction” exists: the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. And yet there was nothing.

Indeed, according to a search of the Nexis news database, US newspapers have mentioned “nuclear weapons” 5,243 times between February 24, when Putin began talking about their potential use in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and August 4. Only 43 of those times included a mention of the treaty; the great majority of these were letters to the editor or opinion columns.

One of the few newspaper articles in recent months about the treaty came when the Batavia, NY-based Daily News‘ Margret Lee (6/11/22) covered a local peace protest.

This comes against the backdrop of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists in 2020 moving its “Doomsday Clock” forward to 100 seconds to midnight, where it has remained through today. It defines midnight as “nuclear annihilation.” This was the closest to midnight the clock has been set at since it was created in 1947 (1/20/22). 

“Let’s eliminate these weapons before they eliminate us,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the conclusion in June of a “Political Declaration and Action Plan” for implementation of the TPNW—“important steps,” he said, “toward our shared goal of a world free of nuclear weapons” (UN Press6/21/22). 

Guterres went on: 

Today, the terrifying lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are fading from memory.  The once‑unthinkable prospect of nuclear conflict is now back within the realm of possibility…. In a world rife with geopolitical tensions and mistrust, this is a recipe for annihilation. 

We cannot allow the nuclear weapons wielded by a handful of states to jeopardize all life on our planet.  We must stop knocking at doomsday’s door. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is an important step towards the common aspiration of a world without nuclear weapons.

Can the atomic genie be put back in the bottle? Anything people have done, other people can undo. And the prospect of massive loss of life from nuclear destruction is the best of reasons.

There’s a precedent: the outlawing of chemical warfare after World War I, when its terrible impacts were horrifically demonstrated, killing 90,000. The Geneva Protocol of 1925 and the Chemicals Weapons Convention of 1933 outlawed chemical warfare, and to a large degree the prohibition has held.

As Pope Francis said on a visit to Nagasaki in 2019, in which he condemned the “unspeakable horror” of nuclear weapons: “A world without nuclear weapons is possible and necessary.” 

To learn more about or join the Collaborative’s ongoing media activism campaign, please visit https://www.nuclearbantreaty.org/

Karl Grossman
Karl Grossman

I’ve specialized in doing investigative reporting in a variety of media for more than 50 years. I teach as well as practice journalism. I’m a full professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, where my courses include Investigative Reporting and Environmental Journalism.

For 31 years, I’ve hosted the nationally aired TV program Enviro Close-Up, produced by the NY-based video production company EnviroVideo. I’ve also written and presented TV documentaries for EnviroVideo. These have included Three Mile Island Revisited, The Push to Revive Nuclear Power and Nukes In Space: The Nuclearization and Weaponization of the Heavens. Visit the EnviroVideo website to view my various programs online.

16 comments

    1. There will be war and rumors of war. Whether the big one materializes is a choice for the market to make but I can assure you that it will come to pass if we keep using debt and debt, only, to grease the economic wheels. It’s cannibalizing productivity and setting the stage for war out of desperation.

      The market does have a debt-free solution, however , based on the new use of gold and silver in debt-free transactions within eCommerce. The goods news is that it is all market driven with the use of real-time USD prices.

      1. Expecting capitalism to save capitalism appears to be remarkably magical thinking. It is the processes of capitalism that have led to this moment. And I believe that the Atomic Scientists are being incredibly optimistic in their estimate. It is the logic of capitalism that leads the capitalists to believe that they can not allow the rise of China’s capitalists and it is the logic of capitalism that says that risking everything on World War III is the better bet than coexistence.

        In this age of unfettered, deregulated, extreme capitalism, what you are witnessing is the cold dead logic of the markets. It is the cold dead logic of the markets that has led to us hearing the new, voice feature of the Doomsday Clock saying 6 … 5 …. 4 ….

        And its the cold dead logic of the markets that is asking “why is it counting so slowly and that I hope it reaches zero before the Triple Witching Hour” and the margin calls become due.

        Our only hope is to follow the Logic of Life and to decide that Life is worth far more than what any Market gives as its value on the wheel of speculation. But, since we appear to be about to count three, and that we shall not be stopping at three and shall be of course continuing on to two, and then the obligatory one and then …. well, the Book of Armaments says that the Rabbits are all about to be blasted into oblivion, following the logic of the markets to Doomsday.

      2. —>>> Expecting capitalism to save capitalism appears to be remarkably magical thinking.

        It’s actually academic once you have developed a real-time pricing model that can support DEBT-FREE real-time transactions that use gold bullion as base money. These trade occur daily now

        You need to turn the page. You’re dragging your ass.

    2. US ruling class do not want their mansions destroyed—there will be no nuclear war

      1. Faulty thinking.

        1. Many of the parasite class have multiple mansions, estates, private islands, and even bunkers. They think they’ve got their own safety covered.
        2. None of them think that nuclear war will lead to the end of all life on Earth. Their greed and lust for power makes them think that it can be a controlled escalation and that they can stop it before everything is destroyed.
        3. There are plenty of nutcases who think that they’ll be raptured and can’t wait for it.
        4. Among the non-religious, there are many who are looking forward to the breakdown of society and living in a bunker as tinpot dictators with their private armies and harems of sex slaves. Dr. Strangelove was a documentary.
        5. There is no shortage of idiots in positions of “power” who think that they can “win” a nuclear war if they just do a massive first strike. Just as they refuse to believe in climate change, they refuse to believe in nuclear winter.

        Finally, the parasite class is neither uniform nor monolithic. There are various factions, some of which are utterly loony and others that are remarkably stupid and incompetent. It only takes one loony/stupid bunch getting their fingers on the buttons to start something that will quickly take on a life of its own.

        In short, it is the height of foolishness and irresponsibility to think that it can’t or won’t happen. But it makes a nice snarky comment, I guess.

  1. It’s vitally important that we do the right thing at the grass roots consumer level. Sometimes we need to be scared into doing that.

    There are necessary evils written into God’s script for good reason. They have to be there.

  2. Thank you Karl for this great piece. This is the one exit ramp we have but not one visionary world leader other than Pope Francis and Antonio Guterres have seriously advocated this course. We need more coverage as you suggest in the mainstream media though I am skeptical they are capable as most mature, well researched reporting by serious journalists has been banned from those networks. One has to go to Scheerpost et al for any alternative views from the government sponsored propaganda machines that now rule western media.

  3. A serious policy essay on the state of nuclear weapons cannot discuss “banning” or “eliminating” them. A philosophical essay can. But it could as usefully discuss henceforth raising all children under the ethics of the Jains, cherishing non-violence above all else. At least under that course people would receive notice that such a people exist. Of course you’d eventually get around admitting that it is the violent infrastructure of India writ large that protects Jains so they can do their thing, you could appropriately use an ouroboros as logo therein.

    I am completely against 99% of US militarization across the board based on the grossly unwise ideology of US foreign policy and the rotten minds of the men & women who run it. But I am not so childish or poorly studied in the subject to suggest banning nuclear weapons. I would “ban” glamorizing war as a career, ban “supporting the troops” & have a military draft that put all people in the country at risk should Congress choose to go to war.

    I am curious about these writers who do blithely suggest “banning nukes.” They are not priests, as priests condone just war under the rules of Aquinas. They are not clever or insightful, as any analyst familiar with war understands the utility of at least some nuclear weapons technology in preventing large scale conventional war and the loss of statehood. They are not philosophers, as philosophy has no use for bans and eliminations. So what are they?

    They are counter-productive charlatan propagandists of a certain type, and like all propagandists they prey on the unthinking with agreeable moralizing that avoids all the complications of that troublesome thing we call reality. I’d some respect for these people if five of them would get together and go to jail by refusing to pay taxes, using the trial as a forum for their peculiar cause.

  4. “Why Is There More Media Talk About Using Nuclear Weapons Than About Banning Them?”

    Duh. Because they are planning on using them. And very soon.

  5. Wishes and dreams become thoughts, then forms into plans, then becomes productions, then gets talked about and debated then
    actions and used. You know the trend.
    You know where we are at and where we will be.
    And we deserve it.

  6. absent nukes USA would invade North Korea….”it may be dangerous to be our enemy; to be our friend is fatal”. H Kissinger…..NATO/EU both USA inventions are evidence

  7. The USA has been driving nuclear proliferation from the get go! The only nation to use nukes on a civilian population not once but twice! Stalin even tried making a deal not to produce hydrogen bombs! the Dr. Strangeloves quashed this and spent fortunes to make bigger and bigger nukes and missiles. The only thing holding the USA back was the Soviet Union and then China, the most dangerous thing would have been that the USA alone had the power. How many times would they have been used by now? American hegemony and invasion of non nuclear countries are the examples to other countries and a deciding factor for their own “need” for nukes for self defense! JFK deserves a lot of the blame for the proliferation with his “missile gap” propaganda that exaggerated Russian power! Then he almost blew the world up over Cuba. A first strike by the Russians would have taken the whole eastern seaboard from the Mississippi to the ocean! The most dangerous country with nukes is Israel. When Sadat was at Israel’s border some have wondered why he stopped. The Russians told Sadat that Israel was readying their nukes for deployment! Invasion stopped! They also have the Samson Option that will take out the rest of the world if ever threatened and invaded again! All USA military support to Israel is illegal because of their nukes but shhhhhh we ignore the fact, a kind of don’t ask don’t tell! Then point sanctions and threats at Iran that has no nukes and which ironically the Ayahtola dismantled the USA Shah nuke program and called it the work of the Devil! End timers and Zionists are doing everything they can to fulfill their insane dream!

    1. It’s a global responsibility. USD hegemony is vital to all of us until the free market completes the end game. That consciousness if slow to percolate.

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