Cult of EMP Crazy: Mainstreamed by TIME magazine

Posted in Crazy Weapons, Extremism at 3:46 pm by George Smith

Not that it will work.

TIME magazine has just demonstrated it is as lame as your longtime perception of it.

Today, writing about the Cult of EMP Crazy, Mark Thompson does the usual bad dog journalist thing of imagining there must be some relative merit to the Cult — and that the truth must be somewhere between it and the people who have reasonably been brushing off Roscoe Bartlett for over a decade. (And the Heritage Foundation for the last couple of years.)


If America needs a new threat around which to organize its defenses, try this one: Bad guys explode nuclear weapons miles above U.S. soil, sending out an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that fries the electronic guts of everything in America. The nation’s financial and transportation systems collapse, hospitals and the Internet go dark, water and electrical grids freeze and runaway Toyotas with electronic throttles are finally brought to a stop. “The EMP resulting from the blast would cause widespread damage, devastating the economy and resulting in the deaths of millions of Americans,” the hawkish Heritage Foundation warned last week, launching a call on Congress to establish an EMP Recognition Day.

The Heritage Foundation. Hawkish.

Calling the Heritage Foundation ‘hawkish’ is like calling a blue whale “big-ish.”

But wait, Thompson’s clowning gets better:

“Despite repeated warnings, Congress has taken virtually no action to prepare or protect against an EMP attack,” write the Heritage Foundation’s Jena Baker McNeill and James Jay Carafano. “In order to facilitate a national discussion regarding the EMP threat, Congress should establish March 23 as EMP Recognition Day” not coincidentally, that’s the date of Reagan’s famous 1983 speech launching his missile-defense initiative. Leaving aside the contradiction of urging Congress to concentrate attention and resources on a threat that most in Washington consider an infinitesimal probability, the whole notion seems rooted in some visceral need for foes with diabolical destructive abilities. There’s something almost pathetic about cowering in the shadow of such a threat, instead of shrugging it off with the resilience that was typical on the American frontier.

As its own contribution to EMP Recognition Day, the Heritage Foundation sounding more like the Green Party than the conservative think tank that it is is urging lawmakers to shut down congressional cafeterias, walk to work, shut off their BlackBerries and turn off the lights. “If Congress took these four steps for one day,” the Heritage Foundation says, “all members would understand the magnitude of the dangers posed by an EMP attack.” (They’ll also be slimmer, healthier and more mellow.)

[Crap deleted for the punch line]

Like with taxes and health care, the debate over the EMP threat is polarizing.

The line asks readers to believe the unbelievable — that a sizable number of Americans have an opinion on electromagnetic pulse doom, like they do on real daily news, like health care reform, as opposed to extremist right-wing manufactured stuff, like EMP.

It also leaves out all the self-impeaching details on the true nature of the Cult of EMP Crazy: That it’s not only the property of the missile defense/bomb Iran lobby, but also exclusively GOP far right and home to birthers, the nuts pastor of a superchurch hoping for end to come so Jesus can take his flock to heaven, a congressional staffer who used to push the non-existent threat of suitcase nukes, and still another fringe GOP congressman who is a birther, to name a few.

TIME also highlites James Carafano, who’s work includes recommending we fight pirates with lasers, that ‘cash for clunkers’ cut into needed missile defense, and this gem of nose gold, even fresher than the Electromagnetic Pulse Memorial Day he recommended last week:

An enemy detonates a nuclear weapon over the Pentagon. In four seconds, the blast wave reaches the Jefferson Memorial. It collapses in an instant. Scorching hot winds, at 300 miles an hour, scour every person and vehicle off the Memorial Bridge. The fireball, bright as a thousand suns, quickly reaches the Capitol building. The structure shakes, yet stands. But inside, everything flammable — from clothes to curtains — bursts into flames.

Soon, 40 square miles are covered by roaring flames. Fingers of fire stretch as far as eight miles from the blast.

The D.C. area is home to 5.3 million people. All who haven’t died within the first hour of the attack are in desperate need.

It’s not a happy scenario. And Washington’s doing nothing to improve it.


  1. Mike said,

    May 17, 2010 at 2:56 pm


    I am rather disappointed in this article. I have to say, as a screaming lefty, that the level of political discourse coming from our side is getting as sorry as that coming from the right. That is to say that I am starting to see that we are dismissing every idea that comes from the right as bad, simply because it comes from the right.

    I believe in preparing for an EMP effect for the same reason I believe we need to address climate change. I believe in the scientific method and natural law. Do I beleive that there will an EMP attack? Not really. Do I believe that solar cycles pose a hazard to our tech addicted society? Absolutely. It is not only possible, but it is probable that another Carrington event will take place and that if we are utterly unprepared it will spell disaster. Even if such event does not happen for 200-300 years, it still seems reasonable to take some moderate actions to insure that we are somewhat prepared.

    It is also silly to be so dismissive of the idea that we need to prepare for long term threats, natural or manmade. We have dumped the stratigic grain reserves in favor of farm subsidies because we now view agriculture as sector of our economy instead of a vital source of food. The drive for new energy sources still focuses on the the outdated central distribution model instead of a distributive production model that would allow communities some level of self sufficiency and give a sort of redundancy to our energy infrastructure that would allow for rapid recovery from disasters. I fear that the left has simply forgotten that bad things can and will happen. I do not beleive that we should spend every waking moment obsessing over them, but it seems to me that we should put such scenerios through the lense of science to discover whether they are possible.

    Of course the right is using this to push hard for a missle defense system that would likely do nothing even if there was an attack. And of course, that is a dumb idea. But don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Some small, common sense measures to harden and update our grid could do wonders and these measures should be supported by both left and right. GIve it some thought anyway and good luck. Cheers.

  2. George Smith said,

    May 17, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    I’m rather disappointed in this article.

    No skin off my nose.

    You’re working from the assumption I haven’t read all the punditry, ‘papers’ and opinions on electromagnetic pulse doom over the last decade or so.

    You should probably brush up by searching the DD domain, plus the Register and other venues, for all of it. It’s close to being book length now.