Are you under 35? If so, you’re the target audience of author and filmmaker Eric Schlosser and the team behind the bomb. Combine a Hollywood documentary, a live rock show, and a political demonstration against nuclear weapons, and you get the bomb, an invigorating multimedia spectacular that has played festivals in New York, Berlin and Glastonbury and may come soon to a venue near you.
“People under 35 have no direct knowledge of living with this existential threat, but they’re starting to think about it now with North Korea and Iran,” said Schlosser, whose 2013 book Command and Control gave rise to the bomb and whose 2001 mega-best seller Fast Food Nation spurred the organic-food movement. “We hope to help start a conversation that puts nuclear weapons back in the public mind and on the public agenda.”
That aim is apparently shared by the Norwegian Nobel committee, which on Friday named the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) the winner of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. ICAN, which claims participation from 468 NGOs in 101 countries, has been working since its founding in 2007 to promote not merely the reduction but the abolition of nuclear weapons. “We can’t threaten to indiscriminately slaughter hundreds of thousands of civilians in the name of security,” Beatrice Fihn, the executive director of ICAN, said upon receiving news of the Nobel prize. ICAN helped secure adoption in July of a United Nations nuclear weapons ban treaty, even as all nine of the existing nuclear powers—the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea—boycotted the negotiations over the treaty.
The Peace Prize announcement came one day after president Donald Trump reportedly decided to decertify the Iran nuclear deal, contradicting the stated and leaked views of his top national-security advisers, who counseled that the deal was effectively constraining Iran’s nuclear program. Trump told reporters on Thursday that now might be “the calm before the storm.” It was one more unsettling statement from a president who alarmed everyone but his die-hard political base with his September warning at the UN General Assembly that the US might “totally destroy” North Korea, an obvious threat to unleash nuclear weapons and kill millions of civilians to punish the country’s “supreme leader,” Kim Jong-un.
If anything underscores the value of outright abolition of nuclear weapons, it is this kind of mad, untrammeled belligerence from the commander in chief of the world’s most powerful nuclear arsenal. The single scariest thing about Trump as president—topping, admittedly, a long and dire list—is that this violence prone simpleton wields unfettered, unilateral authority to push the nuclear button. As I reported in The Nation in July and others have written elsewhere, both US law and long-standing policy hold that the president and the president alone can order a nuclear attack. Trump need not consult with the secretary of defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the national-security adviser, the Congress or anyone else. He need only summon the aide who carries the nuclear-launch codes (and is never more than a few feet away from any president at all times), verify his identity as president, and give the command. In less than 10 minutes, incomprehensible amounts of death and devastation will take flight, with no way of being called back.