Caitlin Johnstone: A Nuclear State of Denial

Nuclear Winter Recon. (Paul Hocksenar, Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

For younger people, it’s hard to understand that the same nuclear Armageddon scenario their grandparents used to worry about is still here.  
By Caitlin Johnstone

A John Mearsheimer video clip from 2016 is going viral on Twitter right now, as old John Mearsheimer clips tend to do in the year 2022 when his predictions that Western actions would lead to the destruction of Ukraine are coming horrifyingly true.

In response to a question about what the worst U.S. foreign policy disaster has been, Mearsheimer agreed with a fellow panelist that at that moment Iraq looked like the worst, but said he believed U.S. policy on Ukraine would prove much worse in coming years. He spoke of the fact that Russia has thousands of nuclear weapons, and that it’s entirely possible those weapons will be used if Russia feels threatened.

“Because the Cold War is in the distant past, most people, especially younger people, haven’t thought a lot about nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence, and they tend to be quite cavalier in their comments about nuclear weapons, and this makes me very nervous,” Mearsheimer said.

It makes me nervous too. Especially when we’ve got a steadily escalating proxy war which the standoff in Lithuania could easily see spin out into a direct hot war between Russia and NATO powers, and when we hear the U.K.’s top army general telling troops to prepare for World War Three.

Most of what I see in public discourse about escalating aggressions between the U.S. power alliance and Russia reflects the cavalier attitude Mearsheimer spoke of in 2016, as do my own interactions with people online. Most of what I’m seeing in the behavior of NATO powers indicates this cavalier attitude about nuclear weapons as well. People, from the rank-and-file public to the upper echelons of empire management, don’t seem to be thinking very hard about what nuclear war is and what it would mean.

As Mearsheimer said, this does seem to be because we’re so removed now from the days when everyone was acutely aware that the missiles could start flying at any time.

All But Forgotten 

It just doesn’t sit well with people’s understanding of the world that it could all end through the same nuclear Armageddon scenario their grandparents used to worry about. If two men were holding guns to each other’s heads it would be experienced as very dangerous at first, but after a while if nobody pulled the trigger the emotional tension would begin to diminish. If years went by and the men got older it would diminish even further. If they got so old they couldn’t hold the guns anymore and had their children take over for them, and then their children’s children years later, the emotional experience of the standoff would be all but forgotten.

But the guns never got any less deadly. The fact that a war between nuclear powers hasn’t happened yet means only that: that it hasn’t happened yet. Things that have never happened before happen all the time. There didn’t used to be nuclear weapons, now there are. Earth is currently a habitable planet, one day soon it may not be.

We came within a hair’s breadth of wiping ourselves out during the last Cold War, not just once but many times. Any amount of nuclear brinkmanship opens up the possibility of nuclear war erupting in ways that are too hard to anticipate and plan for, because there are too many small moving parts, too many ways a nuke could be detonated as a result of technical malfunction, miscommunication, miscalculation and/or misunderstanding. The further things escalate between the world’s two nuclear superpowers, the greater the likelihood of this happening.

And of course, the powerful have every reason to encourage this way of thinking to continue. If a critical mass of the population really understood that their lives are being threatened with nuclear war for no other reason than the U.S. empire’s willingness to risk everything to secure planetary hegemony, they would immediately become hard to deal with. Empire managers plan on not just engaging in nuclear brinkmanship but also making things much harder on the public financially in their long-term agendas against Russia and China, and the only way everyone plays along with this is if they are kept from understanding what’s being done to them.

This is why the media have been acting so strange in recent years. Agendas are being rolled out which no sane person would consent to if they fully understood them, so their consent needs to be manufactured with massive amounts of propaganda. It’s also why internet censorship has taken high priority during that same period of time: can’t have people using their newfound information-sharing capability to interfere in the narrative manipulations of the empire.

We’re being sedated into a propaganda-induced coma while immensely powerful people play profoundly dangerous games with our lives. It is in our interest to find a way to awaken as soon as possible.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium.  Her work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking her on Facebook, following her antics on Twitter, checking out her podcast on either YoutubesoundcloudApple podcasts or Spotify, following her on Steemit, throwing some money into her tip jar onPatreon or Paypal, purchasing some of her sweet merchandise, buying her books Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative MatrixRogue Nation: Psychonautical Adventures With Caitlin Johnstone andWoke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.

This article is from and re-published with permission.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.


20 comments for “Caitlin Johnstone: A Nuclear State of Denial

  1. intp1
    June 27, 2022 at 12:16

    “For younger people, it’s hard to understand that the same nuclear Armageddon scenario their grandparents used to worry about is still here. ”

    What have they been putting in the water to make them so ignorant and complacent.

    It will be too late when we are all crawling through the radioactive mud with most of our bodies fatally exposed to thermal radiation.
    That prospect is what Mike Tyson might call a huge punch in the mouth to contemplate.

  2. LeoSun
    June 25, 2022 at 13:39

    “M.I.A. has consistently supported Julian Assange and WikiLeaks going back to 2012. She has said that WikiLeaks was the only source of reliable news and information about the events unfolding in Sri Lanka.

    She stood by Assange’s side as he held a press conference at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London when he was successfully granted political asylum by Ecuador in August 2012.”

  3. LeoSun
    June 25, 2022 at 13:34

    “It is in our interest to find a way to awaken as soon as possible.”

    M.I.A., took to Twitter to educate the Universe, The “EMERGENCY” is Julian Assange’s LIFE, FREEDOM. LIBERTY

    “Born as Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam to parents from Sri Lanka in London, M.I.A. is a 46-year-old artist known internationally for her songs that comment on political issues such as immigration and war. While she was an infant, her family moved to the northern Sri Lankan city of Jaffna where Maya spent most of her childhood before returning to London in 1986.

    M.I.A. adopted her stage name—an initialism for Missing In Action—around 2001 in honor of her cousin who went missing in Sri Lanka. As she wrote in 2012, “We were the same age, went to the same schools growing up. I was also living in Acton at the time. So I was living in Acton looking for my cousin missing in action.”


    “On June 17, British rapper, singer and political activist M.I.A. posted several tweets defending Julian Assange and denouncing the decision of UK Home Secretary Priti Patel to approve his extradition to the US to face charges under the Espionage Act of 1917.

    In her first message, M.I.A. wrote, “They invite the war criminal like Tony Blair to speak at Davos about ethics and religion then lock up the journalist who helped defend truth and innocent civilians in solitary confinement. Gross.”

    In another tweet, she posted, “In this entire world not a single war criminal has been questioned for killing 1 million people in Iraq for no reason. Yet 1 man has been blamed and in prison for 10 years for showing a 10minute video about it.”

    “With more than 625,000 followers on Twitter, M.I.A.’s tweets reached a wide audience and the second of them received 65,000 likes and 17,000 retweets. The response to M.I.A.’s messages reflects broad public support for Julian Assange despite the universal lineup of every capitalist government in the world against him.” Read in oit’s entirety @

  4. Dfnslblty
    June 25, 2022 at 12:49

    The republic will not survive forced ignorance nor learned ignorance.
    Thankyou for your writings.

    Protest Loudly!

  5. RS
    June 25, 2022 at 11:37

    The cavalier attitude you speak of has been fostered by ignorance. Having taught in high school for over 10 years I’m witness to the fact that our kids are not taught about the effects of nuclear war. Survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki speak of those horrors but it appears that no one is listening. Three Hollywood movies were produced during the 60s that school children should see. The most important line in “On The Beach” is spoken by Fred Astaire of “the insane proposition that we can protect ourselves with weapons we can’t possibly use.” I’m afraid that that possibility is nigh.

  6. Outspoken
    June 25, 2022 at 11:32

    One important thing is, that the Russians will not use nukes in a first strike, but they are prepared for a strike-back. That will most probably be the end of the US.

  7. torture this
    June 25, 2022 at 09:11

    Fortunately, Russia and China are not going to need nukes to win wars against the US. As long as we elect thoughtful, serious politicians that always have our best interests at heart, we have nothing to worry about.

  8. michael888
    June 25, 2022 at 08:53

    C’mon man! Looky, it’s real simple. We WANT a WAR with Russia.
    The US routinely breaks treaties, and this is now the New Diplomacy for all nations. US-puppet Ukraine doesn’t honor Minsk II, because they get a better deal from the US (and $40 more billions into the corrupt Black Hole that is Ukraine and replaces that very useful Afghanistan Black Hole, to shovel money into). Lithuania breaks a long-time treaty with Russia on allowing free passage of supplies to Kaliningrad (you wonder what they get in return for poking the Bear on America’s behalf? Maybe nuclear oblivion?) Russia went through legal hoops to mirror Clinton’s recognition of Kosovo as a breakaway republic from Serbia, and allow “collective self defense” in Clinton’s Bosnian Wars; Putin needn’t have bothered. Now if strong enough you should overthrow democraticly elected governments and take what you want. Thucydides best stated the morality long ago: ““Right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”

  9. Tony
    June 25, 2022 at 07:29

    Yes, the elimination of nuclear weapons needs to be put firmly back onto the political agenda.

    The danger is too great to do nothing.

    I hope the readers of this article will start to make such a reasonable demand and will not stop until such a worthy goal is achieved.

    Thank you.

  10. Stierlitz
    June 25, 2022 at 05:27

    Perhaps the blame is really with the media. Remember “The Day After” a tv film from 1983 that showed in detail what happens after a full exchange? That got Ronald Reagan thinking. Let’s not forget the BBC’s Wargame as well. why aren’t these films reprogrammed?

  11. robert e williamson jr
    June 24, 2022 at 23:54

    I would really enjoys comments from anyone about this “lack of significance” method of dealing with the unthinkable. If this is the proper designation,

    I have an opinion about the “sensitization” of the mind by repeated exposure to such a horrendous events. None of course whci are actually genuine. Go to the movies expose yourself to the unimaginable, repeatedly. Dumb those senses down “my Pretties”.

    Then we have the distractions, meteors, earthquakes, continuous fires, and tropical storms, and the covid, they aren’t aware of because of competition for their attention spans, distractions such as From the Jersey Beaches or WTE.

    I recommend this Just released on some cheesy cable channel.

    Very graphic scenes of injuries from direct exposure to the “nasties”, Note, at one point in this film two men who worked side by side a period of days previous ( ~ 12-14 ) died minutes apart.

    Nuclear physics work that way, it’s the numbers not lying “thing”. However, if they do know and get it, I can’t really blame the young for not saying,” FucK the NUKES!” for that matter Fuck NATO also!

    One thing I agree with 100%, it’s about time to attempt to slow this train down. Number one change has to be to change dogdamned number of justices on the most corrupt court ever gathered under on roof.

    Now let’s us all say this together: The fear of death is easy to overcome all you have to do is tell yourself you are already dead.

    Have a nice weekend Y’ all!

    Thanks CN & the crew, hang in there !!

  12. Rudy Haugeneder
    June 24, 2022 at 22:47

    Destiny awaits. It is unavoidable. As a retired but always rebellious minor journalist living on a mediocre pension, I have learned to appreciate how destiny awaits and is unavoidable due to human nature.

    • Ed Wilson
      June 25, 2022 at 23:29

      Rudy l think you are unfortunately correct in your assessment. Maybe that was always our destiny.The Natural Order of things can not take any more of Humans disregard of Universal Laws. One can only hope the next dominant species on this Planet represents a more reasoned view ???

    • Realist
      June 27, 2022 at 00:02

      Our self-imposed annihilation is inevitable if we allow WWIII to commence, and I’ll tell you why. Neither America nor Russia allied with China is capable of successfully invading, defeating and occupying the opposition. The enormous tasks of stockpiling, staging and deploying enough materiel and troops across major oceans to the opposite side of the globe is too formidable. Each side might hit the other with a lot of conventional ordnance from stand off positions using long range missiles but that alone cannot cause enough damage to allow a successful invasion and occupation, especially in countries as large as the three in question. The only way to cause enough damage to truly “defeat” the enemy is to go nuclear.

      The most likely combatant to employ a first strike would probably be Washington, because the other two are not at all interested in conquest but merely survival against American aggression. It is always Washington that is expansionist, and most likely to deploy a first nuclear strike in a conventional stalemate. However, as soon as the other countries are hit with American nukes, it becomes obvious to all that their civilisations have been annihilated, upon which their response will be to unleash their retaliatory nuclear arsenals, using the “dead hand” switch Russia has warned about if necessary and the United States will have earned its extinction only minutes after it has snuffed out Russia and China. The rest of the world will more slowly die in agony over the coming weeks to months. The planet then falls silent for millennia (possibly eons) as all life, except which might survive near the sea floor, has become extinct. Obviously, the wise choice is for Washington to cease and desist in its current ongoing push to begin the unwinnable and inconclusive conventional stage of WWIII which, knowing their mindset, will inevitably lead to the nuclear extinction phase. They are simply not smart or wise enough to do otherwise in the absence of some powerful motivation.

      How might they be so motivated? By nothing short of experiencing some limited taste of a nuclear detonation on their own soil, wreaking total devastation to some part of their own infrastructure–losing an entire city might impress them enough, but only if not administered by an act of the enemy. If Russia or China pushed the button, Washington would unleash its entire arsenal in vengeance. No, what is needed to impress these fools would ideally be a nuclear accident, something like a nuclear armed missile or bomb spontaneously detonating in its silo, on a B-52 bomber, on a nuclear submarine or an aircraft carrier. “Unfortunately,” I’m not sure that can happen. Several years ago I posed the question on this forum, and those claiming familiarity with the physics and weaponry said it was an impossible scenario. Nukes cannot be spontaneously triggered like grain or fertiliser stored in silos near Middle Eastern ports. Well, I know a conventional explosion is designed to implode the plutonium or uranium core into a critical mass which initiates the nuclear chain reaction, but can that conventional trigger never happen by accident? Normally, the designers would want maximum safeguards against that happening.

      Basically, that’s all I’ve got in the way of imagining some deus ex machina to obviate nukes. Meanwhile, Biden was making more provocative threats against Russia at the G7 summit today, with all of the Western heads of states laughing whilst ridiculing Putin personally. Real class. There was apparently gloating about the fact that Russia was made to default on some foreign bonds pointedly, not because of Russian state penury, but because of more American sanctions piled on because of the American-instigated war in Ukraine which precluded the transference of funds. The US therefore “wins” by engineering its own loss (of payments). These are not people who would restrain themselves from using nukes if they saw an advantage. And the Europeans don’t seem to be responsible “friends” who have any interest in talking sense into them, but just continue to brown nose till the day of their own doom.

  13. June 24, 2022 at 20:44

    Caitlin Johnstone is not a rogue journalist; “The US is a rogue sate” —Noam Chomsky.

  14. TonyR
    June 24, 2022 at 19:45

    Abortion will probably be illegal across all U.s. states in early 2025… Guns everywhere all the time… Nuclear anniHilation hanging heavy over our heads…. Looks like war with china is pretty likely… But hey lord of the rings prequel is coming on amazon that will be bitchin!!!  I should buy some Lockheed stock :(

  15. Jack Stephen Hepburn Flanigan
    June 24, 2022 at 17:07

    Caitlin. You have opened a door to some necessary critical thinking (I think!!??). We do live in an increasingly uncertain, dangerous and crazy world.
    It is that the people at the top are like characters out of some weird science fiction novel or film. I refer to the Davos mob, Bezo, Musk, Obama, Trump, Morrison, Bush, the Clintons, Gates, Boris Johnson etc and the list goes on. The “logic” of the “east” superficially appears more sane but also has a dystopian craziness. Where is James Bond when you need him?
    Everyone is stark raving mad. Or is it me going that way.

  16. Realist
    June 24, 2022 at 16:30

    Don’t people get it that, even if you are not immediately killed within the blast zone of a targeted city or facility, all civilisation will be functionally over for the duration of the lives of anybody and everybody who is (temporarily) left alive? No more electricity, functional vehicles, potable water , safe food or medicines. No quick effective resurrection of steam punk technology–even that is too sophisticated to replicate with stone age tools. You will likely freeze to death in nuclear winter or die of radiation sickness, cancer, or murder by one of your fellow citizens in a struggle for the last morsels of edible food left. Those nuclear power plants not vaporised in the first strike will melt down as their emergency power sources run out of juice and even more lethal radiation will enter your everyday world. The wild animals, being susceptible to the same biological, chemical and radiological effects as humans, will quickly die off and not be available to those preppers who may fancy themselves skilled at hunting. The rich and powerful in their bunkers? Well, I’ve never considered them to be human in the first place, so their temporary survival for an extra year or two counts for nothing. The USA will not prevail by opting for a sneaky first strike against Russia, as “our partners” make clear they have a “dead man switch” all tidily arranged to accommodate such expected American treachery. They’ve dealt with Americans long enough to know not to trust them. Besides, even if only half the world’s nuclear arsenals were launched, the aforementioned results would still obtain for the planet at large. The fiends in Washington are surely insane to keep taunting, goading and provoking Russia to escalate this prologue to World War III the way they are clearly doing! The madness of it all has one grasping for straws to waylay it. Not being religious and expecting the second coming of JC to save us from ourselves, who or what is left as our salvation? ET? The builders of those mysterious “UAP’s” now showing up with increasing frequency? Or are they here just to watch an entertaining cage match between two primitive gladiators?

  17. JohnB
    June 24, 2022 at 15:33

    about 18 near misses all told. But have they all been told?
    Guana crazy it is.

  18. Jeff Hambleton
    June 24, 2022 at 15:16


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