I think no plumb line was ever so worked with pulleys and wheels, strings and catclaws and other Rube Goldberg devices as were the demographic studies of nuclear warfare. It is as though their compass rose had no compass, with everything centered on the center, no way out, no way in: just there. A faceless clock face describing “G-2 o’clock” whenever it pleased. These studies seem to me the nuclear warfare equivalent of the Bellman’s map (described earlier in this blog as the most perfect map ever constructed): a pretty polygon describing a totally blank surface.
I have a number of these things here, some of which are restricted-distribution publications, works of statistical fancy/fantasy meant for other eyes in the same community dedicated to the fancies described, a tautological audience for self-referential.
One such bit, plucked from this pile is William W. Pendleton’s A Study of the Demography of Nuclear War produced by “Human Sciences Research, Inc.” [This item is available for purchase from our blog bookstore.] Outside of its statistical foray in survivability and the procreative prospects of the left-overs of vast nuclear exchanges, the work is a solemn attempt at institutionalizing the death requirements of nuclear combat. The necessity of overwhelming carnage is presented in ironic and underwhelming language, the first bits of which are seen in the conclusion of pamphlet’s abstract1:
“Cities differ in the kinds and magnitudes of change to which they might be subjected. Considerable variation in the demography of surviving populations can be expected; that variation would be related to policy decisions; and those decisions should therefore be examined for their demographic implications.” [Emphasis mine.]
Put another way, the city is the main focus of the survivability equations, and the chances of the humans being bombed in those cities would change with—god help us—the amount of bombing.
Cities differ in the kinds and magnitudes of change to which they might be subjected.
This is the key I think to understanding documents like this, making a simple foundation statement so convoluted and tortured that it and most of what follows make any sense outside of restating themselves. Which I guess is a strength.
Back to the pamphlet and the interesting table that attracted my attention. According to one study [and for the sake of brevity I’m not going to describe the scenarios or data estimation methods and so on] the U.S. would suffer 46% casualties [meaning immediate deaths and not as a result of radiation or illness or starvation or the encyclopedia of whatever that would lead to death somewhere down the road]. The resulting demographic of the “perished” by job description postulates that the most-killed category of worker would be: (#1) aeronautical engineers, 86% dead; (#2) transportation equipment salaried manager, with 79% killed; (#3), social scientists, with 78% of them going down with their clients; (#4), authors, with 76% gone.
Authors? Of what, I wonder? The good ones with the bad? Are authors different from writers? And what do you call folks who produce tv shows? Since the stats here are for 70 cities there’s no wonder that there aren’t any farmers in this table, as the majority target areas (some 450 cities cited elsewhere as targetable, including my own little burgh of Asheville, N.C.) would naturally have city folk in them. And so I’m guessing that three-quarters of all “authors” in 1960/6 were living in these target cities and were going to go up in smoke. The aeronautical engineers category is more understandable as every one of those industries employing 50 or more people would be a target; frankly I’m surprised that given the possible firepower of the Soviet Union in 1966 that 14% would survive; I’d guess offhand that the number would be 2%.
Even though this stuff is spread out in only 98 pages or so it would keep a person busy segregating the Orwellian gems from those not; it would be a tricky business as most of the “text” in the “not” category would be largely limited to prepositions.
Here’s another bit: a parenthetic poke at the post-attack composition of Congress. It is stated that the “postattack” (hyphenated no longer) Congress would be “quite different”. It would also be (“in their eyes”) “more Conservative than the pre-attack (hyphenated!) Congress. It isn’t a cause for great prognosticational (?) liberty to assume that the Congress might be more Conservative, but why on Earth did the author qualify the assumption by saying “their eyes”? Pish and posh.
The paper goes on its merry way, connecting the necessaries of Goldbergian delight, and somehow nothing ever happened, which to me is a secret miracle. Especially given the weight of papers like this one, which seems to medicate the effects of war, assuming that there will be a Congress and that people will report back to work once the factories are rebuilt and that there will be more segregation in the colossal world of post-attack America, and on and on into the red dawn.
Mr. Mencken’s view of Warren Harding comes to mind when I read this stuff and wonder about how it was that we didn’t blow the whole place up:
“I rise to pay my small tribute to Dr. Harding. Setting aside a college professor or two and a half dozen dipsomaniacal newspaper reporters, he takes the first place in my Valhalla of literati. That is to say, he writes the worst English that I have ever encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls insanely up to the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash.”
1. The abstract from the above paper: “The basic problem with which this report is concerned is that of determining the kinds of demographic change that might result from a range of nuclear attacks, ascertaining the effects of those changes on the future of the surviving populations, and indicating possible areas for Civil Defense action and planning. Earlier studies of the demography of nuclear war were examined and their relevant conclusions and methodology incorporated in the report. A different methodology--expected to be more sensitive to compositional effects--was then designed. The new methodology was tested and found to be more effective than the old. Surviving populations representing a wide range of variation in attack conditions were created on the basis of both old and new methodologies, and the demographic significance of these populations was examined. Assuming a range of post-attack demographic conditions, a series of projections was made on the surviving populations. The demographic significance of the recovering populations was then examined. On the basis of the analysis a series of recommendations relevant to Civil Defense planning was made: Within the framework of this analysis the crucial variable is the demographic pattern of the city. Changes in composition, as well as size, could be of substantial magnitude and would last for generations in some cases. Cities differ in the kinds and magnitudes of change to which they might be subjected. Considerable variation in the demography of surviving populations can be expected; that variation would be related to policy decisions; and those decisions should therefore be examined for their demographic implications.”