Marshall Islands: Can social media trump empire and entertainment?

by Joe Scarry

The Marshall Islands are a perfect example of the “global hibakusha” phenomenon that I learned about at the World Nuclear Victims Forum in Hiroshima.

“During the early years of the Cold War from 1946 to 1958, the United States tested 67 nuclear weapons at its Pacific Proving Grounds located in the Marshall Islands,[21] including the largest nuclear test ever conducted by the U.S., code named Castle Bravo. ‘The bombs had a total yield of 108,496 kilotons, over 7,200 times more powerful than the atomic weapons used during World War II.’ With the 1952 test of the first U.S. hydrogen bomb, code named ‘Ivy Mike,’ the island of Elugelab in the Enewetak atoll was destroyed. In 1956, the United States Atomic Energy Commission regarded the Marshall Islands as ‘by far the most contaminated place in the world.'” (Source: Wikipedia article – “Marshall Islands: Nuclear testing during the Cold War”)

As I thought about the atomic testing carried out in the Marshall Islands, I started to recognize the major features of  the “global hibakusha” phenomenon.

Just a few “dots” in the US Pacific Empire

There would be no the “global hibakusha” phenomenon if not for empires that roll roughshod over everything that gets in their way. (See GLOBAL HIBAKUSHA: The Result of the “People Who Don’t Matter” Mindset )

If there is any question in anyone’s mind about how the US came to the conclusion that it was entitled to decide what to do in the Marshall Islands . . .

The Marshall Islands in their Pacific setting (Source: Wikipedia)

It is only necessary to notice where the Marshall Islands sits relative to the Pacific empire that the US asserted its control over in WWII:

US Pacific Islands Campaign 1942-45 … via the Marshall Islands
(Image sourced from Herndonapush Wikispace)

The role of that moment in the larger US imperial project in the Pacific is the topic of a larger discussion . . . . (See U.S. Militarism in Asia: THINK DIFFERENT!)

Don’t worry, be happy

“Mitzi Gaynor and Ray Walston ham it up in Twentieth
Century-Fox’s 1958 musical hit South Pacific”

More than any other example I can think of, the story of the hibakusha of the Marshall Islands has been smothered by US entertainment culture.

First, there was the whimsical message of WWII Pacific theater entertainment: the dancing sailors of the 1958 film version of South Pacific, kept alive week after week all through the ’60s and beyond on TV by the hijinks of the McHale’s Navy crew.

The period of atomic testing in the South Pacific saw a cavalcade of nuclear bomb imagery in US popular culture.

A prime example of the filtering of the nuclear discourse through popular culture was the combination of sex, leisure, and entertainment in the crowning of a “Miss Atomic Bomb” to promote the gaming industry in Nevada?

Celebration of Bikini H-Bomb test. (Source: Wikipedia)

And what could be more perfect than a celebration that combined the US Navy — the conquerors of the Pacific — and the symbol of imperial power, the mushroom cloud of the hydrogen bomb tests being carried out in the Marshall Islands?

But of course, the most lasting impact was in the introduction of a new fashion trend: the bikini.

As I was reading the Hunger Gamesbooks recently, and noticing the pageantry of introducing the “tributes” to the public, I thought to myself, “This is exactly like the way US society is fed a steady stream of pablum to keep it entertained, and thrilled, and too enervated to notice what the government is really doing.”

Is it just a coincidence that to this day beauty pageants are anchored by a parade of the contestants in bikinis?

Miss America contestants (Photo: PJ Star)

To Barbara Aprilakis, who asks, “It’s 2015, why is Miss America still a thing?!” I would respond, “With sex in the foreground, and world-ending violence lurking in the background, it’s the perfect cocktail for keeping the subjects of the thermonuclear monarchy entertained and docile . . . .”

In the 21st Century: using social media to get the word out

One way in which the patterns of the past are being turned on their head is through social media.Even if you are “just a ‘dot’ in the middle of the ocean,” you can still have a global voice.

The Marshall Islands is pursuing legal action against the US and other nuclear states in the International Court of Justice and US Federal District Court.  (See Marshall Islands Sues Nuclear “Haves” )

A global network of people and organizations stand with the people of the Marshall Islands to get meaningful redress through legal action.

The powers that be are taking notice. (See, for instance, “A ground zero forgotten: The Marshall Islands, once a U.S. nuclear test site, face oblivion again” in the Washington Post, November 27, 2015.)

. . . AND people around the world can help by supporting them.

Sign the petition to support the Marshall Islands lawsuit to eliminate nuclear weapons
and share it widely in social media!

Related posts

Upon returning from the World Nuclear Victims Forum in Hiroshima, I introduced 10 of the post prominent examples of “global hibakusha” about which I learned at the conference.

(See NUCLEAR RADIATION VICTIMS: 10 Dimensions of the #GlobalHibakusha Phenomenon)


The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) has filed unprecedented lawsuits against all nine nuclear-armed nations for their failure to negotiate in good faith for nuclear disarmament, as required under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The suits were filed against all nine nations at the International Court of Justice, with an additional complaint against the United States filed in U.S. Federal District Court.

(See Now HERE’S an “Asia Pivot” I Can Believe In! (Marshall Islands Sues Nuclear “Haves”) )

The problem: the U.S. “pivot to Asia.”

The opportunity: asking ourselves, “What would we do differently if we revised our myths of Asia?”

(See U.S. Militarism in Asia: THINK DIFFERENT!)

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This entry was posted in Nuclear Weapons, World War II, World War III and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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