Public Effects of Fiction

P. D. Smith:

…Ken Kolsbun’s new book, Peace: The Biography of a Symbol. There’s also a fascinating article about it on the BBC.

They interview peace historian Lawrence S. Wittner who says that “it is still the dominant peace sign,” a fact partly due to its beautiful simplicity. It’s perfect for spraying on walls and is a universally recognised symbol of peace and resistance to repression.

As Wittner says, although people are still fighting wars – this weekend is also the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq – there has not yet been a nuclear war:

“There are many ways in which nuclear war has been prevented. The hawks say that the reason nuclear weapons have not been used is because of the deterrent. But I believe popular pressure has restrained powers from using them and helped curbed the arms race.”

I agree that popular movements have played a big role in preventing nuclear war. But I would also argue that fiction and film brought the unique horrors of nuclear war alive in people’s imaginations. The role of writers like HG Wells and Peter George (aka Peter Bryant), whose novel Red Alert was the basis for Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove: or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, is often forgotten. They too helped prevent war.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s