Gatekeepers: How Science is Poised to Screw Mankind … Hanford, Downwinders, Chemicals ‘r’ Us

So, here’s the deal. We live in a time where the technocrats, the military-prison-economic-chemical scientists rule the roost. We have an allegiance to the engineers in communities looking for more ways to pave over more land and to put up more stuff to keep the capitalist engine fueled. We bow to the nerds, we stiff arm salute the geo-pharma-biotech engineers, and we lick the boots of the techno-creeps who design the junk of planned and perceived obsolescence. Who work with the PT Barnums of media-marketing might. These people have infected our world, and they are part of the 20 percent, cajoled by the elite, those One Percenters and their cadre of Five Percenters in politics-hedge funds-law-medicine-lobby class. We are Consumopithecus Anthropocene, and Retailopithecus Erectus.

We come together in front of our electronic hearths and wax poetic during Doritos and Jeep Cherokee commercials about the Shakespearean quality of Walter White and Breaking Wind, err, Breaking Bad while we stuff our faces with seven-layer Frito Lay and wash it down with those PBRs while we twiddle our pudgy fingers on our Forty-Niners XXL jerseys.

It is no wonder how confused this society is, and how quickly reality is scrubbed away, how history is turned into fiction and fiction is history. AGNOTOLOGY. Check this one out about the history of science and certainty – BELOW below.

Hanford Downwinders. The first ever celebrations of (weird) the Hanford nuclear facility that helped feed the plutonium pellets for the Trinity experimental blast and then also the Nagasaki bomb and for most of the 70,000 warheads in the US chemical-radioactive arsenal.

Very very sad, the powers that be are creating these celebratory events in Richland, Washington, WITHOUT initially (and up to the last month) including the downwinders. Read the great DV article, here – “Hanford — From Nagasaki to Fourth Generation Spokanites.”

The bottom line is that the author of Plutopia is being flown out from Boston, and a $1,000 fee is being paid to Washington State University to get the panel on the Oct. 25, 7 p.m. docket to challenge this state of agnotology, erased history and fear around questioning the science and technocrats and government yes men and g-men as well as the huge corporations like GE or Dow. They are charging $10 a ticket to hear science clash with reality.

Very sad indeed that a little story I was working on precipitated the ball rolling to get these downwinders’ voices and the history of the Hanford mess back in the news as we live in a world without ice, one tied to continuous expansion of our consumption, and chemical dependency on more and more compounds to make our lives tethered to the infinite crap we think we need to live actualized and healthy lives as consumers.

The Richland celebration should have put at the top of the agenda downwinders. People, manyof whom were children by-standers, who ended up sprayed with chemicals, by private contractors working for the government to bomb the people back to the stone age, or whatever the Ivy League McNamara’s say about each respective generation’s bad guys – people. I spent time talking with a museum director in Richland who just thinks that having a James Bond Cold War martini thing happening as part of the “celebration” of the bomb, the secrecy, the eminent domain, the bombing of human beings, and the toxicity of the winds of time killing innocent downwind bystanders is the cat’s meow, or cat’s pjamas, to use whatever 1950 term is hobbling their minds. Weirdo stuff.

There are some real winners that will be on the downwinder panel Oct. 25, which many think will be well attended by many in the Tri-Cities who think Hanford and plutonium and Atoms for Peace (sic) are the best thing since riboflavin added to sliced bread:

Tom Bailie
Trisha Pritikin
Jay Mullen
Kate Brown

I’m working on part two of my Hanford piece utilizing what I have learned from these four minor heroes in the environmental movement to question NUCLEAR energy. I expect part-two to be honest, highly hitched to these people’s lives, and tied to the Iodine-131 gasses that were released and sent on the prevailing winds throughout four states to due their magical death dance, like ancient myths of scarab beetles carried to the villages by the Siroccos.

I’ll post more on them, to, at DV, after I finish part two, deadline, Oct. 14 – here’s Trisha’s blog:

Check out Trisha’s family photos here and then historic ones of Hanford here.

Tom Bailie is also one fighting mad farmer who has been featured in a Nova TV documentary, in articles published around the world, in a Connie Chung TV report on his downwinder life, and who has ended up in Nagasaki to speak with fellow nuclear victims from Japan.

Jay Mullen, well, he grew up with his father and sister in Idaho at the navy facility inland, on Lake Pend. Two other siblings were left in Missouri. Guess which two got thyroids wacked out? Jay and his sister who lived, played and slept in Idaho during some gas releases at the Hanford site, come 210 miles south. He’s a former operative in Uganda under Ami’s watch (CIA) and now an emeritus professor our of Southern Oregon University.

Kate Brown ended up working on her book, Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters:


Turning up a surprising amount of hitherto hidden material and talkative survivors, Brown (History/Univ. of Maryland, Baltimore County; A Biography of No Place: From Ethnic Borderland to Soviet Heartland, 2005) writes a vivid, often hair-raising history of the great plutonium factories and the privileged cities built around them.

During the Manhattan Project, the United States commandeered land in eastern Washington, around Hanford, in 1943 to build immense facilities and an isolated, government-run bedroom community for employees. Although a crash program with unlimited finances, technical problems and labor shortages delayed the opening. Once operation began, already rudimentary safety precautions were relaxed to speed up plutonium production. Readers will squirm to learn of the high radiation levels workers routinely experienced and the casualness with which wastes poured into the local air, land and rivers. Hanford remains by far the most contaminated nuclear site in the U.S., but Ozarks, in Russia, was worse. Convinced of an imminent American attack, the Soviet Union launched its own crash program in 1945. Despite working from stolen American plans, sloppy construction by slave laborers and Soviet technical backwardness produced a leaky, perpetually malfunctioning facility. Workers sickened and died of acute radiation poisoning; far more lived shorter, diseased lives. Over a huge area, waste in the air and local rivers killed farm animals, contaminated crops and poisoned civilians. The Soviet government responded by providing workers with increased consumer goods and housing; by the 1960s, Ozarks was an island of prosperity in an impoverished nation.

An angry but fascinating account of negligence, incompetence and injustice justified (as it still is) in the name of national security.

So here’s the deal – Trisha is not a non-profit entity or human, nor am I, and those infamous kick start things, AKA crowd funding, just do not deal with us, little guys. So we are in a rush to help offset the RT plane trip for Ms Brown and her Best Western two nights in the Richland reach.

You want an autographed playbill, a thank you at the event, and mention on the web site? Mentioning in Trisha’s and then my web site, which will be driving a book on downwinders, a la coffee table book, photo-driven but with these kick-ass people’s lives through my kick-ass writing, then email me and send me whatever contribution to this event you feel is fair, honest, and worthy of your own pay-love for events that are grassroots and that speak to power and give a place like Richland and Hanford folk a different perspective? Tell us why you want to donate money to this cause, and we might include that too in the narrative.


SEND ME  AN email, and you can SEND in $$$ in the form of a check to an address I will give out, PO Box, for the downwinder cause, once we connect.  Email me, por favor!

We will look at narrative paradigm or theory:

A.J. Greimas and others posit that “narrativity can be thought of as the capacity for people to throw themselves into the future, to project something in order to fill a gap or restore and order that was initially disrupted.”  In Jay Mullen’s article, “Becoming Hanford Downwinders: Producing Community and Disrupting Discursive Containment,” he looks at the fate he and all the others came to realize because of their very downwinder-ness:

Multiple disruptions of order are evident in the downwinder narrative – contaminants released from Hanford constitute pollution, defined by Douglas (1966) in an anthropological sense as ‘matter out of place’; this pollution has disrupted the health (the bodily order) and the lives (the social order) of Hanford’s neighbors; and, importantly, these releases constitute a violation of the political compact between public officials and citizens. This last disruption may be the most fundamental one within the downwinder narrative. In the view of many downwinders, although it is too late to repair past material releases or to prevent illnesses and deaths those releases may have produced, it is not too late to restore the democratic balance between government and citizens. Through that corrective action future transgressions can be prevented at Hanford and elsewhere, and future material harms can be prevented or ameliorated.”

Throughout this pursuit of the story, I have seen the disingenuous nature of the so-called experts, those with the specialized coded language, those with the so-called insider tools and technical expertise to control the narrative, the information, and the truth, in many cases, propaganda or half-knowns and certainly with little concern for precautionary principle or understanding unintended consequences of actions, including scientifically actions that are part of the empire’s and corpocracy’s coronation.

Who owns the story, history, the insight, the information, the knowledge, the truth? You really think those scientists working for governments and armed corporations have it all? They might control it with the help of huge numbers of little bureaucrats, middle managers, tidy thinkers who are communications experts, and all those coders of knowledge, but, some of us want big cracks in their domes. U of Chicago Press.

What does it mean to be an expert? In Rethinking Expertise, Harry Collins and Robert Evans offer a radical new perspective on the role of expertise in the practice of science and the public evaluation of technology.

Collins and Evans present a Periodic Table of Expertises based on the idea of tacit knowledge—knowledge that we have but cannot explain. They then look at how some expertises are used to judge others, how laypeople judge between experts, and how credentials are used to evaluate them. Throughout, Collins and Evans ask an important question: how can the public make use of science and technology before there is consensus in the scientific community? This book has wide implications for public policy and for those who seek to understand science and benefit from it.

“Starts to lay the groundwork for solving a critical problem—how to restore the force of technical scientific information in public controversies, without importing disguised political agendas.”—Nature

“A rich and detailed ‘periodic table’ of expertise . . . full of case studies, anecdotes and intriguing experiments.”—Times Higher Education Supplement (UK)

“What makes an expert an expert? The answer has often been epistemologically grounded. Experts were experts because they possessed special training, methods, and analytical strategies that better enabled them to ‘be in the truth’ relative to lay reasoners. However, in the wake of science and technology studies, postmodern theory, and a growing distrust of expert assessments, such a realist treatment of expertise seems epistemologically flawed and politically naive. Collins (Cardiff Univ.) and Evans (Cardiff School of Social Science) seek to provide an account of expertise that does not fall victim to a postmodern leveling of all distinctions between the expert and nonexpert in terms of the traditional version of expertise described above. To accomplish this new ‘sociology of expertise,’ the authors put forward what they refer to as the Periodic Table of Expertise. The Table differentiates between different types of expertise and the contexts in which these types are most useful and effective. Such an approach grounds expertise not in its special methodological features but in the tacit, socialized knowledge that individuals gain as members of specialized groups. The authors believe this approach can lead to a new way of sorting out the contributions experts make to decision making in society.” — Choice

This from Dave Pollard, summarizing an essay in a recently reprinted book by Wendell Berry,

Varieties of ignorance:

Inherent ignorance —ignorance that stems from the limitations of the human brain
Ignorance of history —due to our unawareness of what we have forgotten, and never learned
Materialist ignorance —willful refusal to recognize what cannot be empirically proved (narrow-mindedness)
Moral ignorance—willful refusal to come to a moral conclusion on the basis it may not be ‘objective’
Polymathic ignorance—the false confidence of knowledge of the past and future
Self-righteous ignorance—ignorance arising from our failure to know ourselves and our weaknesses
Fearful ignorance —stemming from the lack of courage to believe and accept knowledge that is unpopular, unpleasant or tragic
Lazy ignorance—stemming from not being willing to make the effort to understand what is complex
For-profit and for-power ignorance—deliberate obscuring or withholding of knowledge (e.g. advertising, propaganda)

Interesting how so many of these varieties are attitudinal! Thanks Matt for the reference. I’ve been playing with my own taxonomy of ignorance (for my next book but one) which goes something like this:

Secrecy – can be attitudinal or structural (for structural secrecy see Diane Vaughan’s The Challenger Launch Decision)
Forgetting – can be accidental or deliberate
Inattention – can be attitudinal or structural
Incomprehension – can be naive (insufficient experience) or paradigmatic (incompatible mental models)
Surprise – can result from inattention or incomprehension
Denial – for self protection or comfort
Outsourced – where we rely on other people’s knowledge to perform key tasks and do not seek to gain it for ourselves

here, check it out — a nice look at AGNOTOLOGY, **

Quote —

MARCH 7, 2012

No Nature: Uncertainty, Agnotology, and the Science of the Environmental Crisis

Below is a slidecast on science, uncertainty, and agnotology. It is based on a series of thumbnail sketch case studies surrounding the politics of knowing and regulating mercury pollution since World War II, but concentrates on a variety of problems associated with knowledge-making in the public arena.

I “borrowed” the title, “No Nature,” from the poet Gary Snyder. It’s a theme I keep coming back to, with its play on “know” and “no,” especially as it relates to our understanding of the physical environment and how knowledge both creates and confuses that understanding and the kinds of stories we tell. To draw on William Cronon’s notion of environmental historians writing stories about stories about nature, I think “No Nature” offers a particularly intriguing perspective for that kind of exploration.

I gave a variant of this talk at McMaster’s Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis in November 2011, and converted it to a slidecast in preparation for an interdisciplinary workshop I’ll be giving at the University of Western Ontario in April. In some sense, this provides a thematic overview of the mercury book, “Modern Alchemy: Knowing and Regulating Mercury in the Global Environment,” and I hope it provides some departure points for discussion at the workshop.

And, Mr. Egan’s bio:

My name is Michael Egan; I’m an associate professor in the Department of History at McMaster University. My teaching and research interests revolve around the histories of science, technology, environment, and the future. I am the author of Barry Commoner and the Science of Survival: The Remaking of American Environmentalism (MIT Press, 2007) and co-editor (with Jeff Crane) of Natural Protest: Essays on the History of American Environmentalism (Routledge, 2008).

I’m currently at work on two book projects. The first is a short history of sustainability, tentatively titled “The History of Now: Decoding Environmental Sustainability,” and examines the historical antecedents of the contemporary sustainability movement. The second project examines mercury pollution since World War II, concentrating on the relationship between science and policy. It has the working title: “Nature’s Modern Alchemy: Knowing and Regulating Mercury Pollution in the Global Environment.” In addition to these two bigger projects, I’m dabbling in a number of other directions. I remain fascinated with the history of the future—how technology has shaped our imagination of the future and how, in turn, imaginings have transformed technological directions, especially in an environmental context. I’m also developing an edited volume on the environmental history of the bicycle and starting to tinker with the history of fungicides and mycology.

Contact me at ac.retsamcmnull@nage

Finally, read Trisha Pritikin’s piece here, 2000, in Waging Peace: ** 


Hanford Study Sees No Harm proclaimed the New York Times headline of January 28, 1999. The headlines in USA TODAY, December 15, 1999 read, Errors Are Found In Radiation Review at Hanford Nuclear Site.

I started my day on the January 28, 1999 with the phone ringing off the hook with calls from national, Pacific Northwest, and local media asking me what I thought about this purported “No Harm” finding of the Hanford Thyroid Disease Study (HTDS). The HTDS was a nine-year, $18 million epidemiological study to assess the impact of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation offsite emissions of radioiodine (I-131) onto an unsuspecting public from the mid l940s to the late l950s. Hanford released approximately 900,000 curies of I-131 between 1944 and 1957, as a byproduct of plutonium production at the facility.

Since I was one of those exposed to Hanford’s I-131 as a child, when most vulnerable to uptake of the radioactive substance into my thyroid gland, I had followed the emissions study from its inception years ago. But I was not prepared for this unbelievable “no harm” conclusion of the HTDS researchers. The disturbing Hanford Study Sees No Harm headline appeared the New York Times just hours before the scheduled briefing in which I was to participate as a member of the Hanford Health Effects Subcommittee. Somehow, someone had leaked this tidbit from the Congressional briefing on HTDS which had taken place in Washington D.C. on January 27th, a day before the public and press were to know the results of this study.

As I spoke with NPR, national and local TV stations, and print media reporters — not yet having seen the summary materials on HTDS published by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and its contractor, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC) — all I could say to this barrage of media seeking me out was “I am shocked by this conclusion. This does not reflect the reality of what has happened to those of us exposed to Hanford’s radioactive emissions.” I went on to describe the fact that my entire family, exposed to Hanford’s radioiodine and other radionuclides, developed thyroid disease and cancer, and that I am the only member of my family who has survived.


Paul Haeder's been a teacher, social worker, newspaperman, environmental activist, and marginalized muckraker, union organizer. Paul's book, Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber (2016), looks at 10 years (now going on 17 years) of his writing at Dissident Voice. Read his musings at LA Progressive. Read (purchase) his short story collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam now out, published by Cirque Journal. Here's his Amazon page with more published work Amazon. Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.