Another day in America, another exaggerated threat: about EMP weapons

Summary: A new day, a new fear barrage on America. Today we’re told to wet our pants in fear of North Korea or terrorists detonating a nuke to create an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) to burn out our weapons (as opposed to using it to destroy a city). The threat-mongerers exaggerate the danger, but more interesting is how experts debunking the threat are filtered out of the new media. It’s worth looking at this process. Perhaps understanding it can help us resist the propaganda and more successfully see the world.   {2nd of 2 posts today.}

The time left to prepare against EMP attacks is running out — as it has been since 1982.

EMP attack

America has experienced a fear barrage that might be without precedent in history. Every week the face of another existential threat looms out of the news. We’re urged to wet our pants and fund — but not question — the Deep State, the only force that can save us.

Today’s fear barrage is an oldie from the early 1980s: “The Threat to Melt the Electric Grid“, Henry F. Cooper & Peter Vincent Pry, op-ed in the WSJ, 30 April 2015 — “An electromagnetic-pulse attack from North Korea or another U.S. enemy would cause staggering devastation.” Cooper is the former director of the Strategic Defense Initiative (another boondoggle). Pry is executive director of the EMP Task Force on National and Homeland Security (a privately funded group; we can guess at by whom). Their websites are here and here.

The threat of EMP’s has been debunked many times. But only in the back pages. Experts know that speaking against the fear narratives gets one blackballed from the defense gravy train and blacklisted by journalists. Only the threat mongers, the warmongers, get attention.

The Wall Street Journal shows how the propaganda narrative works. There is a large body of analysis showing that the EMP threat is grossly exaggerated, especially versus the serious ones we face. For details see these posts about EMPs: Electromagnetic Pulse Weapons, generating waves of fear in America for 20 years and Renowned Physicists Cast Doubt on Gingrich’s Far-Fetched Scenario about EMP weapons. None of this appears in the WSJ, who give only the warnings. Some examples…

Department of Fear

A serious e-threat

Since natural threats don’t have anything like the military-industrial complex to shill for them, we remain vulnerable to events certain to occur eventually. Such as solar storms. A repeat of the solar storm of 1859 (aka the Carrington event) might prove catastrophic — see NASA’s description –, and that’s not the worst that might happen.  In 2008 the National Academy of Sciences took at first look at the danger: “Severe Space Weather Events:  Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts“. The summary is here; here’s the bottom line…

The adverse effects of extreme space weather on modern technology — power grid outages, high-frequency communication blackouts, spacecraft anomalies — are well known and well documented, and the physical processes underlying space weather are also generally well understood. Less well documented and understood, however, are the potential economic and societal impacts of the disruption of critical technological systems by severe space weather.

As a first step toward determining the socioeconomic impacts of extreme space weather events and addressing the questions of space weather risk assessment and management, a public workshop was held in May 2008. The workshop brought together representatives of industry, the government, and academia to consider both direct and collateral effects of severe space weather events, the current state of the space weather services infrastructure in the United States, the needs of users of space weather data and services, and the ramifications of future technological developments for contemporary society’s vulnerability to space weather.

NASA wrote an excellent one-page summary:  “Did you know a solar flare can make your toilet stop working?”Also see this 2011 report by The MITRE Group, funded by US Homeland Security: “Impacts of Severe Space Weather on the Electric Grid“.

We could better prepare for serious dangers if we spent less time on exaggerated ones.

For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Also see these posts about EMPs: Electromagnetic Pulse Weapons, generating waves of fear in America for 20 years and Renowned Physicists Cast Doubt on Gingrich’s Far-Fetched Scenario about EMP weapons.

14 thoughts on “Another day in America, another exaggerated threat: about EMP weapons”

  1. The reason a former Director of SDI is pushing this crap is because it’s all part of an effort to make space-based missile defense a reality. Now that the Soviet Union is no more, the proponents of SDI have selected EMP as the next best incentive. See for example this report from the “Independent Working Group”: “Report on Missile Defense, the Space Relationship, & the Twenty-First Century” (2009).

    And the reason they don’t talk about the real threat of severe space weather is that the mitigation for that is a relatively simple and cost-effective upgrade to the power grid, as pointed out by this 2011 report from JASON (The MITRE Group}: “Impacts of Severe Space Weather on the Electric Grid“.

    So that doesn’t get the answer they want, which is SDI.

  2. As Mr. Wheeden notes, most of these absurd pseudothreats get touted in order to promote a specific agenda in the military-police-prison-surveillance-torture complex. The phoney threat of cyberattacks gets trotted out by NSA guys working their rice bowls. The phoney threat of terrorists blowing up shopping malls gets raised by DHS goons who want bigger corner offices and more funding. The fake threat of extremists assaulting overseas U.S. bases gets confected by CIA stooges who want more funding for drones and overseas assassination missions. The ludicrous “threat” of North Korea or Iran launching nukes at America gets touted by the Star Warriors and their 50-year-long failed program of unworkable missile defense and laser beam Buck Rogers death rays. (If you think I’m kidding about Buck Rogers death rays, take a look at the Boeing YAL-1, retired from service only recently after countless billions got tossed down that rathole.) The garbage “threat” of dirty bombs gets drummed up by the proponents of the hilariously failed and unscientific hafnium bomb.

    The constant roil of fake threats bubbling to the surface of our news media comes from a long line of military-police-prison-surveillance-torture complex bureaucrats each eagerly shouldering their way into the feeding trough. Alas, there’s never enough money for all the non-working weapons and bogus defense systems and failed procurement projects and counterproductive useless internal national security surveillance schemes set up in what the Washington Post dubbed “Top Secret America” after 9/11

  3. I’m so glad that America is invulnerable, that we are unassailable, that our borders are secure. Further, I am reassured that Iran wants nukes solely for peaceful purposes and is building an ICBM to spread the wealth

  4. Eric Kelvington

    Nuclear EMPs consist of 3 distinct pulses that disperse their energy in 3 different ways. E1 pulses are very fast and are theorized to cause complex electronics to malfunction. E2 pulses are similar to lightning strikes and, as such, offer no percieved threat to the US infrastructure. Finally E3 pulses are very slow pulses that are theorized to cause severe damage to the electrical grid, possible disabling it for months or years. In 1962, the Soviets conducted a high altitude nuclear test of a 300 kiloton weapon detonated 290 km over Kazakhstan commonly referred to as Test 184. The resulting E3 pulse wiped out 600 miles of an underground power transmission line, 350 miles of an overhead telephone line, and caused widespread fire including one that may have destroyed a power plant in what is now known as the most damaging nuclear EMP event in history.
    It is important to note that the kind of electric field generated from an E3 pulse is very similar to the electric field experienced from a geomagnetic disturbance (GMD) caused from solar storms. In fact, E3 pulses are often called “solar EMPs” due to the striking similarity. Therefore, any strengthening of the power grid to accommodate the E3 pulse of an EMP, will also prevent much of the damage that would occur due to a GMD. The main upgrades that Pry has been suggesting are to harden the power grid against an E3 pulse at a cost of approximately $2 billion. Considering that the national defense budget is currently over $600 billion, it wouldn’t hurt to designate some of that budget to harden the grid in a manner that would prevent both EMP and GMD damage.
    Your article argues that we should not worry about an EMP attack and should instead fear solar storms, but in actuality, the two fears are very closely related.

    For more about the components of an EMP, refer to:

    For more about Test 184 and the effects of a nuclear EMP on even a relatively non-technologically advanced society such as Kazakhstan in 1962, refer to:

    1. Eric,

      While the fear-mongerers appreciate your support, the posts I cite cite comprehensive rebuttals to the “EMP as major threat” theory. Rebuttals that have circulated for over 30 years largely unheard by the public, lacking a large well-funded campaign to spread them.

      On the other hand, Congress has listened — off and on — because they have repeated decided not to fund the massive expenditures to harden US infrastructure against this not so great danger.

      By the way —

      (1) If you had read any of this material you would know that the question is not the existence of an EMP effect, or the potential to build an EMP weapon — and so saved yourself the effort to discuss things not in question.

      (2). You would also have addressed your rebuttal to the issues in question.

      (3) An excellent guide to someone knowledgable about an issue is the extent to which he or she understands the other side’s arguement. People who are unaware of these qualify as unreliable guides.

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