On March 26 and 28, Javier Ordóñez, Emeritus Professor of the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM) and member of the ScienceFlows team, held a seminar aimed at the Journalism undergraduate and postgraduate students of the UVEG in order to show different propaganda audiovisual formats that were made years after dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to alert the population about how they should act in the event of a nuclear bomb. The main objective of the seminar was to reveal the great responsibility that journalists have when it comes to reporting on the devastating effects of nuclear catastrophes, whether wars or problems with the reactors of nuclear power plants.
Throughout the seminar, Ordóñez diachronically reviewed how the different historical events were happening: bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and its repercussion and social dissemination. He spoke of the artistic and literary representations that have taken place as a consequence of these historical facts. Through Imamura’s film, Black Rain, he explained how the Hibakusha, people who have suffered the effects of nuclear bombs, were socially stigmatised.
He also showed fragments of the short documentary Duck and Cover, which had been made by the United States Department of Defense, with children’s animations, with a turtle named Bert, to disseminate what strategies should be followed and how to protect oneself in case of a nuclear attack. It was released in January 1952 and distributed throughout the world to be broadcast in schools and film societies.
A decade later, in particular, in 1965, the director Peter Watkins, filmed a fake documentary, called The War Game, in which through the docudrama it was explained what would actually happen in the hypothetical case that there was a nuclear bombing in the English city of Rochester. This documentary shows the storm, rain and wind that would occur during the attack, and the subsequent struggle of the few survivors to adapt to the new situation in the radioactive environment. This documentary that was very awarded (won an Oscar for Best Documentary Film, in 1966, and the BAFTA Award for Best Short Film, in 1966) was not released by the BBC because it was considered that, instead of informing, it could alarm the population.
The question to Journalism students with which Ordóñez closed his speech was: What is the professional responsibility of the journalist? To inform or not to alarm?
This seminar has been organised by the ScienceFlows team and the Department of Theory of Languages and Communication Sciences of the UV.