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Radiating Emergency: The Perils and Promise of the Broadcast Signal in the Atomic Age

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This essay argues that the development of CONELRAD marked a pivotal—and often overlooked—moment in the history of media and communications in the United States. As the nation's first coast-to-coast emergency broadcast system, CONELRAD established a new paradigm of networked communications for a new world order. Through close critical examination of the institutional events and discursive controversies surrounding CONELRAD's development, I show how those events and controversies were inflected by both contemporaneous atomic anxieties and older hopes and fears associated with over-the-air communications. I also suggest how they articulated, in the domain of electronic mass media, the politico-legal theory and practice of the state of exception.

Keywords: CONELRAD; Cold War Civil Defense; Electromagnetic Radiation; Emergency Broadcasting; State of Exception

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2011-09-01

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