Preventing “a virological Hiroshima”: Cold War press coverage of biological weapons disarmament

Balmer, Brian, Spelling, Alex and McLeish, Caitriona (2016) Preventing “a virological Hiroshima”: Cold War press coverage of biological weapons disarmament. Journal of War and Culture Studies, 9 (1). pp. 74-90. ISSN 1752-6280

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This article examines representations of biological weapons during a crucial period in the recent history of this form of warfare. The study draws on a corpus of newspaper articles from the US New York Times and the UK Times and Guardian written around the time of the negotiation period of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, the international treaty banning this form of warfare. We argue that a conventional discourse can be found wherein biological weapons are portrayed as morally offensive, yet highly effective and militarily attractive. Interwoven with this discourse, however, is a secondary register which depicts biological weapons as ineffective, unpredictable and of questionable value for the military. We finish with a somewhat more speculative consideration of the significance of these discourses by asking what might have been at stake when journalists and other writers deployed such differing representations of biological warfare.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Biological warfare, Biological weapons, Germ warfare, Media, Newspaper, Disarmament, Cold War
Schools and Departments: University of Sussex Business School > SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit
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Depositing User: Caitriona McLeish
Date Deposited: 30 Jun 2016 15:24
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2019 20:07

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Project NameSussex Project NumberFunderFunder Ref
Understanding Biological Disarmament: The Historical Context of the Origins of the Biological WeaponG1301AHRC-ARTS & HUMANITIES RESEARCH COUNCILAH/K003496/1