19 January 2006


I have noticed some people are protesting the launch of the probe to Pluto because it contains plutonium. This is always a conflict for me because I am a great supporter of space exploration, but not comfortable with putting nuclear material on a potentially explosive rocket. Back in '97 we went down to protest the Cassini launch for the same reasons. I think there are more worthwhile things to protest, but hey, any chance to get out of town. Hell, I'll protest just about anything. Anyway, the most revealing thing about the whole event is I got to see firsthand how the press deals with demonstrations like this. It was one of the largest protests I had ever seen. There were at least a thousand people attending, yet newspapers consistently said "hundreds." Not one of the news channels took any wide view pictures to show the size of the crowd. Photographs were restricted to small groups of people, like the Grandmothers for Peace, or the kooks who show up dressed like Uncle Sam on stilts. CNN just showed stock footage of the satellite, but I know I saw their truck there.

Another thing that struck me was how ritualized protests have become. We were allowed to march to the gates and line up outside, while the police lined up inside. A ladder was allowed to be placed on the gate, a blanket was provided to get over the barb wire, and anyone who chose to be arrested could safely climb over. Once they were inside, a policeman escorted them off, then another policeman would take his place and await the next protestor. No fuss, no muss.

Once I got back, I friend of mine said "Well, think about it. Is plutonium over Orlando a bad thing?"

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