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The New Nevada Test Site Name in Context

On August 23, 2010, United Press International ran a short article describing a ceremony at the Nevada Test Site (NTS). The ceremony was held by the NTS owner, which is the U.S. Dept. of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.

The occasion? Not its closing as an active part of the nuclear weapons complex, although that would have been appropriate.

And, not a return of authority to the Western Shoshone nation, although that, too, would have been a noteworthy and laudable event.

No, this ceremony was solely to mark the "renaming" of the Nevada Test Site where more than 900 nuclear blasts have so contaminated the land that it is considered by many to be a "national sacrifice zone."

And, its new name? The Nevada National Security Site.

Please note that this name change for the Nevada Test Site has an important context. The NNSA is presently trying to rename its entire Nuclear Weapons Complex as, drum roll, please... the National Security Enterprise.

This linguistic detoxification very neatly takes the words "nuclear weapons" out of the title and makes the work done in the nuclear weapons complex even more abstract and amorphous than it already is, thereby lulling the American people into an even deeper slumber regarding U.S. nuclear weapons and what is going on with them.

Such changes are not accidental. Nor are they trivial or incidental to our long-range prospects for creating real political and social change in this country.

S/he who owns the language (and it is usually "he") owns the power to control the images and all of the important meanings they embody.

And, so, the Nevada Test Site (a name that may cause folks to conjure up images of what might be tested there) becomes the Nevada Nuclear Security Site.

No images of nuclear bombs or mushroom clouds in that name. No nuclear waste or pollution. No hint of underground subcritical nuclear blasts or above ground high explosives testing, both of which continue at the test site to this day.

Just "security," and on a "national" level. So, it must be OK.

Nothing to see here. Move along. Let us doze off again.