Bob Cough-man

“Remember your national emergency signal, when you see three large mushroom clouds and two small ones, it is not a drill. Turn off your TV and get under it.” (87)

I was watching Apocalypse Now last night for different lit class that I know some of you are in, when something outside my window made quite a lot of noise. It was probably just a car backfiring or some neighbor who found a rogue firework in their garage and decided to set it off before the rain hit– but I found myself totally unconcerned with the noise out my window for a good three minutes or so. Then it hit me that, unlike Martin Sheen, I was not in Vietnam during wartime and noises that sound like explosions out my window should probably, at the very least, spark my curiosity.  But, because I was so engrossed in the movie on my computer screen, the real world had ceased to be real or affect me at all and I think that Bob Kaufman quote up there really laments this very phenomenon, among other things.

Kaufman is pointing at America’s numbness and de-sensitivity in this quote in the statement: “when you see three large mushroom clouds… Turn off your TV…”  He is saying that in the event of nuclear attack, Americans would be so hooked to their televisions and so numb to reality that it would not really occur to them that a bomb had dropped until they saw the mushroom cloud- and even then they have to be reminded that it is not a drill. Americans would have to be reminded that what they are seeing is not on a screen, but real; the world outside their window really does affect them.

I think the most cynical aspect of this quote is the end, “Turn off your TV and get under it.” It is very easy to hide behind a television. People don’t actually have to go out into the world- the world can come to them in pixels on a screen. But, you can’t really hide behind your television in the event of a nuclear blast and getting under it would just make you look ridiculous before you died. But really, there is nothing you could at that point to prevent your death- so in a sense any national security plan for when a bomb is dropped is just as futile as climbing under your television.

I really liked this quote. It speaks the fact that maybe we’re all doomed, but if we would just turn off the screens we would at least have a little dignity in our death.




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5 Responses to Bob Cough-man

  1. Entropy says:

    Haha. I took this quote way differently than you did, I took it as “our televisions are our safety blankets” sort of thing. As Eireene pointed out on my post, there is a lot of sarcasm going on in Kaufman, but I took that as self evident and you may have as well. Apocalypse Now is a great film, I wish I was in whatever class you are in that it’s required to watch because I watch it about four times a year anyway and that would be just another excuse to subject my friends to it. Hard to feel good after that one though, good god.

  2. Kendall says:

    I really liked your analysis of the Kauffman quote. “in the event of a nuclear attack, Americans would be…so numb to reality that it would not really occur to them that a bomb had dropped…and even then they would have to be reminded that it is not a drill”-This statement is a more than accurate assessment of the state of the collective American imagination (if this does indeed exist). On the day that 9/11 happened I remember turning on the tv before school, seeing the coverage of the towers burning, and thinking that it was a movie. I turned the tv off and remained ignorant to the events that had transpired until I reached my first class where everyone was hyped up and afraid. I would like to think that I have grown to become more sensitive and aware but the truth is that I’m desensitized and it’s sad. We have lost our soul as a nation (if indeed we ever had one). Everything is superficial. Perhaps “we are all doomed” but I enjoyed reading your reflections nonetheless.

    “As if our minds could be anything but mirrors of the culture in which we are raised. As if we could be anything but victims-at best, survivors-of the weapons our culture has devised against the self.” -Starhawk, 1987

  3. Kendall says:

    also really enjoyed the audio clip, thanks!

  4. I really liked this post! You and Kauffman make interesting points about America’s dependency on television and our constant need to escape reality. Also, I thought the audio clip was a nice touch 😉

  5. I’m also in the Gothic imagination class (unlike Entropy, Apocalypse Now was a drag to me… it’s soooooo long!). Kaufman’s quote says so much in whatever way it is interpreted. I assumed the television would take on the form of the communication device to instruct those of us tuned-in Americans that a state of emergency was at hand, not that we would necessarily be so involved with the TV that the urgency of the situation would escape us. I really dig your take on it though. Maybe I’m one of those American’s that missed the irony in the statement because I was so sucked into the TV! I also like the idea of out televisions being our “security blanket”. Going back to Apocalypse Now, given the fact that portions of the Vietnam war was filmed and showed (even falsely) the dire effects of war, does this security blanket idea suffice? The footage was used to assure the public that our presence there was needed (a security blanket concept) but the blood and guts of the war was also shown. I’m just thinking out loud.

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