The Hanford Rumor Rat (1951)

by Alex Wellerstein, published December 9th, 2011

This week’s image is a  “security poster” from the Hanford site at the height of the Cold War, warning that “Rumors, too, can Sabotage“:1

Click to view full image.

Subtle it isn’t. I love the nefariousness of the rat, the complexity of his sausage/loudspeaker apparatus, and the content of the “lies, b-z-z-z, rumors”:

  • “Security’s silly” (a sentiment not discouraged by this rather silly poster)
  • “We’re a target” (probably true, if it refers to Soviet weapons or espionage targeting)
  • “Hanford is doomed” (too vague to evaluate as true or false)
  • “Abolish the A-bomb” (a legitimate political position; also, technically neither a lie, rumor, or “b-z-z-z”)

I’ll cut them some slack. 1951 was a pretty uncertain time (exacting scholarly reference on the subject). Maybe confusing legitimate, albeit left-wing, positions with sabotage can be written off a bit.

But the most interesting thing to me about this poster is the confluence of security with morale. Because this isn’t really about technical sabotage: it’s about workers at Hanford feeling depressed about their jobs, and the effect that political opinions can have on that. I’m not sure this particular poster, though, gets around that.

There are some other posters from the period at the Hanford DDRS database (part of my big list o’ links posted previously); just enter “N1D Security Poster” in to the basic search query (the “N1D” limits the results only to images). The rat makes (warning: clunky Java image viewer applet at this link) at least one other appearance.

  1. Source: “Security Posters,” (8 May 1951), Hanford Declassified Document Reference System, accession number N1D0034852. []

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One Response to “The Hanford Rumor Rat (1951)”

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