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When “The Leftovers” Went Nuclear

When “The Leftovers” Went Nuclear


When I came to work on “The Leftovers”
after “Manhattan” ended, I think I was still sort of like — my head was full of
all of these ideas about nuclear secrecy and nuclear proliferation and so I was
trying to kind of smuggle some of those ideas into the final season of “The
Leftovers” and I became obsessed with the idea of the Fisher Protocol and I just
wanted to talk about it all the time. You know about that Fisher Protocol? So I first learned about what has become known as the Fisher Protocol when I heard a Radiolab episode that Alex Wellerstein did called “Buttons Not
Buttons.” This guy Roger Fisher is this sort of academic policy guy. He was
troubled by this idea that, you know, the president could very dispassionately
start a nuclear war. And so he proposed this idea. What if, as a nuclear deterrent,
the nuclear launch key was concealed in a capsule right next to the heart of a
volunteer. In order for the president to be able to blow up millions of people
with the push of a button he has to extract that key by murdering the
volunteer himself. Like it could be the spouse and husband of the president?
Exactly! You embed the codes in some sort of capsule in the guy’s heart
surgically. And he’d carry around a briefcase with a knife in it — a butcher
knife. So that in the event of an imminent nuclear strike, if the president
is really prepared to launch nuclear weapons on a civilian population, he has
to go to the guy and say, “Well, now it’s time give me the knife.” And then he would have to take the knife and drive it into the guy’s chest. The
president has to chop out this code from this guy’s heart. The president would have
to kill someone and pull the code out of their body, spilling blood all over the
carpet of the Oval Office. “He has to look at someone and realize
what death is,” Fisher writes, “what an innocent death is. Blood on the White
House carpet. It’s reality brought home.” Of course this depends on the idea that
the president has somebody who he cares about enough — Or a carpet that he loves — not to cut them open. Fisher then says that he suggested this to friends
and the Pentagon and their reply was, “My god that’s terrible! Having to kill
someone would distort the president’s judgment, he might never push the button.” That’s the whole point! Yes, the strongest objection is it might work. LILA: So yeah, that
was sort of an idea that we didn’t get to do on “Manhattan”
for obvious reasons, but I think at some point everyone was like, “Okay, fine! Let’s
put it in!” So yeah, it was really fun to do that in in the final season of “The
Leftovers.”

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