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SUNDAY BRUNCH | CYBURBIA

The Plots Thicken

January 04, 1998|DAVID COLKER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Surf the Internet long enough and you'll run into all the big conspiracy theories: the moon landings were faked (updated sites claim the Mars Pathfinder mission was bogus, too), the government covered up the Roswell UFO crash, and those closest to Elvis helped him fake his death.

But these theories are kid's stuff compared to the one unearthed by Phillip Hoag--the fake breakup of the Soviet Union.

"The so-called collapse of the Soviet empire is yet another application of this strategy of deception," he reveals at http://www.retroweb.com/civildefense.html.

The breakup of the Soviet Union was staged, he writes, so that we in the West would grow soft and easy targets for a Commie takeover.

You read it here first, unless you also spend too much time on the Net and have come across Hoag's site.

Let's assume, for a moment, that Hoag is not so paranoid or stupid to actually believe this scenario. That leaves two possible explanations for his theory.

One is that it will help sell his book--a guide to constructing an underground shelter for protection against Soviet atomic bomb fallout. Secondly, he might just be nostalgic for the good old years of the Cold War, when the Communists could be blamed for just about anything gone wrong.

If the latter is true, he has plenty of places to visit on the Web, which has become a repository for Cold War information and memorabilia.

One of the most fascinating Cold War locales is the Trinity Atomic Web Site, named after the code name given the first U.S. atomic bomb test. This comprehensive, fact-filled site maintained by Gregory Walker traces the early history and use of atomic weapons. Its home page is at http://www.envirolink.org/issues/nuketesting/index.html.

My favorite part of the site is the "Civil Defense" section that allows you to download copies of government brochures on how to make fallout shelters. The covers of the brochures all feature drawings of a happy family safely inside their shelter--the family is always white and Mom is always wearing a dress.

The downloadable "Home Shelter" brochure, which was being distributed as late as 1980, shows how to build an underground, concrete habitat for a family of five. "The roof of the shelter," the brochure reads, "can be used as an attractive patio."

On a much larger scale, a Canadian site tells the history of the Diefenbunker, a 100,000-square-foot, four-story, underground fallout shelter built to house 500 government officials, plus supplies. The shelter near the Canadian capital city of Ottawa sported a Canadian Broadcast Corp. radio studio and a Bank of Canada vault.

The shelter was decommissioned in 1994. A group now trying to turn it into a Cold War museum leads occasional tours of the facility. The Web site, at http://diefenbunker.ottawa.com/indexe.htm,contains fascinating facts and a drawing showing the layout of the bunker. Unfortunately, no photographs are included.

There are plenty of photos at a site that offers a visit to an underground U.S. missile base sealed up since the 1960s. The authors of the site, at http://www.xvt.com/users.kevink/silo/silo.html, are not the first intruders to pry open a hatch to get inside--their pictures show some walls of the abandoned base covered with graffiti.

The stripped-down missile complex looks altogether unpleasant--I was glad to visit it only virtually.

Finally, there's an interesting report by a Defense Department committee, called "Military Heritage in the Cold War." The 1994 report details military weapons, bases and equipment that played a role in the Cold War and are no longer used.

The committee puts forth suggestions for how these items and places could be preserved for historic purposes, but nothing at the site--http://www.altavista.digital.com/ cgi-gin/query?pg=aq&what=web--discloses if the recommendations were implemented.

* Cyburbia's e-mail site is david.colker@latimes.com.

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