There was the following sentence in the Time Magazine article (Mar. 25, 2011) titled “The Real Cost of U.S. Nuclear Power.”:
“When Karl Marx wrote that history unfolds first as tragedy, then as farce, he got U.S. nuclear history backward. America’s initial experiment was a cartoonish disaster, with construction timelines doubling and costs increasing as much as 1,000% even before the Three Mile Island meltdown. In the 1980’s, the industry required bailout before bailouts were cool. But the U.S. industry has matured and learned from its mistakes.”
I interpreted “American initial experiment (requiring doubled timeline and 10 times as much cost even before the Three Mile meltdown)” as meaning a farce, and “the industry bailouts in ‘80s” as meaning tragedy, in the above Karl Marx allegory.
My friend said, “No, no, the serious accident like Three Mile Island meltdown can never be described as a “cartoonish” disaster. “The initial experiment with construction timelines doubling and costs increasing as much as 1,000% is liken as a farce, and the Three Mile Island meltdown is a sheer tragedy. The sentence “In the 1980’s” and thereafter is the separate line from “farce / tragedy rhetoric.”
Is my interpretation wrong? Is it very clear at a glance which is tragedy and which is farce in the above sentence to you, native English speakers?