In the more than 50 years following World War II, the concept of ‘push-button warfare’ has continually metamorphosed in media discourses as a symbol of technological warfare from a distance. This rhetorical transformation has occurred within the context of complex social, cultural and historical shifts, and along the way news sources have played a key role in framing debates for readers. Acting as a translator of uncertainty and future scenarios, journalists and others have deliberated on values of and risks posed by automated forms of war and their potential impact on the United States and the world. This article examines nearly 500 print media stories in order to make sense of the shifting dialogue around push-button warfare both in times of tumult and relative calm. The longitudinal study investigates how reporters frame predictions, prophecies, forecasts and expectations when trying to assess future technologies for war and peace.