|The movie “The Day After Tomorrow” opens this weekend. I haven’t decided whether to see it on the big screen or wait and see it as a rental. From what I can see from the trailers, it looks it’s going to be a standard disaster flick, somehow involving global climatic changes and the onset of a new ice age. Funny how people are fascinated with destruction and anihilation when they know it’s not real.
Then there are those that are not so amused — the archetype street-corner prophet with placards proclaiming “The End is Near.” While this type is cliched, there are a frightening number of less obvious people who do believe in signs and portents of end times. This American Life did a show on Fake Science that spotlighted another radio show called “Coast to Coast.” I’ve never heard it, but apparently listeners call in to discuss various paranormal occurances, many of which discuss conspiracy theories and doomsday scenarios. The point of the TAL show was that these various callers and the host never seem to dispute the overall veracity of the topic, whether it be demon aliens, global warming, or recordings of voices in hell. Rather, they debate minutae related to the topic, such as how it might be possible to drill a hole into the earth and lower a microphone deep enough to record said voices.
As certain as these doomsayers are about the End of the World as We Know It,they are a surpisingly flexible lot. Take the example of Planet-X, or Nibiru. My first encounter with this one was on shortwave radio just last week, a hot-bed of end-times theorists. Most variations of this theory go something like this – a mysterious planet has been detected by NASA, but they’re not telling anyone because of the global panic that would follow. This planet is a twin to earth, but we never see it because it’s shielded by the sun. Unfortunately, its orbit is slightly askew, so it makes a close approach to earth every few eons, thus causing global disasters and mass extinctions. Most websites I found predicted May 2003, as the close approach. OK. So what happens now that it’s a year later and we seem none the worse for wear except for a wave of Republicanism that can’t really be blamed on a rogue planet? (Or maybe it can. I never thought Cheney looked quite human.) Easy. They simply adjust their timeline to say that the event would START in May 2003, but the effects would come later. Of course, for this to work you need something with a nebulous event and indeterminate date. Y2K had a specific date, so the survivalists looked REALLY foolish when society didn’t end at 11:59 on December 31, 1999.
The third observation is that most of these doomsayers have a link with religious fanatacism. It’s a strong appeal – this world isn’t going along exactly like we want, so our god is going to destroy it, but first he/she is going to yank us out of harms way and leave all you heretics here to perish. It’s not enough for certain Christians to be happy that Christ is returning to take us to a prepared paradise. They seem to delight in a tribulation, then unending torment for those unfortunate to have different beliefs. Of course, it helps if you can point to signs of impending doom in today’s society. Hence, a purported recording of voices in hell gives your religion “proof”. You are smart enough to recognize these signs because you have divine revelation of scripture, and the rest of us are blind fools.
This also lets the end-time religious fanatic exert control over their flock. “The end is near, but I know the way to Salvation! See! Here are signs that the prophecies are true!” – complete with pseudo-science references. While the results of such fanatacism may not be as extreme as Jonestown or Heaven’s Gate, it often still has lasting effects on the lives of those involved, such as constant life of fear, or restrictions on rights, often especially for women.
So, I migrate from entertainment to seriousness. I’m entertained by disaster flicks, but I also have the guilty pleasure of using these fanatics for entertainment. I like listening to them on shortwave, and laughing at their foolishness, while pitying those that fall under their spell.
Your Own World USA – Wonderful collection of end-time weirdness
Planet X and the Pole Shift – disputes Niribu
Bad Astronomy – found this while looking for Planet X websites. This great site points out misconceptions in movies, TV, etc.
The End Times Christian – Contains links to all sorts of stuff – including theories that UFOs are actually demons.
Preparedness Now – General survivalist, conspiracy theory site, with a definite USA/Christian bent.
Steve Quayle – got to wonder if this is the long-lost brother of Dan. If there’s a wacky theory out there, Steve’s got it covered.
The Demon-Haunted World – a good, but depressing book by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan that discuss how current society contributes to a climate in which these weird theories can flourish.