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On Doom and Gloom

"It's the end of the world as we know it. And I feel fiiiine." -  R.E.M.

Background - Gary North - Propheteering From Y2K
Gary North Exposed in "Wired" - Concern - Are We Hysterical Yet? - In the News - Doom and Gloom - Religion - Wisdom - Hidden Agenda - The Truth

Background

While I believe that there is the clear potential for significant business and economic Y2K disruptions, in my opinion, there is no significant probability of a Y2K-induced TEOTWAWKI (the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it) scenario.

This page explores and explains the doom and gloom phenomenon and provides some background on those that claim that governments will fail and financial and monetary systems will collapse.  I call these people the "Doom and Gloom" set and I think that they are way off base.  These "doom and gloomers" are made up of groups and individuals who are calling for TEOTWAWKI (pronounced tee-OH-tawa-kee) due to the year 2000 problem, the alignment of the stars, their hatred of governments or our financial systems, and other reasons.

I did not prepare this page to bash anyone.  However, I think that the "doom and gloomers" are a threat to society.  Their hyperbole will fan the flames of fear and may lead to the public panic that they predict. If you are interested in positive steps to minimize Y2K problems, I have over 30 other pages on how to deal with the Y2K Challenge.  This is what I'm spending my time on - not wringing my hands worrying about TEOTWAWKI .

Doom and gloomers are a combination of people, some well-intended and some not, who think the end of the world is coming. Some of these people are religious radicals and/or extremists, conspiracy theorists, survivalists, profiteers, or just plain hype mongers. They are using the web to further their message and to make money selling fear.  As a result, they are able to spread their "information" like never before. While most of the general public is just starting to get wind of the doom and gloom hype, the message is hitting home with all of the wrong people (see media coverage).   While everyone is entitled to their own opinions, I want to shed light on the underlying motivations of some of these people so that you can judge the veracity of their opinions and "information" for yourselves.

Please don't get me wrong. I am not anti-religion or anti-preparedness; I just want to shed some light on the doom and gloom phenomenon.  Religious movements like Christian Economics, Postmillennialism, and Reconstructionism explain where some of these people are coming from.  These are the concepts that make some individuals happy to hope for the end of civilization as we know it.  Both religious beliefs and profit motives are behind the hype and are the hidden agenda of many doom and gloomers.

Are We Hysterical Yet?

Doom and Gloom hysteria seems to be on the rise. Perhaps this is because the survivalist stories are making it on the news more and more.  Maybe it is because Gary North is being successful with his end-of-the world sales pitch.  Whatever the case, we are now seeing some evidence of how widespread the fear is. Some think that even the modest level of concern expressed by many experts is over-the-top. "The Millennium Bug and The New Industry of Hysteria" a paper by Michael Theroux states that "hysteria" is fast becoming one of the biggest marketing tools ever thrust upon an unsuspecting and gullible public."

But, perhaps, we are suffering from the fear of uncertainty.  No one really knows what is going to happen and that makes us worry - and these worries can be contagious. Aaron Lynch has written an intriguing paper titled "The Millennium Contagion: Is Your Mental Software Year 2000 Compliant?" The paper discusses the spread of beliefs or "memes"  According to Lynch: "Memes are beliefs that program for their own copying in humans much as computer viruses do in computers. Their self-spreading effect explains the techno-apocalypse ideas swirling around the Y2K bug, including secular hell-doomsday ideas, logic-resistant strains of myth, and embedded thought contagions."  Here is a taste of the article:

"The religious idea of hell has long motivated believers to retransmit their thoughts in order to save family and friends. The idea that "the end is near" implies that one must *hurry up* and spread the beliefs. The new idea of a Y2K hell on earth also motivates retransmission, and the Y2K idea that time is quickly running out accelerates the thought contagion. Other factors contribute to susceptibility to persuasion, notably, the fact that most citizens in the industrialized world have no memory of how civilians survived the hardships of a home-soil war.   Some hosts of apocalyptic memes are now trying to persuade programmers that they should quit their jobs and head for the hills--which potentially worsens the technological problem as well as the social problem. (See the full paper at http://www.mcs.net/~aaron/tmc.htm)

My Concern

The doom-and-gloom guys have a scary message and are beginning to get some attention.  It is important that everyone understand that, for the most part, these people are not Y2K experts.  For many of these groups and individuals there is a clear agenda of wanting chaos. Unfortunately, the press and the public are now picking up on the "head-for-the-hills" aspects of the Y2k story. This is a direct result of some of the more wacky web sites and Internet discussions that are taking place. I am concerned that many doom and gloom merchants are not giving an accurate assessment of the problem and that they are trying to cause public panic.  In fact, it is exactly what some of them want

As public concern grows, the information technology sector and the government are going to be inundated with requests for information. I think it is imperative that responsible people stress the point that, yes, the potential for impact is real and significant but that, no, heading for the hills is not the appropriate response nor will it solve any problems. We need to urge (and provide) aggressive leadership, good information, and appropriate responses (including full-spectrum risk management) to Y2k issues. How do we be successful at this? It will take continued efforts to raise awareness and share solutions. We need to explain that a combination of fixes and alternative methods can keep most key operations working under most scenarios. But, we need to urge everyone not to assume that someone else is taking care of this. We must adopt a "crisis mentality" to accelerate our efforts but without the going into a "panic mode".

I have been heartened to hear from many people that this page spurred them into action and motivated them to work even harder towards mitigation of Y2K problems.  Why?  Because they now know where these guys are coming from.   They know that TEOTWAWKI  is not going to happen.  The worst stories of doom and gloom greatly exceed and fact-based estimates. We know there will be serious problems if we don't do enough to mitigate Y2K problems.  We also know we are bright enough and strong enough to make sure the worst predictions of Y2K impact do not come true.

I think we should put all our energies into mitigating the problem and planning to deal with what we can't mitigate.  However, my concerns about the doom and gloomers are these:

  • I don't want the public to get the impression that what they say is the "truth".
  • If they get too much public attention, they may cause public panic.  
  • If they cause public panic, they may, in the end, cause more problems.

Media attention is beginning to focus on the predictions of disaster.  ABC News has already profiled some of the "head-for-the-hills" gang. I think it can be expected to continue this way since the potential for serious impact is much more sexy than ones and zeros.  People want to know what the future holds.   The truth is: no one knows.  The seriousness of the impact of the Year 2000 Problem depends on how well we do at fixing problems and how well we are prepared for the problems that will result from not fixing all of them.  Of course, we can only guess about how well we will do at this point.

Gary North

"So, of course I want to see y2k bring down the system, all over the world.
I have hoped for this all of my adult life." -- Gary North

Gary North is the most famous and outspoken of the doom and gloom set.  I started this page because of him.  After corresponding with him in the summer of 1996, I soon realized that he wanted to see TEOTWAWKI - he was rooting for it. He is working hard to scare the pants off of us and to make millions in the process.  I recently discovered that there are some good web sites that expose "Scary Gary" - take a look:

Gary North Exposed in Wired - The January 7th issue of Wired carries a story by Declan McCullagh titled: "There's something About Gary".  Here is the opening blurb:

For decades Gary North has made a living predicting modern society will end in panic and ruin.

In 1980, he forecast rationing of housing and a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. He warned his followers to buy "gold, silver, a safe place outside the major cities."

See the full story

The Gary North is a Big Fat Idiot Page  - This site is a commentary on Gary North's extremist views on Y2K as expressed in the Remnant Review and on his web site.

Gary North Explained - "Like a character straight out of a comic book, Dr. North knavishly plots and schemes his latest ruse for bringing about 'Christian Reconstruction'. Dr. North's prognosis of y2k is unmistakably blunt: get out of the cities now or die."

Gary actually likes the idea of crisis

"This will decentralize the social order. That is what I have wanted all of my adult life. In my view, y2k is our deliverance."

To get his message out, Gary uses his skills from years of direct marketing.  He runs a website (Gary North's Y2K Links and Forums) which includes discussion list where folks talk about preparing for the downfall of civilization and a time in which bullets will be traded for food. He is the President of I.C.E.(Institute for Christian Economics) where he promotes his ideology. He has written a ton of books like Marx's Religion of Revolution - Regeneration Through Chaos and has a newsletter, Remnant Review, with a subscription rate of $129 a year.

It is obvious that Gary is making money out of scaring people.  He has been doing it for years.  He sees Y2K as the golden opportunity to further his cause.  Don't buy it! Decide for yourself after reading some of Gary North's words:

"I have opposed fractional reserve banking all of my adult life. I wrote a book on it in 1986 HONEST MONEY. I would like nothing better than to see the entire system replaced. I think that's what we will see -- in 33 months. Actually, it will probably begin to break up in 1999. I hope so. The sooner, the better.

I think graduated income taxes are theft. Karl Marx saw them as a way to destroy capitalism. I like capitalism. I'd like to see it survive. I think the present welfare/warfare State is a tyranny. So, of course I want to see y2k bring down the system, all over the world. I have hoped for this all of my adult life.

The y2k crisis is systemic. It cannot possibly be fixed. I think it will wipe out every national government in the West. Not just modify them -- destroy them. I honestly think the Federal government will go under. I think the U.S.A. will break up the way the U.S.S.R. did. Call me a dreamer. Call me an optimist. That's what I think.

This will decentralize the social order. That is what I have wanted all of my adult life. In my view, y2k is our deliverance.

Just don't be in a city when deliverance comes."

In The News

You would think that the media would do a decent job of covering the real story.  However, just as sex sells, so does fear.  Now, the doom and gloom movement is getting the full treatment.  Big media outlets like Time and ABC have given in-depth coverage to the advent of end-times millennial madness.  Now some good investigative reporting is starting to emerge...

Propheteering From Y2K

Another great article in one from Spencer Ante called "Propheteering From Y2K".  Spencer does a great job (with my help) of exposing the doom and gloomers and the connection between prophets and profits. It is available from Business 2.0 in PDF format only. Download it here

The Influence of Christian Reconstructionism

In the November 1998 issue of Reason Magazine, Walter Olson's article "Invitation to a Stoning", delved into Reconstructionism and discussed the influence of both theologian Rousas John (R.J.) Rushdoony and his son-in-law, Gary North. He discusses the degree to which Reconstructionists have gained prominence in libertarian causes, ranging from hard-money economics to the defense of home schooling. Two Reconstructionists later fired off angry letters, and author Olson's exchange with them appears in the February Reason.  My favorite snip:

"So when Exodus 21:15-17 prescribes that cursing or striking a parent is to be punished by execution, that's fine with Gary North. "When people curse their parents, it unquestionably is a capital crime," he writes. "The integrity of the family must be maintained by the threat of death." Likewise with blasphemy, dealt with summarily in Leviticus 24:16: "And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him."

Millennial Madness

ABC has done in-depth coverage on the end-times cults in this web piece: "Apocalypse Really Soon".

Time magazine did this recent coverage of "Y2K Madness".   The coverage includes a discussion about premature prophets of doom and Gary North.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported on June 21, 1998 that cop killers in the four corners area were driven by fear of the year 2000 problem:

Investigators say Alan "Monte'' Pilon and James McVean, construction workers who hailed from southwest Colorado, armed themselves for a violent conflict they believe will follow the millennium meltdown.
    
 "They all talked about the end of the world,'' says Jerry Martin, sheriff in Dolores County, Colo. "They even had their own name for it -- Vampire 2000.''

More and more the media is picking up the stories of the wacko minority.   Many reporters prowl the Internet looking for stories of programmers who are heading for the hills.  One positive note, TechWeek had "Second thoughts about our Y2K coverage" after profiling the head-for-the-hill gang.

Pull Your Teeth Out Now!
From the August, 27, 1998 Dallas Observer

On this Tuesday afternoon, [Karen] Anderson and her husband, Steve, are seated at a table inside the Applebee's restaurant located a few minutes from their Colleyville home. Their two daughters, 15-year-old Kelly and 13-year-old Stephanie, sit across from them, delicately munching on a plate of mozzarella sticks. They occasionally touch their jaws, which are yellow and bruised.

"We got [wisdom] teeth pulled, seriously. I really did it because of Y2K," Anderson says, emitting a nervous laugh. "A lot of this stuff with year 2000 is we don't know. If you have to have elective surgery, do it before the equipment goes bad or before the rush. It's the pre-panic position."

See Y2K Women for more.

Related New Stories

PBS News Hour June 11, 1998 - 2000 Millennium Bug

San Francisco Examiner - Year 2000 Hype is Relentless

PC Magazine - Looking Forward to the Millennium

TechWeek - Second thoughts about our Y2K coverage

The World of Doom and Gloom

Some of the Doom and Gloom set are actually motivated by things that go way beyond Y2k. They include survivalists, radical Christians (including reconstructionists), and secessionists with an agenda that includes:

  • Returning to "God's plan" for government through total destruction of current institutions
  • Secession of States from the United States of America
  • Beginning a period of civil war
  • Creating panic to further their hopes for destruction and deliverance

One group, The Creator's Rights party says:

"Think about it: the formation of Home Defense Forces perfectly symbolizes the actual meaning of the Y2K problem. Should the Y2K problem go unresolved, you in self-defense could actually be forced to fight off hoards of starving and thirsty people streaming out of dark and cold cities all across this nation."

Gary North's Y2K Links and Forums offers a good look into the world of Y2K doom and gloomers. His home page is titled "The Year 2000 Problem: The Year the Earth Stands Still."  Gary talks about what will happen

"if the following areas go down and stay down for months or even years, banks, railroads, public utilities, telephone lines, military communications, and financial markets."

Other's Words of "Wisdom"

Yordon's book "Time Bomb 2000"   was formerly published on the web and called Fallback.  The book focuses on the personal consequences of the Y2k problem. This book is quite extreme in my view as it predicts up to ten year periods of disruption.  Ed's "Time Bomb 2000" web site includes a mail list where readers can pose questions, offer opinions, and provide feedback on the various Y2000 scenarios they've described.  The mail list is dominated by survivalist talking about how long beans will keep and is silent on positive efforts such as contingency planning.

What does Religion Have to Do With This?

I have nothing against religion; in fact, I consider myself religious and know many faith-oriented folks who are making good year 2000 awareness and preparedness efforts. However, we need to understand the relationship between "Doom and Gloom" and religion.

Everyone that shares these beliefs is not like Gary North.

However, you need to realize that Christian Economics, Postmillennialism, and Reconstructionism are concepts that make Gary and others happy to hope for the end of civilization as we know it. Understand these concepts and you will understand the motives and desires these folks have for chaos.

Christian economics follows the concept that individuals are given vast freedom under God's principles of law to participate in business , churches, and families without restriction or regulation. They believe that government has usurped the role of the church, taking for itself the authority to control business relationships, regulate functions of the family, and otherwise restrict individual freedom. In their view, every relationship humans have with one another has been damaged by some form of tyranny of government.

The postmillennial position is that the Great Commission will be fulfilled before Christ returns. The Great Commission will not be fulfilled until virtually every nation or ethnic group on earth has identified itself as Christian and sought to conform its complete culture to the teachings of the Bible. This does not mean that everyone alive at any point in time before Christ returns will be saved. It means that one day a large and influential enough majority will be saved so that Christianity will universally win the culture wars through spiritual means.  See   Postmillennialism Today.

Christian Reconstruction is a recently articulated philosophy which argues that it is the moral obligation of Christians to recapture every institution for Jesus Christ. It proclaims "the crown rights of King Jesus." The means by which this task might be accomplished--a few CR's are not convinced that it can be--is biblical law. This is the "tool of dominion." We have been assigned a dominion covenant--a God-given assignment to men to conquer in His name (Gen 1:23; 9:1-7). The founders of the movement have combined four basic Christian beliefs into one overarching system1) biblical law, 2) optimistic eschatology, 3) predestination (providence), and 4) presuppositional apologetics (philosophical defense of the faith).   (See Christian Reconstruction) From Gary North, Backward Christian Soldiers? An Action Manual For Christian Reconstruction (Tyler, TX Institute for Christian Economics, 1984), Glossary.

See another site that explains these concepts.

Other references from praise to critics: http://www.publiceye.org/pra/magazine/chrisre1.html http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/fred_edwords/relright.html http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/y2k-1.htm

Where does the truth lie?

I think we are going to see the year 2000 problem cause significant impact but I'm hoping and working to make sure that this does not mean chaos. Here is my best guess at what we can expect.

I am still having trouble with the idea of "the end of life as we know it" but I foresee the possibility of major disruptions to many systems. I don't expect to see too many programmers running for the hills but I do expect we will see a significant drag on the economy through a host of problems and I fully expect a significant downturn in the market will result. The more problems there are the greater the chance that the impact will be compounded through the ripple effect.  I am particularly concerned that government as a whole isn't yet aware enough or concerned enough about the problems related to the year 2000 and isn't doing enough yet about risk management and contingency planning. Overall, I would rate our preparedness for these impacts as being very poor.

 

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Last updated: Sunday, November 28, 1999 12:51 PM

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