The two different kinds of apocalyptic fiction

The first is the kind that I read and/or watch.  Stuff like The Walking Dead comics, or Mira Grant’s awesome Newsflesh trilogy of novels, or movies like Deep Impactand even video games like Left4Dead 2 and Fallout 3.  I guess the thing I find most interesting is seeing how people adapt. It’s compelling drama.  And while I find it entertaining, it does have a certain amount of practical value if it makes emergency preparedness a little less dull, as even the CDC has discovered.

Then there’s the other kind.  The kind that makes seemingly ordinary people lose their minds, because they think it’s real.

We have a fairly long history here in the United States of people who like to predict the end of the world.  In the 1840’s it was the Millerites, the followers of William Miller, a Baptist lay preacher who predicted that the Second Coming of Christ would take place between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844.  Needless to say, that didn’t happen.  Later in the 19th century the religious group known as the Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society (commonly called the Jehovah’s Witnesses today) also predicted the Second Coming, i.e. end of the world, in 1914, so when the First World War began they had a bit of a freak-out.  But as bad as the war was, the world did not end.

In more recent years there have been more of the same, and not all of them with religious roots.  Just in my lifetime we have had the great Y2K hype, Harold Camping’s predictions in the 1990’s and again in 2011, the whole 2012 debacle, the recent Ebola freak-out, and of course countless writers who think that somehow they have the information (that no one else has, obviously) about the end of the world and they need to share it with you… for just a small amount of your money.  It is these last ones that really make me angry, because they are exploiting people’s fears in order to enrich themselves.  And the harm they do goes WAY beyond the financial harm they cause to their victims.  I can’t imagine being one of those people who quit their job, gave all their money to one of these apocalypse-predicting charlatans, and then went to wait for an end that never came.  How do you come back from something like that?

You don’t have to go far to find this sort of stuff, really.  On the right side of the political spectrum, they are the kind of people who sell things like dodgy financial advice, gold coins and/or bullion, emergency supplies, ammunition and/or weapons, and occasionally crackpot cures (cough*Mike Huckabee and diabetes*cough).  On the left you also see crackpot cures, but on this subject the left really puts the right to shame, in that they have really taken it to a whole new level.  These are the wonderful people who I mentioned earlier in some of my rants and other posts against the anti-vaccine movement, for example.  And this guy is probably the world champ of talking gullible liberal white people out of their money, leaving even noted quack Joseph Mercola in his dust, and believe me, that is quite a feat.  He is also one of the reigning world champs of conspiracy theories, in that I don’t think he has met a crazy theory he doesn’t like.  Seriously.  He collects them like a black T shirt collects cat hair.  And he wins bets for people about Godwin’s law too, because when talking about people being “forced” to vaccinate, he of course invoked Hitler.

So yeah, I will take zombies over all that stuff any day.  Zombies just want to eat me, not rob me of my money and/or my dignity.

-Geoff

 

 

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