The Chicken Little Effect This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

January 20, 2010
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Chicken Little. You know his story. A little bird with too much imagination mistakes a falling acorn for the falling sky. Then he runs through the countryside, convincing foolish, lemming-like bird after foolish, lemming-like bird that the sky is falling, the sky is falling, and they must go tell the king. Inevitably, the group comes across an animal who is a good bit more intelligent than them (a fox), and he convinces them that the only way to warn the king is to enter his den. It is heavily implied that they are all killed and eaten.

This kind of story, although played out by animals, exemplifies what has happened to our society: cheap fortune-tellers and doomsayers have taken advantage of our ridiculous and unfounded (although widely pervasive) fear of the apocalypse.

The Y2K bug is a case in point. Millions of people were told that when the new millennium came, computers around the world would be unable to process the date and all technology would fail. People panicked, some even purchasing houses in the countryside and stocking up on food to survive the disaster. People capitalized on this fear, making piles money off of books and shows whose sole purpose was to “warn” people of the impending doom. When 2000 came around…. (Drum roll please)….nothing happened. The Y2K bug had been easily fixed in all computers. A minor system defect had been inflated to fear of a cataclysmic disaster, and a few people came out of it a good bit richer.

The 2012 hysteria is the exact same situation. The fact that the stars are arranged in a certain way in that year has provoked predictions of the most terrible apocalypses imaginable. This time the “proof” is far more ridiculous than in 2000, and it has been drawn from a multitude of places; the Mayan calendar ends in that year and Nostradamus predicts a meteor destroying the Earth. 2012 ends a “great cycle” in the Mayan religion, which means absolutely nothing realistically. Nostradamus, and all who claim to foretell the future, has had the good fortune of being remembered for the specific instances on which he was right rather than the multitude of times he was wrong. And in a suspicious parallel to the pre-Y2K hysteria, books, shows, and even movies have made unbelievable amounts of money through exaggeration. One wonders why they would even want so much money if they can’t use it after the apocalypse comes. Don’t wonder for long; it’s because it’s a scam.

I’m not saying these fear peddlers are stupid or misguided; they’re very intelligent to have so thoroughly bamboozled the populace for personal gain. I wish I’d thought of it first. Maybe after 2012, when the disappointment of the completely normal year passes, I’ll come up with my own end of the world theory loosely based on extravagant half-truths and exaggerations. If history is anything to go by, it’ll be a great success.

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