Pattern recognition is mankind’s third greatest weakness, just behind bullets and YouTube videos of sneezing baby pandas. In recent years, the best example of our collective failure of induction has been the repetitive cycle of doomsday panics in popular culture. Rarely does a year pass without a new rumor that the anthrax Nibiru asteriod virus Y2K large-hadron death ray of 2012 will soon destroy us all, but our enthusiasm for the next doomsday craze remains stronger than Joe Biden’s love of his palm-tree chew toy.
Luckily, like all things in life, this stupidity can be turned to your advantage. Whether for cheap thrills, social experimentation, that timeless enjoyment that comes from watching people run around like headless chickens, or simply good old misanthropy, you too can engineer your very own doomsday panic! Just follow these simple steps:
Step 1: Find your gimmick
Your apocalypse needs to stand out from the crowd. Without the necessary “it” factor, you might as well be just another delirious vagrant holding a misspelled sign.
Remember that most people are stuck firmly in the past. Referencing loose interpretations of the myths of ancient cultures is a surefire path to success. Taking advantage of society’s latent fear of technology is even more lucrative. All it takes to convince the average layman that the latest advancement in quantum physics is going to crack open the earth’s crust is a machine with a name he can’t pronounce.
In addition, when it comes to inventing a good doomsday prophecy, the timing is key. While spreading the word, it’s easy to let skeptical intellectuals bog you down with irrelevant questions, such as “who are you,” or “why are you in my house.” These are distractions. The only question warranting an answer is “when.” The end of a millennium is best, but at press time you’ve missed the boat on that option by about a decade. Unless Stephen Hawking completes his immortality serum, you’re going to have to seek other options.
Step 2: Repetition. Repetition.
Repetition is key. The only thing surer than human stupidity is human stubbornness, so constant reiteration of your message will be required to convince your budding audience that invincible Mayan death Gods are returning to turn mankind into a lunch buffet.
At first, present your theory skeptically. Present the information as an amusing anecdote, or something odd you heard from a friend while hiding a body last Wednesday.
As interest builds, take a serious turn. Allude to collaborating evidence from vague, unnamed sources. After all, can anyone prove that Fenrir’s wolf children won’t devour the sun and moon tomorrow morning? Is there any irrefutable scientific proof that Etch-a-Sketches will not create a gravitational singularity that sucks in the Earth? Yes. But people intelligent enough to do so will be far too busy ignoring you.
When the paranoid fervor reaches a fever pitch, it’s time for you to become more dogmatic. Dismiss anyone that disagrees with your theories on little green men hollowing out the planet’s core as a sheltered fool who will doom us all with his ignorance. Frequent use of this tactic is extremely unlikely to sway the opposition, but is very effective as reassurance for your co-theorists. The key is repetition.
Step 3: Abuse Social Networking.
Web 2.0 was meant to bring global human interaction to the next level. In reality, it simply allows bullshit to spread at twice the speed of real news and half the speed of pornography.
This is easily exploitable. What will the average Digg user find more compelling: the same old story of violent breakdowns in Middle Eastern relations, or the news that Earth is going to explode like a cosmic firecracker tomorrow? (Hint: the one that doesn’t require him to pronounce ‘Ahmadinejad.’)
Step 4: Abuse News Television
Consider the inane content of the aforementioned websites. Modern news networks take that stupidity and turn it up to eleven.
Things were bad enough when cable news only had to deal with the insane demands of a twenty four hour news cycle. Now that free online publishing allows anyone to do their best Spider Jerusalem imitation, the networks are willing to put almost anything on the air in order to claw their way out of a rapidly filling grave — even you. William Randolph Hearst would be proud.
If you have the misfortune of appearing on one of the more partisan networks, be sure to pander. For example, on conservative television a quick aside on how gay marriage is somehow responsible for the coming cataclysm can only work to your benefit.
Step 5: Make a mediocre movie
The love affair between Hollywood and the summer event film may never end. To the creatively bankrupt film executive, the blockbuster is a magic bullet. There’s no need to worry about outmoded concepts like “compelling characters” or “complex narratives”; all the slack can be picked up by shiny special effects. A good CGI explosion is like dangling keys in front of the viewing public’s face. The standards are low enough that studios can even afford the multi-decade prank of telling Michael Bay he has talent.
The studios require a constant supply of semi-original ideas to keep this gravy train running. This is where you come in. Your vision of the apocalypse can be the premise for the next disaster film featuring a plucky, down on his luck scientist warning the public that the end is near. Just be sure to leave room in your theory for plenty of aimless running and shots of ruined capital cities.
Step 6: Reap the benefits
At this point, you should have a good chunk of the populace convinced that the sky is falling. Take a moment to pat yourself on the back. You’ve joined the proud ranks of Welles, Mayan priests, and cable TV televangelists. Now it’s time for America’s finest tradition: commercial exploitation.
The aforementioned crap film is only the beginning. Book deals will be ripe for the picking: it turns out that there are hordes of individuals willing to give up their hard-earned cash for a detailed description of how they’ll be crushed into cosmic dust. This is depressing for sociologists, encouraging for economists, and lucrative for you.
The more enterprising among you may decide to start a cult. This has obvious perks in the form of willing servants and desperate women, but is not without drawbacks. Namely strange-tasting kool-aid and spending every moment surrounded by the mentally unstable.
Step 7: Deliver
Eventually, of course, the lie will catch up to you. After the “day of judgment” passes, your followers will most likely notice that the world has kept on spinning. After a brief, private moment of relief, there will be confusion, swiftly followed by anger. If you followed this guide closely, riots may even ensue.
At this point, there are three options: eternal shame, suicide, or destroying the planet.
Eternal shame is for the weak, and our lawyers (and decayed skeleton of a conscience) forbid recommending suicide. This leaves annihilating the Earth. Fortunately, Tiger openly advocates all forms of super villainy.
Destroying the Earth may seem like an imposing task, but is actually relatively straightforward. Most environmental groups are dedicated to preventing mankind from accidentally turning the planet into a lifeless wasteland. Think how easy it will be when you put your mind to it. Just be sure to keep an eye out for loose cannon cops, unlikely groups of heroes, men in spandex, and teenagers with mysterious pasts.
-Dennard Dayle ‘13