2012: Tsunami of Stupidity
Why the latest apocalyptic cult is a silly scam.
According to a grungy pamphlet tacked to a bulletin board on the gas station's interior wall, the UFOs were signs referred to in the Hopi prophecy. The pamphlet showed this sketchy-looking white guy in a cheap suit next to the alleged 101-year-old Hopi prophet and claimed that Mr. Sketchy was in psychic communication with the UFOs and had confirmed that they were arriving to vindicate Hopi mythology about the end of time. As far as I could tell, the sketchy guy had arrived out of the blue and insinuated himself into the confidence of one of the two most ancient and revered Hopi holy men—let's call him Prophet A—and convinced him he had messages from the ETs saying that they were coming to help him fulfill the Hopi prophecy of the end of time. There's a lot in 2012 literature that tries to connect the Maya calendar to the Hopi prophecy as if one is evidence for the other.
UFOs in the Hopi prophecy? Sure, why not? A lot of people believed UFOs were going to be involved in the Maya calendar apocalypse.
Unfortunately, it turned out there was another 101-year-old Hopi prophet, Prophet B, who wasn't buying the whole UFO business. He expressed skepticism about the sketchy newcomer who was acting as middleman between Hopi Prophet A and the UFOs. A schism, a virtual civil war between the two centenarians, was brewing, dividing the Hopi tribe.
Then ... well, I remember at the end of the couple days I spent in the dusty little town reporting on this story I ended up in the lovely terra-cotta cottage of a refugee from Greenwich Village, an elderly woman who had left New York, where she had danced with Martha Graham, to come to the "highly spiritual" Southwest, where she had been caught up in the Hopi-flying-saucer prophecy and come under the spell of the sketchy UFO middleman, who claimed prophetic powers himself. She believed in the mysticism of love, she told me earnestly, and she thought the sketchy guy was somehow a prophet of love. It also seems he told her that he was a bit short of cash and had to borrow the whole of the poor woman's savings to pay for the rally where the UFOs were going to land and prove everything he said about the prophecy. The aliens had to be given a proper reception. Only they held the rally, and not only did the UFOs not show up; the sketchy guy didn't show up, and he and her savings were in the wind.
The poor woman was trying to keep the faith. I witnessed Festinger-style cognitive dissonance in action. But something more sad and touching, too. Jealous people were plotting against the sketchy guy, he had been telling her. Agents of Prophet B and even the U.S. government. False charges of a shady con man past were being leveled. He might have to leave town for a while, but he'd be back, he assured her. She hoped that would happen before she lost her home and became destitute. But whatever happened, she told me, she still believed in Love and the Spirit of Love that she knew was the essence of the Hopi prophecy.
It reminded me that New Age stupidity isn't always harmless, that it can be a cruel hoax playing a con game with people's hopes and fears. I'll never forgive the sketchy con man who stole that poor woman's money and illusions.
Get real, 2012 people. It's an embarrassingly silly scam. Prepare for cognitive dissonance.
See you on Dec. 22, 2012. I like my steak medium rare.
Ron Rosenbaum is the author of The Shakespeare Wars and Explaining Hitler. His latest book is How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III.
Illustration by Robert Neubecker.