Date: Fri, 3 May 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 3, 1996 nn nn AANEW
Date: Fri, 3 May 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 3, 1996
Reply-To: email@example.com, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
#31 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 5/3/96
In This Edition...
* "Mysteries Of The Millennium" (Part Two of Two)
MILLENNIUM MYSTERY OR MEDIA MISINFORMATION?
(Part Two Of Two)
Other hoary artifacts of pseudo-science and new age crankery appear in the
program "Mysteries of the Millennium," which aired this past Wednesday on
The poetic quatrains of Nostradamus (1503-1566) are often cited as
eschatological utterances about the end of the world, and authors such as
John Sladek, L. Sprague de Camp, and the stage magician James Randi have
discussed the enigmatic prophet at length. Sladek notes one source which
found twenty different Nostradamuses, "the name having become a generic term
for prophet." Sprague de Camp found much of Nostradamus's ramblings to be
vague and incoherent; of some 449 identifiable predictions, 390 "cannot be
identified with anything that has happened." Eighteen have proved to be
false, and 41 were fulfilled; Sladek notes, though that "many were worded so
as to have an even chance of fulfilment."
Like the biblical verses in apocalyptic texts such as Daniel and
Revelation, the writings of Nostradamus are a fertile ground for projection,
wishful thinking, and the Procrustean mental exercise of fitting select
contemporary events into the prophetic jigsaw puzzle. The prophecies are
interpreted as accurate often after the fact; and the verses are so plentiful
and bursting with enigmatic possibilities that some are bound to be "true,"
if we just look hard enough! (James Randi's "The Mask of Nostradamus: A
Biography of the World's Most Famous Prophet" is probably the most
comprehensive examination of Nostradamus and his writings. The author
describes the quatrains as "disguised social commentaries, not prophecies.")
Smoke And Mirrors From "Popular Arts" And Kushner/Evans Productions
"Mysteries of the Millennium" is a collaborative effort involving Popular
Arts Entertainment and a firm called Kushner/Evans Productions.
PAE created a number of programs for both the Turner Network and Home Box
Office (HBO), such as "Lights, Action, Hollywood" and "Jocks."
Kushner/Evans appears to be tongue-in-cheek when it comes to describing
itself as a "television, publishing and new media company devoted to wresting
world-wide control from the brutal conspiracy that has so far thwarted our
overweening ambition. Combining disparate backgrounds in combat surgery,
sword-swallowing and black helicopter repair, KEP eagerly awaits the
instructions of the Space Brothers." This humorous, light-hearted
characterization has some interesting elements. The "Space Brothers" appear
on the fringes of the UFO-alien abduction sub-culture, benevolent beings from
afar who are said be responsible for ushering in a new age of peace, harmony
and cosmic awareness. Adam Parfrey's latest book "Cult Rapture" has a
chapter devoted to the Unarius cult, those champions of Space Brotherhood,
and the important role they play in the 33 planets of the Interplanetary
Confederation. As a romp on the fringes of sanity, it is well worth the read.
The reference to "black helicopter repair" could well refer to those
infamous black whirlybirds associated with everything from UFO abductions to
tales about Satanic Cult Cattle Mutilation. Black Helicopters are supposedly
keeping an eye on everything and everybody, at least to some self-described
alien abductees. These obviously aren't the warm and fuzzy "Space Brothers",
but the more sinister grey, nazi types said to be hiding out under U.S.
Government protection in Nevada.
The writer and Co-executive Producer for "Mysteries of the Millennium" is
Truusje Kushner, who has ground out numerous specials for the Big Three
networks and HBO. Her credits include "Frankenstein: An Untold Story."
"She's very familiar with intrigue after a three year stint producing
"Unsolved Mysteries." according to a promotional blurb.
Tim Evans has produced and written material for Fox, NBC and even The
Playboy Channel. "His project subjects have ranged from parapsychology in
'Mysterious Forces Beyond' to world history with 'A Year To Remember' to the
wackiness of 'Totally Hidden Video'." He also helped to develop those
legendary "Friday the 13th" films with Frank Mancuso, Jr. who later spun-off
the TV series. "Prior to joining the entertainment industry, Tim drove a
hearse for the L.A. County Coroner," we're told.
Other people involved in the "Mysteries of the Millennium" project include
Tim Braine a former HBO executive and a Chicago Film Festival award winner,
and Kevin Meagher ("Today Show," "Anything For Money," "Candid Camera.")
One can speculate from these backgrounds, of course, as to the
motivations behind a program like"Mysteries of the Millennium." Was this
intended as a serious, thought-provoking documentary which plumbed the depths
of myth, prophecy and the human condition? Doubtful. If anything, these
guys -- perhaps in a joking, "put one over on 'em" mood cooked up a virtual
media brew of selective scientific musing combined with new age schlock,
biblical eschatology, and a bit of the Virgin Mary thrown in for the benefit
of the faithful. Some of "Mysteries" had little or nothing to do with the
end of the world; a segment about "metaman", saving yourself to disc and
someday "uploading" to a new body may be the stuff of techno-dreams and
Extopian fantasy, but all of that wonderful solid state circuitry will be
obliterated when the Big Comet Hits, or the Antichrist finally gets his
(last) act together.
The Down Side To Having The LAST Laugh...
"Mysteries of the Millennium" may be, for some of us anyway, an excuse for
grabbing the microwave popcorn, suspending our rational sense of disbelief
and escaping everyday life for the seductive, mindless world of
"X-Files"-style "entertainment." The more rational among us can entertain
the possibility that the world could end in a cataclysmic impace, but we're
still sensible enough to not take that to the bank. Checks and a regular
mortgage payment constitute a more productive and plausible future.
But according to many observers, the cultural fallout from millennialist
angst may be something more serious than entertaining. "Millennial Prophecy
Report" tracks the absurd, harmless and not-so-benign happenings as we barrel
down the road toward the year 2,000. For those who expect to wake up in some
post-millennial utopia with extrasensory powers, or the helping hand of the
Space Brothers, the day-after hangover is probably survivable. But
apocalyptic thinking -- the sense that one is in the midst of historic events
and must "take sides" in Armageddon -- may already be taking its toll.
Members of the Order of the Solar Temple took their own lives, and the lives
of children. Branch Davidians chose to "shoot it out" with the BATF, and
bring down their own House of David in a Texas-style Gotterdammerung. The
Aum "Supreme Truth" cult in Japan eagerly awaited the End of the World, then
decided to speed up the eschatological time table. And thousands of people
on American highways drive around with bumper stickers on their cars
declaring "IN CASE OF RAPTURE, THIS CAR WILL BE UN-MANNED."
And they are quite serious. Over 100 million Americans believe in biblical
prophecy. Tens of millions accept claims made about the reality of the
devil, the immanence of the Final Days, the existence of UFO's with their
abduction-crazed occupants, reincarnation, and numerous other tenets of
everything from religious fundamentalism to new age mysticism.
"How many religious and secular groups believe the prophecy that the world
as we know it will soon end?, asks "Millennial Prophecy Report."
"More than you can image."
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E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank