By Nikki Martinez
If you’re reading this then you already know, the world has not ended.
The May 21 prediction of doom was not only false but- even more bewildering- attracted media attention which incited the fundamental Christians of the country to act out accordingly.
Harold Camping, 89, a Christian radio evangelist, made the clairvoyant calculation which began the craze of a May 21 doomsday certainty. Oddly enough the faux psychic had falsely predicted rapture in 1988 and in 1994. He said he believed he miscalculated and began working again at cracking the code.
It was early this year when Camping garnered media attention once again for his renewed mathematical logic behind his prediction.
Camping’s math-based equation, according to an article on livescience.com, went as follows:
First off, he assumes Christ was crucified on April 1, 33 A.D., exactly 722,500 days before May 21, 2011. That number, 722,500, is the square of 5 x 10 x 17. In Camping’s numerological system, 5 represents atonement, 10 means completeness, and seventeen means heaven.
Many people saw the ridiculousness behind the claim but it is obvious that many did not. Namely, extreme fundamental Christians fell for the artificial forecast.
Those who whole-heartedly believed the end times were near were impelled to quit their jobs, drop out of school and spend their life savings, among other life-altering decisions. It is estimated that over $3 million was spent by caravans of believers who traveled the country spreading Camping’s message, according to various media reports.
The tragic end to these decisions was a day which went by without a flaw- the sun rose and it set. The clouds did not open up and God’s chosen people did not disappear. Ultimately, on May 21, to the disappointment of many, sinners and the forgiven remained on the same planet.
But where did the media play into this scenario? It’s a simple news value: strangeness. It is the oddity of the story that brought about media interest but there was a secondary audience appeal, as well.
The unhappy people in this country right now, the value voter conservatives, are the more captive audiences of the media. They tune in to hear their biased view of the country’s politics affirmed. With a re-emergence of the extreme Christian right, this story had an audience ready built.
It has been said that the media doesn’t tell people what to think but rather what to think about.
There is a responsibility of the media to report newsworthy material, rather than comical predictions of an obviously off-kilter man. The fact is, this man would remained relatively unknown throughout the country had the media not exploited his erroneous claim.
Again, many news organizations presented the story for its strangeness, while others backed the idea or even delved into why it may be true, but either way they spread the message made by a mathematical Bible addict.
In modern, hard times of economic disparity, lives begin to unravel. The domino effect of loss of jobs, homes, family members in war, etc. that come with the decisions made by powers have driven many to look for a way out, a light at the end of the tunnel.
The media spoke to those who wanted to hear this message, those who were open to believing something this spiritually strange and wild. They exploited a desperate community of people; they struck fear in many and catered to an ever-prevalent portion of Christian extremists who truly believe rapture will give them a deserved happy ending to this life.
Exploitation turned the cranks of the machine that is the media, which irresponsibly played off the public’s entertainment needs.
The time set for the world to end was 6 p.m. Oklahoma time, where Camping lived. When 6 p.m. came without spiritual incident, Camping then checked into a hotel where he hid out for the next few days. This palpable display of coward was shared by the media who naturally moved on quickly after the let down.
The truth is, Camping made a fortune in donations to his cause and the media gained viewership and readership for their coverage. Ultimately, their benefit was made by the believer’s eventual misery.
Camping is obligated to apologize to the desperate public which he duped. The media, as always, should be more conscientious of the material it covers. Both parties are to blame for the miserable consequences brought on by an obvious flawed claim.