Sunday, May 22, 2011

"Rapture Schadenfreude Turning Sinister"? Socially Healthy Joviality? Both?

Oxy's billboard image made me think about this recent post by conservative blogger Ed Morrisey of "Hot Air."

Morrisey follows a report by Tiffany Stanley, a reporter for The New Republic, which charged her with following the reactions of the Camping crowd after the Rapture deadline had come and gone.

Snippet from Stanley:

Yes, there was a certain humor to this. But the more I looked into the story, the more it began to turn my stomach to think of spending my Saturday evening in someone’s living room, waiting for that gotcha moment when they realized it was all a lie—leaving me to file a story the next day, poking fun at their gullibility. I decided I couldn’t do it.

Yet the media coverage has continued, and now to me, the schadenfreude has turned sinister. Based on the high traffic the articles are garnering, it would seem as if many of us are intrigued voyeurs, gleeful in knowing the exact day when these people will experience their life’s greatest disappointment. We feel superior, knowing that even though they told us we were heading for death and destruction, now, they get theirs.

Snippet from Morrisey's response:

Well, that’s not totally unjustified. Camping first predicted that Christ would return in 1994 — in fact, he published a book predicting it, although the title 1994? included a very convenient question mark. People who follow doomsday demagogues even after a spectacular failure put themselves in position for some ridicule, not to mention the false prophet himself.

Still, these are real people, and their individual stories are troubling. One mother with three children stopped working and saving for their college tuition, and her apathy about their future has become all too apparent to her kids. Another young couple with one baby and another on the way have spent all of their money in anticipation that they won’t take it with them. For most married couples, pregnancy is a time of hope and optimism, but not for this couple. And there are hundreds or thousands of people just like them who will face very difficult times indeed for having believed in a charlatan.

Both Stanley's and Morrisey's prose are worth reading in full, though I flatter myself that these snippets are well-chosen. Readers might also get a kick out of the comments section.

Hmmmmm. Is it true? Does the post-Rapture rhetoric, such as that in the billboard Oxymoron has shown us, reflect something mean-spirited our mendacious about the secular crowd? Or are there other things at work here?

1 comment:

Oxymoron said...

I had no idea that anyone took the prediction so seriously. It's sad to know that some families are in bad financial shape because they believed Camping.

I interpreted the billboard I posted as humorous. It never occurred to me that it could be mean-spirited. I guess I've either misread the tone of the discussion or been blind to the more sinister reactions to the prediction.

Thanks for sharing these snippets, Harrogate.