nthposition online magazine

A word album, lol

by Barrett Brown

[ opinion - november 10 ]

"A firm rule must be imposed upon our nation before it destroys itself. The United States needs some theology and geometry, some taste and decency. I suspect that we are teetering on the edge of the abyss." - John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces

 

In 2002, the Pulitzer Prize in the category of commentary was awarded to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. In 2004, Friedman was made a member of the Pulitzer's board of directors. Our nation is killing itself from within.

Every nation kills itself from within. Each nation's golden age occurred some 50 years prior, and every such golden age could have gone on forever had it not been brought to an end by some misguided contingent of its own countrymen. A nation's political enemies are always in control of the state, if only covertly or indirectly; in the modern age, they've branched out into the media for good measure.

Crime, you'll recall, spiraled out of control in the '70s, increasing exponentially until the federal government ceased to function altogether. Wealthy citizens moved into self-contained enclaves defended by private mercenary armies, while the poor organized themselves into communal military tribes, some seizing territory within the ruined cities, some taking to the highways in order that they might launch raids on the fortified hamlets into which rural Americans had organized themselves out of desperation.

On another occasion, the proliferation of nuclear power plants throughout the United States resulted in the accidental destruction of several major cities. Likewise, the proliferation of evolutionary theory and the decline of Biblical literalism resulted in the inevitable rise of a global government, itself led by a New Age tyrant who demands to be worshiped alongside some unspecified mother goddess.

The sexual revolution led to an epidemic of lesbianism and infanticide. Welfare reform led just as inevitably to mass starvation in the inner cities. The New Deal continued to snowball until 90 percent of the U.S. workforce was digging trenches and putting on Eugene O'Neill plays under the Works Progress Administration. Megacorporations replaced most remaining national governments in the late '90s. Everyone is now a crack addict.

Eight hundred thousand years from now, the human race will be divided into two species - one shall live on the surface, and the other beneath the ground.

To the extent that we look back and examine the predictions of our predecessors, we find ourselves confronted with a great deal of nonsense. This is a fine thing, as nonsense is wholly important. In studying nonsense, we find certain common characteristics that we may use to identify further nonsense of the contemporary sort, the nonsense that plagues us just now. We may determine, for instance, that many of the foolish predictions made in the past are quite clearly the result of ideology. if one opposes nuclear power, nuclear power will lead to disaster. If one opposes the theory of evolution, the theory of evolution will lead to immorality. If one opposes the sexual revolution, let us ignore him.

If we were to divide the causes of poor predictions into two categories, we would probably make ideology one of them. The other category would be that of extrapolation, the act of making determinations about the future based on the trends that have reached us here in the present by way of the past and which, one tends to assume, will continue their growth into the future.

When I was a kid, I came across an old copy of National Geographic from 1949 or thereabouts. An article, which had been entitled "Your Future World of Tomorrow" or some such stupid fucking thing in accordance with the low-concept style employed by our ancestors, detailed several technological innovations that would soon come to revolutionize our lives. One of these would be the practice of filling rockets with express mail and then shooting them across the Atlantic, to be retrieved by either Europeans or Americans as the case may be. Note that at the time of this prediction, the transatlantic cable had already been in existence for nearly 100 years. on the other hand, a lot of rockets had been fired lately. So perhaps even more would soon be fired, except with mail inside of them.

The problem with extrapolation is that it is entirely necessary. When we drive a car - I guess it has two steering wheels - we drive certain speed in a certain direction. A tree is straight ahead. We extrapolate that, if we are to continue on our present course, we will hit that tree and then the cops will come and they'll probably find what we've got stashed in the glove compartment. but having extrapolated this tree-hitting scenario from our present course, we will probably just turn the car a bit so that we are no longer headed for this problematic tree. Perhaps we will get back on the highway, where there are considerably fewer trees to hit, but at any rate we have used the art of extrapolation to avoid hitting the tree and are more likely to make it to our destination, which is Enrique's dealer's crib.

If some pedestrian is observing the car as it is headed towards the tree, he might very well make an extrapolation of his own - that, because the vehicle has been heading in a particular direction, this trend will continue until the car hits the tree. This is not the best bet to make, as the car's driver almost invariably turns before hitting that object. In this case, the pedestrian forgot to allow for another extrapolation - that just because cars rarely hit things, this car is not likely to hit anything either.

Let us not conclude from the failures of past predictions that we ought not to make any of our own; we must simply learn from the errors of the past and properly apply the data of the present. Cars do sometimes hit things, after all, and this need happen only once for everyone inside to be killed.

The purpose of this book is to convince the American reader that our republic is in the midst of an extraordinary structural crisis that threatens to cripple the nation and end its reign as the world's foremost superpower.

 

"So, dig this."

Clearly, CNN anchorperson Kyra Phillips was about to lay something heavy on the viewing public.

"A man was bulldozing a bog in central Ireland the other day when he noticed something unusual in the freshly turned soil. Turns out he'd unearthed an early medieval treasure: an ancient book of Psalms that experts date to the years 800 to 1000. Experts say it will take years of painstaking work to document and preserve this book, but eventually it will go on public display. Now here's the kicker. The book, about 20 pages of Latin script, was allegedly found opened to Psalm 83. Now, if you're a scholar, as you know, Psalm 83: 'God hears complaints that other nations are plotting to wipe out the name of Israel.'"

This would have been a hell of a kicker if it were true; the dapper president of Iran had just recently made a campaign promise to "wipe Israel off the map" (assuming the translation was correct, which it wasn't), and thus, said psalm would have neatly applied to the international situation in 2006. It would have also neatly applied to the international situation in 1948, 1967, 1972, and most especially to the time in which Psalm 83 was actually written, when Israel was engaged in perpetual hostilities with a great number of neighboring tribes.

But as it turned out, the psalm to which the miraculous manuscript was open - no doubt due to the divine intervention of Yahweh Himself - had nothing to do with complaints, plots, or the wiping out of anyone's moniker, as Psalm 83 by the Latin reckoning of that period actually corresponded to Psalm 84 of the Greek reckoning from which our modern psalms are taken. And so the psalm in question actually concerned an annual Hebrew pilgrimage and how swell it was to undertake. This was explained in due course by the archaeologists involved, but the various news outlets had already reported the more newsworthy Israel angle - newsworthy in the modern sense, not in the sense of it actually being true - and if The Reader is familiar with the way these things work, The Reader will consequently be unsurprised that few corrections were printed or reported.

In the dynamics of cable news, a miracle is a miracle whether it's a miracle or not, and the incident of Psalm 83 made for a swell segue into Kyra Phillips' live interview with a modern-day prophet and another modern-day prophet's co-author. The latter was Jerry Jenkins, who collaborated with evangelical minister Tim LaHaye in the ominously successful Left Behind series. The former was the increasingly popular Joel C. Rosenberg, lone author of several bestselling prophecy-oriented techno-thrillers and whose own contribution to the ominousness of the times lies not so much in the success of his books among the sort of people one might expect to read them, but rather in the success of his books with the sort of people who run the country.

For his part, Jenkins was either completely stunned or not stunned at all by the psalm discovery, which he called "amazing," "incredible," and "not terribly surprising" all within the space of 20 seconds, further adding that "it would probably have to be told in fiction form because people are going to find it hard to believe"; this sentence being literally true insomuch as that an incident that did not actually occur would indeed have to be told in fiction form, but also being literally false insomuch as that people would not find such a thing hard to believe because people will believe anything. Take for example the old myth that CNN is a respectable source for news instead of a degenerate entertainment outlet where anchorpersons say things like, "from books to blogs to the back pews, the buzz is all about the End Times," which is exactly what Kyra Phillips had said just a moment before.

Rosenberg, meanwhile, saw an opening with which to move onto his two favorite topics: the imminent invasion of Israel by Russia, and Rosenberg's own mysterious ability to predict things that have yet to happen, such as the imminent invasion of Israel by Russia. "Yes, people are interested [in bullshit Hebrew prophecy], because the rebirth of Israel, the fact that Jews are living in the Holy Land today, that is a bible prophecy. When Iran, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Russia, they begin to form an alliance against Israel, those are the prophecies from Ezekiel 38 and 39," Rosenberg said, pretending for the sake of his own argument that such an alliance actually exists between those nations and that the old Testament book of Ezekiel predicted it. "That's what I'm basing my novels on. I have been invited to the White House, Capitol Hill. Members of Congress, Israelis, Arab leaders all want to understand the middle east through the - through the lens of biblical prophecies. I'm writing these novels that keep seeming to come true, but we are seeing bible prophecy, bit by bit, unfold in the Middle East right now."

One can understand why Rosenberg's insight into world affairs would be so sought after around the White House and Capitol Hill; the ability to write books "that keep seeming to come true" would be an incredible asset to the national intelligence infrastructure of any geopolitical entity, particularly one as troubled as our own. In fact, it's a wonder that the NSA is permitting Rosenberg to write anything at all; as things stand now, any Iranian intelligence agent could show up at LAX, amble into a gift shop, and pick up a copy of one of these popular books "that keep seeming to come true," thus gleaning invaluable information about the not-so-distant future without having to resort to the rigors of human intelligence, electronic intelligence, geospatial intelligence, or - my personal favorite - foreign instrumentation signals intelligence. Likewise, any Chinese spy could download a bootlegged copy of one of these books for his communist masters, and without paying Rosenberg a dime in royalties. Shouldn't the U.S. intelligence community declare Rosenberg a national resource and whisk him off to some undisclosed location? The answer, of course, is no, because Rosenberg cannot really predict the future, as we will see.

The next obvious question, then, concerns how Rosenberg manages to write "these novels that keep seeming to come true" if he is incapable of doing so via some sort of supernatural shortcut, such as reading the book of ezekiel. There are two potential answers. The first potential answer is that Rosenberg - who worked as a "communications consultant" for various political and corporate figures before beginning his career as a novelist - is a keen geopolitical observer, and is thus able to extrapolate from current and past events in order to hypothesize probable future events. The second potential answer is that Rosenberg cannot do any such thing, and that "these novels that keep seeming to come true" only "seem" to come true in the sense that fortune cookie messages "seem" to come true if one disregards the fortune cookie messages that don't "seem" to come true at all, such as the one I got recently that said, "romance will soon come your way," which is extraordinarily doubtful in light of the fact that I've had the same case of athlete's foot for years. I actually sort of cultivate it because when the respective areas between your toes start to itch and you rub them, oh, man, it feels amazing. I feel sorry for the vast majority of humanity for not having thought of this like I have.

But let's hear Rosenberg - or at least whoever writes his marketing copy - out. According to his website, our prophetic friend has quite a track record of predicting the not-so-distant future. "The first page of his first novel - The Last Jihad - puts you inside the cockpit of a hijacked jet, coming in on a kamikaze attack into an American city, which leads to a war with Saddam Hussein over weapons of mass destruction," it says. "Yet it was written before 9/11, long before the actual war with Iraq." That actually sounds pretty impressive. I mean, that's exactly what ended up happening!

Let's examine that last sentence, the one that ends "long before the actual war with Iraq." A more accurate way of putting this would have been, "long after the first war with Iraq, not quite as long after the establishment of the No Fly Zones in two large sections of Iraq, which consequently put U.S. and Iraqi forces into a decade-long series of shooting incidents, and not very long at all after operation desert Fox, which had at then point been the most recent military conflict with Iraq, and which was also fought over weapons of mass destruction." That's somewhat better, although not quite as impressive from a marketing standpoint, which is to say that it's now true.

Still, though, Rosenberg did indeed write up a scenario in which we'd fight yet another undeclared war against Iraq over WMDs, which certainly ended up happening. Did he predict that 150,000 U.S. troops would be deployed to Iraq, topple saddam, occupy the country, and find out that there aren't any WMDs after all? Because that would be pretty impressive if he did. But he didn't. Instead, his book details how Saddam tries to blow up the U.S. with ICBMs launched from his super-secret ICBM launchers, at which point the U.S. gets all huffy and nukes Baghdad and Tikrit. My memory is a little hazy, but I don't remember any of that actually happening.

There's also the matter of Rosenberg's hijacked airplane, the one that comes in "on a kamikaze attack on an American city." in The Last Jihad, said plane crashes into the presidential motorcade in an attempt to assassinate the commander-in-chief. Well, that didn't happen, either, but surely the fact that Rosenberg used a plane crashing into an American city as a plot element makes him an extraordinarily important person whose views should be sought out by the White House, Capitol Hill, and Kyra Phillips. But what if he had written a scenario in which terrorists attempt to crash a commercial airliner into the World Trade Center itself, and said scenario had been released in narrative form just a few months before 9/11? That would be more impressive still, right?

In fact, that scenario was indeed written, and said scenario was indeed released in narrative form just a few months before 9/11. But it wasn't written by Rosenberg, or by any other modern prophet. Rather, it was an episode of the short-lived X-Files spin-off called The Lone Gunmen. I don't know who the writer was, but I'm pretty sure he hasn't been invited to Capitol Hill or the White House or even CNN. But why not? Coming up with a scenario in which such a significant event happens before it actually happens is, as we've determined, a valuable skill, perhaps even more valuable than Rosenberg's ability to predict a few things that sort of happen along with a bunch of shit that will never happen at all. As Condoleeza rice put it during her 2002 testimony before the 9/11 Commission, "No one could have imagined them taking a plane, slamming it into the Pentagon... into the World Trade Center, using a plane as a missile." No one but the guy who wrote that one show with those guys from that other show, that is.

I'm kidding; plenty of people aside from that guy who wrote that one show with those guys from that other show imagined that such a thing could happen, and Condoleeza Rice is, of course, a liar. In 1993, the Pentagon itself commissioned a study in which the possibility of airplanes being used as weapons against domestic U.S. targets was looked into; similar reports on the topic conducted by various other agencies would follow over the next few years. In 1995, an Islamic terrorist plot to crash 11 planes into various world landmarks was foiled by international authorities. In 1998, the Federal Aviation Administration warned airlines to be on the alert for hijackings by followers of bin Laden, and a number of reports that circulated through the intelligence community over the next two years warned that said followers might try to crash airliners into skyscrapers. And in 1999, Columbine assailants Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold wrote out their initial plan to shoot up their school, blow up the building, escape to the airport, hijack a plane, and crash it into New York City, but only got around to doing the first part. Had they refrained from doing any of it and instead simply described that last event in a book, they probably could have looked forward to lucrative post-9/11 careers as novelists/cable news mainstays, insomuch as that they would have been "writing these books that keep seeming to come true" to the same extent that Rosenberg does.

Ah, but Rosenberg has written other books as well. Back to his website: "His second thriller - The Last Days - opens with the death of Yasser Arafat and a U.S. diplomatic convoy ambushed in Gaza. six days before The Last Days was published in hardcover, a U.S. diplomatic convoy was ambushed in Gaza. Thirteen months later, Yasser Arafat died."

That a U.S. diplomatic convoy might be ambushed in Gaza is hardly a tough bet; the reason that it was a U.S. diplomatic convoy in the first place, and not a U.S. diplomatic bunch-ofcars-driving-around-individually-without-a-care-in-the-worldthrough-a-very-dangerous-region-where-anti-U.S.-sentimentis-high-and-everyone-is-armed, is that Gaza is a very dangerous region where anti-U.S. sentiment is high and everyone is armed. For instance, I looked up the search terms "convoy ambush Gaza" on Google News just now, and the first thing that comes up is the headline "Hamas ambushes convoy of U.S. weapons intended for Abbas agencies," relating to an incident that occurred on may 15th of 2007, that being two weeks previous to the time of this particular writing and a few weeks after I compiled my notes for this particular diatribe (yeah, I procrastinate). Oh, man! Here I was, writing and thinking about convoys being shot up in Gaza, and here was this convoy being shot up in Gaza! How is that I manage to write these books "that keep seeming to come true"? Someone should invite me to fucking Capitol Hill and ask me about it. I'll tell them that I figured it out by interpreting the Norse Ragnarök myth in a literal fashion. Or maybe I'll just tell them the truth, which is that convoys get shot up in the Palestinian territories all the time, and that if you write a big long book in which things get shot in the middle east or middle eastern terrorists blow something up - which is to say, a big long book filled with things that are constantly happening - a couple of these plot points are going to sort-of-kind-of-come-true-at-some-point, and then everyone will think you're neat. I probably won't tell them that, though. I'll just say it's Ragnarök. I can't wait to launch my career writing Ragnarök-based techno-thrillers.

In fairness to Rosenberg, his plot points don't simply involve things that have already happened several times or things that have almost happened several times or things that are happening right now; occasionally, he goes out on a limb by describing events that can only happen once, such as the death of Yasser Arafat mentioned above. The Reader will no doubt recall that Arafat did indeed die of undetermined health complications in 2004, having reached the age of 75 in a region where life expectancy is a bit lower than that and also after having been in and out of hospitals for several years, which is generally the sort of situation that leads one to die. And so it would have been pretty easy to predict in 2003 that Arafat might very well pass away in 2003 or 2004 from a combination of disease and plain old age.

But as easy as such a prediction might have been to make, it was still too difficult for our prophetic friend Rosenberg; The Last Days opens with Yasser Arafat being blown up in a suicide blast along with the U.S. secretary of state... in 2010. So, although Rosenberg does indeed predict the death of Arafat, whereas many people less astute than himself had no doubt predicted that Arafat might live forever, the actual death of Arafat, coming seven years before his fictional techno-thriller death in 2010, actually made Rosenberg's own scenario not more but less accurate and, in fact, impossible. Nonetheless, this is one of a handful of plot points that Rosenberg uses as an example of how he's managed to write "these books that keep seeming to come true."

Well, that's good enough for Kyra Phillips. Back at the CNN interview, Rosenberg was demonstrating his expertise on matters middle eastern by explaining that many Arabs don't like Israelis and would like to see them conquered and occupied. "saddam Hussein, or Iranian President mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah - they're all drunk with the dream of capturing Jerusalem," our friend informs us, although it's somewhat doubtful that the capture of Jerusalem was at the forefront of mr. Hussein's mind when this interview was conducted in July of 2006, seeing as how he was at the time living in a jail cell and being tried by a bunch of Shiites for killing a bunch of Shiites. but the larger point is indeed valid, so I'll stop interrupting for a second here. "That's what [Rosenberg's poorly written novel The Copper Scroll] is about, which is about this battle - this intense battle - to liquidate the Jewish people and liberate Jerusalem," Rosenberg continued. "I mean, are we seeing that happen? It's hard not to say that we are. That's why I've gotten invited over to the CIA, and the White House, and Congress," he reminded us again, later noting for good measure that "Bible prophecy" is "fairly remarkable intelligence. And that's why my novels keep coming true," which they don't. He continues that "they have this feeling of coming true," which is true in the fortune-cookie sense described earlier. He mentions that "a million copies have sold," which is simultaneously true, annoying, and unsurprising. "They are coming true bit by bit, day by day, "by which he apparently means that Saddam will come back to life and fire his nonexistent nuclear missiles at the U.S., which will in turn nuke Baghdad and Tikrit; that Yasser Arafat will come back to life and live long enough to be blown up by a suicide bomber in 2010 along with secretary of state Dennis Kucinich; and that a convoy will be shot up in Palestine. In fairness to Rosenberg, one of those things is indeed likely to happen. Again.

But on the question of the imminent destruction of Israel, Phillips - in accordance with established CNN procedure - wanted a second opinion from a guy who totally agrees with the guy who gave the first opinion.

"Jerry, what do you think about what Joel wrote, about watching the Russian-Iranian alliance seeking to wipe out Israel?"

"Well, I find it very fascinating," Jenkins replied, "and of course, Joel is a real geopolitical watcher."

 

The first great prophet of the 20th century was Herbert W. Armstrong, a former advertising copywriter who dispensed his dispensationalism by way of a radio program called World of Tomorrow, a monthly magazine entitled Plain Truth, and the occasional booklet, and whose second career as a harbinger of doom spanned more than 50 years. Like most advertising copywriters of his time, Armstrong had nothing but contempt for the written form of the English language. In his popular 1956 pamphlet entitled 1975 in Prophecy!, Armstrong's jihad against subdued English communication begins on the title page and continues without pause; let The Reader be warned that this is only the first of many inappropriate exclamation points used therein. More to the point, Armstrong here pioneers the art of modern eschatology and serves as a shining example for those who would come later, largely by being wrong.

1975 begins with an acknowledgment of the general sense of optimism for which the post-war U.S. is often remembered, and concedes that man's technological feats will indeed usher in a new era of convenience. "You'll no longer bother taking a bath in a tub or shower," Armstrong tells his contemporaries. "You'll take an effortless and quicker waterless bath by using supersonic waves!" An exciting prospect, to be sure; from the beginning of time, man has yearned to be free of his bubble baths. But instead of going on to describe how the drudgeries of adolescent love will soon be performed by robots, thus leaving young people with more free time in which to labor at the robot factories, Armstrong warns us that our budding, supersonic way of life is already threatened by a familiar enemy: the Germans. This may seem counter-intuitive; one would think that no other race would be more inclined to leave undisrupted a world in which love and leisure are soon to be sacrificed on the altar of robot efficiency. Nonetheless, the signs of the times were present for all to see, if only one knew where to look.

It seemed, for instance, that the Krauts were already protecting themselves against the elements. One picture of Berlin is captioned, "Notice MODERN apartment building - a common sight in the NEW Germany." That these NEW Germans were disinclined to replace their bombed-out dwellings with reproductions of 11th-century Crusader fortresses, opting instead to build 20th-century apartments in the 20th century, would probably have ranked pretty low on most people's lists of alarming German behavior, even bearing in mind that such a list would, at that point in history, be pretty fucking long. But there was more to be worried about, said Armstrong. "Already Nazis are in many key positions - in German industry - in German education - in the new German ARMY!" To be sure, the concept of a new German ARMY is quite a bit more alarming than the concept of a new GERMAN PRE-FAB CONDOMINUM. And in addition to what Armstrong lists here, Nazis already occupied "key" positions in the American rocket program, the feds having by this point made pets of many of the more useful fascists by way of Project Paperclip. With the benefit of hindsight, we now know that nothing particularly bad came of any of this. Armstrong, though, was supposed to have possessed the benefit of foresight.

Nonetheless, the Germans were clearly preparing for something. "They plan to strike their first blow," Armstrong continues, "NOT at France or Poland in Europe, but with hydrogen bombs by surprise attack on the centers of AMERICAN INDUSTRY!" Had I been writing this sentence, I would have probably been inclined to put "hydrogen bombs" in all caps and just left "American industry" with conventional lettering; incidentally, the "hydrogen bombs" in question are elsewhere referred to as "Hydrogen bombs" and "hydrogen-bombs." Anyway, the resourceful Krauts were conspiring not only to blow up Flint, Michigan with unconventional weaponry, but also to unite Europe under the inevitable Fourth Reich - which in turn would be led by the nefarious Antichrist. but who? "At a certain moment" - by which Armstrong apparently means "an uncertain moment," since the moment in question is not cited with any certainty at all - "the new LEADER of this European combine will suddenly appear in the public eye. He's already behind the scenes - in action! But the world does not yet recognize him! He still works under cover," even to the extent that such an accomplished futurist as Armstrong himself had yet to identify him, although he does venture a guess. "Already I have warned radio audiences to watch TITO." Anyone who followed Armstrong's advice would have been occasionally amused by the Yugoslav dictator's wacky antics, but otherwise disappointed with his failure to unite the greater European Combine under an apocalyptic, hydrogen bomb-tossing regime. One might also wonder why all these meticulous Nazis would be inclined to put a Slavic untermensch in charge of their hard-won Aryan shadow empire, which seems like an oversight.

But Armstrong's most stunning prediction is that not all of the problems of tomorrow will be caused by Europeans, as had been the case in the recent past; Americans will soon be to blame as well. "Our peoples have ignored God's agricultural laws," he notes. "Not all the land has been permitted to rest the seventh year." Although largely forgotten today, the failure of American agriculturalists to follow Old Testament farming guidelines was once akin to homosexual nuptials in its allegedly mortal threat to our national viability. The - collective failure to follow these gastronomic guidelines, Armstrong knew, would result in a major famine that would strike the U.S. "probably between 1965 and 1972." The imminence of this catastrophe was quite plainly evident even back in 1956; as the ongoing de-Yahwehification of our soil continued apace, the nation's "food factories are removing much of what minerals and vitamins remain - while a new profit-making vitamin industry deludes the people into believing they can obtain these precious elements from pills and capsules purchased in drug stores and 'health food' stores!" If only these misguided nutritionists had gotten into something legitimate, like the supersonic bath industry.

The rest of 1975 consists of what has become fairly standard Christian End Times spiel insomuch as that the Antichrist briefly takes over the world, most of which is eventually blown up. Armstrong's text does deviate from the norm in that instead of inviting the reader to accept Christ into his or her heart and then put all trust in Him, he invites the reader to accept Christ into his or her heart and then await further instructions from Armstrong, who has an idea about what might be some good places to lay low for a while; unlike most of his modern-day contemporaries, Armstrong does not subscribe to the concept of the pre-Tribulation Rapture, which is to spirit away the world's Bible-believing Christians before all the bad shit goes down. Also somewhat unique to Armstrong is the charming admonition printed on the final page: "This booklet is exceedingly brief and condensed. The reader is advised to read it a second time. This disclosure is so amazing, so different from the common conception, you probably did not really grasp it all the first reading."

Aside from such minor novelties, Armstrong is a fundamentally typical specimen of the professional prophet insomuch as that he possesses the one attribute common to all of them, which is persistence, persistence having been Armstrong's strongest characteristic, stronger even than his penchant for exclamation points, which was very strong indeed. This is to Armstrong's credit; in matters of prophecy, persistence is what separates the men from the boys, or, rather, what separates the men from the crazy old men who think they can divine the future. If you or I had predicted in 1941 that Hitler would eventually take over the planet as the "beast of revelation," as Armstrong had done before later moving on to Tito, and if Hitler ended up dead four years after this prediction, as Hitler did, you or I would probably give up right then and there and gone into real estate or something. Not Armstrong, though. Armstrong kept at it for 40 more years.

Like real estate, prophecy is a crowded field, and Armstrong eventually came to face just as much competition as you and I are going to come up against when we go into business together doing land flips in southern California. Billionaire faith healer Benny Hinn, for instance, has dozens of failed prophecies under his belt, ranging from the wacky (1989 prediction that all of the nation's gays are going to be killed by "fire" no later than 1995; perhaps he meant that they would be "thrilled" by "Fire island") to the not-so-wacky-yet-unfulfilled-nonetheless (another 1989 prediction that Fidel Castro would die in the '90s). Ditto with Pat Robertson, who predicted that the apocalypse would occur in 1982, and then again in 1984. Luckily, it didn't, and thus robertson was able to run for the goP presidential nomination in 1988 - that being the same year in which an engineer named Robert Faid wrote a book called Gorbachev! Has the Real Antichrist Come?, the title of which sort of makes it sound as if he's trying to get the Russian premier's attention and then ask him his opinion on the matter, but the text of which, of course, posits Gorbachev himself as the Antichrist. In 666: The Final Warning, a fellow named Gary Blevins proposes that the Antichrist could very well be Ronald Reagan; Blevins wrote this in 1990, two years after Reagan had already left the White House, so one has to give him some credit for going out on a limb. The very prolific author Yisrael Hawkins predicted that nuclear war would occur on September 12, 2006; when this didn't turn out to be the case, he decided that such a war had simply been "conceived" on that date. As of this writing, the world's water has yet to break.

One of the more financially successful of these modern prophets was Edgar Whisenaut, who appears to have sold something on the order of four million copies of his 1988 book, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Occur in 1988, in which he puts the event at sometime between September 11th and September 13th of that otherwise uneventful year. Then, on the 14th, he changed his prediction to the 15th. Then, October 3rd. Then he wrote another book called 89 Reasons Why the Rapture will Occur in 1989; I would imagine that the extra reason had something to do with 1988 having been ruled out by process of elimination. When the world made it to 1990 unscathed, Whisenaut wisely decided that his particular brand of prophecy might work better in a periodical format, and so he began putting out a new publication entitled Final Shout - Rapture Report 1990. The next year, it was called Final Shout - Rapture Report 1991. This went on for several years, but what's truly unusual is that it didn't go on forever. Whisenaut's eventual obscurity in the face of failed predictions is the exception, not the rule, to the usual career arc of the modern evangelical prophet, who may generally depend on a reliable income stream regardless of whether or not any of their predictions actually hit the mark. To be fair, this phenomenon isn't limited to the evangelical world, and in fact often applies to the realm of mundane, secular prophets, which is why William Kristol still has his own magazine.

We see that the various great religious prophets of the last century were both perpetually wrong in their predictions and perpetually successful in selling more of them even after the earlier ones had already proven to be wrong. What we shall soon see is that the most respected and influential columnists of the last decade work in a similar fashion. That is the crisis with which this book is concerned - that, and the greater crisis, which will almost certainly follow as a result.