Y2Krackpots just won't listen

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USA TODAY (NB) -- by Sam Vincent Meddis, USA TODAY.

The "content warning" I pasted on last week's column couldn't have been plainer. It was an appeal to anyone who'd moved to Arctic regions out of mortal fear that the Y2K computer glitch would bring on what's become known as TEOTWAWKI (a.k.a., The End of The World As We Know It). Don't read the column, I pleaded with them. I even used an exclamation point or two for emphasis. I said I didn't want to be responsible for the sled-dog-kicking rage that would ensue when their doomsday dreams got shattered. Did the Y2Krackpots listen? Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo ... Imagine my delight when I received this flaming e-mail message from someone identifying himself as Russ: ---"Idiot. Moron. You endanger people with your rosy illustration of this UNPRECEDENDED event -- in which the IT professionals facing it every day are the first to admit: THEY don't know how bad it will be. Keep your dangerous optimism to yourself -- you don't have the right to lull folks into a false sense of security. YOU are ignorant of the problems' potential for economic and social disaster ... Again: Idiot. Moron. And ... YES! A great big ol' twitchy horses' (expletive deleted)." I can't say I was surprised that "Russ" would go ahead and read the column despite my warning not to. A big ol' sled-dog-kicking rage probably helps pass the time while you're waiting to get eaten alive by polar bears or something.

Humor and anguish

What did surprise me, however, was the outpouring of messages from people who said they were fed up with the media hype and were refreshed to find, in the words of reader Mark Gentry, a "common sense approach" to the problem. (That approach, in a nutshell, is this: By all means prudently stock up on food and other supplies the way you might, say, for a bad storm -- not for a nuclear winter. A ZDNET computer news service FAQ specifies the kind of supplies you might consider. The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers a toll-free info hotline. And we've pulled together a special Millennium Bug Countdown section with the latest news reports.) The most moving message I got was from a reader who signed her name Jennifer B. ---"Thank you so very much for the insight to the Y2K frenzy in the world," she wrote. "When I first heard about Y2K I was pregnant and living with my in-laws. My father-in-law started preparing the house for the disaster. He got me so scared and I feared for my unborn child's life. I was considering having an abortion, just so I wouldn't have to worry about how I was going to feed my child when the time came for the stores to no longer have food. I was an emotional wreck." I appreciated the e-mail message of solidarity from another reader, Dan Fry. ---"I just wanted to thank you for affirming my sanity," he wrote. "Take care of yourself, and feel comforted when you DO get the flames ... there is someone right beside you." John Pinkerton added that it was "nice to see a level-headed dialog with a bit of levity in it." Some readers even joined in the levity. ---"I could not agree with you more on all the hype surrounding the Y2K issue," wrote Rick Wagner. "Maybe you could write a helpful article next year on turning that wood-burning stove into an attractive planter and tasty recipes for all that freeze-dried food."

But then there were anguished messages from readers who are genuinely alarmed or confused about what might happen in the months ahead. Having been subjected to the scare tactics of profiteering computer consultants and a crisis-driven media, they yearn for total assurances that there won't be some kind of global catastrophe. They seem to take little comfort in sensible analyses, such as one from Alistair Stewart, a senior Year 2000 adviser with the info-tech research firm Giga Information Group. "Expect inconveniences at worst, but not Armageddon," Stewart told the Newsbytes News Network last month. "Buy batteries or a generator if it makes you feel comfortable, but you don't need to build a solar-powered generating station. And while most building managers most likely will have updated their systems, if the thought of riding an elevator at midnight on Dec. 31, 1999, makes you nervous, use the stairs."

The bandwagon of fear

It would have been far safer -- in terms of hate mail, at least -- for me to hop on the hype bandwagon. If the sky were to fall when Jan. 1, 2000, rolls around, I could then gleefully say "told you so." On the other hand, if the sky doesn't fall, I could join the huge chorus of "experts" claiming that their doomsday predications saved the world by forcing everyone to prepare for the worst. But it's important to speak out because we might otherwise face a scarier threat than screwy computer systems. Steve Haffner, another reader, picked up on that risk in his e-mail message: ---"You are correct in that computer problems won't cause catastrophic business breakdowns. But that doesn't mean catastrophe won't occur. When the population starts getting nervous, they start behaving irrationally. If people begin taking their money out of banks and the stock market because they are frightened, this could very well have catastrophic consequences on many businesses and perhaps on our entire economy. The breakdown will not be with the computers, which tend to behave in predictable, logical ways, but the people, who allow themselves to be misinformed and emotionally manipulated." Haffner voices a legitimate concern, a strong reason indeed for pundits to refrain from fanning the fires of fear. But I don't think a financial stampede is very likely. That's because I agree with the sentiments expressed by another reader, Richard Malone, who described himself as an info-technology educator. ---"Y2K will be the biggest non-event that has hit the world since early civilizations went nuts over eclipses," he wrote. "Of course there will be some glitches when the date finally rolls over into year 2000. There are thousands of computer glitches every day. But + no, the stock market will not collapse. Satellite service will continue. Military weapons won't misfire. Banks will not lose your money (any more than usual). Essential services like water and gas will not fail. Government checks will go out (with the usual dull efficiency). The government will not attempt or even consider imposing martial law. There will be no black helicopters with government special forces or gangs of rioting people in the streets. My prediction is based upon the solid common sense of the American people." Which brings me to the reason why I appear to come down rather hard on "Russ" and his extremist ilk. How can they even imagine that the American people -- the nation that triumphed over the Great Depression, over the Nazi war machine and over the masters of the Soviet gulags -- might be beaten by a computer bug? "What nonsense," as Richard Malone puts it.


-- Chicken Little (panic@forthebirds.net), February 12, 1999


Dear Chicken....it's so blatantly obvious that you post and then immediately provide your own fan letters under assumed names. Give it up, you're busted.

-- Troll Patrol (vigilant@underthe.bridge), February 12, 1999.

This person is going to suffer horribly. Both from the effects of Y2k and from the knowledge that not only did he not prepare himself, while he could, but that he actively discouraged others from making life-saving preparations. I don't even get irritated by these people anymore. It's just nausea...


-- E. Coli (nunayo@beeswax.com), February 12, 1999.

E- the folks I'm working with are making some *limited* preparations to allow us to be able to provide a little bit of assistance to the truly needy among the refugees...it just occurred to me that we'd also better start asking folks a bit about *why* they didn't prepare...seems to me there might be some sort of crimial action against those effectively guilty of mass murder due to their encouragement of inaction...whaddaya think?


-- Arlin H. Adams (ahadams@ix.netcom.com), February 12, 1999.

Self-destructive behavior is such a bizarre thing. And yet, it's obvious that there are many people, grown adults, who genuinely hate themselves. Rather than store a few extra cans of food & a few bags or rice -- which is within nearly everyone's power to do -- they write long-winded essays about why they refuse prepare at all, for any kind of emergency, simply because someone else might stand to benefit financially from such preparation.

What can you say? People are strange.

-- there's no (figuring@it.out), February 12, 1999.

Please argue with these guys!!!

-- Tman (
Tman@IBAgeek.com), February 13, 1999.

-- Tman (
Tman@IBAgeek.com), February 13, 1999.

Y2K news articles and items for newcomers

-- Kevin (mixesmusic@worldnet.att.net), February 13, 1999.

Two posts were deleted from this thread. Lurkers and trolls, it's time to play hardball. Ed may be the sickest one in the whole sorry bunch. What are you afraid of Ed? The first amendment; A shrinking bottom line as your bullshit is exposed? He Ed where can I find your De'Ja Vu article? HaHa

Let's rock and roll punk

-- Dwight D. Eishenhower (Normandy@beach.com), February 13, 1999.

Dwight, which posts were deleted? Ed said he will only delete posts at the request of the author. I've been here since July and haven't noticed once single instance of deleted/censored posts on any threads.

-- Chris (catsy@pond.com), February 13, 1999.

Yep, the Congress of the United States ...

http:// freedom.house.gov/y2k/resources/links.asp

... And the U.S. Senate must be Y2K crackpots (Not). Click on links:

http://www.senate.gov/ ~y2k/index.html

Inform yourself.


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), February 13, 1999.

Chris wants to know what was deleted. One from a very upset chicken little in all caps and one calling Inverr a nazi bastard.

-- Buffalo Bob (Howdy@dooty.com), February 13, 1999.

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