This post begins what I hope will be a more or less regular series in my blog, the “Doommonger of the Week”. Each week (more or less), I’ll be highlighting some scholar, public figure, or non-public figure, who has predicted that some sort of doom or disaster will fall upon the United States or the world, or who has promised to enact such a doom themselves.
I’ve never been impressed by doommongering. I think that this started when I was a kid in the 70s and I heard three different news stories in different venues in one week predicting that California would experience a devastating earthquake and fall into the ocean by the end of the week. Each prediction had a different source, and each contradicted each other. One was a seismologist, who should have known better; one was a psychic, who was probably hoping to simply make a buck; and one was a fundamentalist Christian who said California simply deserved it. So generally, when I hear that someone has predicted doom, I usually just mock it, or simply ignore it. But in these tough times, I think it’s more important to expose these folks and demonstrate that they are most likely wrong. As the old saying goes, “During times like these, it helps to remember that there have always been times like these”. Not only is this true, we’ve always managed to get through them (okay, Rome didn’t, but that’s a different story).
There are a couple of groups and individuals that I probably won’t bother with. I won’t bother with the news media in general, since doommongering is what they do, and much of how they do it is simply misreporting or exaggerating. I also probably won’t bother with Pat Robertson, whose regular predictions of God’s wrath descending upon some part of the United States borders on the pathological (this touches on my theory that Pat Robertson probably fulfills the diagnostic criteria for being a psychopath, but I won’t speak of that here).
So this week I’m happy to inaugurate my little series with Russian scholar Igor Panarin. According to an article in MSNBC, Panarin has predicted the following:
- President Obama will declare martial law in the United States this year;
- The United States will break apart into six smaller states by the year 2011; and,
- China and Russia will become the backbone of a new world order.
Panarin’s predictions are not particularly new; Russian Prime Minister Vladimir “Vlad” Putin was making a similar prediction just a few weeks ago, though with a different timeline (Putin predicted the collapse of the United States by the year 2010, not 2011), and I suspect that Panarin probably took his cue from Putin. Putin has long made his feelings toward the United States perfectly clear. He has compared us to the Third Reich, an utterly absurd comparison even to me, a good liberal who cringed during the worst of the Bush Administration (for the record: I never thought Bush would actually fulfill the worst predictions about him).
Those of us who are amused by such things will certainly recognize some of the features of Putin’s and Panarin’s predictions. In Friday, Robert Heinlein predicted the breakup of the United States into six major states (the only thing I remember of any of them was that California was such a fanatical democracy that the rule of thumb was that if you were tall enough to reach the voting booth, then you could vote, no matter your age). Predictions of the United States imposing martial law have been a regular boogeyman for decades, and reached a recent peak in 1999, when everyone was panicking about Y2K. Rumors even spread that WalMart was involved with the government in planning to impose martial law. During the 90s, when the Waco fiasco and the Minutemen group of Montana were making waves, people were similarly worried about martial law; and yet, despite the most hysterical predictions, particularly from right-wing militia groups, it never happened.
Of course, the United States has come dangerously close to falling apart. When the Articles of the Federation was enacted shortly after the Revolution, the United States was so loosely organized that each state had its own currency, its own militia and so on; this loose conglomeration of independent states led to the need for a stronger federal government, so the Constitution was written and enacted in the 1780s (yes, I’m oversimplifying the situation quite a bit). In 1861, issues of states’ right versus federal authority became so heated that the Civil War erupted. Every now and then, especially during economic crises such as the Great Depression, the issue rises up again, and a couple of states, like New Hampshire and Texas, have enacted legislation — or at least considered legislation — to reassert their authority as states; such legislation is largely symbolic, if not simply pointless, because it is redundant. In many areas, especially in the areas that the states are concerning themselves with, the states already have their independent authority.
And, of course, notions of a second Civil War have been popular in popular science fiction; recent examples include Emire by Orson Scott Card, and the popular Internet persona John Titor who, among other predictions, predicted a civil war in the United States following the election of 2004, a civil war that would erupt fully in 2008. Now, Orson Scott Card is a brilliant science fiction writer, although I find his politics dubious to say the least; and John Titor’s predicted Second American Civil War has obviously not occurred, although I knew a few people who were hysterical over the predictions.
So because of stale predictions that are probably driven more by politics and anti-American feelings in Russia, I proclaim that Igor Panarin is Doommonger of the Week. I hope he recognizes this as the honor it is.