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Bell's Superstorm and The
Death of Millenniumitis

YOWUSA.COM, 20-February-01
Marshall Masters

This weekend I happened upon a publisher's closeout sale at a local mall.  A Tom Clancy hard cover dominated the first clearance table past the front door and his 500-page Into the Storm was slashed to $2.00 (publisher's price $27.50.)  On the next table, another thick stack of fire sale hard cover books rose above all others.

It was the The Coming Global Superstorm by Art Bell, Whitley Strieber for $7.00 (publisher's price $23.95.)  In terms of effort and value, Clancy deserved a better break because Superstorm is  long on speculation and short on value. However, the rapidly fading interest Superstorm is more than a failed publishing venture, because it also serves as a fitting tombstone for the cold corpse of millenniumitis. 

The Decade of Millenniumitis 

During the last decade, the prospect of end-times catastrophes in the year 2000 plagued many with fear about an uncertain future.  Yet, there was a tangible public concern that the year 2000 would bring disaster.   

This fostered a consensus of fear that was aptly coined "millenniumitis" by the media and this social event was focused on a set date.  As we came closer our fears escalated at a geometric rate.  

In the midst of all this came books like Superstorm, which offered a loosely structured, populist speculation that relied more on the public notoriety of the authors for credibility than upon quality research and organization.   Nonetheless, the central premise of Superstorm still remains a valid point of discussion for those interested in the process view of catastrophe, as opposed to those who prefer the populist event-driven view.

The Selling of Disaster

Catastrophic events are easy to sell, and all catastrophic charlatans use the same modus operandi wherein they: 

  • Grab your attention with a scary possibility.
  • Give you a taste of their unique and insightful knowledge.
  • Tell you they are the only ones who really understand the problem.
  • Instruct you where to send the money and how much. 

The focus on the beginning of the new millennium and the Y2K bug was so intense we became targets of opportunity and so we were promised:

  • A Y2K bug catastrophe. It didn't happen.
  • Armageddon.  It didn't happen. 
  • A rogue asteroid impact. It didn't happen. 
  • A hurricane that would level Florida.  It didn't happen. 

How did most Americans react to these unfilled catastrophic event predications after the danger had passed?  

  • Some said, "I've been cheated. I was promised a catastrophe, I got ready for it, I waited for it, I worried about it and you didn't deliver!  By God, I paid for a catastrophe and you cheated me.  I want heads to roll!"
  • Others waited till midnight to walk out to their trash bins so their neighbors wouldn't see them throwing away their pricey hard cover predication books.
  • A few said, "thank you God. Thank you so very much", as they kissed their children good night."  

But no matter who you were, the curse of millenniumitis was that it could make you live in fear of being helpless. 

Indeed, the death of millenniumitis was and remains a true blessing!

Still the same, the saddest part about the death of millenniumitis was that it was cloaked in a burial robe of prudent reason and vigilance.

This unfortunate because the processes of catastrophe are still at work and as dangerous as ever.

Unexpected Disasters

The phrase "history repeats itself" is every bit as ingrained in the public mind as phrase, "the check is in the mail."  Yet, when it comes to catastrophes we're often caught completely off-guard.  Why?

In terms of catastrophes, history usually repeats itself because of our myopic focus on events as opposed to processes.  This is because we tend to identify catastrophic processes in terms of their final failure events, such as:

  • Titanic, April 14, 1912
  • Battleship Arizona, December 7, 1941
  • Space Shuttle Challenger, January 28, 1986

In most minds, the sinking of the Titanic was a catastrophic event.  Likewise, so was the sinking of the Arizona and the fatal launch of the Challenger. 

What these unrelated disasters have in common is that they were all the culminating event of a process, where an unbroken chain of otherwise unremarkable failures eventually resulted in a sudden and catastrophic collapse of an entire system. 

With this in mind, let's examine a few samples of the unbroken catastrophic event chains we now call, Titanic, Arizona and Challenger.

  • Titanic, April 14, 1912: The doomed passengers of Titanic first met their deaths when ship's owners used an outdated law to reduce the number of lifeboats over the many protests of the ship's designer. 
    The passengers again met their deaths when the Captain of the Titanic knowingly ignored multiple iceberg warnings and ordered the ship to its maximum speed at night. Even though his ship had left port without enough binoculars for the forward lookouts.  Then, he handed over command of the vessel to a junior officer on that fateful night, and the rest is history. 
  • Battleship Arizona, December 7, 1941: In the early 1930's, General Billy Mitchell demonstrated that dive-bombers could sink any battleship.  American military leaders clung to their love of capital ships and ignored what their eyes told them, but not so with the more astute Japanese military leaders who intently observed the very same demonstration.
    Had American military leaders taken Mitchell's warnings to heart, they would have would have increased the amount of armor on the Arizona's decks, and employed a more effective air defense.   
  • Space Shuttle Challenger, January 28, 1986: Despite the repeated warnings of a top Thiokol engineer, NASA managers launched the shuttle with ice-encased boosters.  This disaster was the direct result of an agency that had traded safety for political gain.   

Another thing these catastrophic failures have in common is that they are remembered in terms of the final catastrophic event because of its tragic loss of life.  The warnings of the knowledgeable few, the harbingers of catastrophe, were ignored then and now appear in an occasional footnote. 

When history repeats itself, the first thing to go are the footnotes. 

Harbingers of Catastrophe

For the purpose of this article, a harbinger is someone who can identify an unbroken chain of unremarkable failures and then look far enough into the future to see that unless the chain is broken; it will eventually result in a catastrophic failure, and who selflessly tries to warn those in danger. The perfect harbinger is a simple canary. 

In earlier days, coal miners would take canaries down into the mines with them.  If the canary (with its more sensitive reparatory system) died, the miners knew they were in danger and would attempt to evacuate the mine. Harbingers are mankind's canaries in the coalmine.

Selfless harbingers are just as vital to our continued existence as the canary was to the coal miner, and modern day harbingers come in many forms such as:

  • Independent scientists who continue to warn us that our planet is changing for the worse and that we will suffer for it. 
  • Self-taught observers who track and write about failure chains that could lead to catastrophic finales.
  • Individuals who choose to invest the time to become self-informed, and who discuss their findings with family, friends and associates. 

These harbingers are invaluable to mankind, but unfortunately their efforts are often silenced or perverted by pretenders, charlatans and self-serving debunkers. 

  • Pretenders typically point to selective elements within a failure chain as way to validate a totally unrelated belief system. 
    The motive here is ego gratification. 
  • Charlatans capitalize on a public fears and offer solutions for a price. 
    The motive here is unbridled greed. 
  • Self-serving debunkers are quickly identified by their rhetoric and manner.  When the see public interest growing in the announcement of a harbinger, they attack the harbinger and the information presented with personal attacks, ridicule, sloppy research, innuendo and falsehoods.
    The motive here is self-aggrandizement. 

What pretenders, charlatans and self-serving debunkers all have in common, is that they deflect the spotlight of public attention away from the selfless warnings of a well intentioned harbingers, and onto themselves. 

In essence, they attract that those that do not want to be concerned by legitimate observations, and in turn are compensated through various rewards aimed at their own self-interests. 

But the real tragedy of pretenders, charlatans and self-serving debunkers is they perpetuate the worst reasons why history repeats:  Ego gratification, unbridled greed, and self-aggrandizement.

But Are The Harbingers Always Right?

In the beginning of this article, I discussed the book, The Coming Global Superstorm by Art Bell, Whitley Strieber, and why it had made its way to publisher's clearance sale with a whopping 70% discount off the original publisher's price.  Is this because Bell and Strieber were wrong?  That is hard to say, but had they not been rushing to market to capitalize on the millenniumitis phenomena, they could have written a much better book.

Still the same, Bell and Strieber did present an intriguing idea: A sudden flip-flop of nature could result in violent and freezing weather worldwide? 

For many, the idea of such a huge and sudden flip-flop appears illogical, especially when you've been taught that nature works at a slow and steady Darwinian pace. 

However, what Bell and Strieber failed to establish in their book is that sudden massive flip-flops are a valid phenomena nature, and as a matter of fact we are seeing one now. 

Today, NASA tells us that our sun has just flip-flopped!  

NASA, February 15, 2001
The Sun Does a Flip

NASA scientists who monitor the Sun say that our star's awesome magnetic field is flipping -- a sure sign that solar maximum is here.

You can't tell by looking, but scientists say the Sun has just undergone an important change. Our star's magnetic field has flipped.

The Sun's magnetic north pole, which was in the northern hemisphere just a few months ago, now points south. It's a topsy-turvy situation, but not an unexpected one.

"This always happens around the time of solar maximum," says David Hathaway, a solar physicist at the Marshall Space Flight Center. "The magnetic poles exchange places at the peak of the sunspot cycle. In fact, it's a good indication that Solar Max is really here."

If the sun can flip its magnetic poles, then who is to say that Bell and Strieber have not hit upon something that could actually explain why scientists continue to find flash frozen prehistoric Wooly Mammoths under the Siberian tundra with fresh, undigested grasses in their stomachs. 

This flip-flop of the sun's magnetic poles is not just an idle curiosity either.  This current solar maximum has been late in coming, and the highest activity levels ever recorded have preceded it. 

While the folks at NASA are downplaying this with what essentially reads like "gee whiz, isn't this interesting", thousands of acres of Florida swamp lands are burning out of control because fire fighting equipment cannot traverse the mud and water of the swamps. 

AP, February 19, 2001
Fla. Firefighters Battle Wildfire

POLK CITY, Fla. - Firefighters battled early Monday to control a 9,000-acre wildfire in a dry swampy area in central Florida.

The blaze has closed a 10-mile section of Interstate 4 and forced the evacuation of about 30 homes near here. No injuries were reported and no houses were damaged.

The wind-driven fire in the Green Swamp grew from 2,000 acres Saturday night and jumped I-4, a heavily traveled route between Tampa and Orlando. It was not known when I-4 between U.S. Highway 27 and State Road 33 would reopen.

A total of 1,230 fires have scorched 83,150 acres from the beginning of the fire season Jan. 1 through Saturday, according to the Florida Division of Forestry.

Fire officials say the drought and recent freezes mean conditions for igniting fires are worse than in 1998, when blazes burned 500,000 acres across the state.

"I'm afraid it's going to be a long season," said J.P. Greene, aviation manager with the forestry division in Tallahassee.

What is wrong with this picture?  Thousands of acres of wet, muddy and humid swamplands are burning out of control.  But that is not the half of it.

NASA has assured that our sun has finally reached the peak of its current solar maximum, but what they fail to mention is that the solar maximums are also accompanied by elevated levels of impact events, as was demonstrated with the 1908 Tunguska and 1930 Amazon basin impact events.  Both of these impact events devastated huge tracks of land, and both occurred during a solar maximum such as the one now occurring at this very moment. 

So why hasn't NASA said anything about this? 

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