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OPINION | BRENDA LOOPER: Augurs of doom

by Brenda Looper | March 10, 2021 at 3:41 a.m.
Brenda Looper

March 4 came and went and, luckily, nothing happened. There was no inauguration of Donald Trump as the 19th (??) president, but because of the threat of QAnon and militia adherents descending again on the Capitol, the U.S. House canceled its session for last Thursday.

Rumor has it that some believed it was a trap, I guess set by that dastardly international cabal of Satan-worshiping pizza enthusiasts.

The warnings turned out to be overly cautious but not unmerited, considering the January attack on the Capitol. Over the years there have been a lot of predictions made about various things, some of which made some sense based on an unbiased reading of history. Others, though, have turned out to be the product of overactive imaginations.

Let's take a look at a few other things that didn't happen.

• Another worldwide flood.

According to Mark D. Strauss in Smithsonian Magazine, German mathematician and astronomer Johannes Stöffler predicted in 1499 that a flood would engulf the world on Feb. 20, 1524. Some astrology crept in with a mention of a "watery sign," meaning Pisces.

"In Europe, more than 100 different pamphlets were published endorsing Stöffler's doomsday prophecy. Business boomed for boat-builders, not least for German nobleman Count von Iggleheim, who constructed a three-story ark on the Rhine," wrote Strauss. "Although 1524 was a drought year in Europe, a light rain did fall on the designated day. Crowds of people--hoping to gain a seat on Iggleheim's ark--began to riot. Hundreds were killed and the count was stoned to death. Stöffler later recalculated the actual date to be 1528, but by then his reputation as a soothsayer had been ruined."

That 1528 flood didn't happen either.

• The world didn't end.

Numerous people have pinpointed days on which they predicted the world would end, most notably, perhaps, Harold Camping, whose predicted doomsdays came and went without incident. Those of us who were in the New Madrid Seismic Zone in 1990, though, remember Iben Browning.

Browning was a "self-proclaimed climatologist" who predicted a major earthquake on Dec. 2 or 3, 1990, on the New Madrid fault would basically turn the entire region to soup. I was an undergraduate student at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro then, and had more than a few times felt tremors (it was especially chilling if you happened to be standing on the second-floor lobby balcony of the Fine Arts building), but it was never a big concern for me.

Still, in one of my political science classes, my professor joked as the date neared that, if the world didn't end but we didn't show up to class, it would be an unexcused absence.

That major quake never happened, and I'm pretty sure most of us turned up for class.

• The Democrats haven't taken away everyone's guns.

Every time a Democrat is elected to the White House, urgent calls go out that everyone's gun rights are in danger and the administration will be around to confiscate your guns any day now. That would be a neat trick, considering that there are more guns than people in the U.S., owned by less than a third of Americans.

Has it happened? Nope. But gun manufacturers (and the NRA, from the mid-1970s until recently) have been laughing all the way to the bank every time, as it means they sell more guns and ammunition because people want to stockpile munitions in case they--what?--have to defend themselves against a government that has tanks, rockets and other far more deadly and sophisticated weaponry.

Meanwhile, polls through the years have shown that Americans on the whole are in favor of common-sense gun regulation, such as universal background checks and red-flag laws, while a small percentage of people still claim that there can be no infringement of Second Amendment rights (those people might want to consult the writings of Justice Antonin Scalia in that regard).

Things like this don't take guns away from lawful owners, and never mind that doing away with the Second Amendment would take a new amendment proposed by two-thirds of the House and Senate, or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the state legislatures, then ratified by three-quarters of the states.

But sure, the warnings issued by people who profit by selling you guns and ammunition are far more believable.

Aha, I hear some of you say, so there's no need to worry about predictions of doom. In most cases, sure. However ...

Authorities in D.C. were on heightened alert because of what happened in January, and because of intel of a potential new threat due to QAnon. After five people died at the Capitol, caution was justified, just as it was after 9/11 when security was heightened around the country. And now QAnon has switched to March 20. For those of you who keep posting photos of fences and added security around the Capitol to make fun of members of Congress needing protection, it's things like the events of Jan. 6 that made that necessary. Think Newton's Law.

Basing actions on what intelligence services, history, legal scholars and the like advise isn't foolish. Believing doomsday prophets and profiteers is.


Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Read her blog at blooper0223.wordpress.com. Email her at blooper@adgnewsroom.com.

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