Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
October 4, 1999
Are we all going to die?
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
People who have staked their credibility on apocalyptic Y2K predictions must be starting to sweat. Since late 1998, every allegedly "critical" date for the beginnings of the Y2K disaster has rolled by uneventfully.
My own Y2K prediction is that Jan. 1 will be a yawner as catastrophes go too.
There will doubtless be a few hiccups and glitches, but as one person on Bay Street put it: "Who cares if Nigeria's telephone system doesn't work?" Well, the Nigerians, presumably, but you get the drift.
Here is a timeline of Y2K disaster predictions so far that didn't quite go as the doom prophets expected:
Fall 1998: Food supply companies will begin running behind schedule. Gold and silver supplies will begin to dwindle as coin dealers get backlogged.
Not that we noticed.
January 1999: Stockpiling spreads from the fringe survivalist community to more mainstream families. Gold and silver prices will be on the rise.
Spring 1999: Sensational news stories continue to instill a sense of fear about Y2K.
Partly true about the sensationalism, but to no significant effect.
April 1, 1999: The United States, Canada, New York State and Japan roll into their fiscal 2000.
Seems to have gone smoothly.
April 6, 1999: The government of England rolls into fiscal year 2000.
Likewise without notable incident.
July 1, 1999: The state governments of 46 states roll into fiscal year 2000. This will be an interesting day to watch.
About equivalent to watching paint dry or grass grow.
Summer of 1999: Real panic starts to hit. U.S. banks notice an increase in cash withdrawals as people begin to withdraw cash for fear of the bank collapses. Bank presidents plead with the Federal Reserve to do something. The Treasury Dept. begins "panic printing" money, fueling spiraling inflation that will kick in just a few months later.
Must have been one of those "invisible panics."
Aug. 22, 1999: The GPS (Global Positioning System) system fails worldwide, due to a known bug in the GPS firmware that will unexpectedly subtract 1,024 weeks from the transmitted date beginning on Aug. 22, 1999. Ships will get lost at sea. Air traffic will be affected. The military will likely be on full alert because their guided missiles won't work anymore.
The GPS rollover got some mainstream press coverage, but passed quietly without significant incident.
Sept. 9, 1999: On 9/9/99, we were supposed to get a preview of Y2K. This date was used in many computer mainframe applications as an "end of record" indicator, causing critical database systems to shut down, adding to the "groundswell of fear that now clutches the attention of the public." Cash withdrawals would accelerate, purchasing of supplies would be in a near-panic state.
Another "crisis" day that passed unremarkably. Do you detect a pattern here?
Things we are warned to look out for over the next few months are big bank runs and a stock market crash in October, (we've had the latter before without Y2K); government cash controls and "real panic" to set in by November; the stock market at less than 50 per cent of its 1998 valuation by December, pandemonium at grocery stores as people scramble to stock up.
By Dec. 31 as the ignorant and ill-informed get set for the biggest party in the history of civilization, the cognoscenti will hunker down with their candles and food supplies confidently expecting the end of civilization as we know it. Power grids are supposed to crash around the world, leaving partiers in the dark.
In the days following New Year's 2000, martial law will be declared. There will be rioting and looting in big cities. International money markets shut down. Banks close. The stock market collapses. Inflation heads for triple-digit territory - or so say the Y2K Cassandras.
Scary stuff, but it's not going to happen. This wild Y2K paranoia and the elaborate survivalist preparations some people are making will turn out to be a fin de siecle version of the now-quaint bomb-shelter hysteria of the 1950s and '60s.
As of Sept. 17, the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has graded only 27 of the country's 10,922 banks as less than satisfactory in their Y2K repairs, and just seven as "unsatisfactory." Canada's banks say they're fully prepared for Y2K.
"Consumers should prepare for the century date change as they would for any long weekend," U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan advised last month. "Those people who do cash out a significant part of their deposits only increase the risk that they will become victims of crime or fraud."
What we really have to fear is fear itself, and a really crucial issue is how responsibly the media chooses to play the Y2K story. As the title of one Y2K dispatch I received asked: "Are We All Going To Die?"
No, but problems caused by Y2K hysteria and panic have real potential to be a lot worse than Y2K glitches themselves.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
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