Times Reports: Crazy People Believe in 2012

In the Times yesterday, Dennis Overbye had an essay telling the paper’s more apocalyptically-inclined readers to continue paying their mortgages.  We have nothing to fear, Overbye insists; 2012 will only be remembered as the title of Roland Emmerich’s movie. Overbye doesn’t demonize the 2012ologists. He shares their fascination with Doomsday. “I have been in love with end-of-the-world stories since I started consuming science fiction as a disaffected child,” Overbye chimes in, between quotes from NASA scientists. But there are some people who have taken it too far: one scientist says that he receives 20 letters a day from people who just want to know if the world is ending.

Dr. David Morrison, one of the scientists interviewed in the piece, isn’t sure who or what to blame for this sudden wave of paranoia. Its not all Emmerich’s fault, he says. Overbye points fingers at “the apparent failure of some people, reflected in so many arenas of our national life, to tell reality from fiction.” But are they really that wacky? Or are they just science-fiction fans run amuck who know perfectly well that NASA will not reply with any classified information but just—for a second—want the fantasy to seem all the more real? Are they, not so unlike Overbye, just trying to create a story out of the situation?

Look out for Jessica’s essay on 2012 on KtB published concurrently.

Want more? We’ve got a whole series all about 2012.

Jessica Weisberg is on the editorial staff at the New Yorker and has published articles in The Nation and n+1, among other publications. If she had to name her favorite science fiction movie, it would probably have to be Dark City.