Saturday, May 23, 2009

Seven Signs of the Bullcrapolypse, Part 1

As promised, I’m about to gear up for The Bullshit Channel’s “Seven Signs of the Apocalypse.” It’s fortunate that I seem to be out of alcohol, for the record. I’d be tempted to make a drinking game that involves drinking every time I hear some variation on, “Some people believe…” or, “Some Christians will tell you…” Allow me to offer this piece of advice: in any future endeavor involving history, if someone starts off a sentence with, “Some people believe,” DO NOT TRUST THEM. Thank you. Anyway, it’s off to the races. 11:22: On-screen disclaimer: “The following program contains content that might be disturbing to some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.” I’m just going to assume they’re talking about the complete lack of actual, justifiable historical information with that one… 11:24: They’re introducing things. Apparently global warming, dead fish, tsunamis, and bird flu all mean ZOMG, Bible! 11:25: “Is it possible we are now experiencing the seven signs of the apocalypse?” Um, no. 11:26: We meet our first “expert:” Johnathan Kirsch. He apparently wrote a book called The History of the End of the World. The HarperCollins website informs me he might be one of the good guys… 11:28: Some douchebag just told me that everyone knows, “Whether they’re an atheist or a Scientologist or a Hindu or a Christian or a Catholic or a Jew, every person knows that we are on the verge of apocalypse.” Uh, what? 11:30: Narrator tells me that modern scientists agree that the world will soon end and that the sciency stuff confirms the Biblical account because they’re so darn similar. Also, “To those who believe in the book of Revelation, the warning signs that mark the beginning of the prophecy are clear.” Yeah. 11:32: The Four Horsemen. Sadly, neither Gaiman nor Pratchett are involved in this part. Woohoo! Jerry Jenkins! 11:33: They bring in a doctor to tell us he’s scared of pandemic. Seriously? I’m assuming that was taken out of context. 11:34: There’s some random chick who says we’ll have chaos if there’s famine. Again, it seems like it was taken out of context. Next they’re gonna bring in PZ Myers to disprove evolution. 11:35: “Both secular and religious experts agree that the possibility of human annihilation is real.” Thanks, narrator. Please tell me you’re going to bring Jerry Jenkins in to explain how that works. Oh, you are? Hooray! 11:36: Apparently in Jerry Jenkins world natural disasters are getting worse and “wars and rumors of wars” are becoming more common. First, way to Bible drop there, Jerry. Second, um, natural disasters and wars aren’t getting more common. Our communication about them is. 11:38: The First Horseman is the most terrifying, apparently. Because he’s the Antichrist. Narrator says that the book of Revelation says the Antichrist will turn to the dark side. There are at least three things wrong with that sentence. (Pausing the DVR. I realize I’ve now taken 16 minutes to get through seven minutes of programming. Not a good sign. Anyway…1. The Antichrist IS NOT IN REVELATION. 2. I’m pretty sure that the Beast and Satan in Revelation stay on the same side throughout. 3. The dark side? Really? I’m supposed to be waiting for Darth Vader? Crap! The Antichrist is James Earl Jones. Why didn’t we see it all along?) 11:42: “The key to unlocking the rest of the prophecy is the number seven.” Great. 11:43: They keep refusing to tell me who Douchebag is. I think I’ma call him Douchebag. Also, watch out for meteors. 11:44: Narrator says “seven” about twelve times in one sentence. I can’t follow this bullshit. 11:45: Apparently we’re supposed to believe that asteroid strikes are a sign of god’s displeasure. Because, y’know, ancient people believed that. And we’re dumb like that. 11:47: They talk to scientists about asteroids for a while. I’d really like to know if they told these scientists what the show was about. At least the science is good and I don’t feel the need to comment. Also, they are supporting the whole, “The Earth’s been around for a bit longer than 6000 years,” thing. So that’s a good sign. 11:50: Objects that can do damage to the Earth are surprising to scientists and religious people alike. I don’t have a clue what that’s supposed to mean. Why would potential killer asteroids surprise, well, anyone? We know they’re out there. 11:51: Scientist describes an asteroid strike on New York. I’ll bet the going to switch to Jerry Jenkins describing what that has to do with Revelation. Hey, they brought Douchebag in, too. Also, they keep referring to theoretical asteroid as “Wormwood.” Way to be credulous, jackasses. 11:52: “Believers in the seven signs and scientists both agree: a plague that can kill millions may just be a matter of time.” I don’t even have anything snarky to say. I mean, what the hell do you say to that? 11:54: Hey, a commercial for Knowing, with Nicholas Cage. Imagine that… 11:55: SARS, avian flu, and malaria are signs of the apocalypse. Right. Douchebag thinks that plagues are a new thing. And a quarter of the world will die in a plague. Over a billion people. Is this after Wormwood wipes out a couple billion? Did they bother to fact check anything? Also, they bring in the Black Death. Which may have actually “fulfilled” Biblical prophecy. So we’ve been in the seven year tribulation for, oh, seven hundred years or so. Again, DO SOME FUCKING FACT CHECKING. 12:00: They’ve been talking about mutated avian flus. Hey, remember the panic over swine flu? Wasn’t that awesome? Okay, seriously, flu pandemics are bad. But we keep dealing with these things and they’re a sign of modernity and speedy travel, not ZOMG, the Bible! 12:02: Douchebag says that it’s not disease we have to worry about, but biological warfare. Cast that net wide, Douchebag. 12:03: They keep showing this woman who’s a crisis expert. She’s got crazy eyes. And she’s not one of the nutty seven signs people. I’m a little creeped out by her. Still, I’ll take her over Douchebag… 12:05: Avian flu will destroy society. I think the experts are talking about the absolute worst-case scenario. The show is presenting this like it’s going to happen next week. This is just downright irresponsible. 12:06: They keep doing this stupid thing with a typewriter clacking out words. The last one: “It’s only a matter of time.” Fear monger much? 12:07: Penis enlargement commercial. I think I believe them more than I believe this show. 12:08: “But as the investigation of the seven signs prophecy continues, a pattern begins to emerge. It’s a dark place on the fringes of human knowledge. A place where the differences between modern science and ancient prophecy begin to blur. The next sign brings that dark place in to sharper focus, revealing a new level of horror and destruction.” I can’t even begin to parse that idea. It’s completely non-sensical. 12:11: Dammit. They repeat the “earthquakes are getting worse” nonsense. No. They aren’t. Unless you’re a “believer in the seven signs.” Apparently they see it clearly. 12:15: Earthquakes are a sign that god is literally trying to shake us in to a dependence on him. Yes. That’s exactly what they are. No plate tectonics for us. 12:16: “Earthquakes have a long history that pre-dates the Bible.” No shit. I’ll bet you that there were earthquakes for millions of years before the Bible was written. They might even pre-date humans. 12:17: Earthquakes were a sign of the judgment of god back in the day. Now scientists are trying to gain a more scientific insight in to them. I find the juxtaposition of these two ideas hilarious. 12:19: Scientific knowledge is declared to be clear on earthquakes, with an expert saying that they know things will happen, but we still can’t say when. Y’know, because of all that time experts spend observing things and looking at data and whatnot. This is immediately followed by, “True believers in the seven signs see a far more powerful force being unleashed.” Some guy, I’ma call him Dillhole since I’ve already used Douchbag, then says that he doesn’t think scientific explanations are necessary. Because, you know, goddidit. 12:22: ZOMG! Global earthquake pandemics! Crazy-eyed woman says some stuff about how horrible things would be. I’m starting to grow weary of my self-imposed task. 12:24: I’m starting to suspect that the only reason they’re doing this is to monger some fear. I’m pretty sure that if I were in charge of signing off on programming for The Bullshit Channel I’d ask one simple question: “What good will this program do?” The answer, as best I can tell, is, “None whatsoever.” 12:25: Crazy-eyed woman just brought up the deplorable conditions in other parts of the world and how it’d really suck to be stuck in an earthquake there. It was almost racist. 12:26: Some gap-toothed dude: “Earthquakes are a warning. They’ve taken place throughout history and they are an indication that god is still in control of the Earth.” So, um, this guy still didn’t get the memo on that whole plate tectonics thing, did he? 12:28: I can only take so much densely-packed stupidity at one time. I’m halfway through the show, so this is a good time to stop. I’ll get the second-half in later.


Fiat Lex said...

I’m pretty sure that if I were in charge of signing off on programming for The Bullshit Channel I’d ask one simple question: “What good will this program do?” The answer, as best I can tell, is, “None whatsoever.”See, the willingness to ask this question--and the urge to come up with it!--are among the reasons you aren't in charge of that. Network execs, as far as I can tell, are in charge of asking one question and one follow-up question: How many people will tune in to this program? And how willing will it make them to spend money on products and services?

The History Channel gradually moved away from looking at genuine archaeology or scholars who found new facets of ancient stories by studying source documents because millions of people don't watch that shit. Thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands do, but that don't cut it.

Or alternatively, people who watch that shit don't shell out for Knowing or Extenze based on the emotional associations they formed during the course of the show. Y'know, when ads for those things soothed and comforted them after they sat around gnawing their fingernails because the asteroid was going to blow them up and the Antichrist was going to eat their babies.

This is why networks aim for the lowest common denominator. Because the ad system only works if TV can reach out and grab people by the glands and bully them into buying stuff. So TV exploits every possible means by which a person can be thus grabbed and bullied, and tends to ignore almost every other facet of human experience.

Do yourself a favor--if your cable provider has it, watch South Korean PBS sometime. It's friggin' awesome. Me and Dave were watching it the Saturday night before last, and some half-hour show called Traveling Memoir spent the entire show interviewing poet Shin Gyongrim. (I hope I spelled that right.) The house was packed with his fans, who took turns reading some of his more famous works out loud. I was so consumed by awe and admiration that it actually overcame my jealousy.

And by the way, happy belated birthday. From the setlist it looks like Local H played a good show.

Anonymous said...

YOU might be surprised at how much fun YOU'RE going to have with Extenze.

PersonalFailure said...

Earthquakes were a sign of the judgment of god back in the day. Now scientists are trying to gain a more scientific insight in to them. Here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to clone PZ Myers. I'm going to turn his clones into zombies. I'm going to turn the PZ Myers zombie clones loose at the History Channel headquarters.

Then I'm going to make a documentary about it, and air it on the History Channel.

Sniffnoy said...

The dark side? Really? I’m supposed to be waiting for Darth Vader? Crap! The Antichrist is James Earl Jones. Why didn’t we see it all along?Ah, but it says he's going to turn to the dark side; clearly Hayden Christensen is intended.

big a said...

In the immortal words of Don McLeroy: "Someone has to stand up to the experts".