Viral Email and the 2012 Apocalypse Contagion: Seven Reasons Why the World WON’T End in 2012
Beginning in May 2007, a message began spreading across the Internet, finding its way to email inboxes, blogs and discussion boards. Named ‘7 Reasons Why the World Will End in 2012’, the post was a mixture of equal parts bad science and bad logic, and succeeded in further fuelling the 2012 apocalypse hysteria. What was most disconcerting about this text was the preamble, which insisted that ‘Scientific experts from around the world are genuinely predicting that five years from now, all life on Earth could well finish’ (Phillip 2007). The insinuation that there was a scientific basis behind the 2012 apocalypse hysteria was clearly meant to play on the general public’s lack of scientific knowledge. The seven doomsday scenarios were culled both from the 2012 ‘hypotheses’ then common in the pseudoscience community (such as misunderstandings of the Maya calendar, the solar activity cycle and magnetic pole reversals) as well as recent advances in scientific understanding which were as equally misunderstood and thus ripe for manipulation in the public mythos (such as the Large Hadron Collider and discoveries concerning past mass extinctions). What are curiously missing from this list are two of the most commonly hyped 2012 predictions, namely that there will be some sort of alignment with the centre of the galaxy, and that Planet X/ Nibiru will collide with Earth. Not coincidentally, these are two of the easiest suggestions to debunk. This chapter will examine this list, both with the purpose to debunk all seven suggestions, and to examine it as a cultural phenomenon which illustrates quite vividly the chasm between the scientific establishment and the general public.