OMG Y2K WTF?

A history of irrational reactions
Culture • Views: 32,539

OMG Y2K WTF?

I stole this title from a bumper sticker I saw a while back that said something like OMG GOP WTF. ☺

I was looking through an old file recently and came across a pamphlet I saved to show my kids, called Y2K Citizen’s Action Guide. Here it is:

ACTION GUIDE!

Utne Reader has the table of contents online, but none of the links work: utne.com
I found some quotes though:
utne.com

Those of you over a certain age will remember there was quite a lot of panic in certain quarters over the Y2K bug. I had to talk quite a few people (generally smart, educated people) down from the ledge. People thought it was possible that cars would stop driving, planes would fall out of the air, the entire banking system would crash, etc. My physical therapist asked me, as a person in a technical field, how much she should worry. I said that most chips have no concern for what the date is, and they certainly don’t stop because they see a date they don’t expect. If your car paid the slightest attention to the date (doubtful) the most that would happen is your engine check light would go on because it thought it had been too long since maintenance was performed. Yeah, computer glitches would probably happen, but computer glitches happen all the time and nothing grinds to a halt. People run around and fix it, or come up with a work-around, and everyone carries on.

So I found this pamphlet, and did indeed show it to my kids, and we all had a good laugh. But I am kind of sad about it too. I thought, when I saved it, that after people realized how much they over-reacted they would think more carefully about things next time and listen to people who understand the issues, and just generally show more sense. But that didn’t really happen. At least some of the people who scared my physical therapist now worry about what really happened on 9/11 (literally some of the same people - I know some of them). Even though the latter is a conspiracy theory and the former was just an overreaction to a real problem, the thought processes seem very similar. Something triggers a concern, and then the susceptible person goes out looking for answers. They talk to each other online. They work themselves and each other up. Epistemic closure. Groupthink. Community reinforcement. And then you get Jade Helm craziness.

Youtube Video

And this mechanism isn’t limited to any particular level of intelligence, any part of the political spectrum, or any level of, or type of, education. Engineers are entirely capable of convincing themselves that global warming isn’t happening. Well-educated upper middle class white people are completely convinced that vaccinations are bad for their kids.

chirowatch.com

So, back to the pamphlet. I read some of it and looked up some of the authors and people quoted to see how they reacted to realizing how over the top they were and what they are up to today. Some of them pretty much vanished from the face of the earth (or from Google anyway). Some of them went on to other related activities. Some of them went on to completely different activities. None of them that I found are talking about the reaction to Y2K and what that means about them or people in general.

In the “vanished” column we have Paloma O. I am not going to write out her last name, because she has plainly put a lot of effort into not being searchable. The only mention of her name I found in the last ten years was a comment on an obituary. She did write a rather eloquent letter after the non-event, here:

nhne.com

She ran a website, helped write the pamphlet, and was extremely active in the “Y2K activist community.” In the pamphlet, she talks about stock piling food and how to barter.

A “similar field” example is Steve Davis, who runs All Hands Consulting Global Emergency Management. I think he might be retired, since nothing has updated for a while, but he seems to have done this for quite a while after Y2K.

allhandsconsulting.com

Comments at the time include saying that Y2K was the greatest challenge to ever face government in modern times, and that “Without solid processes for a coordinated response … loss of life and widespread suffering are likely to occur.”

An example of someone in a sort-of-related field is Charles Halpern, who has a wikipedia page:
en.wikipedia.org

He teaches mindfulness in law at Berkeley and is an author. At the time he talked about offshore rigs not being able to pump oil and credit card systems failing.

And an example of a person who went into something completely different is Gail Coopee, who is now a life coach. At the time she headed up the Snohomish County Public Utility District strategic planning, including Y2K, and is an example of the fact that sometimes the more you learn about an issue the more off the rails you go. Quote at the time:

“I’m seeing the very real possibility of the end of the lifestyle as we know it… our lives — I’ll just go ahead and cry. Our lives, I feel, are never going to be the same.”

How do you not get sucked into this kind of collective delusion? I don’t know. I guess pay attention to people who tell you you’re being irrational. If a worry is looming too large in your life, try to get some perspective. We got through the great depression, world wars, and McCarthyism without the country breaking apart - how likely is it that executive pay or the government storing your email is going to lead to the apocalypse? For me, remembering times I was wrong and reliving the embarrassment helps me be a bit less sure of my conclusions and more open to listening to dissenting views. Remember that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, and that things that seems too good, or too bad, to be true probably aren’t true. It is a tough problem.

If only …

strangify.com

I went to an excellent talk by Chip Berlet on conspiracy theories and how to tell whether there is anything to them or not. Because sometimes there is a conspiracy - I think he mentioned the Ku Klux Klan and the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, for example. I haven’t found anything directly on this subject on his website, but this is along the same lines:

engageonline.wordpress.com

Jump to top

Create a PageThis is the LGF Pages posting bookmarklet. To use it, drag this button to your browser's bookmark bar, and title it 'LGF Pages' (or whatever you like). Then browse to a site you want to post, select some text on the page to use for a quote, click the bookmarklet, and the Pages posting window will appear with the title, text, and any embedded video or audio files already filled in, ready to go.
Or... you can just click this button to open the Pages posting window right away.
Last updated: 2016-01-01 10:29 am PST
LGF User's Guide RSS Feeds Tweet

Help support Little Green Footballs!

Subscribe now for ad-free access!Register and sign in to a free LGF account before subscribing, and your ad-free access will be automatically enabled.

Donate with
PayPal
Square Cash Shop at amazon
as an LGF Associate!
Recent PagesClick to refresh
Neil Finn - Chameleon DaysSing along or play along to the new 'Chameleon Days' lyric video..Made by Neil Finn Chameleon Days is from Neil Finn's album OUT OF SILENCE - out now on Vinyl, CD and Digital neilfinn.com
Thanos
1 day ago
Views: 146 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
These Schools Get Millions of Tax Dollars to Discriminate Against LGBTQ Students It's seriously wrong for tax dollars to fund fundamentalist christian right-wing madrassahs, and I'm sick and tired of it. It's also seriously dangerous; just consider how Pakistan changed between the 60's and the present. Stewardesses for Pakistan International Airlines ...
Thanos
1 day, 12 hours ago
Views: 229 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 1 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Kansas Democrat Andrea Ramsey Quits Congressional Race Amid Sexual Harassment allegationsPolitics This is sad because my congress critter, Kevin Yoder, known for drunken skinny dips with aides, needs to go. ashington (CNN)Democrat Andrea Ramsey announced Friday morning she was dropping out of the race to fill a competitive House of ...
Thanos
1 day, 15 hours ago
Views: 287 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 1
Tweets: 1 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Minnesota Catholic Conference Hosted Discredited Speakers and Anti-LGBT Hate Groups at Symposium This week MCC hosted a day-long event on “understanding the nature of man and of woman” that was stacked with discredited speakers known for pushing anti-LGBT junk science. On Monday, December 11, the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity ...
Thanos
1 day, 16 hours ago
Views: 215 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Frank Zappa - Clownz on Velvet - the Ritz (1981) FMFrank Zappa - The Ritz, NYC, 17th November 1981 - FM - With Al DiMeola on guitar. Frank Zappa: "Zappa In New York 1981" (FZ17111981-1/2)thinkfloyd61.blogspot.com.br
Thanos
2 days, 3 hours ago
Views: 224 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
The Big Moon - Happy New Year (Official Video) Get the debut album ‘Love In The 4th Dimension’ on signed CD & Vinyl now: thebigmoon.lnk.toDiscover more on Spotify: po.st Directed by India LeeProduced by Louise Latimer / India Lee Choreographed by Cicely Cotton Cinematographer: Joe Douglas Art Director: ...
Thanos
2 days, 3 hours ago
Views: 233 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 1 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
MGMT - When You Die Get "When You Die" now: smarturl.it Directors: Mike Burakoff & Hallie Cooper-NovackVFX Supervisor: Jamie DutcherStarring: Alex Karpovsky & Lucy KaminskyProducers: Lucia Pier & Jamie DutcherExecutive Producers: Adam Kurland & Matt Wyatt DP: Steven BreckonEditor: Max GoldblattLogo Design: Benjy BrookeProduction ...
Thanos
2 days, 16 hours ago
Views: 335 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Noah Kahan - Hurt Somebody Hurt Somebody (Official Video)Song Available Here: lnk.to See all Noah Kahan tour dates at: noahkahan.com Follow Noah Kahan:Facebook: facebook.com Instagram: instagram.com Twitter: @noahkahan Spotify: republic.lnk.to SoundCloud: SoundCloud Directed by Chris GriederProduced by Antonio FloresFor Aqsent Music video by Noah ...
Thanos
2 days, 16 hours ago
Views: 352 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 1 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
HOFFMAN FILES Instant “Axis” - All Hitler, All the Time.blog.timesunion.com When I was 14 or so, my parents were nice enough to take me on a trip to California.  The last stop in our journey was San Francisco.  My parents had been there once before and were quite fond ...
rhoffman
3 days, 14 hours ago
Views: 353 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 3 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 1
Comments: 0
: 1
Russia’s Putin Visits Syria Airbase and Orders Start of Pullout Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the partial withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria, during an unannounced visit there on Monday. Mr Putin was met by Syrian President Bashar Assad as he arrived at the Russian Hmeimim air base, ...
Thanos
6 days, 17 hours ago
Views: 364 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 3 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0