It was a question posed by journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer for her Talk-TV programme this morning: “With hysteria over the heatwave and demands for Covid restrictions to come back, how do we bring an end to the doom-mongering?”
The doom-mongering pre-dates the heatwave and Covid, of course. Over recent decades we have witnessed the impending dooms of salmonella in eggs, Asian bird flu, swine flu, Mad Cow disease, foot and mouth, HIV/Aids, and the Millennium Bug (who can forget that?) when the world’s computers were all suddenly going to stop working at midnight on 31 December 1999, plunging hospitals into crisis, governments into chaos, and planes would fall out of the sky.
Nothing happened, of course. There was panic and hysteria, with doom-mongering and soothsaying, and many $100 billions thrown at the prophesied problem which supposedly averted global disaster and the fall of civilisation.
Plagues and famines come and go. They always have, and always will.
There is no end to ‘The end is nigh‘, and the ‘End Times’ crisis followed by eschatological hope.
Thousands or millions may die, and governments may struggle to cope, but you can guarantee that the doom-mongering threats will always be inflated out of all proportion to the reality. Christopher Booker reminds us that in 1996 we were told that 500,000 people would die of ‘Mad Cow’ (Creutzfeldt-Jakob) disease. A year later the figure was revised down to 100.
As temperatures in the UK head toward (or possibly slightly exceed) 40ºC, hotter than Jamaica and Barbados, we are warned that 10,000 people will die. The news is full of heatwaves and infernos. TV weather graphics are blood red with lava and terror. And now there are demands to bring back mandatory Covid masks (in this heat?!) in order to save the NHS (again), and if we don’t act immediately 100,000s will die.
So, how do we bring an end to the doom-mongering?
Without wishing to disappoint Julia Hartley-Brewer, we won’t: doom-mongering is as old as mankind, and the impulse is religious. There have been prophecies, cults and apocalyptic ‘end time’ beliefs for millennia, which in these more secular times have become irrational hysteria about every media-hyped doom-laden scenario, each awaiting its day of judgment and looking forward to the hope of a New Age of peace, prosperity, reconciliation, and zero carbon.
For as long as we have fortune-tellers and false prophets there will be spirit-satisfying doom-mongering, simply because the religious spirit needs feeding, and when it seeks satisfaction in ritual and fervour, it is no surprise that the age of secularity yields a plethora of superstitions. Of course what you may call a superstition, another will call a sincere belief, but in a Godless age it is the gods of cults and thrills which reassure the fearful and terrorised. We are somehow comforted by worry.
Doom-mongering has simply shifted from gazing at comets to reading the popular press; from astrology to astronomical millenarian misinformation which fans anxiety and heralds the End. It is a consummation devoutly to be wished, as Shakespeare observed, because when the heavens no longer pour out their wrath; when the fires of destruction no longer burn all the earth, there is peace and paradise.
Some seek to create heaven on earth, of course, and hail their messiahs (usually of the liberal-left) who will usher in a New Age of true righteousness, happiness and self-ID, so anyone can be what they want to be, and no-one will ever again have the right to throw the dust of reality into their eyes.
How do we bring an end to the doom-mongering?
Only when the political-messianic movements and the pseudo-religious enthusiasts become believers in the Truth.
But Julia Harley-Brewer won’t want to go there: she is too busy broadcasting her apocalypse of passion and revelling in the oracles of catastrophe. There’s a good living in doom-mongering.