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Y2K survivalists struggle with reality

Y2K survivalists struggle with reality By MITCH RATCLIFFE After years of fearful speculation, the dawn of the Year 2000 is showing indications that Y2K doomsday scenarios were wildly wrong. Since there were few Y2K-related computer problems, survivalists have begun to wrestle with guilt, confusion and ongoing concerns that the world will yet be haunted by the Millennium Bug. Survivalists, also known as "doomers," have exchanged messages on a collection of forums on the Internet, urging one another to prepare for the end of civil society. The most vocal, some of whom published best-selling books and sold instructional videos, collected a small, loyal following that spent far too much on Y2K preparations. Many of the followers sold their stock holdings and cashed in individual retirement accounts, shouldering huge tax penalties to insulate their money from Y2K disaster. Others bought gold and stockpiled military rations or hundreds of pounds of beans and rice. Now, these people are living through a nightmare they didn't imagine: Having to admit they were wrong. "Despite family and friends laughing at me and telling me I was crazy for preparing, I persevered and prepared anyway," wrote a contributor on the TimeBomb 2000 discussion board. "Now I am TOTALLY EMBARRASSED." Gullible was attacked by many on the board, who still cling to the idea that either the Y2K situation is being covered up or that the real problems lie in the future. "A genuine Y2K-aware-prepper would never make such idiotic statements," replied another member of the online community.

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However, as the New Year rolls on and early business successes in the first week after the Y2K rollover pile up, the threat fades. Markets and companies across Asia functioned normally Monday; ATM networks and banks that stayed open over the weekend reported no problems. "Doomer" bulletin boards have seethed with reports of minor problems of all kinds since Friday, ranging from malfunctioning VCRs and ATMs to speculation about why a car would not start on Jan. 1. Boards hosted by Michael Hyatt, a Christian publisher who wrote four books about surviving Y2K, crackled with comments about minor problems, like the incorrectly coded Web page for the U.S. Naval Observatory atomic clock, which displayed the year date as "19100." A "doomer" who posted on the Y2K De-Bunker site, where Y2K skeptics hang out, challenged "Pollyannas" to explain how they would drive a car or operate a computer in the year 19100. Ed Yourdon, a programmer who predicted a Y2K disaster in three books, including "Time Bomb 2000: What the Year 2000 Computer Crisis Means to You!," offered no apologies on his Web site over the weekend. In 1998, he relocated his family to New Mexico after saying that New York City on Jan. 1, 2000, would resemble Beirut in the early 1980s. "Let's give credit where credit is due: hundreds of thousands of computer programmers around the world worked long, hard hours (usually without being paid for the overtime work they put in) to fix some, or most, or possibly all of the potential Y2K bugs that would otherwise have occurred," Yourdon wrote on Saturday. Some of the survivalist publishers have begun the transition out of Y2K. Mike Adams, of Cody, Wyo., published the Y2KNewswire Web site for more than 18 months. There, he offered pessimistic interpretations of stories in the mainstream media and conspiracy theories about Y2K cover-ups, along with links to his Y2Ksupply site, which sold survival gear. Adams had launched a new site by Sunday and, where his articles just a day before described an effort by the press and government to cover-up Y2K problems, the site after the turn of the New Year was packed with optimistic articles and provided many links to his project for Year 2000. "Doomers" are beginning the process of reinvention by trying to figure out what to do with all the supplies they have on hand. Charities have solicited donations, but many "doomers" plan to stay on the fringe of society for the foreseeable future out of fear that Y2K problems or terrorist attacks will eat away the foundation of society. Fortunately, there was no lack of humor on the Y2K sites, even in the midst of the emotional disaster of an uneventful date change. "Bummer, we ate our family dog during a 'Y2K Drill' last week," wrote one online comic. "Feel real bad about that. Boy is my face red now." -- --

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