Y2K: Don't U B Nutty 2

If you think about it, it is special to be alive at the beginning of a new millennium. That is, of course, if we can survive the doomsayers who tell us that the world as we know it will end when the clock strikes midnight on Y2K - the Year 2000.

We used to think that the end-of-the-worlders kept to their Unabomber-styled cabins in the West. But recently, we've been hearing about survivalists in Chesapeake Country stocking up on generators, foodstuffs and water barrels in preparation for an attack by the dreaded Millennium Bug.

If you haven't heard much about it, you will. When our sisters and brothers in the media get rolling next year, coverage of the so-called Millennium Bug will make this year's Monica news seem stinting.

This much of their scenario is true: When the clock strikes midnight on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2000, all of our computers will switch from "99" to "00." But here's where we descend into a B-movie script. Because computers won't know whether its 1900 or 2000, waves of ignorance will sweep the land, causing electric power grids to shut off and our banking system to fail, plunging us into all manner of chaos.

As the doomsayers tell it, planes could fall from the sky, dangerous weapons fire and cities turn into rioting cauldrons. A booklet called the Y2K Computer Crash Scenario that is making the rounds asserts that the coming of the year 2000 has "the potential to be just as catastrophic as God's response in Babel."

Sounds to us like a real New Year's Eve blowout.

Truth is, we're more worried about the threats to the public welfare posed by fearmongers and armed-to-the-teeth survivalists than about glitches in computers and clocks. Sadly, we even know people in California who have been drawn to cult-like organizations preaching Y2K fears.

In the coming months, these purveyors of fear will be scaring the wits out of us regular folks. Middle-class people who can afford to do so may be prompted to hoard food that won't be on the shelves for the people who can't afford to stock up. Panicky sorts will be tempted to yank money from the stock market, which could harm all of our nest eggs.

Y2K hucksters will have a field day, and many hard-earned tax dollars will be wasted on consultants and overly precautionary spending. In Calvert County, for instance, the "Y2K Project" is apt to mean the excuse for buying a load of new equipment.

We read some sage advice recently from a local official in Minnesota named Curtis Johnson, who is chairman of the Metropolitan Council of Minneapolis-St. Paul: "If our mentality is that every home is its own fortress and my neighbor be damned, it will be as serious a calamity as any technological failure."

We live in a technological age, but life does not consist of episodes from "The X-Files." Remember as much when the Y2K nonsense begins in earnest.

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VolumeVI Number 48
December 3-9, 1998
New Bay Times

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