As Zombie writes, “Oakland, California famously has ‘no there there,’ but it does have the only ‘there’ for the Armageddon story” — the broadcast headquarters for doomsday prophet Harold Camping. So Zombie stopped by for a must-see photo essay. Here’s Zombie’s setup for it, along with an assist from Ed Morrissey of Hot Air:
The media has been in a tizzy over the Rapture predictions made by end-times prophet Harold Camping, whose followers expected to ascend to heaven after God destroyed the world on Saturday at 6pm. Mostly, it’s just been a convenient excuse to bash Christians, even though the vast majority of Christians think Camping is a kook:
I suspect that the media feeding frenzy … has less to do with an impulse to lampoon the ridiculous than an impulse to ridicule Christianity in general. Despite Camping and his followers being an extremely small fringe group, the media has covered this story as if the entire Southern Baptist church made this prediction. Stanley also concurs that this should be an extremely small story, not a dominating narrative, but also predicts that we’ve just seen the beginning of it. Come tomorrow morning, we’re going to see a deluge of snarky reports about the silly end-timers who got left behind — excuse me, Left Behind — which will all carry an unstated theme of “oh, those silly Christians and their silly beliefs!”
So, the media have a self-serving justification for turning a small story into front-page news. But they do have a big logistical problem with the Rapture: it has no locus, no “main stage” where the whole drama will play out. Instead, Camping’s followers are scattered one-by-one across the country, each waiting for Rapture or disappointment in private. So where can you as a reporter stand facing the camera with a meaningful backdrop to show you’re in the middle of the action?
Well, Oakland, California famously has “no there there,” but it does have the only “there” for the Armageddon story — the headquarters of “Family Radio,” the Oakland studio where Camping records his radio shows which are then broadcast around the world. So I — along with a veritable circus of pranksters and true believers — decided to await the rapture at Armageddon HQ, the Family Radio offices on Hegenberger Road near the Oakland Airport. (Two other photographers also showed up and contributed their pictures to the report below.)
Don’t miss the media frenzy — and the frenzy of protesters and counter-protesters created by the media — that documented in Zombie’s photo-spread. It’s very much reminiscent of a remark that Tom Wolfe made to Bill Moyers of PBS, back when Wolfe was promoting The Bonfire of the Vanities in 1988. Moyers asked him, “You’ve been around a long time, been around this city a long time, but there’s a sense of wonderment in your reporting which becomes the fiction of Bonfire of the Vanities. What surprised you most?”
Well, one of the things is what I would call “media ricochet”, which is the way real life and life as portrayed by television, by journalists like myself and others, begin ricocheting off of one another. That’s why to me, in Bonfire of the Vanities, it was so important to show exactly how this occurs when television and newspaper coverage become a factor in something like racial politics. And a good bit of the book has to do with this curious phenomenon of how demonstrations, which are a great part of racial and ethnic politics, exist only for the media. In the last days when I was working on The New York Herald-Tribune, I’ll never forget the number of demonstrations I went to and announced that to all the people with the placards, “I’m from The New York Herald-Tribune,” and the attitude was really a yawn, and then, “Get lost.” They were waiting for Channel 2 and Channel 4 and Channel 5, and suddenly the truck would appear and these people would become galvanized. On one occasion I even saw a group of demonstrators down in Union Square, marching across the Square, and Channel 2 arrived, a couple of vans, and the head of the demonstration walked up to what looked like the head man of the TV crew and said, “What do you want us to do?” He says, “Golly, I don’t know. What were you going to do?” He says, “It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. You tell us.”
The protesters that Zombie photographed yesterday looked much more like self-starters, but this does appear to be very much a media-amplified event.
Too bad other false prophets don’t get anywhere near the coverage when their doomsday forecasts fail to pan out.