Apocalypse Then

Apocalypse
      Then

TV bombarded the air with catastrophic predictions dressed as news
that ended by not only scaring adults, but children who didn’t take it as a big joke. Even
publications considered serious entered the Armageddon frenzy.
By

Rodolpho Espinoza

It might be the colder than usual temperature, the lack of political scandals at home
or up north in the US, or simply mere laziness. The fact is the Brazilian media went
overboard during the recent solar eclipse, mixing in the same bag, astronomy and
astrology, scientific observations and Nostradamus (1503-1566) predictions, April fool
jokes and astronomical observations, making some people believe that the end of the world
was imminent.

The American press virtually ignored the fact since the phenomenon could not be
observed here. The last solar eclipse of the millenium couldn’t be seen in Brazil either,
but the national media seemed intent on bringing it home with a vengeance. Television was
the guiltiest in this game, bombarding the air with catastrophic predictions dressed as
news that ended by not only scaring adults, but children who didn’t take it as a big joke.

Rio newspaper O Dia reported several stories of terrorized kids including
11-year-old Cíntia Rodrigues, who, already resigned to the approaching end of the world,
asked that her mother, grandmother and her dog Miúcha be together with her, explaining,
"We need to be embracing when everything ends."

Another girl, Marisa Medeiros, 10, locked herself in the bathroom for hours until her
mother, a doctor, found her and with the help of neighbors was able to open the door.
Marisa was convinced that she was going to lose her family and crouched on the shower box
waiting for the end. Words of comfort weren’t enough to calm her down, and she had to be
taken to a hospital.

Janice Figueira Medeiros, Marisa’s mother, blamed TV for what happened. "It is
irresponsible for television to broadcast news of the end of the world during times
accessible to children. The reports say that the end is going to be on a certain day
without making it clear that this is only a prediction made by a crazy man."

There was no proof of cause and effect but there were at least three cases of suicide
in the northeastern state of Piauí attributed to the news about the apocalypse. Even
publications considered serious entered the Armageddon frenzy. Weekly newsmagazine Isto
É went to the extreme of dedicating a cover to the subject. Over a black circle
representing the sun the magazine wrote on the cover: "August 11, The Century’s Most
Feared Eclipse _ Next week, two days before a Friday 13, sects all over the world will be
waiting for the Apocalypse. Astrologers foresee conflicts and rebellions." Six pages
inside echoed the same theme. Época, another news weekly, was just a tad sober,
writing on the top of its cover: "The Century’s Last Eclipse: Science and Mystery in
the Sky."

TV itself, which led the doomsday paranoia, was making fun of the media in the end. TV
Globo’s anchor ended the news bulletin the morning the world was supposed to end with this
remark: "In this edition, you learned that the world has not ended. Gosh, what a
relief. Everything goes ahead then, life continues! End of the world, for now, only our
media."

Correio Braziliense, the Brasília daily, was very critical of the frenzy and
their editors seemed to be having fun. They found a clever way to explore the subject the
day the world was supposed to go up in smoke. Over a front page completely black they
wrote in a very small type: Acabou? (Finished Yet).

Some restaurants and nightclubs used the occasion to throw a party. In Rio’s beach
neighborhood of Ipanema, the Hippopotamus nightclub organized the "End of the World
Party" and the host was no less than Nostradamus (actor Leonardo Arantes dressed as
the prophet) who gave fortune cookies to those who dared to come to the last party.
Rhapsody, also in Rio, offered what it called the "Last Supper," with bread and
wine and a reenactment of Christ’s last meal. In Copacabana, the Le Boy nightclub cooked
up a party called "If it is going to end, may it all end in happiness." And in
the neighborhood of Santa Teresa, a club, not sure about the outcome, named its
celebration: "In case the world does not end."

The telephone at the National Observatory was never so busy, the same thing with
confessionals. Even the CNBB (Conferência Nacional dos Bispos do Brasil—National
Conference of Brazil’s Bishops) dealt with the subject on its Internet page. In the
bulletin, "The End of the World," Dom Raymundo Damasceno Assis, CNBB’s general
secretary, wrote: "Nostradamus’s predictions made in the 16th century can be
interpreted in several ways and should not be seen as divine revelations."

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