© 2000 by John Baskette
My mother taught me, “When you are wrong, promptly admit it!” I have tried to live by that admonition, but I admit I have never been in the terribly difficult position that the Y2K alarmists are in now. Take Gary North, for example. He did not profit greatly from Y2K promotional hype by writing books or selling survival kits. He is a true believer! The failure of Y2K to yield any more than minor problems must be a terrible blow. Nevertheless, now that Jan. 1, 2000 has come and gone with virtually no problems, will Gary North, Michael Hyatt, Chuck Missler, D. James Kennedy, James Dobson, R. C. Sproul, and other Y2K alarmists admit that they were wrong? Don’t count on it! Here are some of the excuses that have been and will continue to be promoted by those who have shown no signs of applying my mother’s wise advice to themselves on this issue.
Y2K alarmists solved the problem!
This kind of self-congratulation is the most egregious claim that Y2K alarmists will make. They will take credit for solving the Y2K crisis by raising the alarm. For example, here is what Michael Hyatt had to say as of January 4, 2000: “Was the Y2K problem over-hyped? I don’t think so. . . . . Regardless, if we had not sounded the alarm and brought focused attention to this problem, things may have turned out much different.” Don’t believe it. Michael Hyatt’s book The Millenium Bug came out in the fall of 1998. Dr. Dobson’s Y2K broadcast was in October of 1998. Gary North started his web site in January of 1997. Ed Yourdon’s book Time Bomb 2000 came out in Dec. of 1997. All these “warnings” came far too late to warn the industry about Y2K. Most industry remediation efforts began in early 1997. The efforts were going well enough that by mid-1998, the Gartner Group, the premier industry think tank, had revised its earlier gloomy forecast and predicted only a small crisis like a mid-winter storm. The infamous embedded chip problem was dismissed by the Gartner Group as causing few problems as early as August of 1998. The first Y2K alarmist, Peter de Jager, started warning the computer industry about this problem in 1993 — four years before the rest and alone can claim any credit for helping to solve the crisis. Even he began to change his doom and gloom views by late 1998. He said: “I don’t think we’re capable of entering Year 2000 without problems . . . . But they should be minimal. There will be a couple of glitches.” De Jager said he “believes most of the problems derived from the Y2K computer glitch will last at the most a couple of days”(Daily News, Bangor, Maine November 17, 1998) .
Y2K alarmists merely promoted good risk management.
Aren’t people who prepared for a Y2K emergency better off now than before? Maybe so for a few, but the primary fruit of Y2K doom mongering was negative. The largest harm is to the credibility of Christians who are widely mocked with Y2K survivalists as nut cases. But people have suffered also. Y2K skeptic Steve Hewitt makes the point well:
. . . we have maybe tens of thousands of victims of Y2K now, Christians who went overboard. . . . A lady in Eugene, Oregon told me how life is over because of Y2K. It’s not just because she sold her dream house, she quit her job before retirement, she cashed her IRAs at 10% loss, she pulled out of the stock market, she now has cows and chickens and 2 years of survivalist food. None of those are reasons of why her life is over. . . . The reason Y2K has destroyed her life, she now knows, is she’ll never be able to witness again. She’ll always be the crazy Y2K lady.
Further harm came to services to the needy who didn’t get donations because people were stockpiling. Also, the Y2K issue was divisive causing friction between couples and within churches over differing Y2K fears. On his Dec. 7th broadcast, Dr. James Dobson expressed his belief that donations to Christian ministries had dropped significantly due to Y2K.
No One Could Know, So “Better Safe than Sorry.”
Unfortunately for the alarmists, this sword cuts both ways. If agnosticism were the only viable position, then there would be no better reason to prepare (or over-prepare) than not to prepare. In reality, the alarmists taught as though the preponderance of evidence gave a strong probability that severe consequences were unavoidable. That probability was disproved and in fact what Answers In Action and others wrote in criticism was based on a critical analysis of the evidence which led us to declare that the preponderance of the evidence gave a strong probability that severe consequences were highly unlikely. The “insurance” argument only holds weight if the feared outcome is within the realm of a genuine threat, and also that the insurance against that threat is reasonable. For example, it is “better safe than sorry” to purchase auto insurance in case of an accident, but it would be unreasonable to barricade yourself in your house to ensure that you never get into a car and consequently never suffer from an auto accident. It is reasonable to buy life insurance to care for your family after your death; it is unreasonable to buy insurance to care for your family if you abducted by men from Mars. Critics Were Just Lucky, Took a Gamble and Won, Happened to Guess Right. Wrong. Our criticisms were based on evidence and argumentation, not superstitious fatalism. If you review the critical materials by Steve Hewitt, Answers In Action, Hank Hanegraaff, and other critics, you will readily see the evidence and rational evaluations that led us to the rational conviction that Y2K alarmists were wrong long before January 1, 2000. We were ready to risk being wrong and to apologize without rationalizations, euphemisms, and fancy verbal footwork. One couple who had literally “bought into” the Y2K hysteria before they met us re-evaluated the issue and were so convinced that they had been wrong that they began disposing of their over-preparation supplies before January 1, to prove to their worried friends the depth of their convictions and to remedy their hoarding by benefitting those who are less fortunate. You risk nothing if you are not willing to be proved wrong and admit it.
But the Fat Lady hasn’t sung yet!
The Y2K alarmists point out correctly only 10% of Y2K problems would occur on January 1, 2000. What they don’t say is that their worst predictions were to occur on January 1st due to the embedded chip issue. It was embedded chip failures that would cause the power grid to fail and water systems to shutdown. None of this happened. It did not happen in the United States or England who were best prepared for Y2K. Nor did it happen in Egypt, Italy or Japan who were not well prepared for Y2. Y2K problems will crop up through 2000 just like they did through 1999. But here is what you must ask yourself: Did any of the problems that have occurred so far affect you in any critical way? Did anything happen on March 31, 1999 when many states and the government of Canada started their fiscal year 2000? How about July 1, 1999? How about on 9/9/99? Nothing? What happened on Jan 1, 2000? Nothing? What makes the Y2K alarmists think that the rest of 2000 is going to be any different?
The Y2K alarmists are the real moderates. Pollyannas are the real extremists.
Some alarmists will try this gambit. On January 1, 2000, Ed Yourdon wrote the following: “Inevitably, there will be observers who dismiss all of these arguments, and who conclude that the whole thing was a deliberate, malicious scam perpetrated by greedy charlatans” But I haven’t seen any such observers, Not Computerworld columnist and Y2K skeptic John Gantz, not Steve Hewitt, not Robert X. Cringley, and certainly not Answers In Action. I am a programmer by profession. In the company I currently contract with, there have been five separate Y2K glitches. We fixed them quickly, but I know that if the company had not done a major Y2K remediation, our systems would have been compromised. I do not know of any credible critic that regarded the foundational Y2K basis as a hoax or a scam. But when credible critics looked at the issue, they concluded that the problems would be minor. We were right. The alarmists were wrong! (Some of them have been wrong in the past on one or more issues, such as Missler’s fanciful teachings on pyramidology, Bible codes, the face on Mars, gospel in the stars, alien encounters, etc.) Flat out, absolutely wrong. I think they ought to own up to the truth and admit it