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.

    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

    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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