Submitted by Charles Knighton
Shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre when there is no fire has always been cited as an example of free speech gone too far, causing theatre-goers to rush to small exits resulting in trampling and crushing death and injury to many. This is generally not the result of patrons rising en masse upon hearing the word “fire” but is rather the result of a small, easily panicked group rushing from their seats and the herd mentality which ensues.
On page 39 of the May 13th edition of the Barbados Advocate, with no disclaimers whatsoever ( e.g. “Advertisement” or the standard “the following does not necessarily reflect the views of this publication”) comes the broadside” Judgment day begins with a worldwide earthquake on May 21st 2011.” What follows are the usual end of world rantings of religious charlatans to their “sheep”, a description I have always found quite appropriate when applied to the slow-witted, easily led and easily panicked members of their flock. While I would prefer to believe no segment of the population of Barbados is so benighted as to embrace such nonsense, the lucrative businesses of the obeah and psychic practitioners speak otherwise.
Which brings me back to the crowded theatre. If a small segment of the local population (5% would be about 15,000 people) take this prophesy seriously and manage to create a panic which results in serious damage or even death in the crowded theatre of Barbados, whom then would be held responsible? The charlatans who preached of the coming fire, the media outlets who gladly took money to announce the coming fire over a public address system, or the “sheep” deluded enough to act out?
As long as people have inhabited Earth, end of the world scenarios have been a constant, promulgated by prophets for their own ends (profits?). As I sit on my veranda reading the daily paper on May 22nd of two things I can be certain:
1. The charlatans will again crawl out from under their rocks with new Judgment Day Revelations
2. They will have no difficulty recruiting “sheep”