When we walked to the office last Friday morning, 7th Ave. was oddly shuttered and deserted, save for the handsful of foreigners in party hats already drifting toward Times Square. At 5 o'clock that afternoon, by which time it was abundantly clear that the world was not going to end on schedule, we received an e-mail from Dr. Ted Daniels of the Millennium Watch Institute in Philadelphia, who'd written the op-ed "Y2K Apocalypse" for our last week's issue.
The subject of his e-mail was the "Great Disappointment," a reference to the failure of the world to end in the 1840s as prophesied by the New York religious leader William Miller. Millerites whose faith survived the Great Disappointment went on to become the Seventh Day Adventists. Similarly, the world failed to end because of Y2K.
We can think of several more recent examples of media-fanned panics that fizzled: Skylab, Kahoutek and, just a few months ago, Hurricane Floyd. Ivory tower media "experts" like the awful, yet ubiquitously cited, Mark Crispin Miller uniformly premise their theories on the supposedly irresistible influence the "mass media" has over "the masses." And yet this year, once again, the great mass of people resisted both the media's millennium hype and the accompanying panic-mongering. Only a minority of the gullible rushed out to stock up on canned peas and bottled water. At the same time, resistance to absurdly expensive, prepackaged festivities forced the cancellation of the proposed Jacob Javits Center bash and last-minute reduced-price offers on $1000-a-plate dinners at various restaurants. Most of the people we know spent the evening having a quiet dinner and drinks with friends and family. Jet planes did not fall out of the sky. The lights did not go out on Broadway. The world threw itself a party, then went home to bed. Life continued pretty much as usual, to the great disappointment of the hypemasters.
Linda Tripp's Makeover
Linda Tripp, who's being unfairly prosecuted in Maryland for taping her phone conversations with Monica Lewinsky, has, with her recent makeover, taken a step toward achieving justice for herself. According to the New York Post, Tripp has had "a nose job, chin tuck, neck reduction, facial peel and liposuction," and has dropped 40 pounds. If the picture published in the Post last week can be trusted, Tripp looks amazingly different. She's even attractive.
What's crucial for her legal case, however, is that she no longer resembles the big-haired trailer-park resident and right-wing conspiracist of Clintonite demonology. She now looks, at worst, like a soccer mom and, at best, like one of the elite baby-boom meritocrats who represent the cold, hard core of Clintonism. The old Tripp epitomized the white-trash American nightmare as it's conceived in Hollywood, on the Upper West Side and in the other loci of political virtue. The new Tripp wouldn't look out of place discussing with Hillary Clinton the necessity of criminalizing tobacco. Or smirking collegially with Sidney Blumenthal. Or married to Terry McAuliffe.
In other words, Tripp now looks just like one of us?one of the innately virtuous ruling yuppie class. It's hard to imagine a better way Tripp could curry the favor of the media and other people who matter.
On the other hand, looking acceptable didn't work for Kathleen Willey. Stay tuned.