A Chance at Second Chances
by Elliot Mandel | Cornell University
Hearing about the recent failed Rapture prediction has me thinking about second chances. Specifically how people could actually give a man like Harold Camping more than one go at a Doomsday prediction. So we have people like Mr. Camping, a mere mortal who has the foresight to predict the exact date when the rapture and Armageddon will befall our pitiful world. Here’s the funny thing though; he’s already predicted it three times and been three times wrong. Let’s see… May 21, 1988, September 7, 1994 and now May 21, 2011, three dates on his calendar that are exactly identical to the rest. No rapture to see here boys, move along.
Yet Camping has just issued a statement claiming that indeed he was correct, if only slightly off in the math, and the world will actually be ending on October 21st of this year. Obviously some of his previous followers will be a put off by the new prediction, but there will still be people out there waiting and willing and wanting to give all their money to a prognosticator of faux-doomsdays.
But we look at our own generation of Youtubers and internet-savvy gurus and we see a different type of outlook on life, a different view on the second chances people get. Or should I say, not get. Because of the way that the Internet works, we wind up with a smattering of people who unintentionally become internet famous and cannot contain the virality of their presence. Take the girl from UCLA, for example. This unfortunate lady made a Youtube video for her followers detailing her great annoyance at a specific group of people in the library who were being quite the bother. In her most articulate words, the Asians in the library were speaking “Chee chong ling wong”, which was clearly distracting her from the tolerance textbook she was reading. While in her own friend group or within the confines of her school, this might make her seem an unsavory character; amongst the citizens of the Internet it became perfect fuel for the anonymous and not so anonymous masses. I’m not defending her in any sense, but part of what has happened to this girl, the leaving school, the traumatizing experience, is that the internet is unmerciful when it comes to second chances.
You get one go at something and unless you continue to up production in a way that’s pleasing to the masses, you might as well pack up your bags. Think about the Numa Numa kid, singing along to that song of his. His life was forever stained by that one video that went insanely viral across the Internet. He was unable to defend himself or stem the tide of people watching and commenting on the clip.
Now we’ve all heard of Rickrolling, to be sure, and poor Rick Astley in the middle of the whole thing. After years and years of his song being used to Rickroll people, the most Rick can do is say it’s “funny” and that he doesn’t mind his video being used. He goes with the flow and keeps his head afloat. Imagine a world where Mr. Astley became infuriated by the use of his video to prank people. He sends cease and desist letters to internet aggregation sites and link posting pages. And you know what happens? He receives hate letter after hate email after pranks and all of the technological detritus rage welling up to deliver blow after blow to a man with only a shock of red hair to his name. But he doesn’t do this. The internet is a fickle beast. Fickle, but very powerful.
There appears to be quite the discrepancy between people willing to give second chances to seemingly crazy doomsday sayers and the people that condemn a girl to a lifetime of hate thanks to a minute and a half Youtube video. Understandably, part of what we’re seeing is a small group of people still believing in Mr. Camping versus a large group of Internet masses. The point is that in this generation of ours, being jaded and cynical is the norm. On the other hand, it is so easy to go with the flow, especially in the age of instantaneous communication. If some people in the world can be crazy enough to believe old Harold one more time, we can be crazy enough to give people a second chance in the world of online media.
Elliot is a NGJ Voices Contributor who is majoring in English and Economics in the School of Arts & Sciences at Cornell University. He is from Millburn, New Jersey. Aside from occasionally writing for the Cornell Daily Sun, Elliot is also the Editor-in-Chief for the on-campus humor magazine, the Cornell Lunatic.