Down the Rabbit Hole: Gen-Xpiracy Theories and Y2K
If you are old enough to vaguely remember your parents panicking over Y2K, then you are old enough to remember a time when the FBI was cool, tossing plastic waste into the trash made it disappear, and being a conspiracy theorist was not only associated with voting for (non-descriptive color and political animal mascot).
However, if that does not sound familiar to you, here is a quick refresher:
No Prince, we will not be partying like…
1999 – tension and dread were spreading across the world, as a computer virus (or error rather) known as the Y2K bug was lurking, ready to set off an apocalyptical chain of events capable of total, global destruction.
The Y2K bug represented a digital doomsday clock that was ticking down (or in this case, up) to midnight, December 31st. The culprit: modern technology (Well, modern by 1999 standards – e.g. Sony 5 CD Carousel players, the SEGA Dreamcast, Sharp 25-channel cordless home phones, 56K modems, 133MHz 2GB Hard Drive Packard Bell Home PC’s… that were priced $2000 on sale, etc.).
The bug itself stemmed from a space-saving shortcut used by early computer programmers where the “year” in date-related data was entered and stored only as two digits (e.g. “84” instead of “1984”). The widespread expectation was that software written this way would fail when the year changed over from 1999 (“99”) to 2000 (“00”).
Rage Rise FALL of the Machines
Furthermore, it was feared that the bug would cause the Federal Reserve and all connected banks to erase all known accounts. Ideally, not so bad for unpaid student loans… If not for the threat of nuclear missiles firing off wildly all over the world! Pop culture was all-in, helping to reinforce the concerns whether it via the made-for-tv movie Y2K, or comedic takes on the situation as seen in 1999’s The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror episode and the cult classic Office Space.
Obviously, the fear surround the Y2K bug created a mass panic. In response, retail stores began selling out of toilet paper and ammunition, outdoor generators tripled in price, and every citizen was prepping for the end.
Generation-Xpiracy theorists… back when it was cool
Okay, not every citizen was taking such precautions. There was, of course, a fringe minority out there, that argued that the entire millennium bug was nothing more than a conspiracy theory, convoluted by the (non-descriptive color and political animal mascot), yada yada yada, tax-funded-trojan-horse-spyware, microphones in the walls, you get the idea.
Then, December 31st came – the clock struck midnight – and…
** SPOILER! **
Nothing happened. For years, Y2K was mainstream news, and then it was forgotten almost immediately as there was no real, widespread impact.
Yes Gen Z’ers. This is a True Story
So what exactly am I banging on about? The point I am trying to make is that conspiracy theories used to be fun topics of discussion: Y2K was a cash grab. The moon landing was a hoax. The Rugrats are actually dead (a very deep and creepy conspiracy theory). Yellow #5 causes erectile dysfunction. Okay that last one turned out to be real… Look it up!
Controversy did not always lead to politics. Politics did not always lead to controversy. Conversations used to lead to escapism. Escapism used to lead to conversation.
I think it is time to reclaim conspiracy theories. Make them fun again. Wear your tinfoil hat with pride. Mute the TV during commercials to block the subliminal advertising. Microwave your new t-shirt to destroy the RFID stitched into the fabric. Most importantly, don’t trust the non-descriptive color and political animal mascot.
They are watching.
Thanks for reading!
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