The Apocalypse Will Be Twittered
The best fiction overtakes the consumer’s reality by weaving itself into that reality and becoming a part of it. What makes this process “fun” is awareness and tolerance of unreality for brief periods, after which true reality returns. It’s sort of permission-based fantasy, a trip without the need for LSD. Without that permission to invade the mind, it’s at best a practical joke, at worst, a cruel hoax, and somewhere in the middle it’s viral marketing.
And it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.
So far there have been no injury reports (and hopefully there won’t be) as a result of InstituteForHumanContinuity.org, which details three doomsday scenarios in vivid Flash animation. Astronomical collision, solar flare scorching, crustal displacement, all come to pass in 2012, when the famed Mayan calendar, and the Earth, ends.
Scientists are spreading word of preparations underway for the past 30 years to save a remnant of humanity, chosen by "survival" lottery numbers acquired via email through the website, preparations world governments have kept quiet to prevent panic and anarchy, except for a bona fide US Congressman who unwittingly added an air of legitimacy to Sony Pictures’ apocalyptic, cataclysmic forthcoming movie “2012” with introduction of the Near Earth Object Preparedness Act.
Though the site has been up some months, Sony really set off its viral marketing campaign Super Bowl weekend with the simple instruction to google 2012. Those doing so encounter a number of doomsday websites, including the IHC’s, which gives no indication of its Hollywood creators aside from plain text terms of service and privacy links at the bottom, which redirect to Sony Pictures corporate-and legal-ese.
But let’s face it, who looks at those little links at the bottom when there’s all this visual stimulation elsewhere? The site looks real as could be, obviously has a ton of money and preparation behind it, and people with “Dr.” and “Rep.” before their names. If someone doesn’t call BS as soon as they read that the Institute plans moon colonization thanks to drilling oxygen out of the moon’s surface, they’re probably not going to be swift enough to look at the TOS at the bottom.
I’m not criticizing it (yet). It’s a tremendously brilliant campaign for a big-budget blockbuster, reminiscent of the tremendously brilliant, reality-bending viral campaign for the low-budget Blair Witch Project a decade ago. It just needs the appropriate grain-of-salt skepticism anything on the Internet (and life, really) requires—a skepticism a generous portion of the population generally lacks.
After all, it takes further research to discover ThisIsTheEnd.com peppered among the doomsdayers in the search results, which features Woody Harrelson in one hilarious Jedi-prophet get-up talking about the coming apocalypse via YouTube. Harrelson’s character, Charlie Frost, also wonders via Twitter, if the Steelers have earned a place on the new government space shuttles. And while all this is an example of how brilliant social media marketing works, one has to wonder how many out there are less thorough than your humble author, who find that site and start collecting canned goods and bottled water forthwith.
Far-fetched? Well, aside from certain Montana militias, Waco cults, would-be gelding comet-hitchhikers in Nikes and matching jumpsuits and other Kool-Aid drinkers in the past, a link: site command on Google shows there are at least some thinking December 21, 2012 will be their last day on Earth. No one in this Rapture Ready forum or this BabyGaga forum, as examples, mentions this is an elaborate promotional campaign.
And while the more Darwinian among us might proffer that gullibility is its own reward, others might think the lack of transparency is a tad irresponsible and perhaps dangerous—even if it is a heckuva lot of fun.
We tried to contact the marketing pros manning the Sony social media controls to attain further insight, but got no response other than our 2012 lottery ticket.