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The profits of doom

At the dawn of a new millennium, the Western World is reeling from the chaos caused by decreased social spending, mind-achingly dumb politics, computer viruses, spam, reality-TV programmes and the grinding juggernaut that is Europop. The situation has got so bad that it has prompted some to feel that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are saddling up for what Christian evangelist cowboys might call ‘The Big Ride’.

But rather than hunker down in terror at the possibility of a world sliding towards the biblical ‘End of Days’, millions of people are eagerly gearing up to celebrate this big holy barbecue in spirited fashion.

How else are we to interpret the jaw-dropping success of the Christian fundamentalist storybooks known as the Left Behind series?

Having eschewed papyrus for virgin pulp, the Christian Right in the US is in rapture over the enormous success of the series, which describes a world enslaved by the former Secretary General of the UN (the Antichrist of course). Not only is he a sort of Greco-Russian Prince of Darkness, but he controls an army of stormtroopers (peacekeepers) to enslave the planet to do Satan’s bidding from that demonic hellpit – Iraq.

‘In an instant, millions of people vanish. For those left behind, the Apocalypse has just begun,’ reads the strapline. For the series’ backers, ‘the Apocalypse has just begun’... to rake in a hefty profit. There are over 60 million of these airport-thrilleresque doomsday books in print, translated into dozens of languages with numerous spinoffs such as comic books, teen novels, discussion groups, films and study guides (though no action figures just yet).

Given the series’ backers’ close links with the Bush Administration, one need no longer guess what inspired George W Bush to name his controversial education initiative ‘No Child Left Behind’.

New Internationalist issue 372 magazine cover This article is from the October 2004 issue of New Internationalist.
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