Prophecy Fails Again

November 13, 2012
Posted by Jay Livingston

When the flying saucer didn’t come, when first one clock and then another ticked past midnight of Dec. 20th, when the world was not destroyed, the believers in Mrs. Keech’s living room were desperate for an explanation.  They had met and talked and planned.  They had listened to Mrs. Keech reading and interpreting the messages from Sananda of the planet Clarion, messages she transcribed in a trance. 

They had prepared themselves.  But nothing happened. 

For hours, the believers sat there, unable to produce a satisfactory account that would make sense of what had happened but that would not undermine their world view.  Their confusion was finally resolved  by a message from Clarion that Mrs. Keech received at nearly 5 a.m.
Not since the beginning of time upon this Earth has there been such a force of Good and light as now floods this room and that which has been loosed within this room now floods the entire Earth.
The strong faith of that small group had saved Earth from the final cataclysm.

Most people who have taken a sociology course will recognize this 1954 scenario.  It’s the central moment in When Prophecy Fails, by Festinger, Riecken, and Schachter, published a year later. 

A similar failed prediction and self-serving explanation happened after Tuesday’s election – not on the right, but on the left.  Since 2008, Mark Crispin Miller has been warning that the Republicans would manipulate voting-machine technology to steal the election. The title of his book says it all: Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election & Why They'll Steal the Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them).

Miller had been predicting a Romney win – a fraudulent win, but a win nevertheless.  As we know, Obama won.  He won the popular vote, the electoral vote, and every battleground state.

Miller’s first explanation, like those of Mrs. Keech’s group, did not quite hit the mark.  And, as if following the same script, hours later he came up with an account that echoed the “you saved the world” message from the planet Clarion.   (From the New York Times):
Having braced himself for a very different outcome, Professor Miller wrote an e-mail that sounded almost like a concession: “It simply is no longer possible to stage the sort of ‘upset victory’ that we’ve seen before, without inviting serious investigation.”

By the next morning, however, his pronouncement had shifted to one of victory.

“Score one (at last) for the Election Integrity movement!” he declared, back on message.
Miller and his group of followers, the Election Integrity Movement, had loosed such a flood of good and light upon the election that the Republicans could not steal it, and Obama was re-elected.

UPDATE: Robert Frank (here) suggests that there was in fact a plot to steal Ohio.  He bases his speculation on two observations.
  1.     Karl Rove, as seen on Fox News, was genuinely surprised when Ohio was called for Obama.
  2.     The Obama margin in Ohio was smaller than what the polls predicted.  In all other swing states, the Obama margin was similar to or greater than what was shown by pre-election polls.
    Either [Rove] is much less competent than anyone has reason to believe; or else he knew of some secret advantage that would tip the vote count in Romney’s favor by several points.
Here too, when the prophecy fails, a dissonance-reducing explanation preserves the belief.  In this case, the explanation is less self-serving – not the Good and Light of the believers but the incompetence of the vote-riggers.

1 comment:

PCM said...

There's something to be said for this kicking in only when the election is closer. I might trust the integrity of the system overall... but if Florida or Ohio had been the deciding state, I wonder.

It's not like states haven't been rigged before (Illinois for JFK?).

Or he might just be wrong.