Today's forecast: Gloom followed by increasing doom

Don't look now, but the sky is falling.

At least it is if you believe Gerald Celente, who's making headlines today across the blogosphere with some real downer predictions. By 2012, the CEO of the Trends Research Institute says we'll be facing food riots, tax revolts, the end of Christmas, and a return to the Great Depression.

“It’s going to be very bleak. Very sad. And there is going to be a lot of homeless, the likes of which we have never seen before. Tent cities are already sprouting up around the country and we’re going to see many more.”

You think maybe this the guy owns stock in companies that make Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft?

Fox News [video] and wingnut sites like Alex Jones' Infowars, desperate to blame Obama for things he hasn't done yet, pounced on Celente's gloom-and-doom prognostications like a Doberman on a rump roast.

After all, he predicted the fall of the Soviet Union, the Asian currency crisis of 1997 and the subprime mortgage collapse.

Of course, that's not all Celente has predicted. I looked at some forecasts Celente made roughly ten years ago in his book, 'Trends 2000: How to Prepare for and Profit from the Changes of the 21st Century,' excerpted by Psychology Today in February 1997. Here are some of the lowlights.

Voluntary simplicity, once merely a counterculture ideal, will finally become a reality in the twenty-first century. ....Moderation, self-discipline, and spiritual growth will be the personal goals of the future, not material accumulation.

Such a stunningly accurate description of the Bush years.... NOT. Apparently Celente missed the boom in SUV sales (at least until gas hit $4 a gallon). The good news: He's got another 92 years for this one to come true.

The trend to convert lawns into gardens will have a significant impact not only on the way we eat but also on how we live and feel. ....Billions of dollars formerly spent on lawn care will either be saved or re-deployed into producing fresh food.

I was just thinking that as I waded through the succotash on my front lawn.... Just kidding. Do you know anyone who's farming on their front lawn? Home lawn care products and services have grown (ahem) at a steady rate throughout this decade.

Instead of being banished to nursing homes or retirement communities, large numbers of retirees... will move in with their adult children.

The US nursing home population actually increased by about 70,000 from 2001 to 2007, according to a survey by UCSF.

The videophone, meanwhile, will keep us in touch with faraway relatives. ...long-distance communication will be more like television.

I love this prediction. People have been making it since, what, the 1950's? Eventually it has to come true.

Other Celente predictions:

  • The public is going to demand that the government break up powerful corporate monopolies.
  • The return of individuality will spell an end to the multibillion-dollar fashion industry
  • Painting and sculpture will be revolutionized by the incorporation of virtual reality and computer technology
  • The macarena was only the beginning. Look for Americans to embrace Latin culture--particularly its music--on a wide scale.

Whatever happened to Ricky Martin? I miss Living La Vida Loca.

Here's what Celente missed: The Internet. Blogs. Online video. Digital music. The explosion in mobile communications. Social networks. The complete upheaval in the entertainment and information industries caused by all of the above. And, oh yeah, the first African-American president of the United States. That's the short list.

Celente isn't a seer. He just looks at current trends and extrapolates. That means, of course, he's totally blind to anything that doesn't yet show up on a data curve.

Any fool can do this, even me. But instead of reading the papers and poring over data, I used a Magic 8 Ball (the online version). Here's what it had to say:

* Food riots: Maybe

* Tent cities: Definitely

* Tax revolts: No way!

* The end of Christmas: Absolutely

* President Sarah Palin: Ask again later

(Celente didn't actually predict that last one, but I figured since we're trying to scare people, it was worth a try.)

The problem with making dire predictions like this is that modern economics is really an enormous confidence game. Like voodoo, it only works if you believe in it. You want to create a run on the banks? Tell people there's a run on the banks. So Celente isn't helping anybody except the folks who want to see the world collapse in the next four years, for entirely self-serving reasons.

Told you not to look.

When not hiding under his bed, Dan Tynan writes about la vida geeka at his blogs, Culture Crash and Tynan on Tech.

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