How to Be a Successful Prophet: Applying The Jack Smith Rule

Jack Smith was a long-time columnist for the Los Angeles Times — here’s his Wikipedia entry — who died in 1996. What I remember after all these years from his reign, as a long-time reader of the LA Times since the 1970s, is his recurring suggestion that you can take any prophecy — he was focusing on psychics’ predictions — and become a more successful prophet than the psychics simply by taking any of their predictions, and predicting the opposite. No, the world will not end on such and such a date; no, Elizabeth Taylor will not marry Prince Rainier of Monaco, and so on.

(Here is an example from 1986 of one of his columns that discusses this, though I cannot find an earlier first source.)

Now, while Jack Smith was focusing on psychics, the same rule easily applies to religious fundamentalists, who are always predicting the end of the world, or various other calamities they would like to blame on liberal policies. Whenever you see one of these predictions — from Pat Robertson predicting the end of the world back in 1982, to Harold Camping‘s two recent end of world predictions that failed to come true, you can easily predict the opposite, and you will be a more successful prophet than they were.

As time has progressed, this principle seems to apply not just to fundamentalist pastors, but to popular figures in the conservative/Tea Party/Republican wing of American politics. One of my favorite, humorous (to me) websites, Right Wing Watch, daily documents loony statements by the likes of Glenn Beck, David Barton, Mike Huckabee, Kirk Cameron, and their like, about the imminent end of Western Civilization or the collapse of American society because of Obama, the gays, or the atheists.

So I here establish what I’ll call the Jack Smith Rule. I will use this in future posts. Take any prediction by a psychic, by an evangelical preacher, or by a right-wing spokesman, about the end of western civilization, the collapse of society due to gays being allowed to serve in the military, the consequences of same sex marriage, and so on and so on.

Predict the opposite.

You will win.

Their paranoid fears will not happen.

Here’s an easy one. Orson Scott Card’s latest rant has gotten much publicity [though it was posted in May], especially his comment that Obama is about to form some national police force…

Obama will put a thin veneer of training and military structure on urban gangs, and send them out to channel their violence against Obama’s enemies.

Instead of doing drive-by shootings in their own neighborhoods, these young thugs will do beatings and murders of people “trying to escape” — people who all seem to be leaders and members of groups that oppose Obama.

By the Jack Smith rule, let us predict: no, this will not happen.

Let us check back in three years, say, and see whose prediction, Card’s or mine, will come true.

(There have been similar predictions from right-wing politicians that Obama will somehow circumvent the Constitution and get himself elected for a third term. No, this will not happen either.)

There are so many more opportunities to apply this Jack Smith Rule. I am lining them up.

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