03/27/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Fearful Fringe

I was disappointed to see the San Francisco Chronicle begin 2010 with a story pandering to that crowd of Americans who love to be afraid. I was hoping our 2009 year of fear was in our rearview mirror. The Chronicle devoted 800 words to the end-of-times babble being delivered by a fundamentalist radio host who tells us he has done the math, and he is positive that the world will end around May of 2011. I can only imagine how irritated those Hollywood types were when they were told that their multimillion-dollar fear extravaganza 2012 was based on a twelve-month miscalculation.

Harold Camping, the religious radio fear jockey featured in that article might be better at math than those Hollywood producers because Harold has calculated his end-of-time prophecy several times in the past. In fact, in 1994 he convinced his Judgment Day followers to gather together in Alameda, California and wait all day for the world to end. Many of his followers gave away their worldly possessions and dressed up in their Sunday clothes only to be told at the end of their 24-hour wait that Harold had made an error in his long division. In his defense, it's easy to misplace a decimal or two when you are delusional and hysterical. In American, sometimes fear is real entertainment. Not only for those people whose brains are made up of something more than mush but also for the people who love to be afraid.

In 2009, the truly terrified hysterics rushed out to buy guns of every description. There were many times you couldn't buy 9mm or 40 caliber shells even for target practice because production couldn't keep up with demand. What was everyone afraid of? Here is the short list: America elected a "Negro president." Democrats were going to take everybody's guns. The liberals were planning a "take over." The immigrant hoards were going to rape and pillage. And there was the threat that some ill-defined world catastrophe was always knocking at our door in 2009. The world was surely ending and only a well-armed militia trained gun owner with a concealed weapon permit would be ready. We made our love of being afraid into a widespread psychosis. If you don't believe me, go to one of those tea party rallies and ask the question: Why are you here? At the heart of every response, you will hear vague hysterical fear and loathing of something or someone. It will usually begin and end with an "O."

In my hometown, our newspaper allows bloggers who are fearful to use their real name to blog on our newspaper's blog site. They use secretive names like Horndog, Chilidog, and Eyeonpcola. No doubt their fearful mind is caught up in delusions of conspiracy and mysterious secretive plots. The wolf is always at their door. Many of them should be on anxiety medication. They are frightened with a chill-to-the-bone about darn near everything; Politicians, newspaper columnists, African-Americans, anyone under 20, and yes, especially, the "end of times." I almost feel bad about disclosing what Harold predicts about 2011 ... (not really.) Like I said, this whole fear thing is down right entertaining.