Stopped to visit the Brown v Board of Education historical site in Topeka yesterday. The exhibits included a number of contemporary predictions about what would happen if the Court desegregated the schools. Suffice it to say many atrocities would befall Our Women and society as we know it would collapse. They predicted the same things reactionaries always predict at the slightest potential for change. You've heard them all. And I found myself wondering, How many times have we been promised these outcomes? Have the predictions ever come true?
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Are there any examples of apocalyptic predictions – the kind that accompany issues like gay marriage, desegregation, etc. – that were anything less than wild exaggerations? Any example we can point to of the Pat Robertsons of the world warning us of dire consequences that kind of, sort of came to pass?
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The jury's still out on the whole "Repealing DADT will reduce the military to one furious gay orgy" prediction – Just give it a few years, it'll happen – but on others the record is complete. Neither gay marriage nor female suffrage led to the predicted collapse of civilization, after all. But maybe something else that I'm forgetting did.

36 thoughts on “SLIGHTLY OVERSTATED”

  • You're thinking on too short a timescale. It took a hundred years for the abandonment of regular sacrifices to Roma et Augustus to bring about the disintegration of the Western empire.

  • I'm sure a conservative would be happy to spend a half hour explaining how any or all of these led to the Baltimore riots.

    It would be a lie, of course, but "(Bad current event) just goes to show everything I've been saying about (historical development of 40+ years ago)" is all conservatives ever say.

  • "If we don't stop burning fossil fuels we'll have to put another two feet on the seawall." ca. 2070s.


    "Social conservative crusader Phyllis Schlafly, it turns out, was right when in the 1970s she warned that if the Equal Rights Amendment were ratified, we’d have homosexual marriage, women in combat, and unisex bathrooms. The ERA was never ratified, but the country took many of its lessons to heart. Here’s what Schlafly got wrong: those weren’t things to warn against but to embrace."

  • Duke of Clay says:

    I recall some of these dire predictions as a second grader when the Brown decision came down. I did not appreciate the End-of-the-World-As-We-Know-It argument until I was a freshman in college.

    I was assisting a business professor in tabulating the results of a survey of business owners regarding proposed legislation to restrict billboard use in Tennessee. As I recall, respondent after respondent explained that restricting billboards would cause them to lose business and that they ultimately would have to shut down their hotel/motel/restaurant. This would result in a huge spike in unemployment and ultimately crash the economy.

    Has anyone looked into links between billboard restrictions in the 1960s & 70s and the Great Recession of 2008?

  • Well Kansarse under Brownback has resolved the "separate but equal" dilemma.
    He's made the entire education system in the state equally shitty.

  • Yes.

    The slippery slope to social acceptable polyamory and transexuality.

    (*not that I think these are things to be feared)

  • Emerson Dameron says:


    Some on the right have suggested that this will extend to bestiality. If that happens, I have a sitcom pilot ready to go.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Well, when Truman desegregated the military, the racists warned that we'd never win another war.

    Of course, if we didn't go to war in stupid places for stupid reasons, we could have left warring at our high mark after WWII.


  • Emerson: Note that when it comes to rampant bestiality, as in everything the Hysterical Right is sure the Liberals want to unleash, the safe bet is It's Always Projection. The thief knows everyone tries to steal from him. The liar knows nobody is telling the truth. The Duggars know that incest is a Liberal disease. Uncounted numbers of Republicans know that "Teh Gay" is being forced down their throats by Liberals, and Ol' Frothy knows that man-on-dog is what the Liberals intend to get behind. Same old, same old.
    cund: It isn't whether you win or lose, but how much you get paid.

  • Your question is directed to the intersection of social mores and politics. I have two candidates where the warnings (from the progressive side of the aisle) came true: (1) Reaganomics, which inaugurated a second Gilded Age and the de facto rule of money in politics (and everything else), and (2) the Tea Party, which has led to those who still vote commandeering social issues and mostly voting their hates, leading to discord, partisanship, and stalemate where little gets done and government shuts down periodically for lack of funding.

    From a wider perspective and somewhat longer timeline, I’d say that dire concerns in the 1970s over ecology (now called environmentalism) and overpopulation have proven to be correct:

    Observing that most hyperbolic proclamations by microphone-wielding political hacks turn out to be pure fabrication does not mean that every such warning is the equivalent of the boy who cried wolf. Plenty of bad things have happened because of badly misaligned social values that give rise to misguided styles of social organization. Let’s not forget, for instance, that we’ve been at war for over 10 years, even if it’s mostly away from U.S. streets, thus out of sight, and that we’ve had two major financial collapses in the last 15 years and are poised for another because no realignment or corrective has occurred.

  • @ronzie, the conservatives have been right about a lot of the slippery slope arguments. "Desegregation will lead to miscegenation!" "If we abolish slavery some day we will have a Negro running America!" "If we decriminalize sodomy we'll have men marrying other men and women marrying women!" It's just that… we figured out those weren't tragic outcomes.

  • Emerson Dameron says:

    Lefties tend to think in terms of consensual v. non-. The right thinks we just want to allow anything and everything God finds disgusting.

    Also, yeah. Rick Santorum brought up "man on dog." No one else did.

  • Well, conservatives did say that the acceptance and legalization of gay marriage would lead to the mainstreaming of polygamy, bestiality, and incest. Based on last night's Duggar family interview on Fox, I'd say that for once they were right.

  • The real explanations are a lot more complicated of course, but there was an explosion in urban crime immediately following Civil Rights and the War on Poverty and a lot of racists will use that to argue that the progressive reforms of the 1960s were a big mistake.

  • When the U.S. pulled out of Vietnam it did kind of lead to a mini "domino effect" with the Pathet Lao and the Cambodian People's Party taking power in their respective countries.

    Of course this has no impact on my daily life and considering it happened at the expense of the Khmer Rouge it's probably a good thing.

  • It all started back in the late '50s when the churches dropped their hard line against divorce…

  • The other prediction from the conservatives is about "jobs." If we impose regulation X, then it will cost jobs. If we raise the minimum wage, it will cost jobs. If we stuff the CEOs' pockets full of cash, it will create jobs. All bullshit.

    Companies don't hire or fire people for no reason at all. We live in a demand economy. Companies hire just slightly fewer people than they need to meet the demand for their products and services. That way they can overwork the ones who are there.

    If we give minimum wage people more money, they will spend more, and that will increase demand. This means companies will have to hire people to meet that demand.

    As for as "job creators," this is the biggest piece of shit to ever float down the Republican River (see what I did there?). The goal of every corporate bigwig is to reduce headcount. No one ever got a bonus or even a pat on the back for adding to headcount. However, they get all sort of honors if they can "drive out cost," i.e. put people out of work.

    My part-time job is editing interviews with business executives. I've been doing this for 10 years. I can honestly say that I have never heard anyone boast about hiring more people. They pride themselves on how many people they have cut from the payroll.

    The Holy Grail, at least in IT businesses, is to have a "lights out" facility, where everything is run by automation and monitored by a remote staff, which is monitoring several such people-less facilities.

  • Carter: An interesting, and perhaps better explanation, is the widespread introduction of tetraethyl lead in gasoline. Lead is a known and demonstrated neurotoxin, and some studies have found a link to decision centers and mental reaction times. Inner City housing stock also had high levels of lead-based paint, and as older housing stocks declined after WWII (because of lack of investment) lead from paint dust also increased. Interestingly enough, with the abolition of TEL, crime rates began to plummet, even in cities without draconian Rudy-style police tactics. Also interestingly enough, Brazil had leaded gasoline until quite recently…along with an increase in motor vehiocle use. What country leads the world right now in homicide rates outside immediate war zones? BRAZIL.

  • Skepticalist says:

    So many conservative friends say they don't have any trouble with marriage equality so long as it's called something else. Unbelievable bullshit.

  • @Carter

    Coincidence does not prove causality. The rise in urban crime is more closely connected to the Reagan war on drugs. It's also closely connected to the CIA's decision to clamp down on marijuana by spraying marijuana fields in Central and South Ameirca with Paraquat. They then substituted crack cocaine.

    Those were clear mistakes, but conservatives will never admit it.

  • Bitter Scribe says:

    I've often thought that anyone who uses the fall of Rome as a political metaphor should immediately be beaten over the head with a copy of Gibbon's "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire."

    Or forced to read it–whichever is more painful.

  • I live in a city that has, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, about 2-1/2 % black people.

    Many people here are worried about teh black taking over.

  • Kirk Jundt says:

    What I find most distressing about the slippery slope slop spewed (ok I'll desist) regarding marriage equality leading to polygamy or cow tipping (if you get my drift) is that it conflates an identity issue with a choice issue. The slippery people can't get away from their own stinking suspicion that homosexuality is a choice. We don't need to wait for the "gay gene" to know that it is an immutable part of someone's being. That said whenever I ask one of them (slippery slope slugs) when it was they themselves decided to be straight they foam at the mouth (and not that creamy expensive brown water frothing we pay $4 for).
    And finally when the GOP's flag football team of Prez wanna-be's tosses around their deeply held belief that it is a state's rights to decide who can be happy and who can't I find it difficult not to think of a school house door darkened by an elected misanthrope….

  • I've read a few comments from Israeli politicos in the late 60s and early 70s how they had to get this "occupied territories" thing squared away, or else they'd create a generation of an entire nationality that hated them and also harden their children so completely that they'd be incapable of running a democracy.

    I'd also say that environmental catastrophe scenarios come true with depressing regularity.

    But nothing from the right, no. One of the defining characteristics of conservatism is that it's always wrong and it never matters.

  • Women's studies, Cold War Commiephobia, vintage sex ed / eugenics, worker reforms…I love the dire warnings brigade. Flappers, pants-wearing, bralessness, masturbation, reefer madness…WON'T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN??? It's all risible and tragic, from clitoridectomy to natural disaster being caused by Teh Gays. "A girl who would chew gum would smoke, and a girl who would smoke would have premarital sex," so…Bubble Yum makes you a slut; I see. "Cats and dogs, living together…mass hysteria!"

    But I do think one of the reasons a lot of average folks don't freak out about global climate change is that a lot of conventional wisdom resources had us all dead before the turn of the century, from holes in the ozone to man-made deserts to dioxin to nuclear winters to PCBs, and we're still here. (I know, I get it, but it's hard to explain to my mom.)

  • I'm pretty new here but you seem like a fair minded guy. I wonder what you think of this rundown of claims that seem to validate socially conservative predictions.

    Or I suppose you could consider that Malthusians (most of whose descendants are now found on the left) have been pretty consistently wrong for 200 years. Check out the recent NYT piece on Paul Ehrlich for a good example of this.

    I suppose it's reasonable to mock anticommie hysteria in 1950's America, but I think we can all agree that anticommie hysteria in 1918 Russia turned out to be fully justified. (I think we can also agree that some of the proposed solutions offered by the 1918 Russian anticommies were horrifying.)

    Anyway, predictions are hard, especially about the future. Sometimes liberals are right and sometimes they aren't. Same with conservatives. To pretend that one side has a monopoly on fulfilled prophecy is mostly about what Tyler Cowen calls "mood affiliation" rather than analysis.

  • "Malthusians (most of whose descendants are now found on the left)"

    Enjoy your Rocky Mountain beachfront property!

  • You'd have to do some research on what if any predictions were made in 1962 about "taking God out of the schools," but a lot of religious right types cite the Supreme Court decision against teacher-led school prayer as the cause of all manner of evil: increases in crime rates, drug use, teen pregnancy, etc. in the 60s and 70s. Of course this is after the fact, and they uniformly fail to acknowledge the dramatic decrease in crime rates since the early 90s–or the dramatic decrease in lynchings since the early 60s.

  • Heisenberg says:

    I'd say Ross Perot was pretty spot-on when he predicted the "gigantic sucking sound" of manufacturing jobs leaving the U.S. as a result of free trade & globalization.

  • Paper Mache says:

    My first time commenting. Love this site and especially enjoy the thought provoking comments. In 1975, in a very former life, I attended my first fundamental Baptist church service. The music director was suddenly moved by the spirit and vividly described his vision of the future – where the streets of every major U.S. city would be over run with gay men forcibly having their way with unwilling and terrified straight men and boys. The whole congregation wailed and nashed their teeth. Did I mention that the music director was a male with the tightest pants I'd ever seen, an almost see-through shirt unbuttoned almost the waist to reveal gold chains over his hairy chest, with a Sonny Bono mustache and feathered hair. It was a great performance – as performances go.

  • Umm, everyone of those predictions came true. Those backwards racist theocrats saw their shining Utopia of White People Are Always Right crumble and die.

    Their old world of implied violence toward any minority who gets too uppity went away, and the World As They Knew It was gone.

    Too bad its starting to creep back up from the dead.

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