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1998-03-20 21:46:44


FORBES: Market High, Journalistic Low



FORBES dismisses the fear over the effects of y2k as "hype."

The article begins with a rhetorical question that lacks not only a touch of reality, it lacks a question mark.

"Who needs facts when you are peddling fear and panic. That seems to be the case with the hype that is portraying the Year 2000 computer bug as the biggest threat to civilization since Godzilla destroyed Tokyo. According to a number of recent articles, this ubiquitous and all-powerful bug is the worst crisis ever to face the world's information systems."

Of course, the author cannot say that there is no problem and not be subject to ridicule. So he doffs his cap to reality, but only for a moment. What threat does y2k really present? I love his careful choice of a noun: "mischief." You know: kind of like Dennis the Menace. And the author sees himself as gruff old Mr. Wilson, trying to inject a little reality into the picture. He writes:

"This is a serious problem. The Y2K bug could cause all sorts of mischief, including shutting down some computers entirely. Even worse, many of the computers with this bug are the mainframes used primarily by big corporations and governments--just think what could happen to social security and medicare.

"But a number of interested parties are hyping this problem to warn of near-Biblical doom."

On the contrary, only one interested party is. Me. (Or is it "I"?)

That phrase, "interested party," implies self-interested. Not interested in the truth; interested in money. And the author goes on to argue just this: every analyst who says y2k will be a very big problem is saying this for the money.

What is his evidence of any published analyses of biblical-type judgments? Well, now that you mention it, other than mine, none. Instead, he goes after BUSINESS WEEK, which offered a kind of mild-mannered "Gee, fellows, this computer thing might interrupt the boom for a quarter." For that, BUSINESS WEEK gets pilloried.

"One Business Week cover recently screamed 'Zap! How the Year 2000 Bug Will Hurt the Economy.' The cover story breathlessly went on to postulate that the computer glitch will slow the country's gross domestic product (GDP) growth by as much as 0.5%, push up inflation and clamp down on productivity. This wasn't going to be a economic road-bump lasting for a few short months--Business Week expects the negative Y2K impact to continue all the way out to the second quarter of 2001."

And so the article goes, page after page.

If this is the best that the boom-peddlers can produce, we're headed for a crash. And the author will not even be able to collect unemployment. No checks. No banks. No market for scribblers, of whom I am chief.

If this journalistic drivel constitutes Malcom Forbes, Jr.'s response to the Year 2000 Problem, then he should change the slogan of his magazine from "capitalist tool" to "capitalist fool."


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