March 30, 1997
Iíd like to take this opportunity to publicly thank the Heavenís Gate cult for their actions this week. (Please note the heavy sarcasm factor.) About the only thing they did right was managing to kill themselves without hurting anyone else (a fact noted and appreciated by media mogul Ted Turner). But, as part of their planetary departure, they also made things a bit tougher for those of us still here on this supposedly about-to-be-recycled planet.
See, the cultists were big fans of some of the same things Iím a big fan of. Itís no secret I like Star Trek. And hey, Iím writing this column for my Internet web page. Obviously, itís a wonder Iím still alive.
Yes, I like nothing better than tuning in to the Fox News Channel (there really is such a thing) and seeing journalists ridicule the cult members, by attacking the fact that many of them liked Star Trek. As if Trekkers werenít made fun of enough, we now have these cult idiots to thank for a whole new round of public scorn. I just wish the cult members had said they were big Babylon Five fans. Let those people deal with all the attention for once.
Let me make a couple of things clear. I like Star Trek. However, and this is important, I know it is just a TV show, nothing more. But Iíve always thought being a big fan of Star Trek was better than being, say, into heroin. Sure, both are kind of addictive, and you can spend a lot of money on both hobbies (although calling heroin "a hobby" is probably a little much). Still, no one ever died from being a Star Trek fan. And that includes these cult freaks. They died because they wanted to.
As for the whole Internet connection, well, it is a mass medium. One of the great things about the Ďnet is its innate ability to level the playing field. You can visit www.nbc.com just as easily as you can stop by www.heavensgate.com (or, more likely, the exact copy of the Heaven's Gate web page, if you find the doors to the actual Heaven's Gate are too busy), or home.earthlink.net/~jenolen/. Itís all the same in cyberspace. Type and go. But be sure to take responsibility for where you choose to go. And if there are wacko messages out there in cyberspace, for Do's sake, donít give them any more credence than wacko messages in the newspaper, or on the radio, or on TV. Please, folks, if you plan to visit the Heavenís Gate web site, do so safely! If you think youíre likely to convert, or feel strangely attached to the Hale-Bopp comet, do yourself a favor and visit www.disney.com until youíre thinking happy thoughts again.
Media coverage of the mass suicide has been, as usual, up to the standards we would expect (read: lousy). Pity the poor entertainment/news magazine show Extra, having to shave off some of that JonBenet Ramsey airtime to cover the cult suicides! (A side note: My favorite thing on Extra these days is their continuing JonBenet coverage, despite the lack of any new developments in the case. They actually have the nerve to begin each JonBenet segment with a graphic reading "Death of an Angel: Day 95" or whatever the appropriate day is. A daily count-up! Yikes! Like weíre all keeping score at home.)
Did you see the video made by the cult members? These were people truly convinced that they were doing the right thing. Would that we all would have something in our lives we believed in so passionately! So do I feel bad for them? Absolutely not. They are not suicide "victims," in my view, just astronauts with unconventional means of boarding their space ship. Hell, Iíd like nothing more than for the cult members to turn around the comet, and steer it back toward Earth. Wouldnít that be a great, intergalactic "I told you so" on their part?
Of course, that probably wonít happen, and our reality is a little more boring because of it. Still, Iíll waste no time mourning the cult members deaths. There are much more important things on my mind, like my own personal religious holiday this Tuesday. Perhaps youíve heard of it: Opening Day. Iíll again be at my own house of worship (Dodger Stadium) as two teams take to the field to begin another season of dreams, in an annual Spring rite of renewal.