People in Taiwan were unmoved yesterday by sensationalist media coverage of doomsday predictions based on a Mayan prophecy, with few making panicked calls to find out if the world was really coming to an end, according to scientific institutions.
“Honestly, I got more telephone calls from the press [than from the public] in recent days,” Hsu I-hung (徐毅宏), section chief of the Taipei Astronomical Museum, said yesterday.
Museum staff have handled about five phone calls or e-mails per day on the possible apocalypse since earlier this year, but such inquiries dropped significantly in recent weeks, Hsu said.
Hsu said the public may have either been satisfied with the information they found in the media or were simply fed up with the topic.
Likewise, the National Museum of Natural Science said it did not see any increase in public anxiety, though people did show an interest in learning more about possible doomsday-related events.
“We received many calls from parents and teachers about events for kids,” said Joyce Chen, a public relations officer at the museum. “They saw it as a good opportunity for fun or to use it for educational purposes.”
More than 500 people participated in the museum’s doomsday countdown party yesterday, which was to be followed by concerts and prayer ceremonies after dusk.
Taiwanese media have bombarded the public with sensationalistic apocalyptic news, with many dedicating front pages and talk shows to the topic.
At one point, a local television station had a news ticker reading, “The doomsday warning will be lifted at 2pm on Saturday,” taking into account the different time zone in Mexico and Central America, where Mayan culture originated.
One of those who may have helped debunk the Mayan myth was “Teacher Wang,” a self-claimed prophet who erroneously predicted that a super earthquake would “rip Taiwan in half” on May 11 last year. He said publicly he did not believe in the end-of-the-world notion.
“Apocalypse? What apocalypse?” he said on a TV program. “I have never believed there would be an apocalypse.”