Two heads of state have pulled off some shenanigans when it comes to the end of the world. On the one hand we have the recent video put out by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard telling her constituents that the Mayans were right and the end is indeed nigh. She wasn't sure if it would be through zombies, hellbeasts, or k-pop, but she knew it was coming.
Gillard wasn't the first chief executive to announce the end of the world. Ronald Reagan also chillingly told us that he has signed legislation to outlaw Russia and that we would begin bombing in five minutes. That's right, nuclear fucking holocaust was about to go mainstream.
The question is, who did it better?
In This Corner: Julia Gillard is the currently sitting prime minister of Australia, the first woman to hold the office. She's big on better health care, a woman's right to choose, wishy-washy on gambling, mildly for traditional marriage, and wants Australia to become a republic when Elizabeth II resigns the crown. It's hard to know if she's made history since, you know, now hasn't become history yet. We'll have to see.
And in This Corner: The Great Communicator, the Gipper, the man my wife calls three demons in a human suit, and America's 40th president, Ronald Reagan. No other figure in the politics of the last 30 years can compare to him. He's an apparent saint among the conservatives, reviled among the liberals, but acknowledged by both sides as a one of a kind president whose place in history is secured. The Berlin Wall fell under his watch, as did the Soviet Union, and the effects of his leadership are still felt today decades after he left public office.
The Prophecies: It should be noted that both Gillard and Reagan were joking. In Gillard's case, her video appeared on a comedic breakfast show, and the reference to k-pop being a sign of apocalypse is probably the best clue to how serious she was not... unless she knows something that we don't. On the other hand, the fact that a sitting executive would participate in such a joke is unusual, and lends the virality among the Alex Jones crowd a little more oomph.
Reagan? He was merely trying to get a rise out of the soundcheck crew with a bizarre line. The bit about instigating a nuclear war never went out on the air, but was eventually leaked. The Soviets, understandably, went a little bananas and Chicken Littled to alert for half an hour until they realized Reagan wasn't really about to attack. Considering we'd already almost unleashed World War III: The Radiationing over a $.46 malfunctioning computer chip in 1980, perhaps Ronnie should have been a little more cautious over how jumpy all involved actually were.
The Preaching: Here there can be no contest. Gillard does perfectly fine for a politician trying to be funny. She delivers her sermon with a dry authority that undercuts the subtly of the humor. It's the same kind all-or-nothing performance that made old Cold War sci fi flicks so wonderful.
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But Reagan? C'mon. Reagan's ability's as a speaker may never come again. Sure, he was known for jokes and anecdotes, but he was also known for the fact that he could talk like a damn Cobra villain if he needed to. That lent balls to any and every pronouncement he made because even his jokes had the weight of Hollywood spellbinding.
The Legacy: Even though I can't name a single person who seriously believes that the 21st of December means the end of the world, in ten years our teenagers are going to look back and say we were all running around preparing to meet Jesus. Gillard cashed in on a fad. She did it well, but it will not be remembered.
Reagan's apocalypse was tied into a period of American history that is actually important, and was even released as a single by one pissed off American who thought he glibness when it came to death by mushroom cloud was obscene. I have a feeling bands will still be sapling that sound bite for years to come.
The Winner: Australia beats us in a lot of things. Beer, rugby, the ability of the local fauna to murder you, but no one tops Reagan and the apocalypse. Nice try, Gillard, but a try is all it was.