April 9, 2009— -- People are logging onto the Internet to read all sorts of dire economic predictions: a new Great Depression, bread lines, riots, you name it. And with the recession taking hold, many have become addicted to apocalyptic news about the economy.
This sky-is-falling content online has the same sort of can't-look-away quality as a car crash or porn, for which New York magazine has coined the term "pessimism porn."
One of the stars of this new genre is Gerald Celente, a trends forecaster who's credited with predicting the fall of the Soviet Union, the war in Iraq, the crash of 1987, the dot-com bust and, very early on, the housing collapse.
In a 2007 television interview, now running on his Web site, Celente said, "America's headed for an economic 911. This isn't about dark clouds; this is about reality."
Another leading purveyor of "pessimism porn" is Peter Schiff -- star of a viral video on YouTube called "Peter Schiff Was Right," which shows the Euro Pacific Capital president being laughed at on cable shows in 2006 when he said a collapse was coming.
"Most of the profits that people have in real estate are going to vanish," Schiff cautioned. "Just like the profits from the dot-com bust back in 2000. It's a fantasy."
Now, Schiff and Celente are each painting a severe picture of what utter ruin and economic disaster might look like.
"If history's any guide, you do get the civil unrest, you do get the riots and the looting," Schiff said.
"Breadlines, protests, tax revolts ... civil unrest," Celente said. "Crime like we've never seen before."
Celente even thinks that people will be living in self-storage units.
"I mean, homeless numbers are going up already," he said. "It's better than living in a tent or a homeless shelter."
In case turmoil ensues into full-fledged battle, Celente is trained in close combat.
Preparing for Disaster
Celente is taking steps to protect himself, investing in a German shepherd as a possible guard dog.
"You don't know what's going to happen with people losing everything," Celente said. "As a Bronx boy, my saying is: When people lose everything and they have nothing left to lose, they lose it."
Celente and Schiff's views are not held by most mainstream economists, but they see themselves as beacons of truth.
"I think it's better to know the truth and to prepare for it, it's better -- other than just living in a delusion," Schiff said. "If you're forewarned, you're better off. So I think people like that. They want to know the truth, tired of all the propaganda. And that's what they get from me."
But, why would anyone subject themselves to reading this stuff online? Some "pessimism porn" addicts say it makes them feel smarter than the "average Joe."
Celente know that the news he's dishing out may be depressing, but he says, it's part of the job.
"We just put the facts out. It doesn't give us any pleasure, believe me. Just like a doctor, it wouldn't give him any pleasure to give you a bad diagnosis," said Celente.