College professors who promote a “2012 phenomenon” for personal prestige and profit

I received an email from a minor character in the 2012 story with the subject line: “College professors who promote a ‘2012 phenomenon’ for personal prestige and profit.” It was a forwarded message in which Minor Character X had accused College Professor Y of appropriating his work on 2012. As it turns out, the complaint of Minor Character X had more to do with him not really understanding the nature of academic citation.

However, it raises an irony that has not been lost on me during this recent flurry of media attention: the academic who often criticizes those who mobilize 2012 for personal profit (whether financial or cultural capital), while at the same time—wittingly or not—mobilizing 2012 for personal profit (of largely professional capital).

It is worth noting that the contemporary “academic” study of 2012 is absolutely part of the 2012 phenomenon. As I wrote in the introduction to 2012: Decoding the Countercultural Apocalypse, “I’ve often thought a diagrammatic representation of the 2012 phenomenon would be particularly fascinating to study: while this book highlights some of the connections such a diagram would make, it would also feature on it.” Once the dust has settled on 2012, the way academic work has woven in and out of the 2012 phenomenon would make an interesting study in itself: in it may contain a footnote, “Joseph Gelfer—minor character in the 2012 story.”