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I'll Say It: The Doomsday Clock Is a Buzzkill

Bulletin of Atomic Scientists says we're inching closer to annihilation due to the war in Ukraine. What am I supposed to do with that information?

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Photo: Anna Moneymaker (Getty Images)

As a wise and perceptive artist once said, “It’s tough to be alive now, I think societal collapse is in the air.” That man? Timothée Chalamet. And boy, was he right.

On Tuesday, a gaggle of depressing scientists gathered in front of the ginormous Doomsday Clock to share that very same message: Things are bad. In fact, things are worse than they’ve ever been. My very unscientific response: “OK?? We all knew that???”

Yesterday, the Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists set the Doomsday Clock to 90 seconds to midnight, the closest to midnight the clock has ever been. This nihilistic interactive prop theater event first appeared in 1947, following the invention of the atomic bomb. Its intention was to be a “design that warns the public about how close we are to destroying our world with dangerous technologies of our own making”—namely, nuclear war and climate change. Or, as the group of left-brained goons breaks it down for us art-y types, it can be seen as a “metaphor.” Yeah, we get it! It’s a symbol for letting us know just how close we are to cutting off our nose to spite our face. I work two blocks away from Times Square, you think I’m not intimately familiar with the grotesque tragedy of humanity?!

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What’s brought us so close to edging annihilation? “The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moves the hands of the Doomsday Clock forward, largely (though not exclusively) because of the mounting dangers of the war in Ukraine,” the group of Debbie Downers said in a released statement. Super. I’m glad that I, an individual woman who is already constantly worried about the state of the world, am getting the confirmation I need to remain frozen in peril. I’m not convinced that Vladimir Putin is refreshing the Doomsday Clock website to see if he needs to keep his ego in check, though.

As Mr. Chalamet aptly said, it’s tough to be alive right now. Elaborate prop-dramedy press events aren’t easing that general tension. For every announcement about the Doomsday Clock, I need four more seasons of Old Enough (the show where Japanese toddlers run errands). I also need the annihilation scientists to pose in these photos with a little more authority. Give me hands on the hips or even crossed in disappointment. The current limp arms hanging by their side merely add insult to the injury of the depressing outlook they’re sharing with us.

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I suppose the good news is that the Doomsday Clock can be and has been moved backwards (which doesn’t seem like a logistically sound metaphor but OK...) and that we are capable of backing away from the ledge of despair. But my issue with the Doomsday Clock is that it feels like some sick-o countdown for villains. I get what these dorks are trying to do and that they genuinely think they are substantively adding to the discourse. But all I get when I read about the impending threat of nuclear war is a sense of dread so strong I pull up the New York City nuclear destruction map and calculate how quickly death will come. Tick tock!