Next to tech evangelists, futurists are probably the most useless subcategory of whatever passes for public intellectuals in America these days. Paid to make vague predictions, these are the real-time chroniclers of the lies the American establishment tells itself to keep capitalism chugging along. And here I’m just talking about the respectable ones, like Michio Kaku and Ray Kurzweil.
Gerald Celente, who founded the Trends Research Institute (originally called the Socio-Economic Research Institute of America) in 1980, is a little bit different than his futurological peers. Born in the Bronx in 1946, Celente graduated from West Virginia University and went to work in politics in New York State. “I lasted one session,” he told the New York Post in 2008, before “I became a political atheist.”
Celente is a maverick. He speaks truth to power.
Gerald Celente, according to Gerald Celente, not only predicted the fall of the Shah of Iran in 1979, but was so impressed with himself for doing so that he decided to go into business as a “trends forecaster.” In a few short years, he became the go-to guy whenever a journalist needed to dash off a story with a headline like “Top Trends for [fill in the year]” or “Futurist predicts [fill-in-the-blank].” He’s made a good living doing this sort of thing, which is impressive considering how many of his predictions fall flat. Here’s one from his 1990 book, Trend Tracking: The System to Profit from Today's Trends (co-written with a professional bowler named Tom Milton):
The baby boomers did get jobs, and got married, and had children, and some of their younger brothers and sisters became yuppies. But most of them didn’t abandon the values of the Sixties. They still want equal rights for people. They still oppose war. They’re still concerned about the environment. They still care more about life-style than about money. And now that those at the leading edge of the baby boom are in their 40s, they’re in a position to implement their values.
I find this interesting, because not only is it wrong (a cursory look at our baby boomer Presidents, from Clinton to the present day, makes this clear) but because it highlights the nature of “futurology.” Corporations hire futurists to tell them stories that makes them feel better about where they’re at today.
I spoke to Celente at the tail end of 2012. I probably said I was working on a “Top Trends for the Year 2013” story, although I was really just fishing for something fun to write about. I never came up with anything, but I did receive a free subscription to his Trends Journal newsletter for my trouble.
Our conversation was pretty grounded, at first. He began by explaining the art and science of trends forecasting:
We look at over 300 different trend categories, anything from the environment, business, to culture, art, technology, geopolitics, always with the understanding that all things are connected. In looking at the current events forming future trends, rather than taking a one dimensional view of issues, such as economics, and only looking at economic data, we look at all of the interrelated data that affects economics. So it could be changes in the family, changes of the environment, geopolitical changes. As Chief Seattle is alleged to have said, "all things are connected, like the blood which unites us all."
"No one can predict the future, but you can see the face of the future," he said at one point, which I'm still scratching my head over.
Then I asked for an example of a coming trend for the year 2013.
"Peace," he says.
"Um, how so?"
"Because if we don't have it, we're moving into the first great war of the 21st century."
I can see now that I dropped the ball by not asking him to describe the "first great war of the 21st century," but I guess it doesn't really matter. He predicts war with mind-numbing regularity and will continue to do so until there is one. Then he'll brag about how he predicted it. In the meantime, we'll continue to get entertaining videos like this:
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At this point in our conversation, I ask him if he thinks people will start "agitating" for peace in 2013.
"I wouldn't say agitating for it," he says. "I would say ascending to it."
Gerald begins to preach:
It's when people reach the higher levels within themselves and keep trying to attain higher levels each day, each moment, and each breath. Until that happens, nothing is going to change. The individual has to change before the collective consciousness changes. When enough individuals change, then the collective consciousness changes. And that, to me is the only way. To look look for leaders to lead, what kind of self respecting person would do that?
The thing of it is, conspiracy theorists don't just have a differing opinion about what's going on in the country, they have a differing opinion about what's going on in reality. Because there would be very real ramifications to reality itself if the earth was actually flat, or if the government was using mind control rays on you — which could only work if both physics and neurobiology were a lie — or if extraterrestrial superintelligence regularly visited the planet.
Reckon with the hardcore of the conspiracist fringe long enough and you start meeting gurus and prophets. You'll wish you were back at the grassy knoll, discussing the ballistic properties of a Carcano Model 38 infantry carbine.
When we spoke in 2012, I didn't quite see the relevance of Celente's rap about "higher levels" and "collective consciousness." He just sounded like another rich guy with a New Age bent, which wasn't very interesting. So I thanked him for his time, hung up the phone, filed the recording away somewhere, and then forgot about it completely until the COVID-19 pandemic snapped his brain the same way that it snapped Van Morrison's brain and the brains of the two guys from Right Said Fred.
If Celente forecasted one trend correctly in 2020, it was the political viability of undermining public health. Trends Journal referred to the pandemic as “Coronavirus 9/11,” a hoax designed to spread terror and “impose authoritarian controls” on the sheeple who complied with the lockdown. The Trends Research Institute became a soapbox for Celente's increasingly cranky takes on America’s ills, with covers that make the front page of the New York Post look restrained in comparison.
History Before it Happens
The one thing that separates Celente from the new crop of social media conspiracy influencers is the fact that he's loaded. Exactly how loaded, it's tough to say. A cursory Google search shows that he has all sorts of ways to make money: His Executive Speakers Bureau bio lists his fee as $20,000 - $30,000. Or you can get 30 minutes of coaching from him for $550. Whatever he's doing, it's working. In 2012, he started snapping up colonial-era real estate in Kingston, New York.
There are really only two ways to make money as a futurist. If you're highbrow, someone like Stewart Brand, you sell your services to corporations trying to understand the future in order to make a quick buck off it. If that doesn't work out, you can go directly to the people, selling the promise of your so-called expertise, which may or may not exist. This is commonly referred to as an Internet Marketing scam. Celente's web presence implies the second category, but I can't really say for sure.
Perhaps not as lucrative, but near and dear to his heart, Celente has started his own nondenominational church. Religion, of course, is the ultimate endpoint of the unrepentant egotist.
The Universal Church of Freedom, Peace, and Justice holds the occasional rally in Kingston, New York, featuring sermons from such highly regarded religious leaders as Mark Crispin Miller, Paul Craig Roberts, and Judge Andrew Napolitano.
Gerald Celente says there will be open revolt, perhaps even a Civil War 2.0, if the American people don't rise up and reject the corrupt political establishment. He wants a peaceful revolution, and he believes he's the man to bring it. Perhaps more to the point, his Universal Church offers religious vaccine exemptions to those who donate $100 or more.
If the revolution never comes, people like Gerald Celente can still make a buck explaining how it's right around the corner.