Who's Cassandra?
January 28, 2009 3:41 PM   Subscribe

What is a "Cassandra Argument?"

Listening to NPR I could have sworn I heard a guest use the term "cassandra argument."

Google brings up nothing. Did I hear correctly?
posted by DieHipsterDie to Religion & Philosophy (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
What was the context? "Cassandra" is a well-known reference to greek mythology, usually in the context of a warning that is ignored until it's too late
posted by muddgirl at 3:45 PM on January 28, 2009

Best answer: Cassandra was an oracle who always prophesied terrible events for the future, whom no one believed.

The term is sometimes used for people nowadays who invariably predict disaster, and whose rate of success in their predictions is thought to be due to the "stopped clock" principle (i.e. "Even a stopped clock is right twice a day").
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:47 PM on January 28, 2009

Cassandra complex.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 3:48 PM on January 28, 2009

Best answer: You probably heard right, DieHipsterDie. "Cassandra" or "Cassandra Argument" is usually used in two kinds of references:
    Generally, any prophet of doom and destruction. Cassandra was the daughter of King Priam of Troy, who forsaw the city's downfall to the Greeks.
  • More specifically, the term is used to refer to a prophet who is ignored in their own time, but whose predictions later prove true. (In one version of the Cassandra myth, her beauty prompted Apollo to give her the gift of prophecy; when she spurned his love, he also added the curse that her predictions, no matter how specific and accurate, would never be believed.) This infuriating condition is also sometimes associated with insanity, particularly in post-Iliad literature, rather like Shakespeare's Ophelia. (Someone literally driven insane by their perfect foresight, coupled with their inability to communicate it - River Tam in Firefly, to use one pop-culture example. See also "Cassandra complex" in modern usage, referenced above.
Hope this helps!
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 4:07 PM on January 28, 2009

Response by poster: You guys rock!! Thanks!
posted by DieHipsterDie at 4:10 PM on January 28, 2009

The context was Al Gore's warning not to fail to act on climate change, so this explanation fits.
posted by umbĂș at 4:16 PM on January 28, 2009

12 Monkeys had a good bit in it about Cassandra
posted by Kirklander at 4:20 PM on January 28, 2009

If you keep predicting there will be a terrorist attack in the US, eventually you will be right.

So you can predict disasters for 8yrs now as "Obama's policies will lead to BAD THING!" and you have decent odds of being "right".
posted by rokusan at 6:30 PM on January 28, 2009

Reposting this fantastic link, minus the bragging about how it's too good to delete and plus some of the lyrics, to prove it is indeed an answer to "Who's Cassandra."

My name is Cassandra
daughter of Hecuba
Priestess of Athena
Student of Apollo
Sister of Paris
They call me 'prophet of doom'


I told the fool
To leave that married man alone
The one with the soft soft looks
She will ruin our Trojan home
(and she did)
My name is Cassandra
And they call me 'prophet of doom'


I predicted that my master would die
and he did
I said that his wife
would behead the man who took me as booty
and she did
you know she got the wrong idea
'bout our relationship


My name is Cassandra
daughter of Hecuba
Priestess of Athena
Student of Apollo
Sister of Paris
They call me 'prophet of doom'
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:21 AM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

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