It's the end of the world and they know it
December 21, 2012 10:40 PM   Subscribe

The most-watched show in the history of the National Geographic Channel isn't Wild, Taboo or even the longest-running documentary series on cable tv: Explorer. It's Doomsday Preppers, a show that documents the "lives of otherwise ordinary Americans" as they prepare for the end of the world.

"We struggled with this," Kathleen Cromley, a NatGeo executive producer, says after a screening of the series. "Our preppers have really strong beliefs and they are not always supported by mainstream science. As a network, we are concerned about factual accuracy."
All but one of the 20 episodes that have aired to date can be watched online.

Season One (2011-2012)
1) "Pilot"
2) "Bullets, Lots of Bullets"
3) "I Hope I Am Crazy"
4) "Back to the Stone Age". Here's a BuzzFeed profile of Tim Ralston, creator of the "Crovel." (Half-shovel, half-weapon: the Crovel has made Ralston millions in sales.)
5) "It's All Gonna Hit the Fan"
6) "You Shall Not Fear"
7) "Nine Meals Away from Anarchy"
8) "Into the Spider Hole"
9) "It's Gonna Get Worse"
10) "Close the Door, Load the Shotgun"
11) "Disaster Doesn't Wait"
12) "I Suggest We Run"
13) "Extreme Prep Edition"

Additional Clips: Season 1

Season 2 (2012-2013)
1) "You Can't Let Evil Win"
2) "Am I Nuts or Are You?"
3) "Bad Times All the Time"
4) "The Time of Reckoning"
5) "Taking from the Haves"
6) "You've Got Chaos" (Not yet online)
7) "Escape from New York"

Additional Clips: Season 2
posted by zarq (115 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite

 
The crovel appears to be an overpriced rip-off of the Chinese military shovel.
posted by Athene at 10:42 PM on December 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Related: Sandy Hook Shooting Thrusts ‘Preppers’ Into Spotlight
(which is a great articlefrom TPM which today made a late attempt to win my 'best opening paragraph of the year' award)

Jerry Young lives in Reno, Nev., sports a bright-white Santa beard year-round and has developed contingency plans to survive more than 150 disaster scenarios. The complete list is too long to print, but here are the “A”s: A New Messiah, A new Persian Empire, Addictive Entertainment, Advanced Technology disaster, Airplane crash, Anarchy, Antibiotic resistant bacteria, Armageddon, Automotive accident, Avalanche, Aztlan/Reconquista Uprising.

posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:48 PM on December 21, 2012 [8 favorites]


I can't help but think back to the comedic skewering these idiots got all the way back in 1983.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:52 PM on December 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


A huge number of people in the wealtiest nation in the history of the world are terrified of their neighbors, their fellow citizens, and quite possibly the concept of civic virtue itself.

I don't even bother trying to understand these people any more. They have a right to live as they choose, and I have a right to suggest that they are terrible people for turning their children into asocial, perhaps sociopathic, fellow citizens.
posted by bardic at 10:52 PM on December 21, 2012 [69 favorites]


"I Hope I Am Crazy"

Good news...!
posted by Sys Rq at 10:59 PM on December 21, 2012 [28 favorites]


So the zombie preppers...

Is "zombie" a code word?
posted by mr_roboto at 11:00 PM on December 21, 2012 [7 favorites]


A friend of mine had a coworker back in the early nineties who, when some guy predicted an earthquake and he and all his survivalist buddies were just going crazy telling everyone I told you so before the fact on the bulletin board my friend ran. When the day came he looked at all his survival gear and decided that the piece of equipment that was most likely to help him out should mother earth really cut loose was a reproduction katana.

I think it's safe to say that zombie is most definitely a code word.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:11 PM on December 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I know I shouldn't care about what a silly cable channel does, and I know Storage Pawn Shop Restaurant Toddler Truckers is the latest hot thing in TV right now...

But as a longtime Society member and as a geographer, I'm kind of disappointed they'd put this on their channel. You blew it, Kathleen. I hope you're at least doing something good with the money you're making.
posted by Old Man McKay at 11:16 PM on December 21, 2012 [22 favorites]


Well, bardic, we live in a cutthroat capitalist society where something as simple as getting sick can plunge you into financial and personal ruin--and doing anything about it brings up the old boogeymen COMMUNISM and socialism--and you can be fired pretty much at any time for any reason and if you work somewhere where jobs are already hard to come by, it's not like you're finding another one anytime soon.

Furthermore, the press constantly tell you to be TERRIFIED, sometimes for good reason and usually for not and expertly delve into your subconscious to find just the things you should be afraid of, then pour it on and sell you things to soothe your anxiety. (Honestly, I think women's magazines exist just to make up things to make women worry about then sell them the solution in glossy advertising).

Your elected leaders drag you around from boogeyman to boogeyman telling you THERE THERE BE AFRAID OF THAT GUY HE'S THE ONE DOING YOU WRONG while constantly reminding you that we're in a time of war and terrorists are lurking around every corner just waiting to blow you up and no, you can't take grandma's jam home in your carry on because terrorists. And if you question it too stringently, good luck ever seeing grandma again, either because you got locked up or because you wound up on some No Fly List they can't even tell you you're on, much less how to get off it.

And if you get too far afield, there's a whole media complex waiting to tell you about the jackbooted UN stormtroopers in their blue helmets coming to steal your guns so they can sell you colloidal silver and solar power generators while they stoke your already over-the-top anxieties about a society that's gradually getting browner and more Hispanic and more progressive. You couldn't talk to a therapist even if you wanted to because mental health coverage is really tough to find in that health insurance you're always in danger of losing or not being able to afford anymore.

And on top of that, the country you have been repeatedly assured is the greatest, mightiest country in the world and you are the luckiest son of a gun ever born to be a part of it suddenly looks kind of vulnerable and is embroiled in a couple long and costly wars it doesn't seem to be winning or even making any progress in it.

And here's the thing: There's nothing you can do about any of it. Oh, you can vote, but the new boss always winds up looking like the old boss.

But! But what you can do is make sure you're prepared when the whole seemingly-crumbling edifice collapses. You may not be able to rely on your health insurance, but when the shit hits the fan--as surely it must if we're constantly under attack by incompetent yet sinisterly powerful forces--YOU will be the one with the guns and ammunition and food and supplies. You can care for your family by making sure they survive and are comfortable. And more importantly, you are part of the secret club for once in your life. You are finally, finally in control and know something other people don't and can make sure, if nothing else, you and your kids will have food and water when the end times come. As they surely must if these powerful forces (Terrorists! UN Stormtroopers!) are cutting away the very foundation of Our Great Republic.

I think what it comes down to is people are terrified and just looking around for some semblance of control in a chaotic world where multibillion dollar industries and the entire political structure are set up to keep their anxiety on high alert at all times.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:17 PM on December 21, 2012 [106 favorites]


The National Geographic channel featured shows are:

Doomsday Preppers
Rocket City Rednecks
Border Wars
Drugs, Inc.
Alaska State Troopers
Hell on the Highway

What happened to like, tectonic plates, and polar ice caps and stuff?
posted by selfmedicating at 11:28 PM on December 21, 2012 [40 favorites]


End of the world? Hey Ctchulu! Eat me! Who wants to wait around for the credits to roll anyway?
posted by Goofyy at 11:40 PM on December 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


A huge number of people in the wealtiest nation in the history of the world are terrified of their neighbors, their fellow citizens, and quite possibly the concept of civic virtue itself....I have a right to suggest that they are terrible people for turning their children into asocial, perhaps sociopathic, fellow citizens.

As a counterexample, the first segment of the second video I clicked on featured a guy who built a large fallout shelter meant to house hundreds of people. He even stocks radiation detectors to give to people he might have to turn away. That's pretty civic-minded. He seems more terrified of things outside of his control than of his neighbors.

I see this stuff as pretty healthy and adaptive for humanity, though not so much for the individuals involved. These people eat up lots of their resources preparing for disasters that they'll probably never see, but that means that at least some people are better prepared in the off chance that one of those disasters does happen. The shit might actually hit the fan tomorrow or 1,000 years from now.

Some of these fears are at least believable. The Cold War may be over, but I would not be optimistic about our chances if a Tunguska-type event happened over a city in a nuclear-armed country.

BTW, the only prepping I'm inclined to do, after reading A Canticle for Leibowitz, is to bury a bunch of books in a hole.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 11:43 PM on December 21, 2012 [8 favorites]


The National Geographic Channel seems to have effectively nothing in common with the publicaiton except the name at this point. It's owned by NewsCorp (in case you were wondering about the glut dressed up of cop shows...). I'm not sure that the actual National Geographic Society has any say in its content at this point. It's hard to believe they do, given its nature.
posted by feloniousmonk at 12:14 AM on December 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


One of the weirdest issues of modern life is the collapse of many conspiracy theories into anti-semitism. It used to be more diverse: alien invasions were about immigrants, Zombies were about fear of social change (civil rights, commercialism)' vampires were about sexual potency. Now it's all Jews all the time. Goldbugs are convinced Jews control the money supply, lizard people believers are holocaust deniers. Apocalyptic evangelicals think Israel has a central role in all this.

It's weird. Yet when someone tells me that the world will soon end, or that the UN is taking over, or that hyperinflation is around the corner, or its time to buy guns and build a shelter, I know what they're saying. And why they're saying it to me.

So forgive me if I don't buy bitcoins or buy the idea that these beliefs come from a non-bigoted place. It's been decades since there were non-racist conspiracists.
posted by allen.spaulding at 12:23 AM on December 22, 2012 [14 favorites]


This comment is the best thing I've read regarding these folks.
posted by TedW at 1:18 AM on December 22, 2012 [37 favorites]


I have a couple of friends, brothers, that I visit and we watch this together. They grew up reading the survivalist genre of the 70s and used to own a gun shop, so they have some insight into how the folks featured on the show think. And while they both have a lot of that same mistrust/dislike of their fellow men that many of the featured preppers do, they both have great comedic wit, so it is a blast sitting with them as they riff on the show MST3K-style.

I don't think I could watch the show if it were not for them ripping on it. The fact that many of these preppers assume that as soon as the lights go out, everyone around them is going to either join murderous cannibal-rapist biker gangs (who want to take the preppers' stuff!), or be victims of said biker gangs, does not really reflect well on them as people. After all, if you think your fellow man is like that, what does that say about you? Add the Dunning-Kruger effect into the mix, something that many of the featured preppers clearly display, and my sense of vicarious shame jumps into overdrive.

Also, I'd just like to add: If you think that when the End Times come you will have to eat bugs to survive, you DO NOT have to practice eating bugs now so that you can "get used to it."
posted by moonbiter at 1:46 AM on December 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


A friend of mine had a coworker back in the early nineties who, when some guy predicted an earthquake and he and all his survivalist buddies were just going crazy telling everyone I told you so before the fact on the bulletin board my friend ran.

It sounds like you're referencing Iben Browning's "New Madrid Earthquake of 1990". I was there, and yes, people took that shit seriously. Granted, some chuckled at it, but the fact that someone could convince a non-trivial number of people that it's completely possible to predict an earthquake is a painful indictment of the American educational system. A number of academic papers have been written on the incident; their content would be amusing if it weren't so depressing.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:20 AM on December 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Coming in 2014 from National Geographic:
Elementary School Armed Guards.
Guns. Girls. Finger-painting.
School ain't what it used to be.

Survivalists have always been with us, but I really want to see Jerry Young's binders ... filled with plans.
posted by Mezentian at 2:21 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm going by the theory that being an individual or even a family prepared for dooom is not good enough and the only sure way to live through the collapse of civilisation is to make darn sure it doesn't collapse.

Jerry Pournelle, back in the early eighties, when there was a similar wave of rightwing doom 'n gloom and survivalism hitting the US, in one of his rare insightful comments, said that the coolapse of civilisation is actually somewhat a too attractive a possibility for folks like him. That it was clear to him that America was suffering through all kinds of social, economical and ecological problems and that it looked easier to let it all collapse than to try to fix the problems before a collapse.

And that's probably what drives a lot of these people now too. They have a grudge against civilisation, they feel their qualities are not recognised now, but they know that once civilisation does collapse, they will be top dog and all those people who mocked them are dead or groveling in front of them.

It's not a healthy obsession.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:24 AM on December 22, 2012 [30 favorites]


Each of us faces a personal apocalypse at some point. The fear, or maybe desire, to be there at the end of all things has been felt by people at every point in history and all over the world, and I think it's just a way of displacing that fear of death. Some people take solace in the thought that their death will be important, the last in history, while other people try their best to prepare to survive anything. But no one can have that much control. The most any of us can do is fight it off as long as we can, together.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:30 AM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I never thought of Lucifer's Hammer as a Mary Sue story before your comment, but yeah. There's that.
posted by mikelieman at 2:32 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]




It's worth noting that the actual Mayans weren't worried about today. They believe it marks the birth of a new and better age.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:45 AM on December 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


I've never watched the show, but the guys on Tank Riot mentioned it not long ago. They admitted to watching it as a guilty pleasure, but the thing they took the most offense at was how they rated the paranoid insane people on how thorough their paranoid insane preparedness was.

The information that the National Geographic Channel is owned by News Corp, that's useful, as was the knowledge that the key point where TLC went downhill was when it was privatized.
posted by JHarris at 3:08 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


So the zombie preppers...
Is "zombie" a code word?


Now that it's mainstream in the notoriously racist survivalist culture, yeah. It's become a dogwhistle for race riot. A fun and quirky counterculture dogwhistle, but really, who else are you going to shoot with antipersonnel ammo? Also note the unarmed nature of the swarming zombies... the fantasy is to kill as many unarmed people who look and act different than you as possible and then escape to do it all over again.

So, yeah, zombies are played out at this point, and doubly so now that it's a code word for killing unarmed people in a race war.
posted by Slap*Happy at 3:29 AM on December 22, 2012 [10 favorites]


A huge number of people in the wealtiest nation in the history of the world are terrified of their neighbors, their fellow citizens, and quite possibly the concept of civic virtue itself.

I don't even bother trying to understand these people any more. They have a right to live as they choose, and I have a right to suggest that they are terrible people for turning their children into asocial, perhaps sociopathic, fellow citizens.


Not highlighting your own fear in particular, just pointing out what I've said before: The biggest problem America has is trust in institutions. We don't trust government because of corporations in control, we don't trust corporations because of greed and the fact they aren't even eating their own dog food (in the sense of hiring the people they serve), we don't trust FOOD even anymore. Neighbors is just another institution.
posted by DU at 3:34 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


> bury a bunch of books in a hole

There's a post for that!
posted by Brak at 3:48 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


> What happened to like, tectonic plates, and polar ice caps and stuff?

They probably didn't attract as many eyeballs as all that bullshit.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:04 AM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Unlike the magazine, the NatGeo channel is for-profit and is a 70-30 partnership with NewsCorp. It uses the imprimatur of National Geographic, but really has nothing to do with it.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 4:15 AM on December 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


Nat Geo is to reality TV what Ruth's Chris Steakhouse is to chain restaurants.

It's still a bunch of SYSCO swill, but the presentation is fancier than the Olive Garden by a hair. Really, I see no significant difference between what they do and what TLC or Bravo does with voyeuristic "documentaries." They all do "reality" now where you are supposed to gawk and laugh at their subjects.

Just yesterday I got an email from a PBS-affiliated (they are all doing it) tv reality producer (they love to fish with anthropologists) who was upset that NATGEO had already grabbed the craziest example of this particular form of southern folk culture/religion about which I know something.

My answer was of course no way am I gonna turn you on to some other crazy shit and sic you on people who might trust me. Documentary and voyeurism are not the same thing at all.

These preppers are not sympathetic, and I've known a few. But if they allow themselves to be filmed for TV there is a money angle involved, trust me (that's what these shows offer that more journalistic documentary does not). They are not the hardcore types. Those people will shoot you for pointing a camera at them.
posted by spitbull at 4:39 AM on December 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


But as a longtime Society member and as a geographer, I'm kind of disappointed they'd put this on their channel. You blew it, Kathleen. I hope you're at least doing something good with the money you're making.

A Native American elder once told me "non-profit" is white people talk for "nice offices, homes, and salaries but don't pay taxes."

She had a point. NatGeo has been selling off or licensing its mostly bogus reputation for scientific accuracy and authority for a long time to keep those nice offices and salaries. In truth, they've always produced science porn for the masses. For money. Non-profit my ass. Why would anyone give them money voluntarily in this day and age when they are so transparently about the Benjamins?
posted by spitbull at 4:56 AM on December 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Our preppers have really strong beliefs and they are not always supported by mainstream science. As a network, we are concerned about factual accuracy."

Oh bullshit. If that was true you wouldn't use weasel words like "mainstream science". It's either science or its not, and dignifying outlandish notions with such a phrase is a huge disservice to your viewers.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 5:22 AM on December 22, 2012 [10 favorites]


Knowing nothing about the National Geographic channel I chose it as part of my TV package when I got my flat screen TV. I was thinking it'd be fun to watch shows like "Crocodile Hunter" and "Life on Earth" with my daughter. Instead what I got was really idiotic reality tv crap. I mean, this isn't like when TLC went bad, this is the god damned National Geographic! Like seriously, wtf!

Anyways, I unsuscribed from the NG channel and instead got Oasis. It scratches that nature itch just fine.
posted by Vindaloo at 5:42 AM on December 22, 2012


The world has ended - - we just haven't noticed yet.
posted by fairmettle at 6:11 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


"...the coolapse of civilisation..."

The hippest and funkyest type of collapse!

"lizard people believers are holocaust deniers."

Where did you read this? This isn't necessarily so - there are (at least) 3 types of aliens: greens, greys and reptillians, so it could be the greys helping the humans destroy the reptillians, with whom the greys have been at war for some time... I don't believe this shit myself, but I love to read about it, to see how they make it work given their unique, individual personalities. Like how there are only seven stories but each persons version is subtly different.

Condo at the End of the World - A new breed of survivalist is wealthy, educated, and plans to ride out 2012 in style


posted by marienbad at 6:17 AM on December 22, 2012


Even the CDC tells us to be prepared for the zombie apocalypse, complete with graphic novella.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:34 AM on December 22, 2012


I've seen the show a couple times, and I always feel for the kids. They didn't get to choose their paranoid, nutter parents.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 6:42 AM on December 22, 2012


The world has been ending, imminently, for the entirety of human history. Were NGC to be wandering around the Roman Empire they would have found no shortage of doomsday cults and people who had bolt holes for the end of the world.

In fact now that I think of it I'm wondering about the traditional American narrative about groups fleeing religious persecution. I wonder how many Pilgrims were more than happy to get the hell out of Europe before God smote it or its economy collapsed or whatever.

In any case it's pretty clear that the 24-hour news cycle all-news-is-local effect of cable does not do any favors for the paranoid streak that runs through the human psyche. It used to require a certain level of imagination to magnify a bar brawl three counties over into the collapse of society -- now all you have to do is watch TV and have a poor grasp of statistics.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:09 AM on December 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


It uses the imprimatur of National Geographic, but really has nothing to do with it.

Won't they at some point become concerned about brand dilution? It seems like these horrible programs are harmful to the image of the society in the long term. Or is it all about short-term profits? Are the people in charge of National Geographic taking home bonuses based on quarterly returns, or what?
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:31 AM on December 22, 2012


The crovel appears to be an overpriced rip-off of the Chinese military shovel.

Interesting! Thanks for mentioning it. Google led me to an exhaustive review (complete with pictures) on a disaster preparedness group's site.
posted by zarq at 7:34 AM on December 22, 2012


It uses the imprimatur of National Geographic, but really has nothing to do with it.

Right, and that's also not true. It's a licensed use of the "imprimatur," and NatGeo makes MONEY from it. So that is indeed having "something to do with it."

And why would Murdoch license the National Geographic name if he didn't feel there was scientific or cultural credibility there on which to hang his political and profit-making agenda?

Selling out your name for profit is "having something to do" with the results of the sellout. But as I intimated above, this is hardly new for NG. They've been selling out for decades. They still ride the reputation of their peak as a middle-class magazine of relatively mainstream scientific authority put in popular terms with nice pictures (and boobs, let us not forget the boobs, which was part of the whole primitivizing legitimation of NG's reputation for most of the 20th c.).

High production value science porn is about all it has ever been.
posted by spitbull at 7:36 AM on December 22, 2012


an exhaustive review
"peaked my curiosity..."
Auugghh! *closes window*
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:38 AM on December 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Is there anyone who doesn't know that "zombie apocalypse" is now code on the right for more racist beliefs you can't quite get away with expressing? Surely it's obvious that "zombie" is the new ironic way of saying "brown skinned hordes."
posted by spitbull at 7:38 AM on December 22, 2012


The National Geographic channel featured shows are:

Doomsday Preppers
Rocket City Rednecks
Border Wars
Drugs, Inc.
Alaska State Troopers
Hell on the Highway

What happened to like, tectonic plates, and polar ice caps and stuff?


Hey, ALASKA STATE TROOPERS is actually way more interesting than it has any right to be.
posted by HostBryan at 7:45 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


spitbull, it's news to me. Although it certainly sounds conceivable.
posted by brundlefly at 7:48 AM on December 22, 2012


Is there anyone who doesn't know that "zombie apocalypse" is now code on the right for more racist beliefs you can't quite get away with expressing? Surely it's obvious that "zombie" is the new ironic way of saying "brown skinned hordes."

I was not aware of this. Please keep in mind that what is "obvious" to you may not be so to others.

I'm also not convinced that it's true. Possible? Sure. Do you have any evidence to back it up?
posted by zarq at 7:50 AM on December 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is "zombie" a code word?

But of course. Think of a type of person you don't like and then imagine an endless horde of them coming to destroy everything and everyone you hold dear. Those are zombies.
posted by Renoroc at 7:57 AM on December 22, 2012


In my circle of friends, "zombie apocalypse" is a mildly humorous stand in for "things go wrong in some unknown way". It is not at all a covert way of talking about a race riot.
posted by superna at 7:58 AM on December 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


At first glance I misread the show title and thought it was Doomsday Peppers. This could be a reality show where people travel across the world seeking out the hottest peppers and then eat them on-screen for our amusement.

I'd totally watch that show.
posted by jeremias at 8:04 AM on December 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Can someone in the industry please tell me what the numbers look like for these shows?

How much money do these shows make? How about the more esoteric ones, such as "Extreme Couponing" or "Parking Wars"? The daytime programming is still full of the roving moderator/paternity test/chair throwing genre; are they making money, and if so, how?

My perception is that viewer numbers are declining, the desirability of the viewers as advertising victims is not great, these verite debasements are cheap to make, and everyone is making apparently hundreds of them. Can someone knowledgeable explain the economics, please?

And while I enjoy television in general enough to have a TV and subscribe to cable, perusing the schedule is often making me wonder whether I should bother, noting my historical non-interest in the colorful personalities that make up the latest micro-culture that needs exposure.
posted by dglynn at 8:37 AM on December 22, 2012


dglynn - the simple version is that it's not about a single show being profitable, or even a given channel being profitable. These hundreds of channels are owned by a very small number of parent companies. These shows are very cheap to produce. Every once in a while, one of them becomes a runaway hit. That hit can more than cover the possible losses from all of the other sows (though those losses would still be pretty miniscule.)
posted by Navelgazer at 8:51 AM on December 22, 2012


On the next episode of "Doomsday Peppers"...exploring the Mayan Chilipocalyse!

On a grim note, a very good friend of mine passed away five years ago. He was a serious survivalist, down to having multiple redundancy Bug-Out Bags, weapons, food stashes, maps of the state with bolt-holes identified on them. He spent his weekends touring the state to recon new routes and hideouts in the national forest, etc., for when the collapse of civilization came.

He would never jeopardize his "op-sec" by telling anyone, including me, of his plans and preparations - something that is a dead giveaway as to the "amateur, wannabe" status of most of the Doomsday Prepper folks. He was very secretive and, even though he lived in my house for four years and worked with me for six, I never knew about the vast extent of his preparations (or of his paranoia).

No, the only reason I know all about his plans and preparations in great detail is because I helped his family clean out his things after he died from an unexpected, massive heart attack in his sleep one night. He was 40.

On the two occasions when I've watched a Doomsday Preppers show, all I could feel was a great sense of pity for the people for whom the fantasy of catastrophe and disaster is somehow more comforting than the reality of their lives. That, and outrage that they're infecting their children with the disease.
posted by darkstar at 9:12 AM on December 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


I am with superna on this; I have never meant "zombie apocalypse" as anything other than a shorthand. I was briefly involved in a forum based on this, and they were constantly reminding people that "zombie" was just that. BTW, I dropped out of the forum after I realized that I was interested in storing away 96 hours of supplies for that special winter storm, while other people were very interested in the end of civilization.

Being of the "be prepared" persuasion, I feel like "THE END IS NIGH!" preppers sort of tarnish my already disreputable self...

Come to think of it, I saw one episode of the show, and it featured a lady who spent a lot of time and energy preparing to take care of her neighbours and any refugees that came her way. That did not come across as too terrible, if you ask me.
posted by Harald74 at 9:19 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had actually wondered if maybe zombies might be taken by some as representative of a disfavored ethnic group. It's something about how they're always treated utterly without consideration by survivors, an ultimate other. I've never heard it used that way myself, to my knowledge, but wouldn't doubt at all that some people do.
posted by JHarris at 9:42 AM on December 22, 2012


(ooops - wrong thread)
posted by growabrain at 9:47 AM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


What's interesting to me is that this archetype - the person who is certain that, should the slate by wiped clean that they, through some combination of their preparedness, genius and superior machomancy will thrive in an actively hostile environment - is not at all a new thing. Consider the artilleryman in Book Two of The War of the Worlds.

I've never heard it used that way myself, to my knowledge, but wouldn't doubt at all that some people do.

When you hear people talking about the zombie apocalypse, ask them who their favorite Doctor is. If they name an actor, they're geeks talking about disaster in a humorous or ironic sense. If they name an ear, nose and throat specialist, change the subject.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:15 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sometimes a zombie is just a zombie.
posted by diogenes at 10:24 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had actually wondered if maybe zombies might be taken by some as representative of a disfavored ethnic group.

I always thought that race was a central theme to Night of the Living Dead.

I think it’s entirely possible to talk about zombies and not mean brown people. Let’s not ruin it for everyone. You know how you stop that? Don’t participate. When people decide to quit using a phrase because it might be a dog whistle it then becomes cemented as bad language. If you continue to use it in non harmful ways then it stays non harmful.
posted by bongo_x at 10:25 AM on December 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yes, race was the central theme to NOLD, and references to Haitian voodoo make the entire American zombie craze ultimately an appropriation of indigenous and Afro-Caribbean traditional religion. But to my eye, the current fad for zombie porn is indicative of the same racialized public sphere conflict we see in the rest of this political climate. Gun debate is about race. Entitlement debate is about race. Tax debate is about race. Obviously immigration debate is about race. Most of the major right/left policy debates come down in some way to the projection of otherness and the fear of the shapeless, de-individualized, keeps-on-coming mob of "them" against whom "we" must be defended.

I've heard plenty of online discourse about the current zombie craze as displaced racism, although I would need to search for it. It just seems obvious to me.

And of course for some a zombie is just a zombie. Exemption noted. But "ironic" consumption covers a myriad of darker sentiments (as it were) that animate (as it were) even cool hipster whiteness these days, where one runs into a lot of ironic zombie porn. And vampires, of course.

My thesis: no black president, no Walking Dead. Discuss.
posted by spitbull at 10:34 AM on December 22, 2012


allen.spaulding : Now it's all Jews all the time. Goldbugs are convinced Jews control the money supply, lizard people believers are holocaust deniers. Apocalyptic evangelicals think Israel has a central role in all this.

Wow. If you meant that as a sort of contra-mockery of the paranoia of the preppers, great work!

If not - Wow. All this crap about jews and "zombies as a code word", some of you seriously need to learn to accept some things at face value.


One of the weirdest issues of modern life is the collapse of many conspiracy theories into anti-semitism.

I absolutely agree - In the sense that it has become almost impossible to express a legitimate gripe against the situation in the Middle East without someone throwing around accusations of antisemitism.

Free hint - Sometimes, both sides can get it wrong. Pointing that out doesn't make someone a bigot, it just means they have eyes to see just how few clothes the emperor has on.
posted by pla at 10:56 AM on December 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


High production value science porn is about all it has ever been.

I like porn no matter what form it is in.
posted by josher71 at 11:48 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the reason this show resonates with so many is that, within the preppers' paranoid fantasies lies a kernel of truth. And really, who but the most naieve among us pretends our current lifestyle is even remotely sustainable? As for faith in neighbors and institutions, well... I certainly trust my neighbors to lend a hand in an emergency situation, but our institutions? One need only look at our most recent election. Deck-chairs-on-the-Titanic issues like gas prices and "the economy" were major talking points, yet global warming and fossil fuel dependence weren't even on the radar.

So no, one need not be a paranoid sociopath to believe that humanity is courting its inevitable demise. What separates the preppers from myself, however, is their notion that the collapse of our civilization will be sudden and survivable. I think it's far more likely to involve a gradual decline in the livability of our planet, intermixed with moments of punctuated equalibrium, e.g. resource wars, plagues, famines, cities destroyed by monster storms, etc. Not the sort of thing you can survive with a few weeks' rations and a pile of guns. In reality, it'll probably take generations for modern-day Rome to fall, just like it did with the original Rome.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:01 PM on December 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


Exactly. If one wants to be a true survivalist, the real dangers to watch out for are things like heart disease, cancer, and on a global level, climate change. But preparing to survive those threats doesn't involve hiding away in a bunker with lots of guns, so the doomsday prepper folks don't think about them in the same way. If survival involves teaching and cooperating with lots of other people, then somehow it isn't sexy anymore.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:32 PM on December 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


One of the weirdest issues of modern life is the collapse of many conspiracy theories into anti-semitism. It used to be more diverse: alien invasions were about immigrants, Zombies were about fear of social change (civil rights, commercialism)' vampires were about sexual potency. Now it's all Jews all the time. Goldbugs are convinced Jews control the money supply, lizard people believers are holocaust deniers. Apocalyptic evangelicals think Israel has a central role in all this.

It's weird. Yet when someone tells me that the world will soon end, or that the UN is taking over, or that hyperinflation is around the corner, or its time to buy guns and build a shelter, I know what they're saying. And why they're saying it to me.
What... are you talking about? What does the UN have to do with Jews? People who fear hyperinflation fear that no one is in control - that the government is following incorrect policies by not going back on the gold standard. It's not correct obviously, but it's not based on the idea of the government being controlled by a sinister cabal, rather they just think the government is incompetent.

Also, where does this idea that "zombies" are a code-word come from? My impression is that some of these people are just nerds and that the zombie stuff is just done for fun, since Zombies are "in" these days. You see people talking about "How to survive a zombie apocalypse" all the time - it's just fantasy escapism.
Now that it's mainstream in the notoriously racist survivalist culture, yeah. It's become a dogwhistle for race riot. A fun and quirky counterculture dogwhistle, but really, who else are you going to shoot with antipersonnel ammo? Also note the unarmed nature of the swarming zombies... the fantasy is to kill as many unarmed people who look and act different than you as possible and then escape to do it all over again.
Dude, what? There's not really anything in that link to suggest anything racist - it's just a silly trailer and some bullets with novelty zombie-themed packaging. There's nothing to suggest it isn't just a joke.

Seriously, some of you people sound just as paranoid as these preppers, seeing racism everywhere in everything, the same way these people see the end of the world around every corner. It's a little ridiculous.
I always thought that race was a central theme to Night of the Living Dead.
One of the odd things about the whole "Zombies are really black people!!!" argument is that the Zombies in Night of the Living Dead was originally supposed to be an allegory for white racists, or consumerists perpetuating a racist system, or something like that. It was one of the first movies to feature a black person as the hero - which would still have been pretty controversial in the 1960s. There was an interesting article comparing the themes in various zombie movies including NOTLD and 28 days later but I have no idea what the URL was. Oh well.

---
What separates the preppers from myself, however, is their notion that the collapse of our civilization will be sudden and survivable. ... In reality, it'll probably take generations for modern-day Rome to fall, just like it did with the original Rome.
Right, and as we all know since the fall of Rome Italy has been a barren and inhospitable wasteland incapable of supporting human life. Oh wait.

Seriously - society is not going to collapse. We've already seen an event that would actually qualify as a regional "apocalypse" - WWII, especially in Germany. Tens of millions of people were killed, cities were destroyed but "society" continued just fine after the war. Society is never going to collapse. There may be difficult events, but there will always be a next day after that.

Until the sun turns into a red giant and swallows up the earth, of course.
posted by delmoi at 12:36 PM on December 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


delmoi : Also, where does this idea that "zombies" are a code-word come from?

In fairness, I take the zombie thing as not quite literal (but by no means a "code word" for some shat-upon minority group) - Perhaps a global pandemic, something like that where contact with other humans (whether outright "undead" or merely carriers) means a significantly increased chance of your own likely demise.

But, good to see a more respected MeFi old-timer seconding my "WTF" moment there. :D
posted by pla at 1:04 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


One day as we're farming algal scum with our grandkids, we'll marvel that people used to luxuriate in fear and had the resources to do survivalism as a lifestyle choice.
posted by benzenedream at 1:16 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm with you there pla: when I hear talk about "the zombie apocalypse" it sounds like a semi-joking shorthand for "some horrible disaster that kills almost everyone and leaves handfuls of survivors struggling to survive". I'm sure there are racists who turn everything they touch racist, but that doesn't mean that the idea of a zombie apocalypse is, in itself, a racist idea.

It's like the way people in the software industry refer to being "hit by a bus" - it's not that software people are particularly afraid of buses, but that we often end up in situations where there's one person who has all the critical knowledge, and if something bad happened to that person we'd be screwed, and we are all familiar with this, so we talk about "being hit by a bus" as a quick way to reference that whole set of possibilities.
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:18 PM on December 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


Is there anyone who doesn't know that "zombie apocalypse" is now code on the right for more racist beliefs you can't quite get away with expressing? Surely it's obvious that "zombie" is the new ironic way of saying "brown skinned hordes."

Raises hand. Is there a secret right-wing racist subtext to the bacon fad too?
posted by cosmic.osmo at 2:14 PM on December 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


Right, and as we all know since the fall of Rome Italy has been a barren and inhospitable wasteland incapable of supporting human life. Oh wait.

I wish I could agree with you -- because I don't enjoy being a pessimist about such things -- but I don't think the situations are analogous. Sure, the fall of Rome set Western civilization back a few hundred years, but once western Europe was ready to get its shit together, they had a world of unexploited resources and a generally hospitable climate waiting for them. All we're leaving behind is CO2, toxic waste, and discarded styrofoam cups. Interesting to alien archaeologists from the future, but nothing to base a civilization on.

As for the "zombies=race war" thing, this is the first I've ever heard this theory, and I'm tempted to think you're making it up on the spot. The way I've always heard it, zombies represented consumerism, esp. Dawn of the Dead.

My own theory? A zombie attack represents non-supernatural horror in its purest form. Think about it: there's nothing mystical about zombies. No "power of Christ compels you". None of that. Zombies represent a purely physical challenge, making it more of an engineering problem than anything else. This makes the geeky among us -- many of whom actually ARE engineers -- scratch our heads and think, "Ya know, with a little reinforcement and some flamethrowers, this building could be a totally sweet fortress..." It's a fun thought-problem to solve.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:28 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


so we talk about "being hit by a bus" as a quick way to reference that whole set of possibilities.

Wait, that's a metaphor?

Gotta make a phone call.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:09 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


All we're leaving behind is CO2, toxic waste, and discarded styrofoam cups. Interesting to alien archaeologists from the future, but nothing to base a civilization on.

Hmm, I don't agree with you about the end game. Get the population back under a billion and I think there's plenty of planet left for an agrarian society.

If we take global warming science at face value and believe that we can screw up the entire planet in 100 years, it's likely to reach stability in another 100 or so if no one is messing with it in any large way.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:16 PM on December 22, 2012


Raises hand. Is there a secret right-wing racist subtext to the bacon fad too?

Yes. Jews and Muslims don't eat pork.

Some Seattle Jews came up with kosher baconfpavored salt. And we have some tasty bacon substitutes. Pass the pastrami strips, please.
posted by Dreidl at 3:18 PM on December 22, 2012


Um, i know this is weird, but the more able you are to be free, self-sufficient and live completely off computer surveillance and unobserved by the state - the more terrified you are of not being able to survive self-sufficiently, of being tracked by the state, and of not being free in general. Never, in China or Europe, have i come across this, and it's because we all live on top of each other - quite literally in China, large parts of it are probably 50 stories deep in humans at any time due to being paved with skyscrapers: the more control people have and less risk and fear they are exposed to, the more fear and worry they have. For me as a Brit, that means i have a very 'health and safety' 'get permission' mindset compared with poorer areas of europe and certainly with china or the third world as represented online & on tv.
posted by maiamaia at 3:20 PM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


What... are you talking about? What does the UN have to do with Jews?

delmoi - you're asking the wrong question. Or perhaps you are asking the right question but not seeing it. Why should these conspiracy theories have become so obsessed with these issues recently? There's always a baseline antisemtism and racism on the Fringe, from Lyndon LaRouche to the John Birch Society. Yet it would take you less than a minute to google /gold standard Jewish conspiracy/ or /David Icke Lizard People Holocaust/ or so on. You can come up with an alternative basis for these conspiracists but that doesn't mean it's what they actually do think. They could have a conspiracy theory without the bigotry - but they don't.

And it's been this way since at least the Protocols of the Elders of Zion over 100 years ago. Insofar that goldbugs can ever be considered to have a 'mainstream' of their thought, there is a large group that is convinced that a shadowy cabal focused on hyperinflation is keeping the country down - how else can you explain the country ignoring how obviously right the goldbugs are? And within our cultural lexicon, there are some handy stereotypes to turn to - and the shape these amorphous forces take generally ends up being Jews. Combine that with an actual banking crisis and firms with names like Goldman, there's no shortage of really incredible thought out there.

And as others have noticed, the cultural significance of Zombies have changed in the past few decades. What zombies represented in NOLD is not what they do now. It's so surreal to watch this devolution of the American psyche so publicly exposed.
posted by allen.spaulding at 3:32 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes. Jews and Muslims don't eat pork.

No, that was the ham fad. The US is not 15th century Spain.

Some Seattle Jews came up with kosher baconf[l]avored salt. And we have some tasty bacon substitutes. Pass the pastrami strips, please.

That's pretty awesome.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 3:36 PM on December 22, 2012


the more control people have and less risk and fear they are exposed to, the more fear and worry they have.

Too true. Although another way to interpret that is that the more freedom and safety you have the more you know how kickass it is and are loathe to give it up.

But frankly I think it's just that people have too much time on their hands.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:38 PM on December 22, 2012


...that being an individual or even a family prepared for dooom is not good enough and the only sure way to live through the collapse of civilisation is to make darn sure it doesn't collapse.

You forgot a step: individual-family-community-civilization.

No one can survive alone for very long, but communities offer strength in numbers. Do any of these episodes show some kind of community or even just a loose network of preppers?
posted by gray17 at 4:19 PM on December 22, 2012


If we take global warming science at face value and believe that we can screw up the entire planet in 100 years, it's likely to reach stability in another 100 or so if no one is messing with it in any large way.

I ... don't think that is so. Otherwise we wouldn't have things like ice ages that last tens of thousands of years.

For example, they recently discovered methane plumes where methane that had been trapped in icecaps was being freed by global warming. It may have only taken a hundred-or-so years to push us over that tipping point, but how long did it take to sequester that methane to begin with? My guess is far longer than a century-or-two.
posted by Afroblanco at 4:22 PM on December 22, 2012


Otherwise we wouldn't have things like ice ages that last tens of thousands of years.

Actually ice ages appear to last closer to millions of years, but in any case they don't come on suddenly. Evidence suggests that the period of cooling lasts thousands of years meaning (to me at least) that the Earth enters a stable period of overall cooling and stays there.

The Earth's climate just doesn't move in a hundred years unless you force the issue as we have. We're pushing everything out of whack and I find it hard to believe the resulting system will be stable.

I certainly don't mean to imply that the climate will return to what it is today, I just believe that when we stop -- permanently and probably catastrophically -- messing with the climate the rate of change will gradually revert to geological time rather than human time.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:25 PM on December 22, 2012


Some Seattle Jews came up with kosher baconfpavored salt. And we have some tasty bacon substitutes. Pass the pastrami strips, please.

Also, Betty Crocker's Bac~Os have been around since at least the early/mid 80's. For those of us who are sensitive to MSG salts, there's also McCormick's Bac'n Pieces.
posted by zarq at 6:33 PM on December 22, 2012


Dude, what? There's not really anything in that link to suggest anything racist - it's just a silly trailer and some bullets with novelty zombie-themed packaging. There's nothing to suggest it isn't just a joke.

Yes, thats the nature of the dogwhistle. Yours are the ears not meant to hear. Let me break it down.

Those are all man-killer rounds. They are not meant for target shooting or plinking or hunting. They are all rounds meant to go into high-capacity autopistols and assault rifles, the exceptions being a seriously hard-core combat shotgun round, and a super hot lever-action combat rifle round. Remember, zombies don't fucking exist... this is ammunition meant to kill people. It's some of the best on the market for that purpose. But, hah-hah, such a silly video!

There's more. They explicitly mention the bug-out bag. This means this ammo is aimed at people preparing for a breakdown in civil society, where they will need to stock their survivalist kit with the best ammunition possible to kill people.

What kind of people do you think they expect to be shooting? The school teacher down the block? The accountant one street over? Who do you really think the zombies are standing in for?

I can hear the dog whistle because I'm used to the culture and familiar with its less savory elements. Let me tell you, violent racists can be whimsical, fun people to be around at times... so long as you're a white libertarian.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:31 PM on December 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Slap*Happy : I can hear the dog whistle because I'm used to the culture and familiar with its less savory elements. Let me tell you, violent racists can be whimsical, fun people to be around at times... so long as you're a white libertarian.

You, my friend, have some serious tinnitus.

Wow.
posted by pla at 7:34 PM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


My tinnitus really acts up when the talk turns to EDC and open-cary, too.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:41 PM on December 22, 2012


Slap*Happy : My tinnitus really acts up when the talk turns to EDC and open-cary, too.

Then... Uh... Don't take the conversation there?

More to the point - "Cite, please". Apparently you and allen.spaulding don't mean this as a joke, which I have to admit, has taken me most of this evening to realize. I seriously thought you just mean to put us all on.

So. Please support this insane argument. Can you name the race this supposedly involves (or do you just support Alan's "all about the Jews" shtick)? And can you explain why people would expect to need to defend themselves outside the cities, when at least in the US, most minorities live in cities and as far away from the sort of rednecks under consideration here as physically possibly?

Not so much that this doesn't pass the "sniff" test - More like I don't quite understand the scent of the particular shade of green you've gone off about.
posted by pla at 7:50 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Who do you really think the zombies are standing in for?

Why are you so certain there is something specific they have to stand in for? I don't see what's so strange about the idea that people like to practice their shooting against enemies that are obviously enemies, because they aren't human.
posted by Mars Saxman at 7:52 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can you name the race this supposedly involves

People have been very explicit in this thread and you're choosing to play dumb. The claim is straightforward: in these representations, zombies are stand-ins for Hispanic and African-American hordes who are "taking our country over" and who preppers/birchers/etc have in mind when they say they want to "take our country back."

Your attitude seems to be: I don't see it, I refuse to look for it, I play dumb when it's explained to me, therefore it can't be happening.
posted by allen.spaulding at 8:47 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your attitude seems to be: I don't see it, I refuse to look for it, I play dumb when it's explained to me, therefore it can't be happening.

No, we're asking for evidence. Someone's opinion on the matter isn't evidence. In fact, a few of us in this thread, myself included, have said we think the idea is totally plausible, but we'd like to see concrete evidence instead being told to take the idea on faith that (all?) survivalist references to zombies are to brown people.

Has anyone in this thread posted anything other than their opinion that it's a racist dog whistle? Did I miss posted evidence somewhere? The link given by Slap*Happy earlier for Zombie ammunition includes the following disclaimer....
Disclaimer: Hornady® Zombie Max™ ammunition is NOT a toy (IT IS LIVE AMMUNITION), but is intended only to be used on…ZOMBIES, also known as the living dead, undead, etc. No human being, plant, animal, vegetable or mineral should ever be shot with Hornady® Zombie Max™ ammunition. Again, we repeat, Hornady® Zombie Max™ ammunition is for use on ZOMBIES ONLY, and that's not a nickname, phrase or cute way of referring to anybody, place or thing. When we say Zombies, we mean…ZOMBIES!
...but not a single word that could reasonably be interpreted as racist.

If your assertion is true, then most survivalist online forums should be flooded with rampant racism. Evidence should be quite easily found, yes? Could you or someone else link to a few examples of them, please?
posted by zarq at 9:07 PM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


If your assertion is true, then most survivalist online forums should be flooded with rampant racism. Evidence should be quite easily found, yes? Could you or someone else link to a few examples of them, please?


First google hit 5220 results on one survivalist board for "race war" Here's the first:

A Censored Race War

Well, i do not think we copuld recover all to soon. Obummer wants that dictatorship and holder is gonna try to usher it in for him.... that's why there are no hate crimes being leveld against very many black folks... kind of a carte blanche for the punks in the cities and across the nation. free pass if you will...

I've never once heard a muslim disavow 9-11 directly and I have never heard one of the "leaders" in the black community insist that they take responsibility for their problems.

I don't care how many black people that talk about their race being a problem is going to make a difference, the black people will alway's have that PLANTATION MINDSET, PERIOD!


That's just a handful of comments from the first of over 5000 threads on race war on a single board. Is that flooded enough for you? That's five minutes of research.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:21 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


If your assertion is true, then most survivalist online forums should be flooded with rampant racism.

Of course not. We're all equal Americans living in a post-racial society. Militant white-power racists are all cartoon-character villains, and not subtle and intelligent adults.

I'm telling you how to listen, here. How to train the ear to hear the dog-whistles. Choose to or not. Engage the brain for a bit:

Are any of the ZombieMax(TM) rounds geared towards fun, like target shooting, cowboy shooting, etc. ?

No. They're all very deadly rounds, designed to be lethal above all else. The most lethal rounds you can load into your weapon, matter of fact... Hornandy is famous for it: the most powerful propellant combined very scientifically with the most effective projectile.

I'm certain those who buy them are thinking of the guy with glasses from RoboCop or Ron Perlman from Sons of Anarchy, and not black or hispanic "hostiles," (Heh heh... even if you said "yes, I'm sure they are" just there, you still lose. Happy Hanukah.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:30 PM on December 22, 2012


I'm sure that there will be racists folks out there who bring their baggage with them to things like the zombie apocalypse. But I know for a fact that zombies are often just zombies.

Zombies are one of the most highly-crafted fine-tuned timeless monsters we have ever had, with a very deep interplay of strengths and weaknesses that invites stories and fires the imagination. They are the most horrific thing imaginable, they offer you a fate worse than death, they Do Not Stop, they are hard to kill, and every friend and loved-one that falls to them, makes them stronger and you weaker.
BUT they are also the rabbit and the tortoise. You can easily outrun them, you can dance circles around them in laughable safety, but their numbers can overwhelm you, and at some point you must sleep. They do not think or use tools - you can use houses and stairs and vehicles and walls and fire and ditches and weapons. They can use none of these things, they just make a beeline to you. They are predictable and you can use this.
At the same time as their numbers grow to overwhelming proportions, so too do the resources available to the survivors to help them in their struggle.
And zombies are easy to imagine, because corpses are real.

Zombies are like vampires - they will ebb and flow in and out of the spotlight, but they are such a super-functional fine-tuned monster that they will inspire stories for generations.

Some assholes have started using "zombie" as a codeword? That just comes with their success. Zombies will outlast those guys and their codewords.
posted by anonymisc at 9:35 PM on December 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


That's just a handful of comments from the first of over 5000 threads on race war on a single board. Is that flooded enough for you? That's five minutes of research.

It's helpful, yes. Still doesn't prove the original assertion: that (all?) references to zombies in mainstream survivalist culture refer to brown people.

First google hit 5220 results on one survivalist board for "race war" Here's the first:

And google hit 55100 results on one survivalist board for "zombie". A quick review shows that most of the hits that google comes up with on the latter search are either discussions of movies, complaints that liberals are turning Americans into zombies (meaning: 'mindless/complacent'), beanplating and jokes. The closest thing I could come up with was this comment:
The zombies of 2012 look like starbucks drinking, Obama voting, food stamp using,prescription drug addicted people driving a new car they cant afford while living in a rental because they will never be able to buy a home.
I did a google search for "zombies racist dog whistle." I got about 10 pages in and afaict turned up nothing.

So, I'm still looking for proof that the term "zombie" is being used by survivalists as a racist dog whistle. Got any? Did I miss something?
posted by zarq at 9:36 PM on December 22, 2012


Of course not. We're all equal Americans living in a post-racial society. Militant white-power racists are all cartoon-character villains, and not subtle and intelligent adults.

It would be nice if you would engage me in good faith rather than miscasting my entirely reasonable request as something I never said or implied.

I'm telling you how to listen, here. How to train the ear to hear the dog-whistles. Choose to or not. Engage the brain for a bit:

I did. I requested evidence and agreed to keep an open mind, instead of mindlessly accepting your assertion. Convince me. Don't insult me, provide no evidence and then tell me I'm being closed-minded.
posted by zarq at 9:45 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I provided evidence. You refused to acknowledge or address it. Where does that put you?
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:58 PM on December 22, 2012


Okay. I've re-read all of your comments in this thread. Could you please point out where you've provided links, cites and other concrete evidence that is not merely your opinion or questionable interpretation?
posted by zarq at 10:03 PM on December 22, 2012


allen.spaulding: First google hit 5220 results on one survivalist board for "race war" Here's the first:

Slap*Happy: I'm telling you how to listen, here. How to train the ear to hear the dog-whistles. Choose to or not. Engage the brain for a bit:

OK.

Why do racist survivalists need zombies as a dog whistle when they seem fine with talking about racist shit openly?

Zombies are a fad that seems to cross political boundaries. What good are they as a dog whistle if there's a high probability that they're not being used as one in a given conversation? I have very liberal anti-racist friends who have had zombie apocalypse conversations for fun.

I think the hypothesis that zombies are a dog whistle for brown people is superficially plausible but probably false unless better evidence is given. And as far as I can tell, the evidence offered so far has been:
  1. ~"Trust me guys, I know what they're thinking."
  2. zombie-branded bullets (bullets!) could be used to kill people*
  3. a racist comment that fails to mention zombies
Zombies might look like a dog whistle, especially if you're hunting for dog whistles, but that doesn't mean they are one.

* They might be especially good at killing people, but am I an evil super-hacker because I have an powerful PC that could be especially good for cyber crime (which I mostly use for web browsing)?
posted by cosmic.osmo at 11:27 PM on December 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Here is an attempt to understand the zombie:

The original modern zombie was the creature, or wretch, made by Mr. Frankenstein. The wretch was created using the dark arts of alchemy that had long been discredited by science. Frankenstein read old works from the Renaissance and Middle Ages to create the creature. The zombie then is not a product of modern science but a throwback to the old myths and stories of the Medieval Revenant, or animated corpses that terrorized the living. As early as the 12th century, William of Newburgh commented on how popular stories of revenant's were, saying "were I to write down all the instances of this kind which I have ascertained to have befallen in our times, the undertaking would be beyond measure laborious and troublesome." The 12th century was apparently as infested with zombies as our own. The zombie is not new, it is old and deep for unexamined reasons. In every new medium the animated corpse will find its way, like a virus that never dies.
posted by stbalbach at 12:09 AM on December 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


For example, they recently discovered methane plumes where methane that had been trapped in icecaps was being freed by global warming.

I have eaten
the plumes
that were trapped in
the icecaps

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
but not so cold as they could have been
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:28 AM on December 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Zombies are one of the most highly-crafted fine-tuned timeless monsters we have ever had, with a very deep interplay of strengths and weaknesses that invites stories and fires the imagination.

No I'd say not, the modern zombie is a creature much different from historical precedent, and the key aspect of zombies as we know them, a civilization-destroying apocalypse caused by their huge numbers rising from the dead, is something that really only makes sense in the modern day, and originates from the movies. Also, zombies don't fire my particular imagination; other than Romero's (who did, as noted above, use them politically) they're not very interesting, and individually are still pretty low on the ranked hit dice listing of monsters.

I don't know if some racists are using zombies as a dog whistle or not. I'd be surprised if some aren't, but that's just background static, proving nothing, and there's nothing I know of to indicate that this is an active meme. But it seems like it should be a meme, somehow, like it would be an easy connection for them to make, and that gives the idea legs.
posted by JHarris at 2:28 AM on December 23, 2012


delmoi - you're asking the wrong question. Or perhaps you are asking the right question but not seeing it. Why should these conspiracy theories have become so obsessed with these issues recently?
Recently? Aren't they worried about the same things they're always worried about?
There's always a baseline antisemtism and racism on the Fringe, from Lyndon LaRouche to the John Birch Society. Yet it would take you less than a minute to google /gold standard Jewish conspiracy/ or /David Icke Lizard People Holocaust/ or so on.
I'm sure there are some conspiracy theorists who are anti-semetic. I'm sure there are also some conspiracy theorists who are jewish. There are lots and lots of conspiracy types who are anti-muslim. Just look at the stuff out there about Huma Abadeen and the muslim brotherhood. I'm sure you can google anything you want in a minute or two - someone, somewhere has a conspiracy theory about it. There's even a conspiracy theory out there that the recent mass killings have something to do with covering up the LIBOR scandal (google it!)
You can come up with an alternative basis for these conspiracists but that doesn't mean it's what they actually do think. They could have a conspiracy theory without the bigotry - but they don't.
No offense, but you seem kind of like a conspiracy theorist about conspiracy theorists - that there is some dark subtext that they're all in on but aren't talking about. But if they aren't talking about it how are they all communicating these ideas to eachother?

My guess is, there're not. Conspiracy theorists all have their own multi-faceted variations and the 'community' Is fractal in the diversity of sub-groups and sub-conspiracies. To suggest that they all share the same views on certain people - but somehow manage to keep those views secret strikes me as unrealistic. It's positing a conspiracy of conspiracy theorists to keep their real conspiracy theories secret.
It's so surreal to watch this devolution of the American psyche so publicly exposed.
Yeah couldn't possibly be just a fun, camp-y, internet fad or anything like that.
For example, they recently discovered methane plumes where methane that had been trapped in icecaps was being freed by global warming. It may have only taken a hundred-or-so years to push us over that tipping point, but how long did it take to sequester that methane to begin with? My guess is far longer than a century-or-two.
Methane is unstable and dissolves in the atmosphere in a fairly short amount of time. It has a halflife of seven years. It may have a big short term impact, but not a long term impact.
There's more. They explicitly mention the bug-out bag. This means this ammo is aimed at people preparing for a breakdown in civil society, where they will need to stock their survivalist kit with the best ammunition possible to kill people.

What kind of people do you think they expect to be shooting? The school teacher down the block? The accountant one street over? Who do you really think the zombies are standing in for?

I can hear the dog whistle because I'm used to the culture and familiar with its less savory elements. Let me tell you, violent racists can be whimsical, fun people to be around at times... so long as you're a white libertarian.
Yeah. You sound delusional. You're essentially arguing from imagination. Since you can imagine something being the case, you think it is the case. The fact that you can imagine people meaning "black people" when they talk about "zombies" does not mean that that's actually what they think.

It's also the same "conspiracy of conspiracy theorists" stuff - you think they all have this secret language that they're all communicating in without anyone else being able to perceive it.

The simple explanation is that these people like zombie related media, and like to fantasize about being in that situation and having those bullets ups the verisimilitude on what is essentially just imaginative playing. They think that If there was a zombie apocalypse then these bullets would be helpful. Therefore it makes their pretending to shoot zombies more fun.
Your attitude seems to be: I don't see it, I refuse to look for it, I play dumb when it's explained to me, therefore it can't be happening.
You haven't explained anything other than how your own paranoid fantasies play out in your minds.
posted by delmoi at 3:24 AM on December 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


So when i got my permit the class was full of very tiny, very pretty Taiwanese girls. When the instructor asked them what they wanted a licence for they all shouted out "For the Zombie apocalypse!" and then fell about laughing. Not race warriors.
posted by fingerbang at 7:17 AM on December 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here is ironclad, irrefutable proof of racist zombies.
posted by FJT at 7:52 AM on December 23, 2012


So, I haven't read every single comment in detail (I'm a notorious skimmer), but I don't think I've seen anything about how unethical this show is. This isn't my idea. A friend of mine (who also thought it sounded like "peppers") pointed out that the the producers of the show not only film these paranoid families, but actually grade them on their preparedness and tell them that they'll be back to make sure they're MORE prepared.

Let me say that again. The producers of Doomsday Preppers actually tell people who have, in some cases, spent their entire life savings or dedicated their lives to preparing for some imaginary apocalypse, that they have fallen short of preparing for said completely imaginary, paranoid scenario.

Am I the only mefite who thinks this crosses some kind of line? It's like filming a documentary on anorexics and then, after filming how they starve themselves, telling them that they did pretty good but they could be just a little bit thinner. "You're thin, but you're not rail-thin. You could stand to have your ribs stick out a little more."

(I have no opinion about zombie being a code-word for black people. I always thought the code-word was Canadian.)
posted by runcibleshaw at 8:32 AM on December 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Perhaps we can agree that zombies can represent many things? For example, the Podpeople were basically zombies, and they were supposed to be a stand-in for communism.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:17 PM on December 23, 2012


runcibleshaw : Am I the only mefite who thinks this crosses some kind of line? It's like filming a documentary on anorexics and then, after filming how they starve themselves, telling them that they did pretty good but they could be just a little bit thinner. "You're thin, but you're not rail-thin. You could stand to have your ribs stick out a little more."

I see your point, but I suppose it depends on whether you consider the behavior in question a serious problem. Out of the mainstream, yes; but if it makes them feel safer having a bomb shelter in the basement, cases of 10-year food packs, off-grid power sources, and enough firepower to overthrow a small country - That doesn't make the rest of us any less safe than if they merely had a few modest hunting rifles (not like "more guns" means you get more arms to hold them and more eyes to sight them all at once).

At worst, I suppose we could consider this promoting an unhealthy world-view - But if the preppers want to spend their money on survival gear they'll likely never get to use, hey, I see nothing wrong with the rest of us getting to point and laugh.

And y'know, at some level - Let's say an extinction event does happen next Thursday... Our society has gotten way too "soft", as a whole; at least these people might get their shit together after the dust clears and their ammo degrades, and manage to keep the species alive. ;)
posted by pla at 2:10 PM on December 23, 2012


Let me say that again. The producers of Doomsday Preppers actually tell people who have, in some cases, spent their entire life savings or dedicated their lives to preparing for some imaginary apocalypse, that they have fallen short of preparing for said completely imaginary, paranoid scenario.

I saw three episodes, which might not be representative, but I think they managed to walk the line here - the grading wasn't just "you didn't prepare enough. MOAR!", but usually "if X is really what you're trying to do, our panel thinks you need less focus here and more over here". Yeah, that legitimises the lifestyle, but most of the people seemed more like dedicated enthusiasts than mentally ill. (IANAD)
Feedback was also usually a pretty minor thing - the prepper and panel both seemed aware that they didn't entirely go along with the premises of the other, so the feedback didn't look like it had much weight for most of them unless it was already demonstrated as true during the challenges. I think the prepper's biggest challenge with the feedback was pretending to be gracious and humble on TV while some panel of ignoramuses bestowed their "wisdom". :)
posted by anonymisc at 2:31 PM on December 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't really buy the dogwhistle thing, but here are some interesting takes:

Why the gun culture loves zombies (2011)

a blog post on that article:

Race Wars & Zombie Apocalypse

linked in the article, the Zombie subforum at AR15.com [yikes triggers, also really stupid]
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:07 PM on December 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, Kay and Peele -- Suburban Zombies
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:51 PM on December 23, 2012


Negro zombies.

I know two real life survivalists. One is my uncle who describes his collection of high power high capacity semi automatic rifles as his "preparation for the [N-word]-war". The second is a co-worker who has a closet filled with bags of rice and canned goods and guns and ammo and collects gold coins. He believes the September 2001 terror attacks were set up by the Mossad and he wants all the Jews living in Palestine to be killed or deported. So I get the connection of survivalist to violently racist but saying zombie is a connected code word seems to me an exaggeration. But I have only met two of these people ever in real life so that is statistically meaningless anecdotal data.
posted by bukvich at 7:09 PM on December 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Back to the show itself, I'm a little surprised how many folks seem to be accepting it as a true life portrayal of a subculture, instead of yet another highly edited & staged "reality" show.
Several people who appeared on the show or backed out of it have written about Nat Geo's focus on making them look more extreme for better TV. For example, the single unlikely scenario (like polar shift) each segment focuses on is assigned by Nat Geo; it's not that person's main concern or even one of their concerns, just something they were asked to talk about by the show, made more prominent in editing.
Events like the family decontamination drill with the kiddy pool & the middle of the night delivery of a truckload of supplies were requested by the producers and not something those people had ever done before or since.
One of the women reported that a clip of her saying "it's not like we spend all our free time prepping" was edited to remove the "it's not like". (Jeez, sounds like the doctored Homer harrassment interview from the Simpsons)
Taken with a grain of salt, these kinds of shows can be a fun guilty pleasure, but I don't think watching them gives real views of what the portrayed subcultures are like.
posted by superna at 8:49 PM on December 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


That is good to remember superna. Charlie Brooker did a piece for Screewipe on how reality show editors can, by controlling context and selective presentation, make people say whatever they need to fit their narrative.
posted by JHarris at 9:39 PM on December 23, 2012


Did you know this show is sponsored by Wise Food Storage Company? It's the doomsday industrial complex. They must be selling their plastic pails of crap by the shipping container full, most of it ending up in the trash, eventually.
posted by stbalbach at 1:34 AM on December 24, 2012


On the codeword thing, I do assume that when the military is doing anti-zombie war games / scenarios / drilling, that at some point in the ladder it's a euphemism for crowds of civilians.
posted by anonymisc at 3:01 PM on December 24, 2012


My own temptations toward prepperism really mounted when Y2K was imminent. My aforementioned, now deceased, friend and I were quite serious about making sure that, should something untoward happen, we would be prepared to ride out a few weeks, at least, of a breakdown in municipal services.

Consequently, I had a 30-gallon trash can of water (we had once encountered a two-day shut-off in the water when a municipal water main broke and I definitely wanted to be able to flush the toilets, at the very least, should it happen again). I bought about $20 of dried beans and rice, enough for a few weeks of nutrition, should the panic about Y2K have everyone making a run on the stores and it took a little while for them to restock.

It wasn't really much in the way of "prepping", really. But because I was an avid hiker/camper, I already had a lot of what would be considered "survival gear" in my garage (sleeping bag, shelter, first aid kit, etc.). And because I was raised in a my conservative, Southern family, I naturally owned a number of firearms, with appropriate ammo. And because we had cut down trees in the back yard, and a fireplace, we had fuel for heating and cooking. So coincidentally, even without doing much in the way of "prepping", I had a lot on hand for what a prepper might want to accumulate. Certainly anyone looking in my home might have assumed I was "one of them".

As I mentioned above, I had no idea how far my friend had taken it, though. It was only after his passing that I discovered the extent of his preparations. It is a little scary how tempting the fantasy/paranoia can be. Partly because we got past Y2K without incident and partly because I was alarmed at how far he had taken it, I have subsequently limited myself to only one backpack of "survival" gear in the closet. With that limit, I can reassure myself that I'm not overdoing it.

The Boy Scout's simple exhortation to "Be Prepared" is a wise one, I think. It lies somewhere between an oblivious suburbanite's ignorance of the tenuousness of civil services and the fevered dreams of the bunker-digging paranoiac. I do find myself sometimes contemplating what I might do in a SHTF scenario. But even as I do, I remember that down the path of too much thinking about TEOTWAWKI lies an abyss of madness and lost opportunity to live the richness of the life we actually have, rather than fearing the life that might, in some alternate reality, become our curse.
posted by darkstar at 12:12 PM on December 27, 2012


"Popular “Crash” Blogger Ran Prieur Throws in the Towel?", Ted Heistman, Disinformation, 3 January 3 2013
I love Ran I love Ran Prieur’s blog. I’ve been following it faithfully since 2005. I had it set as my browser homepage for a few months once. I’m not sure of all the exact details, but he is “semi” retiring from blogging and apparently no longer believes in what is commonly referred to as the “Crash” or “the Shit Hitting the Fan” or “The end of Civilization as We know it.” He will still occasionally make posts but his section entitled “Crash Watch” is officially retired

January 1, 2013. This page is retired. Ten years ago it really seemed like the whole system was about to come apart. People who saw a crash coming were seeing things that were being ignored by people who expected business as usual. Yet we were still wrong. After seeing how little daily life has changed after the 2008 financial collapse, seven years with global oil production on a plateau, and two catastrophic hurricanes, I think the big mistake of doomers was assuming that failures would have positive feedback like a house of cards. At this point, anyone still using the “house of cards” metaphor is not a serious analyst but an entertainer. It’s clear that the interconnectedness of modern complex systems makes them stronger, not weaker.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:59 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I actually have more to I'd like to write, but I'm headed towards bed. I did want to add that there are people like myself who aren't racist, paranoid nutters, but rather saw James Burke's Connections, specifically The Trigger Effect, when we were kids. Thus as adults we want to make sure that we have the means to plant enough to live off of and enough food in cans to bridge the gap to the first harvest.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:00 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


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