Weekend, Warriors
June 28, 2014 1:18 PM   Subscribe

My Militia Weekend, in which a left-leaning blogger visits the 3rd Annual Alaska Prepper, Survivalist & Militia Rendezvous.
posted by zamboni (71 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Hmm.

Don't get me wrong -- in between all the bias-confirming Truthout/Rawstory/Nation red meat that Metafilter has evidently come to crave, this wasn't a bad piece. It was kind of nice.

I just wonder if the writer knows that, on the conservative/libertarian side, they kind of chuckle at these pieces, which have been produced steadily for the last 40 years or so. Typically, some progressive writer takes it on him/herself to visit a shooting range/tea party rally/red state, expecting to find KKK/nazis/cannibals, and is surprised if not shocked to find the people there are pretty friendly/tolerant/sane. For a while there, there was a blogger collecting these types of stories -- sorry but I can't find the link.

(NB: This shouldn't be taken as a defense of this particular "militia" or any "militia" in general. I am neutral on the topic.)
posted by Alaska Jack at 1:47 PM on June 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


Oh, everybody is in awe of the Finns, are they? ARE THEY???

Fuck the guns. Where are your naalbinding workshops, Alaska?
posted by Madamina at 1:56 PM on June 28, 2014 [5 favorites]


Typically, some progressive writer takes it on him/herself to visit a shooting range/tea party rally/red state, expecting to find KKK/nazis/cannibals, and is surprised if not shocked to find the people there are pretty friendly/tolerant/sane.

White leftist woman keeps her opinion to herself and isn't harassed. This is literally how conservatives want the world. Replace the author with a gay, black Jew and get them to be a bit more (no pun intended) liberal with their opinions and see the result. I guarantee it won't be nearly as civil.
posted by Talez at 2:01 PM on June 28, 2014 [18 favorites]


I really need to go camping.
posted by General Tonic at 2:06 PM on June 28, 2014


It seemed to be all militia and not so much prep or survival, though I guess the elephant in the room is that the prep/survival hobby tends towards being a different name for a similar battle fantasy.
I suspect the real survivalist rendezvous is the county fair where settler-reenactors make socks from goats.
posted by anonymisc at 2:10 PM on June 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


These survivalists seem very dependent on mass-produced manufactured goods. Not to mention oil. It would seem like a trivial matter to let them have their "perimeter" and simply starve them into submission.
posted by klanawa at 2:19 PM on June 28, 2014 [16 favorites]


These survivalists seem very dependent on mass-produced manufactured goods.

"Blogger visits busy catholic DIY farmers in southern Wisconsin" didn't have the same ring to it.
posted by michaelh at 2:49 PM on June 28, 2014 [7 favorites]


I suspect the real survivalist rendezvous is the county fair where settler-reenactors make socks from goats.

I suspect the real survivalist rendezvous is nearly indistinguishable from the trees in the background.
posted by sexyrobot at 2:53 PM on June 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


I suspect the real survivalist rendezvous are happening at the local Dena'ina fish camps, as they have been for about 1500 years.
posted by klanawa at 2:56 PM on June 28, 2014 [19 favorites]


I suspect the real survivalist rendezvous is nearly indistinguishable from the trees in the background.


No, that's the ninja rendezvous.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:58 PM on June 28, 2014 [6 favorites]




Replace the author with a gay, black Jew and get them to be a bit more (no pun intended) liberal with their opinions and see the result. I guarantee it won't be nearly as civil.

If anyone shows up anywhere to antagonize people, they're likely to be treated like the asshole they are.

Well mods, can this one stay?
posted by codswallop at 3:36 PM on June 28, 2014 [5 favorites]


Unless it is secret it is just a meeting.

Rendezvous should be reserved for things that are either sneaky or sexy.

Come on people, help keep french fun and fun french!
posted by srboisvert at 3:39 PM on June 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


Growing up in the rural midwest, I understand the appeal of preparedness. If a big storm comes through, it's might take a week or more for the electricity to be restored, so having food that doesn't need refrigeration in the summer, and fuel in the winter is prudent. Moving to earthquake country, the need remains the same, even if the impetus does not. Disaster preparedness is makes sense. Off grid living is interesting. It's a problem to be solved, it's a fun mental and physical exercise. However, if you read the "prepper" websites, they switch between normal posts like reviewing water filters, multitools, and portable solar panels, to discussing how to hide caches of weapons (It's ALWAYS an AR-15) and ammunition outside of major cities because when it's "EOTWAWKI" and "SHTF" the cities will become full of crazy cannibals intent on flaying you and your family alive for food and entertainment, which simply isn't how humans behave outside a crappy hero fantasy adventure. (See Manhattan on 9/11. See Post-Katrina New Orleans.)
posted by robotmonkeys at 3:52 PM on June 28, 2014 [11 favorites]


It kind of reminds me of Bitcoin when you put it that way. You look at it at first glance and think, "huh, that seems interesting and practical", but then you run into the enthusiasts and it's just totally offputting. There's something to these things that seems to touch a very particular part of some people's minds that just drives them off the deep end.
posted by indubitable at 4:21 PM on June 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


I guess the tone of this reportage is ok but a little ignorant.

But I really wish more of the "leftist intelligentsia" or whatever (which I'm ostensibly a member of) had a lot better grasp of outdoor/survival craft. The whole "my survival chances last about as long as my last trip to Costco" is actually a problem, and preparedness shouldn't been seen as some kooky, paranoid thing.

Most of the US population lives in one kind of disaster zone or another, whether it's earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, severe winter weather or wildfires. It makes sense to stockpile some sane amounts of food and water (A couple of weeks, a month, maybe more depending on your means and needs) along with some fuel, a decent flashlight, basic first aid and required medicines for self and family.

Add in an old copy of the Boy Scouts handbook or some other camping/survival text and practice some of the skills in it goes a really long way, too.

Yeah, storage can be a problem in urban living, as is the work to keep cycling stored items like food and medicine to keep them useably fresh, but it's not really that difficult. You can pack a lot of food and water into a few cubic feet of space.

Granted, I'm also kind of shocked and surprised that the militia meetup in question didn't dig a sanitary, centralized latrine as soon as they knew they weren't going to have a porta-potty. You can't really muster a reliable perimeter defense if your extended-stay operating base is sick with cholera or dysentery due to people shitting randomly all over the woods. I'm going to assume they know how to, but maybe I'm wrong about that.

And on the other had, I've had a bit of a unique combination of life experiences with growing up Mormon, nearly making Eagle in the Boy Scouts and spending a lot of my life homeless, not to mention camping for fun. Not to mention some paintballing and wargaming experience. I would be pretty comfortable (physically, at least) hanging out with some militia types on a target range or practicing some woodcraft or tracking skills.
posted by loquacious at 4:37 PM on June 28, 2014 [17 favorites]


The writer really needs to up her PB&J game. That jelly looks like ketchup or something.
posted by selfnoise at 4:55 PM on June 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


The whole "my survival chances last about as long as my last trip to Costco" is actually a problem, and preparedness shouldn't been seen as some kooky, paranoid thing.

Most of the US population lives in one kind of disaster zone or another, whether it's earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, severe winter weather or wildfires. It makes sense to stockpile...
I question your premise. I think it makes a lot more sense to build a capable, well-funded and rapidly-deployed disaster recovery infrastructure.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 4:55 PM on June 28, 2014 [23 favorites]


I question your premise. I think it makes a lot more sense to build a capable, well-funded and rapidly-deployed disaster recovery infrastructure.

These things are not mutually exclusive. That is why keeping a sane amount of food (the amount loquacious listed seems sane) because the calvary takes a little while to get going and then a little longer to arrive and then a little more time to get up and running and trusted to stay until normalcy returns.

Another important part of having some extra around is charity. While you are waiting for help, it sure is nice to feed the neighbors who are helping you cut up fallen trees or shovel out mud or look for lost pets and valuable after the tornado.

Not every (or even most) of the preparedness community is a bunch of racist assholes just waiting for a chance to get their chosen minority group. Most of it is a genuine desire to not be 1. helpless 2. a burden on others 3. protect their families/communities.

When did being a little responsible for yourself become such a horrible thing to the progressive left?
posted by bartonlong at 5:01 PM on June 28, 2014 [14 favorites]


When did being a little responsible for yourself become such a horrible thing to the progressive left?
Excuse me? I believe these are your words in my mouth.

Being "responsible for yourself" includes working as a community (whatever the scale of that community). I'm talking about exactly the same thing you are - charity, feeding neighbors, cutting up trees, etc - but on a national scale, and with an explicit reach that doesn't leave people out if they don't happen to have the resources to put into hoarding food or do happen to be the sorts of people that their neighbors don't feel like helping.

I'm simply asking why (to play on your conflation) obviating the need to hoard food and guns is such a horrible thing to the reactive right.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 5:06 PM on June 28, 2014 [5 favorites]


Here is a NYT review of a very interesting book by Rebecca Solnit called "A Paradise Built in Hell." If you're interested in history, catastrophes, or top-down vs. egalitarian preparedness and disaster response, there's a lot to think about in it.
posted by crazylegs at 5:17 PM on June 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


PS - 63 copies available from independent booksellers here [doing my microscopic part to take business away from Amazon].
posted by crazylegs at 5:19 PM on June 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm simply asking why (to play on your conflation) obviating the need to hoard food and guns is such a horrible thing to the reactive right.

I doubt anyone here disagrees with you, but that isn't the topic at hand. There seems to be a point of pride among the folks who write these things that they are helpless without their urban infrastructure, and ermagahd, I could not LIVE without my iPhone! I am embarrassed to say I associated it with the east coast left because it has a layer of classism to it that's different from the sort I grew up with, but only this week Berkeley's freebie, which usually has very good, actual reporting, FEATURED an annoying article on someone *actually shooting what they eat!* (Quelle horreur!) and how it made them think about eating meat.

When I was a kid, you couldn't tell the left from the right except in the number of children they had- everyone was "back to the land" and "raise or kill what you eat." That dynamic seems to be changing.

There is no reason we lefties can't work for national change and yet still be self-supporting in an emergency. And all us urban folks who haven't done their NERT, CERT or CORE or whatever training- shame on us!

Just because we're working for the greater good doesn't give us the right to be a burden on our neighbors when the inevitable disaster hits. It is a basic, civic responsibility. If nothing else, Katrina should have showed each and every person in this country that we need to make sure we can take care of not only ourselves but, hopefully, a neighbor or two as well.

This goes triple if you live in an actual house instead of a closet-sized room in an apartment.

/soapbox
posted by small_ruminant at 5:42 PM on June 28, 2014 [10 favorites]


indubitable: "It kind of reminds me of Bitcoin when you put it that way. You look at it at first glance and think, "huh, that seems interesting and practical", but then you run into the enthusiasts and it's just totally offputting. There's something to these things that seems to touch a very particular part of some people's minds that just drives them off the deep end."

Now I eagerly await the dogecoin version of preppers.
posted by symbioid at 6:26 PM on June 28, 2014 [7 favorites]


...crazy cannibals intent on flaying you and your family alive for food and entertainment, which simply isn't how humans behave outside a crappy hero fantasy adventure. (See Manhattan on 9/11. See Post-Katrina New Orleans.)

But did you notice how the media wanted to make NOLA a horrible post-Apocalyptic show with all those cannibals in the Dome preying on one another? And how story after story was bullshite
posted by BlueHorse at 6:41 PM on June 28, 2014 [4 favorites]


There seems to be a point of pride among the folks who write these things that they are helpless without their urban infrastructure

I think it would be more accurate to say that some people acknowledge the reality that they are dependent on society, and some people cultivate the illusion that they aren't.
posted by klanawa at 6:43 PM on June 28, 2014 [19 favorites]


small_ruminant, I think you're projecting, and a lot. 80.2% of the people in the continental US live in urban areas. So yeah, going out with a gun (only 18% of urban dwellers own guns) and killing a thing with it in order to eat it is going to be a pretty unusual experience. I live not too far from Berkeley, and if I wanted to shoot and kill my dinner I'd be eating junco and raccoon. And I'd have to find a gun first. Your personal experiences may differ, but I posit they're not representative of the mainstream, or the majority.

When you say "Just because we're working for the greater good doesn't give us the right to be a burden on our neighbors when the inevitable disaster hits," I take exception to that mostly because a "burden" isn't what I'd call someone in need. I think it's a peculiar mindset that anyone who isn't self-sufficient is a burden. To my mind, we all contribute in our specialized ways in order to assemble a whole that can provide for all. No man is an island (and I think Heinlein was an idiot).
posted by TheNewWazoo at 7:04 PM on June 28, 2014 [4 favorites]


BTW, I hope my tone isn't coming across too harshly. I don't mean it to be harsh, and I'm enjoying your contributions.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 7:07 PM on June 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


I have quite a bit of camping experience, although it has been a long while. At the same time, living in Brooklyn, I have an emergency backpack with just enough supplies to keep me going until my neighbors turned on me in these apocalyptic scenarios.

The one thing I wonder, is are the preppers helping their kids get ready for the fucked up climate we are creating these days? Are the prepared for the superstorms, the month long killer heat waves (admittedly, less of a factor in Alaska), the droughts, etc. Because rather than the UN coming in with blue-helmeted thugs (I tried and failed to find a video from the original Deus Ex where they talk about helmets), you are looking at a slow decay (unless your water gets poisoned or something). UN conspiracies and government coming to take your gun are so 90's. Survival means not shooting people, but learning to live off the land in the world to come.
posted by Hactar at 7:12 PM on June 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


If anyone shows up anywhere to antagonize people, they're likely to be treated like the asshole they are.

But I don't think that's what's being proposed. Not that one would show up to antagonize, but that someone else who was just genuinely curious about these things but who was noticeably a member of a disliked group would get treated differently. Nobody is gay just to antagonize conservatives. Nobody is black just to antagonize conservatives. Being gay and black and showing up in a place where conservatives are is not an inherently antagonizing activity. If existing in your general vicinity is something you see as antagonism, that's your problem, not mine.

And I have no idea why people think that progressives aren't into this sort of thing, it's just phrased differently. I know plenty of liberals who do their own canning, who do composting and organic gardening, who know how to make/repair their own clothes, who buy things to last so they won't necessarily need replacing at a time that's inconvenient, who do all sorts of things that are just as useful in a SHTF scenario as the sort of stuff the preppers get into. Nobody is going to be 100% prepared to be self-sufficient in the absence of the outside world without making serious compromises in their standard of living in any other possible scenario.
posted by Sequence at 7:18 PM on June 28, 2014 [9 favorites]


In the end, there is the awkward, awful truth.

Preppers are prepping for a time when minorities and poor people are going to kill them if they stay a part of society. Militia members are training themselves so they can effectively kill their fellow citizens for political reasons.

The individuals who comprise these movements may be charming and human and humane, and do their best to confound what they think their actual, want-to-kill-you-personally, enemies think of them.

But in the end, preppers are preparing for race war. Militia members are training to kill Americans for political reasons.

I'm a white dude in New England. I've been to state fairs and gun shows, in New England. The Turner Diaries are on display, openly, at the booths preppers and Militiamen go to, even in the year of our Lord 2014.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:41 PM on June 28, 2014 [32 favorites]


I guess the tone of this reportage is ok but a little ignorant.
But I really wish more of the "leftist intelligentsia" or whatever (which I'm ostensibly a member of) had a lot better grasp of outdoor/survival craft.


The Mudflats is an Alaskan political blog that often covers subsistence fishing and hunting, local food issues, fishery management and the like. The authors have experience and have thought a lot more about what it really takes to live long term off the land than most Americans. And since Alaska produces no food of its own and has like 4 days of total reserves it is going to b all about who has the most Costco tinned goods in the basement.

These militias are nothing to do with that, they're all about wanting to radically change the way society operates or they're ManCamp for people who like to play soldiers.

Some relevant recent reading on militias in Alaska would be the Shaeffer Cox case mentioned in the article.
posted by fshgrl at 7:49 PM on June 28, 2014 [6 favorites]


I question your premise. I think it makes a lot more sense to build a capable, well-funded and rapidly-deployed disaster recovery infrastructure.

Scratch many an anarchist and you might find a a socialist who found themselves in the list of exclusions of the social contract. I pray you are right, but I do indeed know where my towel is.
posted by Divine_Wino at 7:50 PM on June 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


Just because we're working for the greater good doesn't give us the right to be a burden on our neighbors when the inevitable disaster hits. It is a basic, civic responsibility.

I don't understand the scenario you're imagining. What inevitable disaster would call for us to abandon the cities and suburbs for the country?

If nothing else, Katrina should have showed each and every person in this country that we need to make sure we can take care of not only ourselves but, hopefully, a neighbor or two as well.

Uh. You know, one of the biggest problems in post-Katrina New Orleans was a lack of potable water, on the scale of tens of thousands, and that kind of technical-infrastructural problem is so far off the radar of these types that it's easy to see their obsession is not with being prepared to get normal life restarted after a plausible disaster.

We are modern humans. We live in citites and towns. The fantasy of abandoning our material lives, infrastructure, modernity, tout suite, is what's unrealistic here. Are these preppers learning to repair water mains and sewage systems? Are they practicing administering medicine to lots of hungry, displaced people? No, they're not doing anything like that, because they're preparing for an escapist, sometimes eliminationist fantasy, not for the utterly predictable realities of post-disaster scenarios.

Maybe some of what they're doing could end up being helpful, but they're not rationally assessing likely outcomes and then identifying ways to ameliorate them. They're starting from often-unexamined fantasies vaguely assuming complete but unexplained systemic collapse and then play-acting their new lives out. They've got it a bit backward, to put it gently.
posted by clockzero at 8:01 PM on June 28, 2014 [24 favorites]


They're starting from often-unexamined fantasies vaguely assuming complete but unexplained systemic collapse and then play-acting their new lives out.

I think it bears mentioning that this would be a pretty okay thing if people would just admit it. If you just like imagining zombies attacking and shooting real guns at targets, as far as I'm concerned, as long as you are extremely careful with those firearms, I don't see it as any worse than shooting imaginary guns at pictures of zombies. More than that, if your zombie fantasy inspires you to keep a garden and learn how to fix your shoes when they get holes in them and other practical skills that in some places seem to be dying out, I think that's a net good. If your fantasy is about black people instead of zombies, the problem isn't the collapse fantasy, it's that you're a racist. If you go around insisting that your collapse fantasy is not fantasy at all, then that's a problem.

I think a lot of these people could do well to be introduced to LARPing and paintball.
posted by Sequence at 8:18 PM on June 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think it makes a lot more sense to build a capable, well-funded and rapidly-deployed disaster recovery infrastructure.

I think what you're not seeing is that a dense network of prepared citizens is exactly that - you can't get more rapid and capable than having a neighbor with spare water and a generator. To supplement, you could put funding into equipping National Guard members with some stores and emergency distribution instructions and do pretty well. The region/nation-wide response team could then focus on coordination, and backup in overwhelming emergencies.

It's like how the police can focus on more real crime with neighborhood watch programs in place, and the neighborhood watch is easier to do if everyone's good about keeping their windows and garages locked and gets to know each other.
posted by michaelh at 8:29 PM on June 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


I suspect the real survivalist rendezvous is the county fair where settler-reenactors make socks from goats.

Nah, the real survivalist rendezous is the one where we all do the ordinary everyday work of keeping our civilization running and never letting it collapse in the first place, because ain't most of us surviving, no matter how prepared we are, if we let this thing fall apart.

</serious>

It is a fun fantasy, though, kind of along the classic Lest Darkness Fall lines.
posted by Mars Saxman at 8:44 PM on June 28, 2014 [4 favorites]


It really is the case that lots of people in CA would be in serious trouble if there was a big quake and water was cut off. I can't think of anyone (else) who has more than a day or two of water.

My neighbors can borrow my extra iodine tablets, which I purchased for them.
posted by persona au gratin at 9:10 PM on June 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


discussing how to hide caches of weapons (It's ALWAYS an AR-15) and ammunition outside of major cities because when it's "EOTWAWKI" and "SHTF" the cities will become full of crazy cannibals intent on flaying you and your family alive for food and entertainment, which simply isn't how humans behave outside a crappy hero fantasy adventure. (See Manhattan on 9/11. See Post-Katrina New Orleans.)

You have a rosy view of humanity. I like it. Come around after the apocalypse some time, my family will have you for dinner.
posted by grobstein at 9:33 PM on June 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


I can't think of anyone (else) who has more than a day or two of water.

Well, we have two hot water tanks' worth -the solar heated one and the regular one, which acts as a backup for when the sun isn't out for a few days. A lot of folks have their solar set up that way. (Another plug for solar water, I guess.)
posted by small_ruminant at 9:47 PM on June 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think a lot of these people could do well to be introduced to LARPing ...

Weird but true story: this has actually worked some for my mother. Once she started LARPing, her unrealistic-but-very-serious survivalist fantasies mellowed out quite a bit. And her confidence in her camping/survival skills increased.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 10:03 PM on June 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


crazylegs: PS - 63 copies available from independent booksellers here [doing my microscopic part to take business away from Amazon].

Did you know that Amazon owns Abebooks? Powell's Books has a few copies.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:21 PM on June 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


I went through a hurricane once, very unprepared and naive. I basically didn't think they could do heavy damage as far inland as I was, and that it was going to be no big deal. Water was the nastiest surprise - it was 10 days or so before you were supposed to drink it without boiling, and I had no heat source for that with the power off.

I think a lot of people think like I did when a bad storm comes, that the power will go off and everything will be back to normal in a day or two, but that is not what it's like when the infrastructure across a couple of counties goes down. You don't have to go full night vision goggles and home surgery kits deep, but I think it is a fine idea to make sure that you have a minimal basis to keep yourself going for a week or so in a natural disaster.
posted by thelonius at 11:55 PM on June 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's ALWAYS an AR-15
For very logical and practical reasons. Assuming some SHTF scenario of any kind, 5.56 NATO is perhaps the most common rifle ammunition in the western hemisphere (followed closely either behind or ahead of the AK-74's 5.45x39 or the AK-47/SKS's 7.62×39mm) for military and law enforcement, with parts easy to find and relatively easy to replace. It's common usage means you have the best chances to find more if the SHTF. The AR-15 is certainly not the best thing out there, but it's real benefits from its commonality and adaptability easily outweigh its problems.

When it comes to hunting rifles in the civilian market, things get trickier. Sure, there's a lot of .308 and 30-06 rifles out there, but they are incompatible so choosing only one over the other effectively cuts your chances at finding what you need in half. In my opinion .308 wins out since it has compatibility with the 7.62x51mm military rifles - the .003" difference in size means you'll cause more wear on the rifle if you use the 'wrong' size, but it should function normally in most cases. However, there is still a larger market for 30-06, so it somewhat balances out, so I guess it's a toss up.

We are modern humans. We live in cities and towns. The fantasy of abandoning our material lives, infrastructure, modernity, tout suite, is what's unrealistic here. Are these preppers learning to repair water mains and sewage systems? Are they practicing administering medicine to lots of hungry, displaced people? No, they're not doing anything like that, because they're preparing for an escapist, sometimes eliminationist fantasy, not for the utterly predictable realities of post-disaster scenarios.

If these preppers you speak of are 'city folk,' I might agree with a good bit of that. Rural folk, however, deal with wells, septic systems, and such often and they have a great deal more 'survival' skills than you may realize beyond just raising livestock and farming. Going for days or more without power or water is certainly not unheard of after a big storm, for example. In my experience, rural communities are much more prepared to look after each other and have stronger community bonds than most other places. People check up on each other a lot more in general, and those bonds pay off time and again when natural disasters come along. For example, an old dairy farmer that lives down the road from where I grew up had a heart attack and passed out, fell down, and broke his leg while bringing in the cows for milking. He was home alone at the time. In less than an hour, several different neighbors showed up independently and one was a volunteer fireman and the other a retired EMT and veterinarian and ended up saving his life. How did they know he was in trouble? The cows. Dairy cows have a schedule, and if you're late, they will let you know about it. Be very late, and the the sounds they make are very different and distressed, and anyone who lives within a mile of them can tell the difference between the sounds. In addition to the lucky break the farmer had, you also see people who are involved in the community in different ways - one as a vet gets to know and work with most of his neighbors, and the volunteer fireman is part of a group that often gets called in first from everything from accidents, to rescues, to helping out when natural disasters strike. In addition, the community network is already in place to use when needed. People know each other, and know that helping your neighbors out means they'll help you too when you need it. It brings along some nice benefits compared to a more urban, somewhat mercenary system of paid municipal workers where the bonds between them and the population may not be as strong. I'm not trying to say that one is clearly better than the other, just that many of the strengths of the rural communities are sometimes hidden 'under the hood,' if you will.
posted by chambers at 1:12 AM on June 29, 2014 [13 favorites]


I question your premise. I think it makes a lot more sense to build a capable, well-funded and rapidly-deployed disaster recovery infrastructure.

So I live in a region with about three million people and 8,846 sq miles. There are 18 other metro areas in the country which are even bigger. Roll those numbers around in your head for a while. It's a lot of people spread over a lot of different terrains. Some relatively urban and some pretty rural.

Now imagine a big warm front plowing through the region resulting in a massive storm system - something big enough to drop trees across the entire area shutting down many streets and roads, and devastating electrical grid, followed by humidity in excess of 90% and temperatures near 100°. Now try to imagine the size of a disaster recovery infrastructure that could asses damages (much less respond to them) fast enough after such a mess that no one died of heat stroke.

Now, sure, we could create an organization about the size of the US army and divide it up among the 50 biggest metro areas and they might - if everything was managed REALLY REALLY well - be able to get everyone in need to some kind of shelter before anyone died. Or we could all make a point of hiding away a day or three's drinking water in case of emergency.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:31 AM on June 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


> Now I eagerly await the dogecoin version of preppers

Nerf weapons all round, and an extra Slurpee in the freezer. Many prepared. Very disaster. Wow.

Prepping/militia must be an American thing. I'm struggling to find a European equivalent that isn't government or charity-based.
posted by scruss at 3:05 AM on June 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Reminder: Water bears are not large bears that are full of drinkable water. That AR15 you have for "hunting" will be useless if you don't have some way to get/create clean water.
posted by ymgve at 6:26 AM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


There's an old comment that I can't find from a Mefite who lived through a war zone, that pointed out the preppers just lived better for a month or two, then they ended up like everybody else - cold and hungry. People who imagine they're prepared for long-term disasters such as war, famine, epidemic, etc. are in for a surprise if the "SHTF" as they say.

That being said, it's possible to swing a little too far in the other direction. I used to live in Florida, and during the hurricanes people would call in to the radio and say they were out of food and water hours after the storm passed. Hours! And after one of those storms - Francis maybe? - we didn't have power or water for two weeks. The cavalry does not always arrive immediately.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 8:22 AM on June 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


If you just like imagining zombies attacking and shooting real guns at targets [..]

'Zombies' is a code word for black people leaving the ruined cities.
posted by ryanrs at 8:28 AM on June 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


There's an old comment that I can't find from a Mefite who lived through a war zone

It's Dee Xtrovert's comment but I can't remember enough of the wording to successfully search for it.
posted by elizardbits at 8:29 AM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


thank u infodumpster
posted by elizardbits at 8:32 AM on June 29, 2014 [9 favorites]


In my opinion .308 wins out since it has compatibility with the 7.62x51mm military rifles - the .003" difference in size means you'll cause more wear on the rifle if you use the 'wrong' size

Names of cartridges like ".308 Winchester" and "7.62×51mm NATO" are just that, names. The numbers in the names do not necessarily correspond to some precise dimension, like bullet diameter. In fact, both the cartridges you listed use the exact same diameter bullet.
posted by ryanrs at 8:35 AM on June 29, 2014


The numbers in the names do not necessarily correspond to some precise dimension...

See also 218 Bee, 219 Zipper, 220 Swift, 221 Fireball, 222 Remington, 223 Remington, 224 Weatherby, 225 Winchester - all using .224" projectiles.
posted by 445supermag at 8:55 AM on June 29, 2014


In fact, both the cartridges you listed use the exact same diameter bullet.

The difference is extremely small, as I said, only .003 inches, and I figure this being the internet, I'd get called out for not mentioning it, so I did. For practical purposes, they are interchangeable. Over the years I've ran into enough lengthy discussions about the minutiae of differences between those two rounds and if it really makes a difference, that it resembles the most involved debates between die hard SF fans, so I always end up keeping them separate. The only real difference I've ever experienced with them is that the slight differences only show up between batches after several reloads of 7.62 or .308 Winchester brass, and even then it's probably more the reload process that does it more than the round itself.
posted by chambers at 9:10 AM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Perhaps somewhat relatedly, my uncle told me yesterday that the North Carolina legislature is debating or has actually passed a measure that would regulate how insurers could deal with properties affected by climate change. The idea being that, if you choose to build a stupid fucking house in the way of rising sea levels/dramatic weather, insurers can't sock it you in terms of property insurance. In other words, fuck the invisible hand when comes to climate change, because climate change is a socialist plot of whatever.

Also, my aunt went to a town meeting where there were maybe two people claiming that climate change is real. My aunt wanted to know my uncle's opinion. Is climate change a socialist plot? My uncle and I were like, jesus, what news are you consuming.

It's sort of interesting: in both cases, there's this sense of urgency: not 'climate change is going to fuck us up' but 'this plot about climate change is going to fuck us up.'

In both cases, I get this prepper vibe. Like, get your gun, the socialist plot is going to fuck us up, so we have to depend on each other.

So, fuck those guys, I guess.
posted by angrycat at 9:42 AM on June 29, 2014


chambers >

"We are modern humans. We live in cities and towns. The fantasy of abandoning our material lives, infrastructure, modernity, tout suite, is what's unrealistic here. Are these preppers learning to repair water mains and sewage systems? Are they practicing administering medicine to lots of hungry, displaced people? No, they're not doing anything like that, because they're preparing for an escapist, sometimes eliminationist fantasy, not for the utterly predictable realities of post-disaster scenarios."

If these preppers you speak of are 'city folk,' I might agree with a good bit of that. Rural folk, however, deal with wells, septic systems, and such often and they have a great deal more 'survival' skills than you may realize beyond just raising livestock and farming. Going for days or more without power or water is certainly not unheard of after a big storm, for example. In my experience, rural communities are much more prepared to look after each other and have stronger community bonds than most other places. People check up on each other a lot more in general, and those bonds pay off time and again when natural disasters come along.


Sure, that makes sense for people who already live in rural or semi-rural areas. But most Americans live in cities and suburbs, like 80%. So in the event of an actual disaster, it is sort of beside the point, because unless the idea is that tens of millions of people are going to be peacefully moving into the country and still getting their food and water and sanitation needs calmly figured out somehow, the prepper mentality is orthogonal if not completely irrelevant to the question of what Americans in general should do in the event of an emergency.
posted by clockzero at 10:27 AM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


There's a lot of conflation in this thread (and in general) between "preppers" and "preparedness".

I agree that the kind of "preppers" who make the news and stories like this, with hidden bug-out shelters in the woods, 3 years worth of ammunition, etc. are a little silly, but for the most part, it's a harmless hobby.
Those same people would probably have been building fall-out shelters in the 50s.

But it is important not to let a bad impression of preppers deter you from being prepared, even if you do live in an urban area.
Having a 3 day kit (or better, 7 day) is common sense, not post-apocalyptic fear-mongering.

Wouldn't you rather hang out in your own apartment, light a lantern and wait comfortably, rather than share a cot in a school auditorium with 250 other people?
posted by madajb at 11:56 AM on June 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


“Yes. And what does the President like to say? ‘Transparency.’ He likes to use that word,” said Luntz to a low rumble from the group.
Well, at least they're finally clear on whether or not he's actually the president.
posted by Flunkie at 12:07 PM on June 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


I live in one of the most densely populated cities in the entire United States. One of my survivalist (oh, sorry, that's old-school - now it's "PREPPER", which keeps making me think of "preppy") fantasy builds that I want to actually do when I have a but more hobby-spending money, which came to me reading about issues in NYC during Sandy, was trying to figure out the best way to set up my piece-of-crap pickup truck as a mobile power source so I could, for instance, drive to the various squares in my city and let folks recharge their cellphones. This is up there with building a UPS setup for my sump pump.

I figure that if it's not the sort of disaster that breaks so much infrastructure that I have to dust off my radio gear to communicate, the area will probably have most of its cell service up, and so enabling people without power to keep their cellphones on will do wonders to keep people safe and communicating. Civic nerdery!

(I'm not worried about water - I've got a gas kitchen stove and a propane grill and a camp stove, so I can boil water if needed plus I've got a pump-action camping water purifier and heck, I live near enough to the ocean so I can fucking distill water to get fresh water if needed. Although given the local water table (see previous re; sump pump) I probably just have to walk downstairs to my basement to get water...)

All of which is assuming something that lasts a couple of weeks, really. I stopped worrying about complete destruction of civilization after the Cold War ended. Prior to that, I just figured I'd be killed (or sufficiently radiated so as to not live long) during the exchange since I live in a major metropolitan area plus I'm less than 100 miles from the Massachusetts PAVE PAWS installation.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:44 PM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


the area will probably have most of its cell service up

I'm wondering about this. If there is a major power outage, do most cell towers have UPS systems? I don't know what any regulations say, but I could see the cell phone companies skipping UPS protection to save money if they can get away with it.
posted by ymgve at 12:56 PM on June 29, 2014


I think something like a quarter of the cell towers in NYC were down during Sandy. I'm not sure what percentage of cell sites have UPS power. Depending on where you are and what infrastructure is around you, people might also have wireless in areas that don't have cell service, too. Also, providers (and possibly these days also various emergency agencies) have 'Cell On Wheels' units that are basically mobile cell towers.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:07 PM on June 29, 2014


Plus: Even if you don't have phone service where you are, many people only seem to keep their address books online, now, and a lot fewer people remember phone numbers since they're all stored on the phones. So even if your phone doesn't work as a phone, it is still a direct connection to a lot of information people will want.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:09 PM on June 29, 2014


I'm wondering about this. If there is a major power outage, do most cell towers have UPS systems?

They do.
However, one of the major points of contention when phone companies try to get rid of POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) in rural areas is that cell infrastructure, and VOIP for that matter, is much more fragile in disaster scenarios.

The regulations only require, if I recall correctly, 24 hours of backup power whereas old-style telephone Central Offices have huge generators.
posted by madajb at 2:21 PM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


As for the actual article, yeah, that's a whole lot more 'militia' than 'prepper'.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:57 PM on June 29, 2014


'Zombies' is a code word for black people leaving the ruined cities.

This is why I specified that racism is a real problem, because there are people who do that, but there are people who just like the fantasy. The people who just like the fantasy should be encouraged to have fun with the fantasy. The people who are really secretly worried about something else can't hide behind the fantasy nearly so well if they're trying to come up with reasons to reject playing paintball or doing a zombie run instead. Racism is a real problem, some people just really liked The Walking Dead, at some point the two have to be distinguished somehow.

I actually brought up the paintball thing because while his health allowed it, my dad, who is a Mexican but had always liked the survivalist kind of stuff, took to paintball like a fiend when he found it, because it turned out that he was not really that picky about his guns having to fire real ammunition as long as he could still geek out with the gunsmithing and running around in the woods when I was a teenager. I will totally agree that zombies have their root in race fears the same way that alien invasion fiction has its root in xenophobia, but you can't really say that everybody who gets into the fiction is also a racist or whatever. My pet survival fantasy is more Jericho/Under The Dome style small-town-cut-off-from-services, but I have a soft spot for the straight out aliens despite not having been raised in a time where I really expected a Russian or Chinese invasion. The ones who insist they absolutely need real guns in quantity are not really thinking of zombies, the ones who perk up at the idea of being actually chased by people in Halloween makeup are.
posted by Sequence at 5:44 PM on June 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


I love the directions to have a week or a month's worth of medications for the household in the prep kit. I can't even get the 31 days of Rx for most regular ol' months; I generally get 28 day's supply at time due to some HMO accounting cleverness, also known as shorting clients 3 week's meds a year. They're certainly not going to hand out an entire month's worth just because I say I want to stock my emergency kit.

Don't even get me started on how folks near or below the poverty line are expected to keep a week's worth of food supplies on hand when they're shorted and hungry before the end of every month.
posted by Dreidl at 11:38 PM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Just in case it genuinely helps someone: the fact that your insurance will not pay for your medication does not mean you can't pay for it yourself using one of those prescription discount cards. Not that this is going to be cheap, but some stuff's cheaper than others when it comes to that sort of thing. If you're taking a medication that you really can't go without for even a day, if you can get your doctor to write you an extra month's script, you can fill it, you're just going to pay for the privilege. But then don't just hoard that one, you have to remember to keep using the oldest one but filling the new ones as they come up. That way, your spare never expires.

I can imagine medication suddenly becoming unavailable much easier than I can imagine an apocalypse scenario. Still tough if you're poor, but if you're not poor, one of the few things I think is worth it.
posted by Sequence at 4:26 AM on June 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sure, that makes sense for people who already live in rural or semi-rural areas. But most Americans live in cities and suburbs, like 80%. So in the event of an actual disaster, it is sort of beside the point, because unless the idea is that tens of millions of people are going to be peacefully moving into the country and still getting their food and water and sanitation needs calmly figured out somehow, the prepper mentality is orthogonal if not completely irrelevant to the question of what Americans in general should do in the event of an emergency.

What I was intending by that example was that if one is trying to understand these people and groups, that there is a difference in the reasoning and drives between rural and urban prepper, survivalist & militia people. The level of interconnectedness in the local community and their surroundings has an effect on how they perceive their particular SHTF scenario they are preparing for.

unless the idea is that tens of millions of people are going to be peacefully moving into the country and still getting their food and water and sanitation needs calmly figured out somehow, the prepper mentality is orthogonal if not completely irrelevant to the question of what Americans in general should do in the event of an emergency.

In a situation like that, which is beyond anything the US has ever seen and would truly be a SHTF scenario with millions leaving the ciites, marshal law, FEMA bumbling about and such, that 80% fleeing to the where the other 20% live, the concerns that have nothing to do with race but are simple logistical in nature for those 20% become much less 'nutjob' and more about practicality. The militia part of this is a can of worms in this situation and trying to figure out how that will all goes down is a deep rabbit hole of paranoia all by itself, as many of the things that militias speak of come from the often broad and exaggerated, but not entirely unlikely interpretations of laws and directives that are in the FEMA SHTF procedures, with seizures and appropriation of resources and property. While I don't agree with their take on it, I can understand a bit of where they are coming from given a full blown SHTF scenario.

There's reasonable preparedness, and then there is over-the-top paranoia about it. All these groups are spread over a wide spectrum, and it's folly to lump them all under one single banner.

For me, I think as long as you can hunt, find water, and know how to use a simple animal-drawn plow, the rest of the concerns are completely unpredictable and incidental, and more driven by one's own fears than anything else.
posted by chambers at 8:16 AM on June 30, 2014


Don't even get me started on how folks near or below the poverty line are expected to keep a week's worth of food supplies on hand when they're shorted and hungry before the end of every month.

For most of the non nutjob-perparedness community, charity and being prepared to help out people who couldn't or didn't prepare are a very big part of it. There are some who are racist/bigot/just plain asshole but then what group doesn't have an unpleasant community within the larger community?

I have found most of the more realistic sounding/thinking people involved in it also stress a kind of hierarchy of needs as well as usually number 1 is taking care of immediate, realistic needs first and only worry about storing surplus when you HAVE a surplus. Most of the sites online stress being debt free and frugality FIRST and then have a list of stuff to do for extra after you achieve that. Survivalblog (one of the bigger sites) actually stresses being prepared for joblessness as the most likely scenario any individual will face (they also have a lot of nutty stuff to go with that like global economic collapse etc to go with that).

I got drawn in and interested in the community (not so much actually the lifestyle, more of spectator and for hunting/camping information) when I was becoming financially literate myself and found some of the more mainstream sites fairly useful if you ignore the political screeds.
posted by bartonlong at 1:09 PM on June 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


do most cell towers have UPS systems?

Yes, but it's usually like a larger version of an office computer's UPS system, ie a big battery. The battery is good for a few hours. That's enough if support or repair crews can be sent out, but in a large-scale emergency when there are a hundred things needing fixing for every Fix-it Felix on shift, there's going to be situations where there's no way to get everything done before batteries run down. The UPS is a stop-gap, not a plan-B.
posted by anonymisc at 4:13 PM on June 30, 2014


On a recent trip back home I found an old book from the late 70s-early 80s I loved called Back to Basics. It's by far one of the most useful, practical, and descriptive how-to books I've ever come across. It came out just after the 70s self-sufficiency trend peaked, and covers an amazingly large and varied amount of topics for those interested in being a little more 'off the grid,' but without really any of the baggage, political agendas or 'this is how you should be living' tone that comes with many other books of that era. It's a pretty straightforward, "Heard about this? Here's some pros and cons, and here's how to do it" kind of thing. (It was published by Reader's Digest, so that may be why it has more of a 'just the facts' tone)

Everything from building your own log house, to how to make your own solar hot water heater with interconnected glass bottles on your roof or dig a well, trap and hunt small game, to raising chickens and small crops, to even how to do basic blacksmithing is covered and much more, with good diagrams and descriptions for each process. I think it's goal was to just to present a huge collection of projects to check out and give you a good start on whatever interested you.

Used copies on Amazon are only $3, and I can't recommend it enough. There's something interesting in there for just about anybody, and even over 30 years later it's just as useful and really doesn't feel dated at all.
posted by chambers at 8:02 PM on June 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


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