Bunker Mentality
March 17, 2020 6:13 AM   Subscribe

One from The Guardian's Long Read series: Real Estate for the Apocalypse: My Journey into a Survival Bunker. "The idea used to be that God would spare the righteous while the ungodly perished. These matters now were in the hands of the market. If you could afford the outlay, and if you had the foresight to get in on the ground floor, you were in with a chance to be among the saved. That was business: the first and the last, the alpha and omega."

This is an extract from Notes from an Apocalypse: A Personal Journey to the End of the World and Back by Mark O’Connell, soon to be published by Granta.

Maybe it needs more pictures:
Robert Vicino;
King Kong inflatable

Footnote to post: Elementary S4 E18
posted by glasseyes (40 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
And I was honestly wondering, while reading this, if the author used to moonlight as an Elementary scriptwriter.

Here is a previously but it is more general while the current post is about one particular instance with associated guiding character.
posted by glasseyes at 6:14 AM on March 17, 2020

The place would, it was claimed, be home to somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 people and would become “the largest survival community on Earth”

I knew there would be comedy here, and this is where I started laughing. Yeah, the world will definitely be rebuilt by the people who spent years of their lives and hundreds of thousands of dollars at a minimum planning for the day things got difficult enough that they would run the fuck away. Sure, guy.
posted by mhoye at 6:28 AM on March 17, 2020 [10 favorites]

mhoye, I wonder what people might do who were spending years of their lives and hundreds of thousands of dollars with the plan being to help with rebuilding.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 6:35 AM on March 17, 2020

so, hypothetically speaking, what is stopping people from sealing the rich folks' disaster bunkers shut from the outside once they scurry inside like the vermin they are?
posted by entropicamericana at 6:50 AM on March 17, 2020 [27 favorites]

It was not intuitively clear to me how a place could be both isolated and centrally located, but, to be fair, if pretty much the entire rest of the world had perished, any settlement of living humans would have legitimate grounds to proclaim itself centrally located.

Putting aside the obvious socially problematic aspects of this whole thing, I've always thought this was the main hole in these 'apocalypse summer home' plans. If there truly is some sort of world-ending catastrophe, how are you going to get from Palo Alto to the black hills of North Dakota? Even if you have a private helicopter and your own helipad, I still see some logistical problems.
posted by panama joe at 6:54 AM on March 17, 2020 [6 favorites]

A major element of Vicino’s sales pitch was the idea that the government knew some cataclysmic event was in the offing, but was covering it up to avoid mass panic. You could be sure, he insisted, that those who controlled the world were making arrangements to protect themselves, and that they were hiding from us both those arrangements and the cataclysm itself.

And you thought your HOA was a bunch of delusional, paranoid busybodies...

Judging by the photos of it, though, it looks like some kind of prepper L'Anse Aux Meadows.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:07 AM on March 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

What is stopping the security personnel from scroggling the millionaires and keeping all their stuff? Then they can have have a nice comfortable Last Man Standing power struggle amongst themselves in the scorched earth.
posted by glasseyes at 7:08 AM on March 17, 2020 [7 favorites]

These people are paying a lot of money to be taken hostage by their security teams and/or get trapped inside their fortresses.
posted by The Whelk at 7:11 AM on March 17, 2020 [25 favorites]

so, hypothetically speaking, what is stopping people from sealing the rich folks' disaster bunkers shut from the outside once they scurry inside like the vermin they are?

Loads of articles here saying that the bunkers are in NZ, which makes me think that the bunkers are certainly not in NZ.

Of course, if any Kiwis are listening and know where the bunkers are: that No 8 wire could well be deployed to save us all from the return of the oligarchs.
posted by pompomtom at 7:18 AM on March 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

This reminds me alot all those people who misread Brave New World or Nineteen Eighty-Four.

They always assume they will be the Alpha's or the Ruling Elite in those situations.
posted by Faintdreams at 7:24 AM on March 17, 2020 [4 favorites]

and/or deploy the AB's back-line. Our mob haven't been able to get past them for years...
posted by pompomtom at 7:24 AM on March 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

entropacamericana, have a song.

For those who only know the singer/songwriter as a gung ho conservative, she used to be a wobbly.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 7:27 AM on March 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

1) Grar. You don't get to be an Alpha by just being a failson or faildaughter.
2) The Inner Party already know who they are. How else do we have a total fuckwit game-show host who thinks he controls ten billion nukes?
3) I'd be happy to be an Epsilon, were I an Epsilon.
posted by pompomtom at 7:36 AM on March 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

The consistent use of the past tense in the article made me think it was going to end up exposing some underlying grift. Then I remembered grift is as foundational to the American myth as is the Frontier ethos and that the Donner Party went wrong when they were grifted into taking the wrong route by someone trying to promote their new trading post. There was no grift exposed in the article (apart from the general ideological one) but I did feel - put in the right, somehow - when the author made that connection between the New Secure in our Bunkers Society dream and the whole Laura Ingalls Wilder Prairie Homesteading Manifest malarky. Sins of the fathers.
posted by glasseyes at 7:44 AM on March 17, 2020 [8 favorites]

I read the whole article, but missed the part where it said how long these rich preppie preppers are told they can stay in their cozy little bunkers before their food runs out. I suppose the plan is to eat the polo ponies before they eat each other.

This fantasy is of a piece with those of the wealthy tech wizards who plan to beat the Grim Reaper.
posted by kozad at 7:49 AM on March 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Am thinking it's time for Musk, Trump, Putin and all their mates to board Ark B.
posted by pompomtom at 7:49 AM on March 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Can they take Johnson with them?
posted by glasseyes at 7:52 AM on March 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Can they take Johnson with them?

That's their punishment. Trump & Johnson, in perpetuity. Putin and the rest will be leaping from the parapets within a month.
posted by corvikate at 7:55 AM on March 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

Can they take Johnson with them?

It's like you want Madame la Guillotine thirsty...
posted by pompomtom at 8:00 AM on March 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

That's their punishment.
This is a pleasing image.
Putin and the rest ...
Na, the doors are locked from the outside
posted by glasseyes at 8:03 AM on March 17, 2020

These people are paying a lot of money to be taken hostage by their security teams and/or get trapped inside their fortresses.

That's what I keep coming back to -- people who have millions of dollars to spend on a hole in the ground are going to expect staff. Not just security, but cooks and cleaners and childcare and plumbers... Where are those people living? What are they eating? Why would they be okay with being have-nots?

If your baseline worldview is that people are basically evil and when things go pear-shaped will revert to some animal nature where every atrocity is expected, then how do you maintain the cognitive dissonance that somehow your locked-in staff would never dream of turning on you?
posted by Mchelly at 8:20 AM on March 17, 2020 [9 favorites]

I'm so sorry for showing bad form in posting half the comments! But interestingly, that inflatable King Kong stunt was not quite as successful as the photo makes it seem (SLYT).
posted by glasseyes at 8:23 AM on March 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

I notice that most mefites have spotted the essential flaw in this plan: that very wealthy people hiring heavily armed thugs to protect them are most likely going to be shot by their 'protectors' as soon as they arrive.

Mind you, I think there's a simpler flaw: Vicino sounds like the kind of developer who would be halfway around the world in his own nicely prepared bolthole well before you discovered that you'd bought the prepper version of Florida swampland. Why shouldn't he sell the same place 14 times over? Once the shit really hits the fan, what are you going to do to him -- sue?
posted by jrochest at 9:52 AM on March 17, 2020 [8 favorites]

The article states that 50 of these plots have been sold. The buyers (suckers that Vicino fleeced) are weekend warriors driving out to stock shelves in a dank underground warehouse with little ventilation and a severe flooding problem. These are not millionaires. They are the prepper version of guys who build a boat in their garage.

If they had a security team, then Jin couldn't have taken a dump on top of one of their roofs.
posted by valkane at 10:13 AM on March 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

Sorry, but been down this road before...
posted by jim in austin at 10:16 AM on March 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

looking at the indiana facility: that is not a lot of space for 80 people. not a big enough galley, not enough room for even occasional privacy, and five heads and two showers.

also LOL at the "military quality" ammo bunker construction. Concrete over sheet metal, covered up with dirt.

pretty sure if you popped one open after the advertised year of supplies and fuel, you'd find a lot of bodies.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:59 AM on March 17, 2020

There are days I wish I'd bought a nearby missile silo, but then I remember that the preppers would never leave me the fuck alone and I'm happy I let that particular opportunity pass by.

Given that underlying interest, YouTube occasionally surfaces some prepper shit in my feed. A few months ago there was a video showcasing a bunch of total scam shelters that people paid a lot of good money for that are entirely unfit for purpose. Not only terrible design that may well suffocate you during a long stay, but also so poorly built that they leak like sieves and end up full of critters.

Needless to say, I had little sympathy for most of the people featured. Grifters getting scammed by other grifters, for the most part.
posted by wierdo at 11:02 AM on March 17, 2020

(Nearby then, not nearby now.. that's part of why it wouldn't have been the best idea)

Seriously, though, if having a place to decamp in an emergency salves your anxiety, that's fine. Despite the ridicule, owning some acres and a cabin that can (theoretically) be self sustaining is a thing people have been doing for over a hundred years.

What's new is digging hidey holes and paying large sums of money you'll never get back. A cabin next to a headwater lake is more useful, practically speaking, as a bunker or missile silo or whatever. Plus you can actually get your money back when you get over yourself because it has value in normal society.
posted by wierdo at 11:12 AM on March 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

Yeah the two common observations here in NZ are that as soon as money is worthless, their security staff will kill them, and also, how nice of them to create stockpiles for us, hope they're fat and tasty when they arrive.

Personally I think we should impose a billion dollar levy at the border and see how keen they still are.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:15 AM on March 17, 2020 [6 favorites]

I don't know, I bet in a normal society you could rent out the tricked out bunker for some kind of all-weekend escape room event or sex party. Probably couldn't recoup on the investment but there is some value there.

I've never really understood the urge to survive past the (near-)total destruction of human society. It seems like you would be haunted by grief for the rest of your life, not just for everyone you had known who died but also for the art and community and science that were far more than the sum of their parts. Maybe I don't understand the mindset of these people well enough.
posted by threementholsandafuneral at 11:26 AM on March 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

So much for secrecy. You can even see the entrances poking out above ground. Ever see an Otter crack open a shellfish, and even Billionaires can't keep their retreats a secret, because the builders won't have to worry about NDAs after the apocalypse, right?
posted by Beholder at 12:07 PM on March 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

It's all about what your imagination tells you, and I guess that is all about what you know. This guy is imagining that there will be cannibals and general 1:1 warfare. While there are tons of evidence that those who survive big crisis are those who share and care.
There are terrible exceptions, mostly driven by sectarian passion. History will tell what drives the coming change in the US and elsewhere.
posted by mumimor at 12:14 PM on March 17, 2020

When I think of Vicino’s project, his product, what comes to mind is the anthropologist Margaret Mead’s judgment of what it means to secure oneself inside a shelter: a withdrawal from any notion that our fate might be communal, that we might live together rather than survive alone.

Outside of all the snark, this really gets to me, and I wish my bunker was big enough to hold horses and a golf course instead of moderate sized with a tv and video games.

The point being that I hope epidemiologists have really thought through what it means for us as a society to 'social distance' from strangers for a number of weeks on the low end and months on the high end. And to post more and more dire potential outcomes. Because surviving alone is what they are asking all of us to do. And at least they bought all their rice and toilet paper before hand instead of stocking up the week it all went down.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:40 PM on March 17, 2020

valkane, that was about 1/16 of the Elementary plot. Arriving at The Keep, a decommissioned NORAD comm center, Wright shows them the food supplies, air filtration, power supply and other rooms. Holmes exposes Wright as a fraud after showing that the filtration and food are facades/em>
posted by glasseyes at 1:32 PM on March 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

There's a book, written by a Mormon missionary, about long term food storage, and the writer points out that for the cost of a rifle and ammo, you could buy enough beans and rice to feed an entire neighborhood for weeks. Not surprisingly, that type of survivalism never caught on.
posted by Beholder at 1:47 PM on March 17, 2020 [7 favorites]

If, at some point, our planetary biosphere becomes uninhabitable, building our own biospheres will be humanity's only hope for survival.

I'd like to see humanity survive.
posted by MrVisible at 2:04 PM on March 17, 2020

If, at some point, our planetary biosphere becomes uninhabitable, building our own biospheres will be humanity's only hope for survival.

Look, this is going to sound strangely, naively optimistic, but if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it's that when the chips are down global finance takes a distant second place to collective survival and that collective, terrascale social action is absolutely possible.

I think we've still got a shot.
posted by mhoye at 3:10 PM on March 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

The ugly truth is that toxic survivalism just went mainstream. You can pry my TP from my cold dead hands.
posted by Beholder at 4:47 PM on March 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

@Nancy Lebovitz, Leslie Fish got infected with "gung ho conservative"? Ugh, that's sad to hear. (Not that I've been a fellow-traveler with libertarianism but... there are degrees.)
posted by away for regrooving at 12:33 AM on March 18, 2020

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