The Rise and Fall of the Ultimate Doomsday Prepper
July 31, 2021 12:38 PM   Subscribe

Barrett Moore had ordered 2 million N95 masks, held enough freeze-dried food to feed families hiding from global Armageddon for decades, owned a small arsenal of guns, and fortified a pole barn in which to wait out the collapse of civilization. But he had something no one else could buy: knowledge that the end was coming and that the supply chains would snap; the best hope your family had was holing up in his northern Michigan compound while things fell apart.
posted by darkstar (196 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
 
I guess it's time to link this comment again.
posted by automatronic at 12:57 PM on July 31 [171 favorites]


It's a long article, but it is worth the read.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:24 PM on July 31 [3 favorites]


"a healthcare system adapted to cope with pandemics, are obvious areas of negligence.”
That's not wrong, a stopped clock, etc.
posted by doctornemo at 1:25 PM on July 31 [4 favorites]


In conclusion, don't send shitloads of guns, cash, and gold to right-wing nutjob scammers.
posted by starfishprime at 1:25 PM on July 31 [13 favorites]


All these people are exhausting and terrible. One part of the look into this particular piece of the great bullshit grift ouroboros of preppery that really hit me, regarding Moore initially sinking the hook into the primary mark the piece covers:
Moore, with his self-cultivated image as a retired intelligence officer, apparently there to work the crowd, immediately dazzled Thor. “He pulled one of the biggest bankrolls of cash out of his pocket and showed it to me,” Thor recalled to me in an interview. “He asked me, ‘How much do you have on you?’ I said, well, about a hundred bucks. He said, ‘Well, look at how much I’ve got.’ … It had to have been like $1,000. He said, ‘If something happens, I can walk up to this guy and say, here’s $100, I want to buy your backpack right now.’” Moore’s survivalist party trick stunned Thor, and from that moment on, for many years to come, he was enamored.
Because it really shows up how stunted these people are. We were at the arcade and he just kept pulled out so many rolls of quarters! Wow! He says his house has all the toys and a train set that goes all the way through the house and a fireman's pole!

I also enjoyed the grim amusement value of the overall con enterprise running into problems by way of other preppers with far more money than sense ultimately not wanting to invest in someone else's property so they could add, I don't know, more barbed wire or whatever to their own thousand acres.
posted by Drastic at 1:27 PM on July 31 [63 favorites]


Only needed to get to the 3rd graf for this:

"Moore described himself as a “seasoned, contrarian business executive..."

What an excellent term to apply to himself.
posted by kuanes at 1:33 PM on July 31 [13 favorites]


That's not wrong, a stopped clock, etc.

Except, despite the actual best efforts of the sitting administration to fuck things up in "urban areas" as much as they possibly could, the power stayed on, and the stores still had food (and after a short while, even toilet paper), the water was still on, and firefighters and EMS still responded to emergency calls.

I'm not saying this to downplay the massive problems that did happen (including shortages, empty water/paper shelves, overrun hospitals), but to say that even in the worst COVID days, despite the most grossly malcompetent actions of a malignant federal administration, nobody needed their "Special Ops Chauffeurs" to cart them to a copper mesh-enshrouded "Garage Mahal" in Michigan to ride it out.
posted by tclark at 1:35 PM on July 31 [35 favorites]


I hope Dee's found peace, wherever she is.
posted by mhoye at 1:35 PM on July 31 [96 favorites]


This is a good description of a con:

"This sense of constant wonder, misdirection, and grandiosity were part of what kept people so close to Moore even after he took their money and came back for seconds."
posted by doctornemo at 1:38 PM on July 31 [8 favorites]


> I hope Dee's found peace, wherever she is.

I think about her a lot. I tell the stories of her most famous comments once every few months, probably. I hope she's not just okay, but flourishing; Metafilter is profoundly poorer for her departure.
posted by Sokka shot first at 1:40 PM on July 31 [73 favorites]


Yes, hugs to Dee, I think of her often.

And perhaps because of her legendary posts and many other wise insights, I couldn't read the whole article. It made me too angry. One would think that the prospect of a grifter grifting on stupid rich people would be a fun read, but no, in this case "I can't even" is my exact thought.

I manage our family farm and at least one cousin is a lot into prepping, since the location is potentially good for isolation. Or not. Because the thing is, we all depend on each other and our communities. If the sea-level rises much more, I'll need to trade my car for a boat, and think in new ways of subsistence farming. It will be far harder work than the cousin imagines, and I'm not sure we can all live from the land. It is absolutely certain that we can't survive unless we work together with everyone else here.
posted by mumimor at 1:46 PM on July 31 [31 favorites]


Interesting parallels with the story about Pinkertons reinventing themselves to offer protection for prepper rich. At their core, these mercenaries are cut from the same cloth, grifters who tap into fears white people have of Muslims, Liberals, etc. coming to take away their FOX News.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 1:56 PM on July 31 [13 favorites]


Moore, with his self-cultivated image as a retired intelligence officer, apparently there to work the crowd, immediately dazzled Thor. “He pulled one of the biggest bankrolls of cash out of his pocket and showed it to me,” Thor recalled to me in an interview. “He asked me, ‘How much do you have on you?’ I said, well, about a hundred bucks. He said, ‘Well, look at how much I’ve got.’ … It had to have been like $1,000. He said, ‘If something happens, I can walk up to this guy and say, here’s $100, I want to buy your backpack right now.’” Moore’s survivalist party trick stunned Thor, and from that moment on, for many years to come, he was enamored.
But... wouldn't one of the first things to happen in a real emergency be for the fiat currency to become worthless?

Also, I guess that Brad Thor never read Robert McCammon's Swan Song, sort of like Stephen King's The Stand only with nukes instead of germs, which features a survivalist shelter that (spoiler alert) doesn't function as promised. It even had its ex-military spokesperson/mascot who came to regret his involvement.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:15 PM on July 31 [28 favorites]


My favorite part was when problematic airport thriller author (a lot of them are) Brad Thor totally gets rooked by this obvious grifter.
posted by box at 2:21 PM on July 31 [10 favorites]


‘If something happens, I can walk up to this guy and say, here’s $100, I want to buy your backpack right now.’”

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but you'd expect an audience primed to be armed to the teeth would have seen a number of other possibilities in this scenario.
posted by ryanshepard at 2:27 PM on July 31 [20 favorites]


Barney Miller had something to say about this sort of thing, all the way back in 1981...(DailyMotion.com, skip to 20m08s)
posted by zaixfeep at 2:30 PM on July 31 [7 favorites]


I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but you'd expect an audience primed to be armed to the teeth would have seen a number of other possibilities in this scenario.

Yah that was my exact thought. The reason you don't carry scads of cash on you is because, even if the average joe isn't armed, there are plenty of bricks and pipes and other random heavy objects lying around that can be used to cause blunt head trauma, and now at best you're concussed and minus all that cash.
posted by nushustu at 2:49 PM on July 31 [5 favorites]


"But... wouldn't one of the first things to happen in a real emergency be for the fiat currency to become worthless?"

Literally my first thought. People are paying him fiat money to build a preppers paradise so he can sit on that pile of money and burn it after the big doomsday event?

It just painfully screamed "he wants your money, and it's absolutely not because he thinks it will be worthless someday."
posted by deadaluspark at 2:51 PM on July 31 [29 favorites]


Yeah. After an actual apocalypse what is his incentive to follow through and pick up these CEOs and bankers? More worthless money? Fear of being sued in nonexistent courts?
posted by starfishprime at 3:01 PM on July 31 [30 favorites]


I dated a guy who told he involved his parents in paying for his farm so he wouldn’t lose it when the world went to hell. That’s when I should have broken up with him, but I was just too lonely and desperate. Lucky for me, he broke up with me a few weeks later because he was worried about my health after I went to the ER for chest pain that turned out to be anxiety. He said he was afraid I would end up bedridden. Dodged a bullet there.
posted by FencingGal at 3:07 PM on July 31 [44 favorites]


Even though this guy crashed and burned, I'm pretty sure the super rich are digging in without so much fanfare.
posted by hypnogogue at 3:07 PM on July 31 [8 favorites]


The fact that the protagonist of this story is an author of white-supremacist airport thrillers who is literally named "Brad Thor" is just more evidence that the writers for this reality are a bunch of fucking hacks.

THAT'S RIGHT- I SAID HACKS! IS THAT YOU LINDELOF? YEAH, I SEE YOU! TAKE A GOD DAMN WRITING SEMINAR, YOU FUCKING AMATEUR!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:09 PM on July 31 [47 favorites]


Fitting that this one of this clown's early "door openers" was a guy named Rainmaker.

Grifter's gonna grift.

‘If something happens, I can walk up to this guy and say, here’s $100, I want to buy your backpack right now.’”

I don't need a hundred bucks but I do need my back pack so yeah no.

I knew people like this in the 80's. Most ended up in trailer parks, some in prison.
posted by Max Power at 3:21 PM on July 31 [7 favorites]


“When the world goes to hell, you and your family can survive in our regulated community dormitories, eating food from the commissary and participating in planned recreational activities!”

– “But maybe we should do something to stop the world going to hell, like environmental regulations, healthcare, and more public spending?”

“Oh my goodness no! What are you, socialist?!”
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:26 PM on July 31 [86 favorites]


this guy's brainless - if the unraveling came during tourist season there would be tens of thousands of people who would have no way to get back and would become very desperate in a short time

unless it was deer season - then there would only be a few thousand - but they'd all be armed

really - burt lake is an awful location - the u p would be better
posted by pyramid termite at 3:54 PM on July 31 [12 favorites]


Is it a coincidence that the compound is just a short distance south from Poverty Bay? I think not.

The next northward bay is Butthead Bay. Nope, I misread that it's Bullhead Bay.
posted by bendy at 4:16 PM on July 31 [7 favorites]


Even though this guy crashed and burned, I'm pretty sure the super rich are digging in without so much fanfare.

I bet Thor doesn't even hyperdecant his wine.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 4:21 PM on July 31 [9 favorites]


I do love a good in depth look at a long con, but this guy was small potatoes.

Inside the World's Largest Underground Survival Community: 575 Luxury Bunkers for 5,000 People

tour
posted by joeyh at 4:21 PM on July 31 [7 favorites]


Read Cory Doctorow's "radicalized" one of the short stories talks about how all these preppers die of cholera in their bunker while everyone else is busy rebuilding society.

Leaving them in the bunkers might be the best thing we can do for humanity. Going forward what need people who can work together.
posted by stilgar at 4:31 PM on July 31 [37 favorites]


Moore, with his self-cultivated image as a retired intelligence officer, apparently there to work the crowd, immediately dazzled Thor. “He pulled one of the biggest bankrolls of cash out of his pocket and showed it to me,” Thor recalled to me in an interview. “He asked me, ‘How much do you have on you?’ I said, well, about a hundred bucks. He said, ‘Well, look at how much I’ve got.’ … It had to have been like $1,000. He said, ‘If something happens, I can walk up to this guy and say, here’s $100, I want to buy your backpack right now.’” Moore’s survivalist party trick stunned Thor, and from that moment on, for many years to come, he was enamored.

Thor could have bought the guy's backpack for $100.
posted by bendy at 4:34 PM on July 31 [10 favorites]


I don't need a hundred bucks but I do need my back pack so yeah no.

Presumably, after SHTF and there is nothing but force, the implicit quiet part of the deal is that you get to live as well.
posted by acb at 4:39 PM on July 31 [3 favorites]


He said, ‘Well, look at how much I’ve got.’ … It had to have been like $1,000. He said, ‘If something happens, I can walk up to this guy and say, here’s $100, I want to buy your backpack right now.’”

I am kinda confused, and not at all rich, but the only times I actually use a backpack are when I need to carry around a laptop and a bunch of camera gear. Is the $100 just for the backpack itself? Even then, are you running around during an emergency to find someone with an Amazon Basics backpack because everyone else’s backpack costs way more than $100?
posted by snofoam at 5:12 PM on July 31 [13 favorites]


Also, I pay my rent in cash and the only time $1000 looks like a big bankroll is if it is all in $20 bills or less. In $100s it is just ten bills. Is not Goodfellas.
posted by snofoam at 5:17 PM on July 31 [43 favorites]


Also, I pay my rent in cash and the only time $1000 looks like a big bankroll is if it is all in $20 bills or less. In $100s it is just ten bills. Is not Goodfellas.

It was probably a big stack of ones with a couple of hundreds on the outside. The dude was a sham from beginning to end, there's no reason to think his cash roll is any different.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:32 PM on July 31 [47 favorites]


Dee's fundamental point is that we still retain our humanity in adverse conditions is what rings true. I'm not going to shove hundred dollars in your face for a $10 worth of food because I'm not a psychopath like Martin Shkreli. This isn't the Final Purge. We aren't going to be running around like Brad Pitt in World War Z.

If anything an end of the world scenario has likely already occurred. We lost 60% of Europe to the Black Death and European civilization survived. Vikings raided England and it wasn't like White Walkers coming in and slaughtering. They came and they settled. Venetians decided to move their city just out of the reach of the Goths.

The only thing that scares me would be a Carrington Event but even then I think we'd be up and going sooner than expected. It would be bad but not a full on collapse.
posted by geoff. at 5:47 PM on July 31 [14 favorites]


"But... wouldn't one of the first things to happen in a real emergency be for the fiat currency to become worthless?"

Right? Like we all get the notification on our phones -- US Eastern power grid destroyed, will take months to reconnect -- and a prepper wearing a tacticool vest offers me $100 for my backpack ... because I've never heard of preppers? I don't know they have entire web pages about stockpiling hammers, which people will ACTUALLY want, when fiat currency becomes worthless? I mean, honestly, he's at least got to give me gold jewelry, because even if the world is ending, a lot of preppers are super-weird about gold still being valuable afterwards.

The whole scenario depends on the people around him NOT being preppers (who would be trying to buy backpacks off other people), but simultaneously having never heard of preppers, knowing nothing about them, not having access to the same news sources as him, AND not immediately becoming suspicious when someone tries to buy a scuffed-up backpack off them for $100 for "NO REASON! REALLY! NO REASON!"

Like if someone comes up to me in a bar and offers to buy my purse off me for $100 because it's really cute, I'm going to think they're either about to mug me, they're running a scam, or they're drunk/unbalanced/not entirely in touch with reality. And in NONE of those situations do I want to sell my purse to them or even engage in conversation.

"Yeah. After an actual apocalypse what is his incentive to follow through and pick up these CEOs and bankers? More worthless money? Fear of being sued in nonexistent courts?"

Look, we live in a society and people have to keep their contracts because otherwise we're going to revert into some kind of Hobbesian State of Nature where we're all stabbing each other in the back and fucking each other over for -- oh. oh wait. I see it now.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:58 PM on July 31 [35 favorites]


Some prepping is ok, right? I never ran out of toilet paper, which was nice.
posted by ryanrs at 6:11 PM on July 31 [18 favorites]


I don't know they have entire web pages about stockpiling hammers, which people will ACTUALLY want, when fiat currency becomes worthless?

Hammers assume a lot. That generously you have the stability to rebuild, to plan, to measure, access to nails, access to labor. You could say what about emergency repairs, but I think that'd be as easily taken care of with anything metallic and hard. There will be lots of rebar and items laying about.

Alcohol is where it is at. And to a lesser extent, tobacco. People will trade a lot for a little relief. Others will trade a lot to combat withdrawal. Others will find it a good way to slowly hole up the pain. You can use it as a fuel source. Harder drugs and you'll be pushed to find people who are willing to just try heroin, but people know what getting drunk is like and will be more willing to give up things they think they don't need for immediate gratification.
posted by geoff. at 6:11 PM on July 31 [6 favorites]


Why do I need alcohol when I can just pay some other guy $100 to get drunk?
posted by ryanrs at 6:17 PM on July 31 [34 favorites]


It was probably a big stack of ones with a couple of hundreds on the outside.
We used to call that a "Michigan bankroll" I shit you not.
posted by Floydd at 6:23 PM on July 31 [25 favorites]


It was probably a big stack of ones with a couple of hundreds on the outside.

"Big bills on the outside!"

"Kramer, that's a five."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:39 PM on July 31 [14 favorites]


This Moore guy has, um, a way with words. His prose is limpid. No, insipid.

What are “cultural deviations,” and how, exactly, do deviations “swell”?
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 6:44 PM on July 31 [2 favorites]


but I think that'd be as easily taken care of with anything metallic and hard. There will be lots of rebar and items laying about.

I dunno, as someone who regularly tries to do stuff with the first tool that comes to hand (like, say, trying to bang things loose with a crescent wrench because that's what I've got in my pocket at the moment) and then inevitably realizes that it would be far faster and more efficient to walk over to where the real tool is and get it and use it, I think you may be underestimating the value of an actual hammer.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:54 PM on July 31 [25 favorites]


Also, one of the things that happened in Roman Britain soon after the Western Empire collapsed was the money stopped working.

The Romano-British economy at the time was essentially a pork-barrel project. The Romans put legions on the island to man the frontier, and sent cash over for payroll and supplies. This currency sustained the local economy, and was also the basis for trade (primarily for agricultural goods) with people on the other side of the wall, and across the Irish sea. Roman Britain had some exports (salt, tin, lead, some ceramics, a bit of wine), but it was mainly a cash sink for the Empire.

When the last legions were pulled out in around 410 AD, several things happened. Without a source of new coin, people began to horde money rather than spend it. As a result, industries that produced luxury goods, or anything for export (such as commercial ceramics) collapsed completely. Within a generation, areas that had been known for commercial pottery were producing no ceramics at all. Exchange likely reverted to the barter system for a time, and most likely focused on staples. Towns and economic centers were depopulated, both so people could move closer to areas of agricultural production, and because the trades practiced in places like Colchester or Ipswich were no longer viable (and there was less point in being close to ports on the eastern shore if no goods or cash were coming over).

Political authority shifted to agricultural centers, where those who still controlled large estates could afford to pay for security in food and goods. Essentially, the political system of Britain reverted to the "Chieftain-Feasting complex" that had existed before the Romans, and that characterized much of NW Europe in the period following the Western Empire. Then, a bunch of random Belgians with fancy steel knives started turning up...

Even after things stabilized somewhat, the main coins used in England were of Frankish or Byzantine origin, and local coinage did not start to be minted again until the 8th century.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:01 PM on July 31 [92 favorites]


Some prepping is ok, right? I never ran out of toilet paper, which was nice.

Did anyone run out of toilet paper due to the pandemic(*)? No one I know did, or knew anyone who did. I think I heard of a couple cases where people couldn’t get their most preferred brand is all.

(* There are people who run out of toilet paper in normal times due to poor personal inventory control. Excluding those non-pandemic-induced situations.)
posted by eviemath at 8:19 PM on July 31 [5 favorites]


If anything an end of the world scenario has likely already occurred.

I think constantly of a modified version of Gibson's famous quote. "The future apocalypse is already here. It's just not evenly distributed."
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 8:30 PM on July 31 [36 favorites]


Did anyone run out of toilet paper due to the pandemic(*)? No one I know did, or knew anyone who did. I think I heard of a couple cases where people couldn’t get their most preferred brand is all.

A coworker of mine ran out. By "ran out," I mean he had to spend part of an afternoon driving from store to store until he found some for sale. Had he not found it for sale, he could have borrowed plenty from other coworkers who were fully stocked (or, for that matter, raided the office supply closet).
posted by Dip Flash at 9:03 PM on July 31 [5 favorites]


"Some prepping is ok, right?"

I mean, I prep, but for the disasters that are actually like to happen near me, which are basically all shelter-in-place situations (tornadoes, blizzards) and where the biggest dangers are loss of electricity/heat and damage to the building ... I am prepared at a moment's notice to put plastic tarps up over a broken window! And maybe more to the point, I'm prepared to take my bright orange bucket of tornado-broke-my-windows supplies over to a neighbor's house and help them clean up.

And I harbor zero delusions that the sort of disaster that sends people fleeing to bunkers is something I'm going to survive by planning really well. At that point, it's a lot more down to luck than most preppers are willing to admit. You can't predict if you'll be able to get to your bunker, if your isolation in your bunker will be a benefit or a detriment. You can't predict how exhausted and mentally-fogged you'll get during an ongoing apocalyptic disaster, and since prepping depends a lot on doing everything right every single time (so the zombies can never get in the bunker and you never get tetanus or staph) with a bunch of untrained people, chances are good either the zombies or the bears or your neighbors are eventually getting in your bunker and enjoying themselves. Honestly you can't even predict how your partner and/or family and/or bunker buddies are going to react to being trapped in a bunker with you 24 hours a day for three months while under extreme stress with a massive oversupply of firearms. Very few scenarios with all three of those ingredients -- trapped, stressed, and armed -- end well. (Like, see bazillions of mutinies on merchant ships in the 1700s/1800s.)

Also, I always wonder exactly what these guys think happens AFTER the apocalypse, when they emerge from their bunker with their group of 12 people who are all related to each other and now ... rule the rocky wastes of earth? And attempt to repopulate it, I guess? Like, do they not know that is actually the most horrifying part of apocalypse stories, where there's too few survivors to sustain civilization, but they get to die a long slow lonely horrible death because they survived? It's also really telling that most preppers are men, and that "prepper medical manuals" always include lots and lots of information about surviving gunshot wounds, stabbings, bear attacks, getting a rusty nail in your foot while manly-ly building a manly building ... but almost without exception contain literally nothing about childbirth. (Because it's not preparing for disasters, it's cosplay with weaponry.) So these 40 macho men, and 10 women, survive in the local cluster of preppers, and set to work repopulating the earth and ... the women all die within three years from botched childbirths? Like, that's the best-case scenario plan, where more than just your immediate family survives AND you can contact them AND find each other AND not all shoot each other, and this bunker-building demographic that's between 75% and 90% male* has at least a small number of women around.

(*Interestingly, women apparently buy more prepping supplies than men do, and preppers love to point this out to try to normalize prepping. But women are much more typically buying smallish amounts of supplies for actual emergencies that are likely to happen, and not building bunkers and stockpiling ten years of food -- men do that. But the mom in Portland making sure she has earthquake bug-out bags for her two children and the marketing exec in San Francisco making sure she has adequate N95 masks for fire season are technically "prepping" and part of that demographic of women buying prepping supplies at higher rates than men, but that's really not what people are talking about when they talk about "preppers." Prepper-normalizers also love to count things like "taking self-defense classes" and "putting money into savings" as women "prepping" for the end of the world, allowing them to trot out "statistics" like "75% of American women are preparing for the apocalypse!" as if I'm taking a self-defense class to fight off the zombies and not you, you macho asshole in the tacticool vest! They also love to roll up all statistics about what people are prepping for and declare that it's preparations for the end times/religious apocalypse/antifa, when in fact people are like, "Um, no, I'm actually just worried about the earthquakes! Antifa seems nice!")
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:06 PM on July 31 [119 favorites]


Also if you are really that rich and really that worried about the apocalypse, the answer is Switzerland, move to Switzerland, the entire country has government-run underground bunkers and the entire male population serves in the military reserves specifically so the tiny country can defend itself. Like, the work has already been done, and way, way better than you can hope to do it on your own; if you're rich enough to live in Zurich, just move to Zurich, and stop building random luxury bunkers in Michigan.

At least in Switzerland there will still be a breeding population of humans after the apocalypse, and you won't be closely related to every single one of them. There will be doctors! Engineers! Bunkers! Secret airplane hangars! Telephone sanitizers! Living human women! The works!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:12 PM on July 31 [46 favorites]


Did anyone run out of toilet paper due to the pandemic?

My sister's family was close in a sense, but I gave her like 10 rolls out of the 20 I had anyway. I'm sure plenty of other friends or family could have helped.

Funny enough, recently I was looking at land (on zillow / redfin) in the UP while sweltering in the awful drought we've been having in the upper midwest. It wouldn't be a bunker, it's primary purpose would be as an actual 3-season hangout when I felt like it, and to a lesser degree, sort of a respite location in case things in the big cities get a little spicy, which I can see happening again in the near term. Full on famine level collapse, though, yeah, no need to prep for that, no desire to survive it.
posted by MillMan at 9:18 PM on July 31 [3 favorites]


The price for this service would run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, to be paid in installments.
from the article.

Ya, I'm going to cash it all in for a polebarn.
Burt Lake is very nice and upper/
lower peninsula Lake folk are interesting, laid back, apparently some hoping to survive an attack from an A-10...did the military experience not teach you this? do you realize that from Flint on up you could mobilize about a half million armed mobile people. It's Michigan, dude. 2, two million masks?
this is the tipping point really, the difference between preparing a week's stuff versus hoarding guns, drugs and Jeeps: intent.

Most don't prepare for refugee/payeees to become part of your army, this guy is a rich fixed PX and without heavy weapons, well.
posted by clavdivs at 10:02 PM on July 31 [4 favorites]


I ran out of toilet paper briefly & ended up getting a roll at my local gas station for free when they were like the 6th place I visited that had none & the guy felt bad for me and gave me one from the package they had in their bathroom. I was able to find some at a store the next day (although it was packaged in single rolls so the two-package max meant I could still only buy two rolls, which was frustrating). So it wasn't like a Severe Toilet Paper Emergency, but I did truly run out.
posted by augustimagination at 11:11 PM on July 31 [3 favorites]


Did anyone run out of toilet paper due to the pandemic(*)? No one I know did, or knew anyone who did. I think I heard of a couple cases where people couldn’t get their most preferred brand is all

Friend of mine is a single parent on a pension, and her pension went through three days after panic buyers stripped the shelves. She basically lives check to check, and was down to her last squares so we spotted her a few rolls. I'm a paranoid person about bog roll at the best of times and always have a weeks in reserve, so she basically used mine till supply came back. It was touch and go for a bit there for us both, though, towards the end of it.
posted by Jilder at 11:22 PM on July 31 [2 favorites]


automatronic thanks for posting the link to that comment. It resonated with a lot of things I've been thinking about. It also reminded me of, in a much smaller way of course, the Day Zero water crisis here in Cape Town, and the shame I felt walking through a supermarket with a pack of bottled water. Completely irrational, but it felt so wrong to be stocking up in this pitiful way.
I wonder why buying bottled water affected me in that way, while other things like installing a rain water tank didn't.
posted by Zumbador at 12:39 AM on August 1 [5 favorites]


Alcohol is where it is at. And to a lesser extent, tobacco. People will trade a lot for a little relief. Others will trade a lot to combat withdrawal.

geoff, did you ever... actually read any of Dee's comments?
posted by 7segment at 12:39 AM on August 1 [4 favorites]


New Zealander here. We keep joking how nice it is that billionaires want to stash caches of goodies in well-known locations for us.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:26 AM on August 1 [43 favorites]


Movies like The Day After, Threads, and The Road, I can't survive that way and don't want to. Also, Glenn Beck is a LDS, and Mormons are encouraged to stockpile enough food to feed their family for five years or something like that.
posted by Beholder at 1:26 AM on August 1


What's funny is it's the small things that get you. Dudes buy 10000 rounds of ammo to fire out of 10,000 dollar guns because of course they will be the ones in the souped up dune buggies, not begging for death with liquid shooting out of every orifice because they drank from the wrong puddle.

Obviously a lot of this is cover for fantasizing about The Race War given the whole "urban hordes" thing but far scarier to me is we have a couple entirely legal and extremely addictive chemicals with nasty withdrawal symptoms that depend on massive regional and international networks to keep the addicts calm.

Save your final bullet for yourself because when the coffee (what, you think you're going to get coffee from south America or africa?) And nicotine (what, did you stockpile tobacco seeds too? Can you even grow tobacco there?) Run out and you have millions of people stopping coffee snd/or smoking cold turkey all at once...the living will envy the dead.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 1:32 AM on August 1 [11 favorites]


I mean, I prep, but for the disasters that are actually like to happen near me
Oh yes, but I wouldn't call that prepping (I know, that's your point too). I can feed a family for a week, in case of a blizzard that shuts off the road or trees falling, which are both things that happen regularly, but rarely cause more than a couple of days of inconvenience before I am saved by a neighbor. Because neighbors are nice that way. A couple of times in my life of almost sixty years, the snow has been too high to plow through, and the well-stocked pantry has been useful.
I also have band-aids and painkillers and disinfectants and some catgut and some other bits and bobs for if anyone gets hurt or sick while we can't get out.
I see this type of household management as normal and necessary for people who live in remote places with four seasons. But maybe that is what inspires my prepper-curious cousin.

The worst thing about my pantry is that I forget to use from it and every year there are things that have to go to recycling, uneaten. This year I found some ten year old paprika after I'd opened a 14 year old can of sardines and learnt that canned food doesn't always keep forever. Also a ton of sesame seeds at four years after the use before date. What made me buy so many sesame seeds? I don't remember. There are also some things the rest of my family buys all the time because they know I don't, like jams and other sweet preserves. I don't buy them because no-one eats them. This makes me think of those doomsday peppers: what if the apocalypse happens and they open their stores and all the cans have gone bad? Or what happened to us a few years ago: there had been a power outage while no-one was here, and all the meat in the freezer had gone bad and then refrozen without us noticing. I have never been so sick in my life.

It's weird. When I was a teenager, I worried a lot about WW3 and tried to somehow mentally prepare for surviving in that situation. I couldn't imagine the word I actually grew up into, the world we live in now, where climate change and the biodiversity crisis are already making life difficult for millions billions of people. I'm thinking to plant a commercial orchard, while I wonder if there will ever be any fruit, if there are no insects. The last five years, I've had no plums, but that might both be because of lack of insects and because of climate change, I don't know for sure.
posted by mumimor at 2:27 AM on August 1 [5 favorites]


a “massive concrete pole barn” erected at the Haven called the Garage Mahal
LOL these fuckers know the Taj Mahal is a mausoleum right
(of course they don't, they wouldn't)

Aside from being a grift, the entire prepper industry is a pathetic waste of resources on the part of people who somehow believe that death is the worst thing that can happen to you.
posted by peakes at 3:46 AM on August 1 [11 favorites]


I always thought I don't value being alive to the point that I'd want to shoot my neighbor, so I figured I'd die early in a survival situation. Now that I have bone marrow cancer, if medical care is seriously disrupted, I probably won't live more than three months (I've had four blood transfusions this year). There's very little mention of medication in the article, and I thought surely some of these people love someone who is dependent on, say, insulin, so I searched insulin with preppers. I did find instructions for making your own, but even that article (which relied on methods from the 1920s and access to cow or pig pancreas) acknowledged that it's pretty much going to be impossible, and since insulin expires, there's a limit to how much you can stockpile.

I assume these people have some kind of Darwinian attitude that just figures that's how it goes, but we all have bodies, and bodies are unpredictable things. I mean, I spent my whole life having no idea of how much work my bone marrow was doing, and now that it doesn't want to do it anymore, everything has changed for me. Ultimately, you can only do so much for your body, and you can't beat death. Yet the idea that you somehow can beat death, that you can be the exception, feels to me like it must be, to some extent, underlying this.
posted by FencingGal at 4:26 AM on August 1 [38 favorites]


Maybe they meant warhammers, for smashing in the heads of enemy hordesmen?
posted by acb at 5:02 AM on August 1


The incredulity some seem to have about people walking around with a thousand bucks seems odd to me. It's a thing (some) people of older generations tend to do in case the credit cards aren't working for whatever reason or they see a good deal on a snowmobile or something. It's a kind of being prepared, but not of the prepper kind.

It also strikes me as odd that anyone would find it particularly impressive. Dude is weird for flashing the cash and his marks are weird for giving even half a shit.
posted by wierdo at 5:08 AM on August 1 [8 favorites]


New Zealander here. We keep joking how nice it is that billionaires want to stash caches of goodies in well-known locations for us.

All those surveys saying that New Zealand would be the best place to sit out the collapse of society don't factor into it the fact that there are already half a dozen Immortan Joe-wannabe hedge-fund guys with that idea, so if postapocalyptic New Zealand happened, it would be a hellscape of warfare between rival warlords having dick-sizing matches.
posted by acb at 5:11 AM on August 1 [14 favorites]


This makes me think of those doomsday peppers: what if the apocalypse happens and they open their stores and all the cans have gone bad?

Years ago I watched a doomsday prepper show to see what the fuss was all about. It was fascinating / horrifying: the women in the community started each day preserving all of the fresh food--vegetables, fruit, chickens, eggs, you name it. They labeled all of these jars with the date and arranged them in date order in the giant food storage locker.

Then they pulled out the jars that were about to expire from the locker, to make the day's meals.

The upshot: in the midst of fresh food plenty, the prepper families were always eating elderly preserved food.
posted by tumbling at 5:18 AM on August 1 [33 favorites]


For a previous thought experiment on the subject, I'm reminded of James Burke's speculation in the first episode of the series Connections. Relevant segments are from about 9:00 to 30:00, the thought experiment gears up at about 22:00.
posted by gimonca at 6:02 AM on August 1 [7 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee: "It's also really telling that most preppers are men, and that "prepper medical manuals" always include lots and lots of information about surviving gunshot wounds, stabbings, bear attacks, getting a rusty nail in your foot while manly-ly building a manly building ... but almost without exception contain literally nothing about childbirth."

Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, but they haven't read Farnham's Freehold?

I'll summarize the relevant part because folks here probably don't want to read it.

Hugh Farnham has prepped for a nuclear war, and has a substantial, fairly well-stocked bomb shelter. He's upper middle class, I guess-- enough money to do that sort of thing, but has to make a lot of trade-offs.

The nuclear war happens, but the shelter, with Farnham, his wife, his daughter and his son, a female friend of his daughter, and the "houseboy" (a black man who's also studying accounting) are knocked into the future, and there's no sign of people.

The daughter is pregnant. She dies in childbirth, and Farnham is bitterly regretful that he didn't foresee the possibility of a difficult birth.

This was published in 1964. I suppose I'm not surprised it isn't a prepper classic, but it might not be a bad resource for thinking about what actually goes into prepping.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 6:05 AM on August 1 [11 favorites]


Just because I love making fun of preppers. (To me there is a difference between prudence like having some canned goods and stapled and flashlights and whatnot and planning to survive the EMP burst with a dedicated SUV).

I think part of it is obviously the just world fallacy at work. "When the hordes come for me, I will simply shoot them. But I'm just built different." And some of it is fending off the fear of death and oblivion with telling yourself you are already prepared for every situation. And there's a good chunk that's what I'll call the Libertarian Fallacy where every Libertarian assumes he will be the triumphant Captain of Industry and not one of the Voluntarily Indentured Servants carrying his Palanque. It's like the old Bob The Angry Flower where the Captains of Industry get to Galt's Gulch and realize *somebody* forgot to invent the labor saving robots to do the dirty work like tilling the soil.

But part of it is when something doesn't happen for a while, people assume it didn't happen at all or at least not recently. It's the old "oh well if measles is so bad, what did they do before vaccines, huh?" Well, sometimes they just fucking died. Like it's not that long ago that even in very modern industrialized countries people had families of 8-12 kids and it wouldn't be all that surprising if maybe 6 or 7 made it to adulthood. Because they just died. Of stuff. Of Things. There was a Twitter that would tweet medieval death records and it was kind of funny because it's like "guy fell in a river and died." "Guy got hit on the head and died." "Guy got run over by a horse and died."

We're not really used to that anymore because of this invisible web of medical technology and public health and sanitation.

I obviously don't have a rigorous demographic breakdown of preppers but I suspect a lot of these guys aren't training for, say, the rigors of "No power tools at all," old school, walk behind the plow farming. Can you imagine the heart attacks and strokes? And even the pharmaceuticals a rich prepper can get don't compare to what a small town Walgreens has on hand for an ordinary Tuesday, not to mention the weird stuff they can order.

Oops, your precious kid to repopulate the planet has a rare birth defect. Used to be a 20 minute surgery, now you just die.
Got bitten by a snake? Ah, yes, I too remember antivenom. Would be great to have some of that now. But it turns out it wasn't profitable to produce so it was impossible to find even before total collapse. And even if we didn't have antivenom we could run fluids and machines to support your organs but we don't have that now, you just die.
Oh it turns out without mosquito control, mosquito born disease is a lot more common. And ifbyou get the wrong one, you just die.

I mean how many totally well meaning people buy land in the country thinking they are going to run a little hobby farm and it is going to be so cool and they will have big colorful produce not like the crap you get in stores and then oops it turns out farming is hard work and it never ever ends and honestly a lot of times, you know, it takes a few crop seasons to really get anything going. And I know it's not really cool to admit, but a whole lot of modern farming is huge agribusiness companies with modern chemicals and whatnot for things like pests.

Yeah, yeah, organic, but lots of times farms fail and you just die. Until relatively recently it was pretty common for entire regions and even countries to have massive famines because the crops failed and you Just Died. Good thing we have modern distribution networks to get wheat from, I dunno, China when the Midwest crops fail because because there's no Army Corps of Engineers maintaining the levees anymore so a good chunk of the farm belt is underwater and never will be above ground again. Oh we don't have that anymore? What do we do? Oh, we just die.

I mean, let's be real, most of these guys aren't picturing themselves as stocking up to spend the rest of their lives being an old timey sodbuster scraping out a living. They probably don't outright say it publicly (some do I'm sure), but the guns are so they don't have to do the manual labor. Thats for the slaves/completely totally indentured contract labor (,depends how Libertarian they are). They picture it more like, you know, because I was the one who was smart enough to get all these guns, then people will have to come to me, and THEY will do the work, and I will sit on the throne and have big ideas it's being the Idea Guy for the post apocalypse.

I would wager not many of these guys spend a lot of time studiously learning to spin and knit and weave or mastering growing flax or cotton or what have you to make cloth to turn into clothes. What do you think happens when your sicknasty BDUs that only True Operators wear rip from stem to stern? Goddamn clothes, nobody makes them to last anymore. Good thing there's a massive manufacturing and distribution network where child labor makes plenty of this in my size that wind up in my local Cabela's and...oh, I forgot, that doesn't exist anymore. Okay, let's see, we have 500,000 rounds of .223 and 55 years of MREs and...goddamn it Gary did you forget the go bag with all the clothes? Well how are we gonna survive? Winter is coming. How do we stay warm without clothes or blankets? Oh, we just die.

ANd that's not even getting into the monied classes. Do you think THEY are signing up for the manual labor. It is kind of funny imagining the billionaires emerging from their bunkers into the brave new world. Imagine Zucc swinging a scythe to reap grain or Bezos spending 8 hours a day bent over to pick cotton to eventually make clothes. Or the billionaire CFO and airport novelist teaming up to hand-dig the irrigation trench because we are getting low on stockpiled seeds and this is going to be it.

It's absurd. It's like the Hitchhiker's Guide ship entirely full of useless people.

I mean the would-be Immortan Joe has a shot but how in the hell are you still going to be a billionaire when your money is a line in a bank database and "money" and "banks" and "databases" don't exist anymore. You're a computer programmer, dipshit, that requires electricity st the very least.

No, no, no. What they are picturing is, basically, the Proletariat Rapture. "I will retire to my comfortably appointed bunker where I will still get to be a big shot business guy and take meetings and be extremely important and all my guards with explosive collars to assure their loyalty will call me sir, and then something will happen and all the homeless and poor people I see on the streets of San Francisco and all the other poor people, the rabble, the useless, (include the races they don't like as appropriate), will be gone, preferably violently, with lots of suffering. And then me and my buddies will emerge, all 12 of us, all Big Shot Business Guys, will take our robot cars into San Francisco for Meetings and we finally, FINALLY won't have to risk soiling our $5000 hand made Italian dress shoes (new Chucks, in Zucc's case, man of the people) stepping in a pile of human shit. And everything will be exactly the same as it is now including a global electronic trade network and people thinking "apps" are life-changingly important, but even better, because the people I don't like are all dead, and we can finally settle in to the most important work of all, disrupting the convenience store industry by putting a little kiosk in the lobby of apartment building with some essentials, like a Bodega but see there's an app and it's automated."

That's not even getting nto the lack of knowledge transfer! We can't even get people to believe things like "okay so a lot of illness is caused by tiny things you can't see, and believe it or not the best treatment isn't thoughts and prayers or willpower or even bootstraps, it's covering your mouth and nose when you're sick or cough or sneeze and it's rubbing your hands together enthusiastically in clean running water with a mild detergent of some kind smeared on them" NOW!
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:33 AM on August 1 [119 favorites]


Dudes buy 10000 rounds of ammo to fire out of 10,000 dollar guns because of course they will be the ones in the souped up dune buggies, not begging for death with liquid shooting out of every orifice because they drank from the wrong puddle.

The photo of his gun closet cracked me up. Owning one AR15 - sure, I can see the logic. Even owning a second one in case the first one needs maintenance, sure. But once you start owning lots, you are fetishizing rather than preparing.

I mean, let's be real, most of these guys aren't picturing themselves as stocking up to spend the rest of their lives being an old timey sodbuster scraping out a living. They probably don't outright say it publicly (some do I'm sure), but the guns are so they don't have to do the manual labor. Thats for the slaves/completely totally indentured contract labor (,depends how Libertarian they are). They picture it more like, you know, because I was the one who was smart enough to get all these guns, then people will have to come to me, and THEY will do the work, and I will sit on the throne and have big ideas it's being the Idea Guy for the post apocalypse.

I completely agree. Their underlying fantasy is to become an Afghan warlord, surrounded by loyal gunmen and living off of the labor of the peasants.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:01 AM on August 1 [13 favorites]


ANd that's not even getting into the monied classes. Do you think THEY are signing up for the manual labor. It is kind of funny imagining the billionaires emerging from their bunkers into the brave new world. Imagine Zucc swinging a scythe to reap grain or Bezos spending 8 hours a day bent over to pick cotton to eventually make clothes.

This reminds me of when Gwynneth Paltrow did some kind of shopping on food stamps for a week challenge (she gave up after four days). She showed what she bought and made a comment about how if even she, with all of her education, couldn't figure out how to live on this much, then it must be impossible for less privileged people. Like she totally didn't understand that people without money develop SKILLS for survival, and that being educated didn't mean she automatically knew how to do everything. The homeless people that the billionaires walk by would probably do a whole lot better at figuring out how to survive in a real disaster.
posted by FencingGal at 7:01 AM on August 1 [38 favorites]


All those surveys saying that New Zealand would be the best place to sit out the collapse of society don't factor into it the fact that there are already half a dozen Immortan Joe-wannabe hedge-fund guys with that idea, so if postapocalyptic New Zealand happened, it would be a hellscape of warfare between rival warlords having dick-sizing matches.

My brother's advisor was planning a post-apocalyptic escape to New Zealand in the early 1980s, so this has been going on for a long time.
posted by FencingGal at 7:03 AM on August 1 [3 favorites]


It would actually be interesting to learn what these people imagine will happen after the disaster, after they come out of their bunkers. If anyone here is a journalist, that would be something I'd read about.

Since I lived for six months in an area that was apparently flourishing during the Bronze Age, I have been fascinated by the Bronze Age Collapse. There was a complete civilisation full of ideas and art and wealth, and then it just disappeared within a few years. (I have my own theory about how and why, but I'll just skip that for now). Humanity in a huge area went from a lot to nothing and had to rebuild itself from scratch.

I'm guessing that subsistence farmers handled it better than nobles/rich people. Money were obviously useless. Since we still have a lot of stories from the Bronze Age, it seems knowledge was important. A lot of technical knowledge was lost, such as construction and boat-building, but domestic knowledge such as textile production and how to make cooking vessels were retained. There is something to understand here.
posted by mumimor at 7:25 AM on August 1 [15 favorites]


Dude is weird for flashing the cash and his marks are weird for giving even half a shit.

It sounds like how certain internet scams are written in ways that make the scam glaringly obvious to the people who would cause trouble for the scammers, weeding out the less gullible so that they spend their time following up only with those who would be good marks for their scam?
posted by eviemath at 7:27 AM on August 1 [18 favorites]


ryanrs: “Some prepping is ok, right? I never ran out of toilet paper, which was nice.”
Yes, of course. That's just prudence, which is having some extras of essentials to carry you through a rough spot.
posted by ob1quixote at 7:32 AM on August 1 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: you just die.
posted by eviemath at 7:34 AM on August 1 [22 favorites]


"And everything will be exactly the same as it is now including a global electronic trade network and people thinking "apps" are life-changingly important, but even better, because the people I don't like are all dead"

And this right here is why I hate all the fucking Zombie media of the last 10 years or so where the hamfisted fucking moral of the story is always always always "No, humans are the real monsters."

I swear to fucking god half the reason everyone wants a zombie apocalypse to happen is so they can shoot their neighbors in the face with no consequence and feel justified and happy in it. It's a fucking power fantasy about how the Other is simultaneously dangerous and useless. (That's a familiar refrain, the enemy being all powerful but also powerless.)

Nearly every Zombie movie or show exists purely as Libertarian post apocalypse porn. All about self-reliance because the underlying theme is always "you can't trust others."
posted by deadaluspark at 7:43 AM on August 1 [29 favorites]


I am miserably failing to understand why in this fantasy scenario the master doomsday prepper doesn't already have a backpack.
posted by polytope subirb enby-of-piano-dice at 8:00 AM on August 1 [57 favorites]


every Libertarian assumes he will be the triumphant Captain of Industry and not one of the Voluntarily Indentured Servants carrying his Palanque.

Believers in reincarnation adopt a similar fallacy. Everyone's convinced they were Marie Antoinette, not one of the hundreds of miserable, starving peasants who slaved to keep her in luxury.
posted by Paul Slade at 8:21 AM on August 1 [11 favorites]


My brother's advisor was planning a post-apocalyptic escape to New Zealand in the early 1980s, so this has been going on for a long time.

One of my grandfather's friends actually emigrated with his family from Missouri to New Zealand in the 1950s, in fear of the coming nuclear holocaust. So yes, for a long time!
posted by tumbling at 9:06 AM on August 1 [5 favorites]


Not to mention, if you're expecting a bunch of mercenaries to protect you, the inevitable and entirely predictable outcome is that the mercenaries are running the show in about six months.

Again, examining NW Europe in the chaotic period following the collapse of the Western Empire, we see the establishment of systems of small-scale kingdoms or chieftaincies.

In early Medieval Europe what characterized a king was not that they were the comfortable landowners or former Imperial bureaucrats who just continued to use their wealth to order people around (there certainly were places closer to the metropole where this did happen, but not in Britain or Northern Gaul), but that they were people who actually fought.

The system of pre-feudal kingship that was set up (or in more likely imported by your various Franks, Saxons, Burgundians, etc.) involved a king who was first and foremost a successful soldier. This king or chieftain would surround himself with a core of picked men who were also hardened full-time soldiers, and would maintain their loyalty primarily through a practice of feasting and gift-giving. So, you would constantly be holding feasts for your gesiths or thegns (in Anglo-Saxon contexts) and presenting them with rings, armbands, torques, etc. The opening chapters of Beowulf present a good example of what was expected of an early Medieval king.

This was a very fraught form of authority for several reasons- not only would it frequently bring you into conflict with other small-scale kings trying to expand their holdings, but you yourself would also need to sustain a degree of military success. Partly this was to accumulate additional wealth with which to reward your picked men, but also because you also needed to maintain an image of military prowess yourself. Medieval soldiers won't follow an unsuccessful war-leader, and a king that wasn't good at fighting would very soon find themselves to be not a king.

Then there was also the fact that you needed to be constantly moving around your various personal estates within your realm. This was partly to assert your authority over various components of your kingdom, but mainly in order to supply the huge quantities of food and alcohol required for the constant feasting. Aside from feasting your own picked men, you would also need to provide occasional larger feasts for the freemen in your realm who were obligated to provide a set annual term of military service, and would make up the bulk of your army. You would be expected to provide all of these feasts from your own holdings, which meant not only additional pressure to expand your realm, but also that, on top of being a good fighter, a king needed to be a good manager and politician as well.

Then there was the issue of your stewards or palace mayors. These were the people who you would leave in charge of your various personal estates while you were off doing the fighting and feasting thing. Not only were they necessary to maintain production of all that food, but you needed to be able to ensure their loyalty as well. They would usually have much more intimate knowledge of the local conditions and economies, but they would also have a much greater interest in promoting stability over constant warfare, so you needed to be able to trust them. In the case of the late Merovingian Frankish kings, the "Mayors of the Palace" eventually became the Carolingians, and ushered in a new, more sustainable military system, which came to be called "feudalism."

However, until this "feudal" system was established in the 8th century, these small-scale kingdoms and chieftaincies were the dominant political system in Europe outside of the Eastern Empire, for close to 400 years.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:06 AM on August 1 [44 favorites]


part of that demographic of women buying prepping supplies at higher rates than men

Yeah like I guess I’m a prepper because I keep a pantry for if someone gets fired and the money runs out. People have gotten fired! The money has run out! My scenario is way more realistic than literally any of these!

Also count me into the people who are super amused by Brad Thor being caught up in this.
posted by corb at 9:07 AM on August 1 [20 favorites]


“As a nation steeped in a buy- now-pay-later immediate-gratification 24-7 culture, we allow ourselves to ‘want what we want when we want it’ and to expect whatever it is to always be there, ready and waiting”

r/selfawarewolves material. It's like, you're so close to getting it!
posted by disconnect at 9:13 AM on August 1 [7 favorites]


I am reminded of this story by a self-described "vegetarian agnostic feminist in a creative field who sits to the left of most American socialists" on her experience at a prepper camp:
When I was still at home, the classes on the schedule had seemed a bizarre blend of two types: hippie homesteading and paranoid militarism, without a great deal of intersection between the two. I was far more interested in the hippie classes, as they might give me useful practical knowledge and would not involve discussion of killing my fellow humans.

Next was a talk on “Frugal Homesteading” by a man who would end up being my favorite of all the instructors, John Moody … He was one of the few instructors who seemed willing to think beyond standard prepper lore. One of his tips was that survivalists often prioritized the wrong things. They may spend years prepping for an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from the sun that would in theory take out communication systems and thus all of civilization, though, as Moody said, “Most people in this room are going to die of diabetes and heart disease.” At this, the audience gasped in audible dismay.

-- Waiting for the End of the World, By Lauren Groff
posted by Western Infidels at 9:14 AM on August 1 [40 favorites]




"I am miserably failing to understand why in this fantasy scenario the master doomsday prepper doesn't already have a backpack."

Because it's not a real solution, it's just an 80's guy intimidation/coercion tactic to impress drunk/easy marks.

It's one more thing in the long list of things in this article that show the guy has no intention of prepping for Doomsday, because literally his entire fucking shtick revolves around money, money that will have no value in a post apocalypse world. Like, how is keeping $1000 in cash on hand useful when that money is effectively worthless? None of it makes sense because it's a painfully obvious con that only people looking for something like religious salvation will fall for. Like a good preacher, this guy is full of party tricks to mesmerize and awe his marks to make them believe in the power of his god (or in this case, the power of his bank account, I guess?).

"Don't you worry about [BLANK], let me worry about [BLANK]."

On preview, TheWhiteSkull makes a very good and detailed rundown of why Barrett Moore and others like him, the kind of people trying to use their capital to build these post-apocalypse "safe zones," won't be able to keep control of them. They are not medieval kings, they are fucking 80's guys doing the god damned Safety Dance. Capital is not a replacement for raw abject power, and when you use that capital to hire mercenaries, yes, you're basically setting up for the mercenaries to be in charge. Shock collars be damned, someone will figure out how to disable them, and then the guy with all the capital will be the first against the wall (people will remember being dehumanized in this way). They are not warriors, and without the intricate modern systems that give their capital power over others, no matter how desperately they try to hold on to what they have left, it can be taken from them by force very quickly.

I honestly can't decide if Moore is more of a grifter or an idiot, because there's some semblance of him seeming to believe what he is selling, and it makes you wonder if he just hasn't thought it through and really doesn't understand that all his capital will be worthless. Which, in itself, is very 80's guy to be smart enough to con people, but dumb enough to believe your own lies.
posted by deadaluspark at 9:19 AM on August 1 [9 favorites]


The homeless people that the billionaires walk by would probably do a whole lot better at figuring out how to survive in a real disaster.

I've had multiple conversations over the past year with poor, marginalized or overtly unhomed friends about the pandemic and slow burn apocalypse we've all been experiencing that could be easily summarized as:

"What pandemic? We're already used to this shit. It's been our daily lives for years."
posted by loquacious at 9:35 AM on August 1 [24 favorites]


Shock collars be damned, someone will figure out how to disable them

Explosive collars, that one of the ex-engineer serfs will figure how to trigger all at once. Goodbye mercenaries! Now the guns are strewn all over the compound for anyone to pick up and play with. A fun video game, but you wouldn't wanna live there.

The real purpose of these prepper compounds is pretty clear to me. They'll hole up after apocalyptic scenario X happens and eat MREs and watch Red Dawn over and over until the altruistic, rational people in the cities do the hard work of getting civilization going again, then they'll pop out of their holes in the ground, register as Republicans, and immediately begin to try and take control of everything and run society into the ground again. Literally. That way their kids can make the same dramatic exit into prepper compounds that their parents did in the early 2000s.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 9:40 AM on August 1 [30 favorites]


with clocks from London, Paris, Rome
Whoever sold them both a Paris and a Rome clock deserves some credit for the least harmful grift in the piece.
posted by eotvos at 9:51 AM on August 1 [59 favorites]


did you ever... actually read any of Dee's comments?

(Sigh) - so how about linking to one, so the newb knows what you're talking about?

Well, I guess it's up to me. This may be one of the most-read comments from Dee Xtrovert, who was last active here in 2013.
posted by Rash at 9:58 AM on August 1 [2 favorites]


A Billionaire is going to build a high profile retreat as a decoy. Their real retreat will be hidden below some generic business, in some shitty small town, maybe a truck stop, since no one would notice supply trucks rolling through. Once things go south, they burrow underground figuring the longer they wait it out, the safer they will be. They'll also have hidden caches of supplies and medicine all over America. They'll use these caches as leverage to stay alive, since a warlord will keep you alive as long as you are valuable to them.

Let's not kid ourselves. We want to believe the super rich will meet the same fate as the poor if the world comes crashing to a halt, but some will survive like the human termites they are.
posted by Beholder at 10:00 AM on August 1 [4 favorites]


Fargo season 2:
Varga: There’s an accounting coming, Mr. Stussy, and you know I'm right. Mongrel hordes descending, and what are you doing to insulate yourself and your family? You think you're rich. You've no idea what rich means. Rich is a fleet of private planes filled with decoys to mask your scent. It's a bunker in Wyoming and another in Gstaad. So that's action item one, the accumulation of wealth. And I mean wealth, not money.
Emmit: What's action item number two?
Varga: To use that wealth to become invisible.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 10:09 AM on August 1 [4 favorites]


(Sigh) - so how about linking to one, so the newb knows what you're talking about?

It's ... literally the first comment in this thread?
posted by myotahapea at 10:12 AM on August 1 [33 favorites]


Shit -- I meant season 3.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 10:16 AM on August 1


Nancy Lebovitz - I suppose I'm not surprised it isn't a prepper classic

Because you've only related the first half of the story. Farnham's group learns that civilization survived and even flourished in the southern hemisphere. In this future society, white men are 'tempered' via drugs and castration to keep them docile. I'm guessing the Aryan-supremicist prepper finds that aspect of the story rather disagreeable.
posted by Rash at 10:24 AM on August 1 [8 favorites]


TheWhiteSkull: “[T]he things that happened in Roman Britain soon after the Western Empire collapsed”
“Roman Britain - The Work of Giants Crumbled”Fall of Civilizations, Ep. 1, 08 April 2020

P.S. I don't know much about the creator, but I found these programs to be very interesting. Especially the episodes that cover non-European subjects.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:29 AM on August 1 [5 favorites]


Once things go south, they burrow underground figuring the longer they wait it out, the safer they will be.

Early ancestors of the Mole People.
posted by SPrintF at 11:01 AM on August 1 [2 favorites]


When the last legions were pulled out in around 410 AD, several things happened. Without a source of new coin, people began to horde money rather than spend it. As a result, industries that produced luxury goods, or anything for export (such as commercial ceramics) collapsed completely. Within a generation, areas that had been known for commercial pottery were producing no ceramics at all. Exchange likely reverted to the barter system for a time, and most likely focused on staples.

I've just finished reading The First Kingdom by Max Adams on the subject. There's a lot of debate over what exactly what happened after the Romans left Britain, and conflicting evidence. But in coastal regions, a certain amount of trade operated continuously: there are continuous traces of French-made pottery.

One interpretation is that with the Romans no longer levying taxes, everyone more or less cheerfully just departed for the countryside. There's not much archaeological evidence of conflict, e.g. bodies with wounds. Fortifications didn't start to be built for a long time after the Romans left.

Graves and houses seem to have become much more equal for a long time: there were no longer rich people with elaborate houses and graves. That can be interpreted as an economic collapse... or that a predatory elite could no longer extract a surplus from the population.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 11:17 AM on August 1 [10 favorites]


Like, how is keeping $1000 in cash on hand useful when that money is effectively worthless?

Remember those toilet paper shortages we were discussing earlier? Problem solved!
posted by Paul Slade at 11:53 AM on August 1 [3 favorites]


On post-Roman Britain, I went on an archaeological dig along Hadrian's Wall a while ago, and the factoid that stuck with me the most clearly is that one you were one day's cart travel away from the coast, the standard of living and life expectancy completely and utterly collapsed with the withdrawal of the Romans and their trade networks, food supplies, coined money, etc. Housing technology went backwards to neolithic standards, skeletons are malnourished and much shorter, virtually all evidence of material wealth basically disappears. For the next MILLENNIUM AND A HALF, the only "industry" in the area was farming sheep and raiding sheep, with local petty warlords (and eventually the English and Scottish states) just constantly immiserating their neighbors by stealing or slaughtering their flocks, and then having their own flocks stolen or slaughtered in turn.

The people living along Hadrian's Wall did not return to the same standard of living that local peasants enjoyed under the Romans until QUEEN VICTORIA'S REIGN.

Anyway, this is what I kind-of think all these preppers in the rural Midwest and the "American Redoubt" have to look forward to, if we accept the premise of total governmental collapse in the wake of some disaster -- cities like Chicago and New York and San Francisco will be miserable and crappy places to live for a while, but they will also be where drastically reduced trade networks survive, and where a rump government survives and/or where local warlords arise and begin conquering their rural neighbors, as happened with Newcastle and London and York after the Romans left. All these preppers with their luxury bunkers in rural areas will be the poor sheepfarmers who spent 1400 years in poverty and misery having all their shit stolen every three years as warlords traded their mostly-worthless, too-far-for-convenient-trade settlements back and forth to prove they were the better warlord, and then abandoned them because they were too far away for convenient trade or control.

Because contrary to what preppers think, being too far away from a city doesn't make the city and its warlords ignore you; it means that you're not valuable enough to protect and defend, but you make an amazing object lesson to other warlords in the area whenever a local warlord or upstart wants to show how strong s/he is WITHOUT destroying valuable bases of agricultural production. They don't HAVE to conquer your bunker, they just have to come despoil your shit every couple of years.

I hope they're all looking forward to 1400 years of that before they get to be a rural tourist destination for wealthy city-dwellers who are the descendants of the people who destroyed their farms every couple years for centuries on end.

--------

Also, side note, whenever Midwestern preppers are building their bunkers, they pick the DUMBEST PLACES -- Burt Lake is just a handful of miles from Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan, but you cannot access it without a portage. You can teeeeeechnically get to Lake Huron from Burt Lake, but there are a bunch of locks-and-dams currently (I don't know how fast it gets non-navigable w/o them) and you'd have to travel on a very small boat (basically a canoe) over several streams that could be easily controlled by local warlords and access at least one other large freshwater lake that is easy to control via the narrow inlet and outlet streams. I mean, you could just buy up half of Benton Harbor (it's very blighted) and be right on the mouth of the St. Joe River and control a 206-mile navigable waterway's entrance to Lake Michigan, a waterway that drains 5,000 square miles of the best farmland in Michigan, has been a crucial transportation network from the time of the first human settlements in the area through the colonial French and English through the US and basically until air freight, and connects Kalamazoo, Portage, Elkhart, and South Bend to St. Joe/Benton Harbor. Every small farmer in southern Michigan or northern Indiana who wanted to take goods to market in Chicago would HAVE to use your river, and HAVE go to through the part of it you controlled. Take a 10% toll in food, goods, or hard cash (in whatever form arises) from every boat that wants to get into Lake Michigan, and you'd be sitting pretty for a very long time.

There are SO MANY PLACES in the midwest where you can buy plentiful cheap land that is HARD TO GET TO BY CAR and not near anything important enough to bomb, but that SITS ALONG A NAVIGABLE FRESHWATER RIVER that spent thousands of years as a trade route and that was probably still shipping grain to market by boat until at least the 1870s. Why are you picking scenic tourist lakes or high-and-dry areas when you could have self-irrigating farmland AND a conveniently exploitable trade route? (Oh, right, because cosplay.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:03 PM on August 1 [56 favorites]


I am reminded of this clip where a guest asks Joe Rogan what to do in a doomsday scenario. Rogan said he'd get out of the city (Guest: You'd drive your Tesla? Joe: No way...I have a Toyota Landcruiser with a 40 gallon gas tank) then describes what he'd take with him, but ends by saying, "And even then you're not going to make it, and your kids aren't going to make it...you're in for a world of hate."
posted by riruro at 12:15 PM on August 1 [5 favorites]


In a later court filing, Moore claimed that Thor’s 2010 novel “The Athena Project” about an all-women group of special operatives was inspired by “female members of the United States Army Special Operations community … that I had worked with earlier in my career, but who up to that point in time, no one had every publically [sic] acknowledged to exist, much less a non-fiction or fiction writer had written about.”

Immediately upon reading this, I just knew that the novel was going to be an epic exercise in 'men writing women'. I read a sample on Amazon and one of the first things that Thor goes into at length is why the women had to be really, really hot. Several reviewers on GoodReads described it as Charlie's Angels with all the fun removed.
posted by LouCPurr at 12:20 PM on August 1 [9 favorites]


Beholder: Let's not kid ourselves. We want to believe the super rich will meet the same fate as the poor if the world comes crashing to a halt, but some will survive like the human termites they are.

Mmmaybe one or two. (Peter Thiel, despite seeming to believe some kinda crazy stuff about life extension, seems to have a certain cockroach quality about him.) But these are people who generally are very good only at the very precise skill of making money in the current situation. Your scenario of their making a decoy retreat and laying low doesn't match up with that skillset exactly, and they'd only make it in their bunkers if they controlled literally every sharp object in the place.

Western Infidels: I am reminded of this story by a self-described "vegetarian agnostic feminist in a creative field who sits to the left of most American socialists" on her experience at a prepper camp

Reading that article right now, and I'm kind of ashamed to say this, but... it's tempting to consider going to that crazy Prepper Camp. I have camping gear, I'm in the late fifties portly white dude demographic that she describes, and even though I never served in the armed forces, I think that I have enough olive drab clothes to fake it (hey, it's easy to match up with other colors). The campground looks pretty and I think that I could bullshit my way past the politics which are the exact opposite of mine.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:40 PM on August 1 [7 favorites]


Preppers are why I don't like zombie movies anymore.
posted by EatTheWeek at 12:44 PM on August 1 [3 favorites]


I know a few people who don't fit the mold of the classic prepper, in that while they are stockpiling supplies (including guns) they see themselves more in the role of a trading post than an apocalyptic armed fortress. In a real economic collapse it might not be a bad investment. It certainly would have paid off in Zimbabwe in recent years.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:12 PM on August 1 [8 favorites]


I know a few people who don't fit the mold of the classic prepper, in that while they are stockpiling supplies (including guns) they see themselves more in the role of a trading post than an apocalyptic armed fortress.

The old hippie survivalist I worked for at the Ecology department was exactly like this. She was all about spreading knowledge to others for free and mostly just wanted others to have wilderness survival skills (mostly because we live near the wilderness). She's prepping, but she has no intention to hold power over anyone else. She literally has tiny houses littered all over her property that she allows professional legal protestors (the kind of protestors who actually have to show up and have their voice heard at a lot of court cases, so they don't have tons of time to, you know, work a day job.) who are all very civic minded and promote unity, commiseration, and community.

So yeah, I guess "not all preppers." Mostly just the men.
posted by deadaluspark at 1:22 PM on August 1 [14 favorites]


I too hope that Dee has found everything she wants in life. What she's lived through and the way she's shared it demands no less.

Her description of community life during the Siege of Sarajevo matches my experience and my instincts. When push comes to shove most people will choose to help each other.

Which is why my soul has been crushed out of my body over the last 18 months. Americans are dying in large numbers and many of their countrymen are not standing up. My belief that people will do the Right Thing when lives are on the line is sorely shaken.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:24 PM on August 1 [18 favorites]


Rogan said he'd get out of the city (Guest: You'd drive your Tesla? Joe: No way...I have a Toyota Landcruiser with a 40 gallon gas tank) then describes what he'd take with him, but ends by saying, "And even then you're not going to make it, and your kids aren't going to make it...you're in for a world of hate."

Well, Joe Rogan isn't going to make it, because he really doesn't understand how hunter-gatherer survival works. AFAIK, most contemporary hunter-gatherers gather a whole lot more than they hunt*. And it makes sense: if you are a family of five -- or even eight -- what are you going to do with a piece of big game in a warm climate? You can eat a leg one night, and maybe one more the next day, but after that, food poisoning is coming for you. Even in a cold climate, big game is complicated. I recently heard a podcast about an inexperienced hunter who didn't follow protocol regarding how to store his caribou. Wolves and bears are very observant creatures.
If hunting big game is to make sense, you need to be part of a tribe, not just a nuclear family.

*The peoples of the Arctic hunt more than they gather, but like all other indigenous people, they live in bigger families/tribes. The big man with a gun is a modern romantic myth.
posted by mumimor at 1:26 PM on August 1 [8 favorites]


Preppers are why I don't like zombie movies anymore.
posted by EatTheWeak at 20:44 on August 1 [+] [!]


Eponysterical
posted by acb at 1:31 PM on August 1 [17 favorites]


mumimor, you really cut to the quick here: the basic problem with these types of preppers is absolutely that they fail to realize that early humans only survived in groups and if you were ejected from the group it was an effective death sentence.

My friends and I aren't prepping for the end of the world, but we regularly have conversations around the idea of building community and using our disparate skill sets to fill needed gaps. "It takes a village to raise a child."
posted by deadaluspark at 1:40 PM on August 1 [9 favorites]


I think it’s not so much that grifters are gonna grift and that preppers are gullible by their nature, but that I am bemused at just how large, complex and labyrinthian a house of cards can get before it collapses.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:40 PM on August 1 [4 favorites]


Paul Slade, maybe I know unusually sensible believers in reincarnation, but they think they had ordinary lives, not famous rulers.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 1:48 PM on August 1 [2 favorites]


It's like there's a Geoff Berner song for every occasion:
Oh you survivalists

But at the failure of the fourth harvest
You’re gonna starve to death unless—
Terribly sorry, there is no unless!
You’re just going to die

posted by The Outsider at 1:59 PM on August 1 [6 favorites]


I am mildly curious whether grifter dude still has much of the cash or whether it all got grifted off him or lost in overclever shell games. Would that the IRS could follow the money.
posted by clew at 2:05 PM on August 1 [1 favorite]


I know a guy who is not a prepper, but leans that way. He bought a big farmhouse with land and wanted to farm it for food and have a small nursery to support himself. I assumed he would do it, too, because he is capable and handy. He told me the other day that he spent a lot of money on used farm equipment that turned out to be no good, and his fields were now overgrown with invasive shrubs that he can't plow under, and he found he didn't have the business acumen for a nursery that made money. He's now very depressed. In a zombie apocalypse I would have bet on him to survive.

I used to spend a lot of time in Upper Lower Michigan, and while there are farmers there who might be able to survive an apocalypse, many people rely on the tourist industry and live very poor lives even pre-apocalypse. I definitely agree that a trading post on Lake Michigan would be a better place to hang on. In the movie version of this, though, I would be on nearby Douglas Lake at the University of Michigan Biological Station with all the other scientists, and I guess we'd soon be slaughtered by these people.
posted by acrasis at 2:11 PM on August 1 [5 favorites]


The peoples of the Arctic hunt more than they gather, but like all other indigenous people, they live in bigger families/tribes.

The people of the Arctic also hunt more than they gather because there are almost no vegetable sources of nutrition, but Arctic marine mammals provide incredible amounts of both energy and nearly every vitamin humans require, so much so that the population densities along the coast in the high Arctic are much higher than the interior further south.

But yes- there are also very important traditions around how, for instance, a seal is distributed within the community.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:15 PM on August 1 [10 favorites]


I know a guy who is not a prepper, but leans that way. He bought a big farmhouse with land and wanted to farm it for food and have a small nursery to support himself. I assumed he would do it, too, because he is capable and handy. He told me the other day that he spent a lot of money on used farm equipment that turned out to be no good, and his fields were now overgrown with invasive shrubs that he can't plow under, and he found he didn't have the business acumen for a nursery that made money. He's now very depressed. In a zombie apocalypse I would have bet on him to survive.
Again, you just can't do it alone. When this farm I'm on could subside a family before artificial pesticides and fertilizer there were four adults working it, plus three children who probably contributed quite a bit. It was hard work, and while they did not go hungry, they didn't have the standard of living industrial farmers expect today. You'd think machines would help and they do, but as you say, invasive plants can't just be plowed down. I spent a week pulling up a plant that is poisonous to the horses that graze on our land, and in some cases, I didn't get the roots, so next year, they will be back. Another invasive plant has taken over a big part of our woodland, and it is too much for us to handle. I can cut it down and put plastic over the stumps, but that will kill off everything else as well unless I put one of those dog-shit-bags individually over each stump.
Now, even tons of chemicals can't make the farm economically viable, My neighbor who is still clinging to the "old" modern ways is a local joke, quixotically struggling to work more and more hopeless land.
My only hope is that some of the young are very motivated and will put it the work, because many young people including those in our family are angry about climate denial and want to show a different path. Regardless of how much work one puts in, I think grain is hopeless. Maybe some fruit and veg and a very limited assortment of livestock, though there might be room for quite a bit of poultry, if we can afford the grain to feed them.
Some land is better, though I suspect that is getting scarcer, after so many years of industrial farming.
To cut it short, this is not something the prepper community is ready for or willing to.
posted by mumimor at 3:29 PM on August 1 [9 favorites]


The shock collar thing isn't a joke. There's an article (maybe posted in this thread already but out there) where the writer goes to one of these rich guy survivalist conference/seminar things and the conversation is pretty much literally...
"Okay so obviously we hire these mercenaries and private security and they've got the guns and we've got the money but, you know, how do we make sure they stay loyal"
"Well...you could try treating them really well and also including their families and taking care of them, so they have an incentive besides a paycheck, build actual loyalty."
*silence*
*hysterical laughter*
"Nice joke but seriously like I saw this movie where they had explosive collars and if they didn't like you or you turn against them or whatever, they blow your head off, does that actually exist yet?'

Say what you will about the robber barons of the 1920s but at least they realized some basics like "give back to the community a smidge so they don't remember they outnumber you" and "generally speaking our beloved capitalism requires other people to have at least a single wafer thin mint of money so the whole thing keeps going." These guys are like "okay but I could have all the money and also more capitalism enabling me to have even more money?"

Okay okay, work with me. You are Reebok (some shoes they gave you, it said Reebok, that's your name) Smithandwesson (your gun, which you were issued at birth, as this is post apocalyptic Libertopia). You are a gate guard for the Republic of Cleveland, which is a thing, and isn't really a republic, but since you were born post-Event you don't have much of an understanding of what a Republic even is. But you have a job and that is okay because you have a weapon and a bunk in the barracks and you are basically fed and supplied. Maybe if you fantasize, you think about running one of the outer satrapys some day. But you are not a Founder. The idea of Moving Fast and Breaking Things seems odd, because things are hard to fix and replace.

You don't have an inkling or idea of what "shareholder value" is. You poor dumb son of a bitch. You will never earn incredible returns and work a 4 Hour Workweek and retire at 35 to give TED talks about ayahuasca and microdosing hallucinogens to crush code and design Wireframes for cutting edge AR devices to stream Burning Man and meet new angel investors.

You know some of these words, but they are words and the important ones are different for you.

Anyway, your job is actually kind of interesting. You don't really make the final decision about who gets to be a citizen or a concubine or a slave or even a fellow gate guard. You just kind of do a screening to see, you know, does this person seem more or less healthy and useful. Because even glorious Cleveland requires a certain trade of useful labor of some kind in exchange for the hassle of getting you clothes and food and shelter, all of which are in short supply.

Sometimes you vaguely wonder who Cleve was and why this is his Land, but not deeply, more daydreaming between people approaching, petitioners, traders, madmen, the occasional raid. It's interesting enough, every day is a little different, and it beats the poor wretches who toil in the field. You don't get to do deep evaluations but you kind of pride yourself on deciding who gets to enter. Really deciding who will be a future citizen or slave and who gets gently herded away or shot at or shot depending on a variety of factors. You're not a murderer exactkt but killing is a casual decision, sometimes a matter of self defense, sometimes an act of compassion like putting down a mad animal.

Anyway, Zucc or Jack Dorsey or Jeff Bezos have emerged from their bunkers tanned and rested and ready to deliver a ton of value to the post-apocalyptic shareholders, especially now that the idea of "national government" is gone. Free at last to disrupt, unhindered.

But, you know, there's not a Ted Talk in sight. You wonder whose job it was to maintain the ATM network. Jim Cramer isn't returning your calls. Actually, you can't get any calls. Nobody seems interested in having a breakout session. There are definitely NOT butts in seats at the office, much less meetings or presidential runs. Elon is unreachable. Weirdly, nobody seems to know how the whole Mars thing is going. Or what Mars is.

Anyway over a period of time even the most promising 30 under 30 begins to break down and admit that okay, I cannot find a single sushi restaurant of any kind. Nobody seems to offer you a kombucha. There is plenty of raw water but there also seem to be a LOT of people dying of waterborne disease, which is odd, since this is the most pure and organic and unfiltered water possible, especially since toxins seem to be unknown. Nobody knows what they are anyway or that Gwenyth had a great way to shit them all out and get it over with. Using acai, isn't that cool? It's a superfood.

Anyway through time and necessity and plot device, Bezos or Zucc or Dorsey have arrived in front of you, reduced finally to asking for refuge or sustenance or food it doesn't have to be organic but it would be nice, you know.

There is an air of desperation about them but you know enough to put it down to hunger and theist and some loss of status perhaps. But you steer the conversation to the thing you really care about: what skills do they bring? How can they be of use?

They do seem to think they are extremely important but don't seem to be able to tell you what they actually do. You sort of get the idea of "thought leadership," But telling other people how to be in charge when you don't have a rifle, much less 300 mounted troops, seems odd. Why would they listen? They plead with you but you don't really get why it's important all voices be represented in the conversation about Star Wars, even those we find loathsome. You didn't even know the Stars were at War much less who they were fighting.

But it's kind of fascinating. They don't quite sound completely gone but they do seem deeply convinced that they "deliver shareholders value" by optimizing bottom lines and making tough choices. You snort.

Whether to try the "meat" on Wednesdays, now THAT is a tough choice.

While this is an interesting bit of novelty for a while, you soon grow bored. Maybe you send them away. One tells you he is the richest man in the world but seems to be offering you stock options but you can't figure out why you would want the chance to maybe buy some things at a reduced price and then sell them later at a high price if Previous Performance Indicates Future Results which it definitely DOES NOT wink wink.

Maybe you send them onward because they seem reasonably lucid despite being convinced they went to Space as a Real Astronaut, whatever that meant. Many "important" men found out their choice now was to shovel shit or starve. Most shoveled. Some starved.

But you always wonder if you were missing something. It was kind of weird how convinced they were that you should've heard of them or a book of...collected faces, apparently. To say nothing of the very odd man convinced getting a wide array of opinion on the gender of some manner of knight was of life or death importance. Knights were hard to find. And who is Jed I. anyway?

Oh, well, another day on the gate.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 4:36 PM on August 1 [35 favorites]


The shock collar thing isn't a joke. There's an article (maybe posted in this thread already but out there) where the writer goes to one of these rich guy survivalist conference/seminar things and the conversation is pretty much literally...

That article hasn't been posted in this thread yet, and that's not entirely accurate. Douglas Rushkoff was invited to a resort to give a keynote speech at a conference. He expected to be at a podium in front of "a hundred or so investment bankers." That is not what happened in the least.
"After I arrived, I was ushered into what I thought was the green room. But instead of being wired with a microphone or taken to a stage, I just sat there at a plain round table as my audience was brought to me: five super-wealthy guys – yes, all men – from the upper echelon of the hedge fund world. After a bit of small talk, I realized they had no interest in the information I had prepared about the future of technology. They had come with questions of their own."
Yes, the shock collars mentioned in this article are specifically the ones that I was referencing.
"This single question occupied us for the rest of the hour. They knew armed guards would be required to protect their compounds from the angry mobs. But how would they pay the guards once money was worthless? What would stop the guards from choosing their own leader? The billionaires considered using special combination locks on the food supply that only they knew. Or making guards wear disciplinary collars of some kind in return for their survival. Or maybe building robots to serve as guards and workers – if that technology could be developed in time."
Excellent article really, and a twisted look into the simple minds of these fucking money-men.

Say what you will about the robber barons of the 1920s but at least they realized some basics like "give back to the community a smidge so they don't remember they outnumber you" and "generally speaking our beloved capitalism requires other people to have at least a single wafer thin mint of money so the whole thing keeps going." These guys are like "okay but I could have all the money and also more capitalism enabling me to have even more money?"

Yep you pretty much nailed it. That's pretty much what Rushkoff told them as well, to start treating the people who worked for them genuinely like family not that "corporate family" bullshit. Building good social ties with those people now is literally the only way forward and these idiots are way too out of touch to understand that. They think they can AI and robot their way out of this without Skynet coming online and realizing they are the disease to be wiped out.
posted by deadaluspark at 4:58 PM on August 1 [16 favorites]


Moore’s full plan envisioned the construction of not just one Haven but a constellation of bunkerized redoubts throughout the world

Clients were asked to “avoid discussing the existence of this haven with anyone other than your immediate family members,” and were told that the “identity of individuals invited to use the haven facility is tightly controlled.” Moreover, they were warned “the havens [sic] staff will not have access to that list until the facility is activated,” and “those invited to access the haven are unaware of the identity of others with access,” according to one membership document.

It is weirdly disconcerting to find out how grounded (at least in this guy's precise flavor of bullshit) the bizarre premise of that season of American Horror Story actually was.
posted by mstokes650 at 5:50 PM on August 1 [4 favorites]


"I used to spend a lot of time in Upper Lower Michigan, and while there are farmers there who might be able to survive an apocalypse, many people rely on the tourist industry and live very poor lives even pre-apocalypse."

My dad grew up on a farm in Michigan (not far from Benton Harbor, actually), and they were poor AF. My grandfather bought the farm with his WWII muster-out payment, because both he and my grandmother grew up DIRT poor in Chicago during the Depression, with lots of housing instability and periods of homelessness and hunger, and they wanted their kids to have clean country air and safe places to run around and a vegetable garden large enough to see the family through a bad winter, and all that stuff. My grandfather had a substantially-sized farm, BUT ALSO worked full time as a factory foreman AND worked half-time for State Farm. (Eventually the factory closed and State Farm became full-time, much later on.) But yeah, two full-time jobs and one half-time job to survive as a farmer.

But it was unbelievable how much labor it took to run a really relative small farm with relatively high-profit crops, in excellent farmland in Michigan with top-quality transportation options. He grew apples as his main cash crop, although he also did some good business in pears and raspberries, and my grandmother maintained a garden that COULD have fed them through a bad winter (although they didn't grow grains; it would have been a lot of potatoes that winter). And apples are less labor-intensive than a lot of crops, because once the trees are there and five years old, they're just there, and you're not plowing and planting the whole farm every year. (And commercial apples don't require a lot of finesse to pick b/c they don't bruise easily.) My dad and my uncle spent the whole summer working on the farm from the time they were 6 or so until the time they were 14 and could get paid jobs in town -- and then they'd work their 8-hour shift, come home, and do 6 hours in the orchard. They spent every spring break planting new apple trees, which is BACKBREAKING work when you do it by hand, for 100 trees. Their family went without most appliances until the 70s, to save money; my grandmother and my aunts did the dishes and laundry by hand, and spent a lot of time canning preserves etc. They hired a shit-ton of migrant labor every fall to get the apples picked and sent to market. My dad and my uncle worked as migrant laborers in their teens, moving steadily north with the harvest. (The migrant laborers in the 60s in Michigan were a lot more farm kids, "hobos," and displaced, impoverished families from within 90ish miles; but even then, there were people coming from Mexico and Central America to work the Michigan fruit harvests -- now it's almost entirely Spanish-speaking migrant labor from Mexico and Central America.)

As a city kid from Chicago who bought a farm, my grandfather relied a lot on the US's County Extension program, which is a cooperative project between the USDA and Land Grant universities to provide top-notch agricultural science to farmers throughout the United States. When Lincoln established Land Grant universities, the basic idea was that part of the whole point of state universities should be to provide scientific research to regular citizens who could use the information to improve the US's agricultural production capacity. (IT. WORKED. LIKE. CRAZY.) But the larger point is probably that a city kid from Chicago could move to rural Michigan, buy an orchard, and have a friendly county-level office within 20 miles of him tell him EXACTLY the best way to run it, and answer all of his questions, and even come out to test the soil or look at diseased trees, all free of charge because the federal government considered agricultural capacity important. (And if a WEIRD thing was happening, they'd literally dispatch a tenured agriculture professor from Michigan State to come personally look at the trees and try to sort it out.)

Preppers don't seem to have any concept of a) where they're going to get all this farm labor (SO FUCKING MUCH FARM LABOR) or b) who's going to help them farm properly. Because Michigan farmers in 1947 near Burt Lake had access to the Emmet County extension who could tell them the specific information they needed for Emmet County, including soil quality, best crops, crop management, pest management, etc. Preppers have general books about "How To Grow Crops" which are fine and great, but don't tell you how to grow crops near Burt Lake, which is the actual specific information you need. Can you grow wheat near Burt Lake? Corn? How much warmer can the planet get before apple trees stop setting fruit near Burt Lake? (You need a certain number of below-freezing hours in the winter or apple trees won't set fruit the next summer.) What are the common pests? Which apple varieties are self-fertile? Could I use crabapples to cross-fertilize my apples? (Yes.) What trees can I not plant too near my apples, unless I want to fuck up my entire harvest? (Cedar)

Who is going to give preppers all this incredibly crucial, hyperlocal information, that has taken hundreds of years to compile? NOBODY, because the US government will have collapsed, and if you talk to preppers, they just buy national, general books on "farming," and they often buy national, general buckets of seeds for their bunker. Often they either don't know county extensions exist, or they distrust them b/c "government." These idiots will be planting a lot of fuckin' tomatoes and then shocked -- SHOCKED! -- when the growing season in Michigan is too short for tomatoes. (You gotta start them indoors in February under grow lights if you want to grow them from seed in the Midwest.) Even a state-level book on "How to Farm in Michigan" isn't going to be that much help -- you need to know HOW TO FARM IN MY PARTICULAR COUNTY, and ideally you need the county extension hotline that you can call 24/7 to get advice on problems.

Possibly more to the point, agricultural production for grain crops (corn, wheat, etc.) has increased TWENTY-FOLD from 1920 through 2020. In 1920, one farmer could feed about four people; the average family farm supported the family that lived on it, plus a couple partial city dwellers. In 1970, the average farm supported 73 people. In 2020, the average farm supports 155 people. (Some of this is increasing size of farms, but MOST of it is that technological increases mean one farmer can work a lot more land a LOT more intensively, freeing up more people to live in cities.) From 1866 through 1936, the average American corn farm produced 26 bushels/acre/year. That increased by about 0.8 bu/acre/year every year from 1936 through 1955, and 2 bu/acre/year every year since 1955. Today, an average corn farm produces 175 bushels/acre/year. This is INTENSIVELY technological farming with intensive nitrogen inputs, mechanized planting and harvesting, and specially-bred seeds with managed pollination.

Preppers are not imagining driving a John Deere tractor around planting Monsanto seeds. They're picturing old-timey homesteading by-hand farming, but they VERY CLEARLY have no idea how incredibly low farm yields are when they're worked by hand and without technology. Their "farms" are basically universally not remotely large enough to even support their bunker group, let alone a larger group.

Do they even know how to make steel plows that oxen or horses can pull? Because without steel plows, you are fuuuuuuuucked in the Midwest. Those "farm supports four people" statistics depend on a steel plow. Without it, you're going to struggle to subsistence-farm. You cannot fuckin' work Midwestern soil with a wooden plow -- it just BREAKS, as do iron plows. You gotta use at least an 1837 John Deere steel plow, or everybody's gonna die because you can't even turn over the soil. (AND HAVE YOU EVER BUSTED MIDWESTERN SOD? IT IS THE LITERAL WORST, the Little House books are NOT FUCKING KIDDING, and these days when you bust sod you're only busting imported short grass golf-course-y sods and not BIG BLUESTEM SODS. STILL SUCKS. SUUUUUUUUUUUCKS.)

Anyway, my husband and I are big gardeners and maintained a 300-square-foot vegetable garden in Peoria, and we planted apple trees along our back fence. My grandfather came to visit and we proudly showed him the apple trees and he was HORRIFIED. "WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?" he demanded. "THE WHOLE POINT WAS SO THAT YOU GUYS WOULDN'T HAVE TO DO THAT."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:19 PM on August 1 [106 favorites]


there are continuous traces of French-made pottery.

True, and certainly some trade with the continent continued, but without the massive Imperial subsidies to maintain the shipping networks, not nearly at the same scale. Remember, these are Frankish ceramics. Again, the British commercial ceramic industry was almost completely destroyed.

To take another example, if you're an olive oil importer, and the cost of shipping olive oil from Spain or Tunisia has suddenly become prohibitively expensive, while demand has also been reduced, you are probably not going to stay in the business, and you might even decide to leave Camulodunum (especially if it is now harder to get food due to disruptions of internal trade networks).

What also see in the archaeological record from this period are hoards of roman coins. Now this might have to do with fear of raiding, or it might just be people wanting to keep some money safe until things stabilize again, but what it means is that currency is being taken out of circulation. It is ceasing to have value as wealth.

Similarly, there is a lot of evidence now that suggests that, just as likely as raiders, many early Saxon migrants may have been refugees, or just regular folks going back and forth along established communication routes (or different things at different times). Nevertheless, what we do know is that by around 600 AD, the Anglo-Saxons were firmly established in Britain, within an early Medieval political system much like the one I described above.

And, at least if Gildas is to be believed, the remaining Romano-Britons were not happy about it.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:29 PM on August 1 [6 favorites]


Also, when we started our garden in Peoria, we reached out to the county extension and we asked, "Can we get some local vegetable gardening information for our new garden that will point us in the right direction to start out?"

THEY GAVE US A 300-PAGE BINDER WITH LOCALLY-SPECIFIC INFORMATION ON GARDENING AND FARMING FOR FOOD. 300 pages that related entirely to our county, and no other place in Illinois, with just about every goddamned thing we would encounter -- we rarely had to call the extension with questions because the binder was so comprehensive. Is the binder at all useful now that we've moved 150 miles north? NO, NO IT IS NOT, the local soil is different, the local weather is different, and different shit grows here.

This is not a thing you get without the US government being very obsessive about agriculture. I'm sure that in parts of Europe, there is a bunch of traditional knowledge for each individual valley that can be transmitted orally. But in the US? You need the county extension to tell you all that shit.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:32 PM on August 1 [36 favorites]


There are people who can literally tell you the differences between San Marzano tomatoes grown on one side of the Sarno valley vs. the other, but yeah- modern agricultural science is one of the US government's greatest technological accomplishments.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:55 PM on August 1 [8 favorites]


I get what people are saying about prepping and agriculture, but there is something even more fundamental here: a lot of Cheboygan County is in one of Michigan's karst zones.

They don't even need to know what "karst" means: they just need to be curious enough to wonder why the county has meetings about how to deal with all the sinkholes and caves fucking up the roads.
posted by Laetiporus at 8:27 PM on August 1 [15 favorites]


And, at least if Gildas is to be believed, the remaining Romano-Britons were not happy about it

The book I linked is well worth reading for anyone interested in the subject, Max Adams is both a serious scholar and a good popularizer.

He sums up a lot of the latest research which with archaelogical and genetic evidence casts a lot of doubt on the traditional idea of the Roman withdrawal being a calamity.

E.g. on one site despite adopting "Anglo-Saxon" burial practices instead of "Romano-British", the genetics of the people buried didn't change. So in that region there may not have been either an invasion or even a migration, just a cultural change. If you start finding Big Mac wrappers somewhere in the world, it doesn't necessarily mean that Americans have invaded or migrated, it can mean people have adopted a different cultural practice.

There has always been a lot of doubt over how far Gildas should be believed though. He was a Christian writing a literal sermon covering what happened after the Christianized Roman empire pulled out of Britain. Scholars have always known he had a strong incentive to present this as more disastrous than it actually was. "The Britons abandoned Christ and things were basically OK" isn't really much of a sermon.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:56 AM on August 2 [4 favorites]


I’ve shared on MeFi my own occasional flare-up of “prepperitis”. I was always a fan of camping and bushcraft, and prepping was just the natural next step. I call it LARPocalypsing, because on some level, I know it’s anxiety-induced and not purely rational. Still, for the better part of 20 years, it’s been my mild obsession/hobby.

My minimal preparedness goal, before the pandemic, was basically to be able to survive in my own home for six months if all of the utilities were turned off and I couldn’t leave. I wanted to be able to “bug-in” and be self-sufficient until whatever crisis had passed (civil unrest, pandemic, longer term disruption of supply chains and utilities, etc.).

I wanted to be able to have enough food, water and medicine as well as a way to heat and cool the house, cook food, generate a little electricity for small lights, a radio, and my phone and iPad (with its music and book libraries). I also wanted to be able to help my friends & neighbors out during the recovery period.

So when the pandemic hit, I was lucky. I shifted to work-from-home (something not everyone could do), embraced my inner introvert, and almost immediately shared with a half-dozen other people my stores of toilet paper, baking yeast, Minute Rice, rubbing alcohol, bleach, N95 masks and a few other things you couldn’t find on the shelves at the grocery store. After a few months, the supply chains started to regulate again and I considered it a preparedness success. Utilities were never compromised, and I really didn’t need to dip into long-term food storage because the grocery stores were son humming along fine.

Part of my prepping has been to experiment each year with growing crop foods on my patio on a small, scale. Just to have some experience with the plant. I’ve been a gardener for decades now, and I’m fairly comfortable growing a variety of crop plants, but my experience (as well as my farming family’s background) has taught me to be highly dubious of my ability to feed myself the first year on a new homestead.

On the plus side, I’m an ace at reliably growing decent sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, squash, beans and peppers. On the minus side, a garden large enough to sustain me would require an enormous amount of time and effort invested in soil prep, weeding, pest control, to say nothing of adequate water. I’ve learned enough to from my former-farmer dad to know just how backbreaking subsistence farming can be.

The point above about the Coop Extension office is a good one. Many university extension services have an online publication archive with local agriculture info, such as this one from the U of Arizona.

Serious preppers would make sure to download and print out info like this into a binder, as well as having it saved to a thumb drive. Not that it would take the place of an expert who could do on-site consulting, but it would be far better than not having it. Of course, most folks would likely starve if they suddenly had to grow their own food to sustain themselves without prior experience. There are a lot of accounts of people who started homesteads and reported getting almost no appreciable crop yield the first year or two.

One of the themes in the prepper community — once you get past a lot of the super toxic sociopolitics and the BS machismo posturing of many online sites — is that the best things you can do to be “prepared” is to get your finances and bodily health under control (to the degree possible) because most of the crises you are likely to face in the world will be easier to handle if you have some fiscal as well as physical resilience.

Another tenet among the more reasonable preppers is that knowledge and networks are more important than gear. Knowing how to do/build/make something and having social capital in your neighborhood are far more important that what kind of multi-tool you buy or the brand of tacticool cargo pants you wear.

As for the “stuff” side of prepping, there’s an unfortunate undercurrent of hyperconsumerism and gear fetishizing in a big chunk of the prepper community, egged on by writers like John W. Rawles and others. I think most people are probably better served by following basic FEMA guidelines in setting up a 72-hour kit first, and then making common sense expansion of that to cover 2-3 weeks, based on whatever natural disasters you’re likely to encounter.

You can spend an awful lot of money prepping and IMHO it’s really not necessary or wise. I’ve prepped WAY beyond my 6-month sustainability goal. I’m actually looking forward to when I hit my 70s, because that’s when I’ve established that I’ll start to liquidate all my prepping gear. Significantly less of a rationale to keep it at that point, and it will be good to finally clear out the burden, anxiety and closet space that’s a part of the hobby.

But I will admit that I’ve learned a lot of very interesting, though completely unnecessary and over-the top trivia along the way: how to smelt copper, make biodiesel, construct a foxhole radio, suture a wound, grow fever-reducing herbs, and start a fire a dozen different ways. So, as a source of entertainment and diversion, there are certainly worse pastimes.
posted by darkstar at 3:04 AM on August 2 [18 favorites]


" I did find instructions for making your own"

I could make you recombinant human insulin - I think I still have the plasmid somewhere... Of course I'd need access to transformation-competent E. coli, and a variety of other things that probably died with the electricity, but it's relatively easy once you know/have the relevant sequence reified into a piece of circular DNA.
posted by memetoclast at 3:41 AM on August 2 [8 favorites]


This is relevant to my interests and I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.
posted by darkstar at 3:54 AM on August 2 [1 favorite]


Americans are dying in large numbers and many of their countrymen are not standing up.

Here in Canada there’s a lot of that too.

But on a local level, when things first shut down, my local Facebook group — which had mostly held complaints about dog poop — mobilized people to get food to seniors, by shopping for them but also by expanding a local Anglican food bank. I’m still shopping for one neighbour, mostly just her dog’s fancy food.

Within 2 days of that, shut down restaurant owners had offered their perishables and the food bank had no freezers so another church offered its electrical connections and again the community mobilized, with a dozen people donating their “extra” fridges and freezers to create a temporary fresh-food bank, which eventually I think merged with a more permanent option.

Those free little libraries have sprouted like mushrooms locally and now include a few for food, one for pet food, and a seed library.

A few local restaurants, almost all Muslim-owned, have had signs up throughout the pandemic if you can’t pay, come get a meal anyway. The same community group which leans towards WASP retiree, has consequently adopted those restaurants and now the number of “ordered takeout from Afghan Kebob again and it was great, don’t forget to add in $5 towards supporting the free meals!” Posts way outnumber the poop posts. (Sometimes followed by “I wish they had pork skewers,” but, you know, progress is imperfect.)

So I’m banking on my neighborhood. Although I also have some hoarding issues leftover from childhood and I wonder a bit about some forms of prepping and how that relates.I had gotten my feelings under control before the pandemic but am struggling again a bit with overflowing freezers, cupboards, and toilet paper and hand sanitizer stashed all over. I know this is kind of dumb but it’s emotional, not intelligent.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:39 AM on August 2 [26 favorites]


I don't know they have entire web pages about stockpiling hammers,

Where else would Brad Thor go for his prepper checklist?
posted by Stoneshop at 6:42 AM on August 2 [2 favorites]


WRT insulin: I'm not an insulin-dependent diabetic (yet), but my life span post-collapse is probably limited to some miserable stretch of time after my Metformin runs out, and that article on homebrewing some (with instructions that someone on the order of Walter White could follow, probably) just confirms it. As an aside, the beginning of the end of my infatuation with Tumblr might have been when someone asserted--with that perfect mix of incredible naïveté and incredible arrogance that characterizes peak Tumblr--that they could probably figure out how to homebrew insulin in a pinch, with no knowledge of organic chemistry techniques necessary beforehand. (The same thread had someone else claiming that they could probably bring the local power grid back up with some fans and stuff that they would gank from the local hardware store.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:17 AM on August 2 [3 favorites]


Not to mention, if you're expecting a bunch of mercenaries to protect you, the inevitable and entirely predictable outcome is that the mercenaries are running the show in about six months.

Stories like this one always remind me of one of the anecdotes in World War Z (the novel, not the movie) told by one of the mercenaries who was hired in the early stages of the outbreak to guard a heavily fortified compound of rich people from the zombie hordes.

The famous people inside couldn't resist livestreaming the experience, and eventually the compound was overrun -- not by the walking dead, but by nearby families who needed a safe place. The mercenary decided that he wasn't being paid to shoot live humans and deserted.

When money no longer has value, community will, and these would-be apocalypse kings no doubt seriously overestimate which side their mercenaries will sympathize with.
posted by Gelatin at 7:58 AM on August 2 [4 favorites]


A few local restaurants, almost all Muslim-owned, have had signs up throughout the pandemic if you can’t pay, come get a meal anyway. The same community group which leans towards WASP retiree, has consequently adopted those restaurants and now the number of “ordered takeout from Afghan Kebob again and it was great, don’t forget to add in $5 towards supporting the free meals!”

Warriorqueen, thank you so much for this and for your whole post. After the quote on businessmen wanting to control workers with special collars, I really needed something to help me feel that not all people are terrible.
posted by FencingGal at 8:14 AM on August 2 [15 favorites]


I don't come from wealth: my grandparents were dirt poor farmers. Their experiences of hardscrabble life on the farm, before the electricity co-op and the water hook-up, are unimaginable to a lot of 21st century Americans. When someone doesn't get it, I've started recommending chapter 27 of The Path to Power. It is a biography of LBJ, but it includes a chapter on the President's success with his neighboring farmers. They were steadfastly loyal to LBJ because he (along with FDR) brought electricity to the county. Cheap, reliable energy (the kind that civilization provides) transformed work on the farm and changed farmers' lives.

I want to read it to preppers—parts like how every farm wife's back is stooped because she manually hauls almost all of the 200 gallons of water (1,600 pounds) that her family needs every single day—and ask them, "How is your stockpile of guns supposed to help her?"
posted by Monochrome at 8:59 AM on August 2 [5 favorites]


Inquiring about the extremely vague impending end of civilization, Beck asks, “Do you believe it’s a global event? … Would you describe it, as I have been describing it lately, as Global Katrina?”

that's a big dogwhistle
posted by Monochrome at 9:48 AM on August 2 [5 favorites]


>>Americans are dying in large numbers and many of their countrymen are not standing up.
>
>Here in Canada there’s a lot of that too.
>
>But on a local level [...]


That is an important point. We know that many people are unable to viscerally understand something they can't see or touch.

I've heard from several men who were there that AIDS was not taken seriously in the San Francisco gay community until every single person knew someone who had died of it. It seems like there are a lot regions in the U.S. headed down the same path.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:53 AM on August 2 [2 favorites]


He sums up a lot of the latest research which with archaeological and genetic evidence casts a lot of doubt on the traditional idea of the Roman withdrawal being a calamity.


I think the population genetics are probably less relevant to this discussion. What I'm considering here is the economic and social impacts in Britain following the collapse of the Western Empire. Of course there would have been British populations absorbed into the Anglo-Saxon hegemony. This sort of thing happened all the time. But if they become culturally and linguistically Anglo-Saxon, then they are effectively Anglo-Saxon.

There is plenty of evidence showing that the withdrawal of the legions and the loss of contact with metropolitan Rome was both an economic disaster and a calamity for Romano-British society. Aside from things like the destruction of domestic ceramics industries in a number of places, or the massive reduction of imported goods in the archaeological records, there are other indicators of catastrophe. Londinium and a number of other towns were almost completely depopulated. Camulodunum (Colchester) and Eboracum (York) were significantly reduced in scale, and these had been major commercial and administrative centers. Construction rapidly declined, and the skills required to build and maintain Roman-style structures vanished. In many places, there was nobody to fix the plumbing.

However, this would not have been a sudden calamity like the destruction of Pompeii or something. It would have been more of a longer, multi-generational collapse. Kind of like a Bruce Springsteen song.

"Flavius just moved his family out to the country. That's the third one this year." "Glyn just got back from Londinium. Says you can't even buy decent garum there anymore." "Maybe we should think about moving, too."

What we do know, is that over a roughly 200 year period in which this economic turmoil occurred, the Anglo-Saxons became the dominant culture of most of southern Britain. We know this not only from things like grave goods, but from the fact that Anglo-Saxon became the dominant language there. This wasn't just a question of political elites taking over but leaving everything else unchanged. This was a wholesale cultural transformation.

For someone like Gildas, and likely for many of the remaining Romano-Britons, the Germanic and pagan Anglo-Saxons would have represented an existential threat to Christian Romano-Brythonic society. Gildas was a Briton, and at this time, "Christian" would not have been something distinct from "Briton." Certainly, his polemic against the Saxons contains a good deal of hyperbole, but it doesn't change the fact that the Romano-Britons were eventually pushed westward back into Wales and Cornwall. We know this, because those are the only places on the island were Brythonic languages continued to be spoken.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:32 AM on August 2 [5 favorites]


"Flavius just moved his family out to the country. That's the third one this year."

If you think about it, the Romans building roads is as disruptive as the introduction of writing or the Internet. Suddenly, you have access to things (knowledge, people, goods) that previously were unthinkably far removed in space (and therefore, in time).
posted by SPrintF at 11:38 AM on August 2 [7 favorites]


Native people survived with limited technology - in a land where the soil was still rich, bison, deer, birds, and fish were very plentiful. I've known back-to-the-landers who live(d) on a piece of land, raised animals and worked a small farm, and it's not easy, but it's quite possible. For Native peoples as well as homesteaders, a supportive community is essential, like the Amish or Mennonites. Some of their philosophy appeals to me, most of it doesn't.

I ran low on toilet paper and had to buy some that wasn't great for the septic system; that's as dire as it got. I've been a low-key prepper for years because I've been in blizzards, ice storms, and other storms that left us without power. Pandemic illness always seemed possible, so why not make sure we have supplies. If you're self-sufficient, the emergency personnel have more ability to do essential stuff. I still don't have a gun and can't see the need for one, but I have books, playing cards, puzzles, and a wind-up/ solar radio, because a lot of entertainment needs juice. Maybe I should learn an instrument; being a skilled musician is probably one of the most valuable post-apocryphal skills.

I saw this Tweet the other day Stop thinking of the end of the world as a single event. The wildfires in Australia and around the world, changes in Siberia, glaciers melting fast, flooding and heat events happening all over the world are making it clear - The apocalypse is here and it will get worse. Barrett Moore doesn't seem to have researched a great location or, indeed, to have accomplished very much. Lots of places are going to be surprised that they're in a bad location to survive Climate Crisis. Lots of people will be unlucky, and most of them will be poor, low-income and non-white. The people who are always marginalized always pay the price consistently, but there will be a lot of wealthy who thought their bunker was safe, but there was flooding or a freak storm. People keep having to be taught that transportation is always insanely difficult in emergencies, and helicopters require dedicated maintenance staff. Acting like a community and figuring out how as many as possible can all survive and thrive is the only thing that will actually help, and Peak Capitalism has a death grip on the US. Pandemic Isolation really set me up for feeling really fucking bleak about the actual impending End Of The World As We Know It.
posted by theora55 at 12:53 PM on August 2 [7 favorites]


Re: medical care - Where There Is No Doctor: A Village Health Care Handbook and Where There Is No Dentist are widely available and useful. knowing how simple emergency care works is a good skill to have.
posted by theora55 at 12:57 PM on August 2 [5 favorites]


Just as organic farming is simply ‘farming’ from before the age of chemical agriculture; much prepping is simply home-economics from before transoceanic just-in-time debt-fraud economics.

Its funny and sad to see people in this thread so thoroughly steeped in prepper-self-hate that they admit to keeping more than an days worth of necessities and don’t want to concede that prepping is good. Like the folks who support equality but don’t support kill-all-men-strawman-feminism; or the I-love-this-show-but-I-don’t-watch-tv people. Its ok to prepare for what-ifs, and when-it's

We need to wear masks and get vaccinated to protect each other and those whose medical conditions prevent them from doing so. We need to be ready to evacuate to protect each other and allow first-responders to focus on those who can not evacuate or need assistance to do so. We need to stockpile food and supplies so that we protect and supply each other and allow governments and charities to focus assistance to those who can not do so. It is our responsibility, those of us fortunate enough to have the free time, money and space, to take both physical, financial and political insurance so that more people can be saved when challenging times get worse. Bend the curve of scarcity so that accute disasters are less acute.

A cheap blanket in your car is useful, it is shade in the desert, warmth in the the winter, a bed at night and a gathering sack when you need it, a way to dry off in wet times. Sure, it won’t stop a warhead or an axe-murderer but maybe that’s asking a bit much of it. Yet some people insist that keeping a blanket in your car is irrational, that it is courting disaster, that it distracts you from the fight for needed political reforms, that it is a false sense of security, that not everyone has the luxury of having a car or having a blanket, etc.

The Anti-preppers demand that we all keep 100% invested in a doomed system, that already doesn’t supply the necessities to the poor, the out-group or the exploited; the anti-preppers demand that we pretend that a just-in-time economy can’t get choked or bottle-necked; they demand that we pretend climate change hasn’t destroyed the stability needed to feed our current and still growing population, they demand that chernobyl and fukushima are over, and that no other accident can happen, they demand in short that we all cooperate in their invincibility myth. Wear a mask, get your shots, put a blanket in your car and get some canned food; prepare to be able to help people in hard times, instead of planning to be a burden. And for god-sakes get a gun, because the people who are planning on hunting you, exploiting and enslaving you are armed an practicing and laughing at you sitting ducks.
posted by anecdotal_grand_theory at 1:16 PM on August 2 [3 favorites]


A cheap blanket in your car is useful, it is shade in the desert, warmth in the the winter, a bed at night and a gathering sack when you need it, a way to dry off in wet times.

"A towel, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have."
posted by SPrintF at 1:42 PM on August 2 [10 favorites]


Being prepared for regular emergencies, when possible, is prudent. No one in this thread is arguing against that. Prepping, or being “a prepper” is a very specific thing with marginal overlap.

(Homesteading is kind of in between the two.)
posted by eviemath at 2:11 PM on August 2 [14 favorites]


And for god-sakes get a gun, because the people who are planning on hunting you, exploiting and enslaving you are armed an practicing and laughing at you sitting ducks.

Looks like someone didn’t read the homework at the top of the comment thread.

See also, Rebecca Solnit’s reporting on how people have actually behaved in disasters, A Paradise Built in Hell: The extraordinary communities that arise in disaster.
posted by eviemath at 2:17 PM on August 2 [10 favorites]


Yes, read Dee's 1st person account of sarajevo in several previous threads and Solnits 'paradise'. Do you deny that a yugoslav style war could happen here or that elite panic wont happen here either? Communities pull together and help each other. The privledge classes and their lumpen block bridges, hunt minorities, shoot "looters" and "trespassers". They occupy federal wildlife reserves and storm capitals. Good luck non-violencing your way out of the new pograms and border camps and checkpoints. Mutual Aid also entails mutual defense. The police arent on your side. Sorry to break it to you.
posted by anecdotal_grand_theory at 2:33 PM on August 2 [1 favorite]


We need to stockpile food and supplies so that we protect and supply each other and allow governments and charities to focus assistance to those who can not do so.

Yeeeeeeeeah well just to explain where I'm coming from, I grew up in a home where we had a pantry downstairs that risked having Quite Old food in it (the pantry that preceded it in my grandparents' home had cans from the late 70s when we cleaned it out in the early 90s) as well as a stockpile of cleaning products, cut up t-shirts, band aids, etc.

While I can see that these items would be useful in an emergency, their presence was a weight on the household in several ways.

One is, if you're always buying more than you need, they start to overflow and managing them becomes Domestic Labour, as does rotating the cans and dry goods, planning meals to use up the dry goods, checking the dates on the dusty bottles of water, etc.

Second, my parents (2 adults) live in a 4 bedroom, three-story home. They heat the home. They clean the home. They dust the cans and piles of paper towels and cases of pasta and wipe down the pantry doors. They had a flood in the basement and the pantry needed remediation. They have a closet upstairs full of toiletries from basically the 80s onwards and the idea of going through it and throwing out feminine hygiene products from then is depressing, not to mention all the on sale bandaids. They have wanted to move to a condo for a long time, but can't because where will they put their stuff?

They have additional hoarding issues but it all relates to needing the stuff "one day."

There are costs, personal and environmental, for storing extra all the time. I've thrown out so much expired awful stuff, theirs and in some cases, my own.

I've struggled a long time with this line and like I said, the pandemic kind of disrupted my balance. I actually just spent $500 at Costco on Saturday, quite a bit on cleaning products and now I have almost a year's supply of laundry detergent (among other things) because that was kind of the one thing we weren't fully stocked on when we shut down and now I'm paranoid because I was home, washing alllllll the curtains and everything, because the world stopped, trying to figure out when I would run out.

What was funny was that in those first weeks when supply chains really were disrupted, I had plenty of flour and yeast and toilet paper and hand sanitizer and about 50 lbs of various beans and 10 lbs of rice, and even a few masks (although not really enough.) And I didn't want to use it, because what if you couldn't get more? Also one of my children wanted frozen blueberries. Obviously he was just fine without them. But like, in a pandemic, I learned that with kids you don't just want hummus, you want them to feel a bit normal. So now I also have a few favourite things stashed away.

We would have been good for a while, but what happened? I ordered more because I was freaked out. And immediately started volunteering with food banks. It's a very fine line, "emergency."

I love Solnit's book.
posted by warriorqueen at 2:51 PM on August 2 [9 favorites]


As folks on this thread have pointed out, the gun-nut gold-bug end-of-days folks arent forming sustainable communities with realistic farming and sharing economies, they are stocking weapons and stoking one against all paranoid fantasies and they are something you also have to be prepared for. if the floods and fires and foreclosures don't get you, you also have to survive the survivalists. The hucksters and the billionaires and the born again arent planning on 'live and let live'; they wont participate in you favor-bank potluck. They are a self-fullfilling barbarism.
posted by anecdotal_grand_theory at 3:26 PM on August 2


I’ve become much better about calibrating my perishables rotation in recent years, but even so, it doesn’t always work out. I don’t let anything in the pantry get past edible, even if it may be past it’s “sell by date”.

To make sure nothing goes to waste, about every six months, I’m handing off a box or two of food to a friend of mine as part of deep pantry rotation. Just tonight, in fact, he’ll be picking up a box of fruit preserves, oatmeal, pasta and cereal that was in excess as the result of my going on a keto diet for a couple of months. (I lost 10 pounds, back to my pre-pandemic weight!)

The hoarding urge is a powerful one. I have a couple of the smaller metal, lidded trash cans in the attic (bought new for the purpose). One contains a dozen double-Ziploc-bagged bags of sugar — about 50 pounds — and the other contains a similar amount of salt.

These foodstuffs have an indefinite shelf life if kept dry and free of vermin, and aren’t sensitive to the extreme temperature shifts in the attic. I’ve often been tempted to triple these amounts. There’s plenty of space in the attic, salt/sugar is cheap, and both are very useful! But I also know that the impulse is irrational, and so resist it.
posted by darkstar at 3:26 PM on August 2


Uh, I'm confused anecdotal_grand_theory, are you saying we're supposed to be afraid of the "anti-preppers", or afraid of the preppers? Or both - just afraid of everyone?

I'll just leave this portion of Dee's comment here:
Guns and weapons helped no one directly and were even of little to no use in the defense of Sarajevo, since they were toys compared to the shells, bombs and high-powered armaments of the attacking forces.
And this selection from the selection from Solnit's book that I linked to:
Beliefs matter—though more people act beautifully despite their beliefs than the reverse.

Katrina was an extreme version of what goes on in many disasters, where how you behave depends on whether you think your neighbors or fellow citizens are a greater threat than the havoc wrought by a disaster or a greater good than the property in houses and stores around you. (Citizen, here, means members of a city or community, not people in possession of legal citizenship in a nation.) What you believe shapes how you act. How you act results in life or death, for yourself or others, like everyday life, only more so.
...
In the wake of an earthquake, a bombing or a major storm, most people are altruistic, urgently engaged in caring for themselves and those around them, strangers and neighbors as well as friends and loved ones. The image of the selfish, panicky or regressively savage human being in times of disaster has little truth to it. Decades of meticulous sociological research on behavior in disasters, from the bombings of World War II to floods, tornadoes, earthquakes and storms across the continent and around the world, have demonstrated this. But belief lags behind, and often the worst behavior in the wake of a calamity is on the part of those who believe that others will behave savagely and that they themselves are taking defensive measures against barbarism. From 1906 San Francisco to 2005 New Orleans, innocents have been killed by people who believed that their victims were the criminals and they themselves were the protectors of the shaken order. Belief matters.
...
Mobile and individualistic modern societies shed some of these old bonds and vacillate about taking on others, particularly those expressed through economic arrangements—particularly provisions for the aged and vulnerable, the mitigation of poverty and desperation—the keeping of one’s brothers and sisters. The argument against such keeping is often framed as an argument about human nature: we are essentially selfish, and because you will not care for me, I cannot care for you. I will not feed you because I must hoard against starvation, since I too cannot count on others. Better yet, I will take your wealth and add it to mine—if I believe that my wellbeing is independent of yours or pitted against yours—and justify my conduct as natural law. If I am not my brother’s keeper, then we have been expelled from paradise, a paradise of unbroken solidarities.

Thus does everyday life become a social disaster. Sometimes disaster intensifies this; sometimes it provides a remarkable reprieve from it, a view into another world for our other selves. When all the ordinary divides and patterns are shattered, people step up—not all, but the great preponderance—to become their brothers’ keepers. And that purposefulness and connectedness bring joy even amidst death, chaos, fear and loss. Were we to know and believe this, our sense of what is possible at any time might change. We speak of self-fulfilling prophesies, but any belief that is acted on makes the world in its image. Beliefs matter. And so do the facts behind them. When it comes to human behavior in disaster, the gap between common beliefs and actualities limits the possibilities. Changing beliefs could fundamentally change much more. Horrible in itself, disaster is sometimes a door back into paradise, the realm in which we are who we hope to be, do the work we desire and are each our sisters’ and brothers’ keepers.
posted by eviemath at 7:00 PM on August 2 [10 favorites]


Re: medical care - Where There Is No Doctor: A Village Health Care Handbook and Where There Is No Dentist are widely available and useful. knowing how simple emergency care works is a good skill to have.

Where There is No Doctor is an amazing book (or really, set of books, since it is available in so many languages), and can be downloaded for free. But it is first and foremost a resource for what the authors call "village health workers" -- people providing care to others . It's a book about building community and helping everyone (not just those with money and guns) live a good life. That copies of it are in so many prepper libraries is ironic for sure.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:33 PM on August 2 [3 favorites]


eviemath your quote hits the nail on the head, in the anglosphere particulalry in USA you have a large and growing group of armed, paranoid and apocalypse-eager preppers who respond to calamity in antisocial ways, and good social people need to both avoid becoming 'predatory' rugged individualist Galters and prepare to aid the community in dealing with these antisocial people when we are all at our most vulnerable. We need not fear volunatry anti-preppers they are just a deadweight drag on disaster reaponse.

As for guns useless in Balkans war doesnt that just emphasize the importance of comparative levels armament to who fares well or poorly. Surely one big factor in the ethnic cleansing was the embargo of heavy arms that undercut the bosnians ability to defend themselves. Its the old knife-to-a-gunfight problem. You are more likely to survive or even deter an aggressor if you can mount a substantial and comparable defense. See every country with nukes resisting the superpowers. Guns wont make pro-social groups able to convert or deter the armies of hegemons, but Peter Thiel likely doesn't have nukes and the michigan militia doesn't have F22s. I think prosocial preppers should fear antisocial preppers and consider defense and deterance with comparable armaments as an important part of mutul aid. Pre-Rwandan genocide when the propaganda was dehumanizing and whipping up hate would be the wrong time to unilaterally disarm so as to de-escalate. I guess i am reading R. Solnit and Dee's comments bckwards to you and others. Maybe I cant see past my concerns about fascism and barbarism in the dexline of american empire and the collapse of holocene climate. In 1906 san fran the public rose to the occasion and then authorities decided that shooting and dynamiting was the way to "control" the "chaos". Why would we not expect elites to panic in the next calamity.
posted by anecdotal_grand_theory at 1:02 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]


There is plenty of evidence showing that the withdrawal of the legions and the loss of contact with metropolitan Rome was both an economic disaster and a calamity for Romano-British society. Aside from things like the destruction of domestic ceramics industries in a number of places, or the massive reduction of imported goods in the archaeological records, there are other indicators of catastrophe. Londinium and a number of other towns were almost completely depopulated. Camulodunum (Colchester) and Eboracum (York) were significantly reduced in scale, and these had been major commercial and administrative centers. Construction rapidly declined, and the skills required to build and maintain Roman-style structures vanished. In many places, there was nobody to fix the plumbing.

One interesting thing for me about Max Adams book was that the ideas tied in with David Graeber's book "Debt: The First 5000 Years" only describing the usual process in reverse.

There's a just-so story about how people start using money because they want to trade with their neighbours and find barter inconvenient. Anthropologist David Graeber pointed out that in pre-modern societies, barter between people who have a social relationship is extremely rare.

In history, the reason people actually start using money is that a state or empire takes over the area and starts levying taxes. If you don't want to be punished you have to enter the market economy and sell something to have money to render your taxes.

Now when the Romans left Britain, this process might just have gone into reverse.

Nobody's levying taxes, so you don't need to sell part of your crop anymore. You don't need markets to sell them in anymore so market towns don't serve so much of a purpose.

The Roman Empire wasn't made up of free individuals happily trading back and forth for their individual benefit. It was largely an extractive institution where an elite forcibly extracted a surplus from a larger population. Trade was largely elites trading with other elites, not free workers buying minor luxury goods.

Production was largely done by slaves. When the Roman Empire left, maybe the slaves just walked out of the pottery factories, and their masters couldn't afford fancy villas anymore.

It also reminded me of this interesting article by medieval historian Eleanor Janega:
I should hardly need to say by now that the idea that there is an intellectual downturn in early medieval Europe (or indeed medieval Europe more broadly) is a part of a specific imperial colonialist historiography which seeks to argue that any point when Europe wasn’t violently subjugating the world around it was necessarily a bad time. To this way of thinking, when the Roman Empire goes around turning everyone into slaves and violently opposing anyone it can get its hands-on things are good, because also some amphorae are traded across the Mediterranean; but when there isn’t one giant state oppressing everyone things are bad because fewer amphorae. This is obviously a stupid and racist position which presumes that the nice things which rich Romans enjoyed (slaves and hegemony) were available to everyone, and also requires us to just ignore the fact that slaves are people. Rome wasn’t a very nice time for the great majority of individuals, and the medieval period had plenty of nice things for the average person – you just got fooled by a later medieval advertising campaign for art and a bunch of people who wanted to do slavery in the modern period.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:06 AM on August 3 [12 favorites]


Brad Thor? Richard Rainwaiter? Goddamn these are some fun airport book names (in the former case obviously literally.
posted by atrazine at 2:32 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]


anecdotal grand theory, you seem to be arguing with someone not in this thread, on some adjacent topic. As well as working with different definitions from the rest of us. As I noted above, in the common parlance, “prepper” refers only to the anti-social group.
posted by eviemath at 2:45 AM on August 3 [2 favorites]


It is well-written and interesting, TheophileEscargot, but she "forgets" that medieval lords, both Christian and Muslim enslaved lots of people too, and for the serfs, with less opportunity for eventually achieving freedom than in "Rome". But it is totally true that trade never stopped, and "civilisation" never collapsed. It changed. And the (his)story of imperial Rome and its downfall is indeed a construct that was to some extent created with the purpose of inspiring and legitimizing a new empire, a construct that would probably not have been understood by the people it described. Heck, Charlemagne saw himself as the Holy Roman Emperor, 400 years after the "fall". Gibbon writes about Rome as something that was once pure and then let itself be infected by "others", a language we can still see the right using today, both in Europe and the US. But what made the empire so huge and relatively long-living was its capacity for change and inclusion and delegating power. Even if the Western Empire had been able to uphold some form of central government, it would have changed immensely from 400-1400 (roughly the European Middle Ages), just like the Eastern Empire did.

Compared to now, there is one big difference, though: at the time of the so called collapse of The Western Empire, most people in Europe were already working on farms or with crafts that would still be useful in a different economy. The biggest city in Europe was Rome, at about pop. 1 million. Now, perhaps half of the world's population have become so dependent on a system that won't work without a big infrastructure that change will be immensely difficult and painful. Half of the global population live in cities, and though many are just one generation away from subsistence farming, they are in the cities because the land can't sustain them where they came from. Lots of people in cities don't even have a kitchen, let alone a garden. We are all dependent on machines and infrastructure for almost everything. When the Romans stopped managing the roads, it was still possible to travel, just a bit more difficult. Some towns disappeared, others flourished, and there were still inns and monasteries. Probably there was a lot more than we know, because it was built using timber constructions that have deteriorated or burnt with time.
posted by mumimor at 2:47 AM on August 3 [3 favorites]


The Anti-preppers demand that we all keep 100% invested in a doomed system

This is hilarious to me because it's clear that in reality, prepping is a guilt mechanism for those who profit the most from this "doomed system", refusing to change anything about it because it would endanger their current status so instead preparing to be the big man after it inevitably collapses due to an EMP storm|the Chinese|not Climate Change.

As Jerry Pournelle acknowledged in the late seventies, after having written Lucifer's Hammer, having a clean cut disaster that destroys the system holding you down but conveniently leaves behind the tools you need to rebuild society in your image, is a very seductive fantasy. Get rid of all the nay sayers, get the right man (of course) in charge and really build up America from first principles.

Prepping is the fantasy that liberals will get what's coming to them, all the useless people will die and the road is clear for a new world of manly Republican man to git things done. Some people will be deluded enough to think that this will actually happen, but for most it's just a power fantasy that they're willing to waste hundreds to thousands of bucks of disposable income on, no different from buying a new SUV or gold plated AR-15.

It is a distraction from what's actually needed, as Pournelle argued decades earlier, as in reality it's always easier to tweak civilisation than to rebuild it from the ground up. But it's a distraction that preppers need to believe in, as the reality is that they are exactly the people who stand in the way of improving America, with the most to lose from abandoning a failing system.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:17 AM on August 3 [19 favorites]


Goddamn these are some fun airport book names (in the former case obviously literally.

I imagine that Mr. and Mrs. Thor had no other choice for naming their newborn son.
posted by acb at 5:32 AM on August 3


As I noted above, in the common parlance, “prepper” refers only to the anti-social group.

How so? There are many self-described preppers who take a community-first approach to their preps.
posted by Press Butt.on to Check at 5:35 AM on August 3 [5 favorites]


btw, here's another example of prosocial behavior in the face of a disaster- ‘We do what the Red Cross won’t’: a day in the life of a wildfire Relief Angel.
posted by bleary at 5:48 AM on August 3 [2 favorites]


Rome wasn’t a very nice time for the great majority of individuals, and the medieval period had plenty of nice things for the average person – you just got fooled by a later medieval advertising campaign for art and a bunch of people who wanted to do slavery in the modern period.

The counter-argument to be made here is that Rome was an incredibly violent society by modern standards, especially during the chaos of the 4th and 5th centuries, but that early Medieval Europe was even more violent.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:41 AM on August 3 [2 favorites]


Gibbon writes about Rome as something that was once pure and then let itself be infected by "others", a language we can still see the right using today, both in Europe and the US. But what made the empire so huge and relatively long-living was its capacity for change and inclusion and delegating power.

I expect you might be referring to this, but Bret Deveraux of ACOUP has spent a bit over a month saying this with a rather firm English-master-grabbing-you-by-the-ear tone.

As Jerry Pournelle acknowledged in the late seventies, after having written Lucifer's Hammer

I really really REALLY want someone to make a miniseries of Lucifer's Hammer but with the jaw-droppingly horrible band of black-power cannibals replaced by a mob of cannibal magahat losers. I want someone to resurrect Pournelle and make him watch it, strapped down and eyes propped open like Alex.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 6:45 AM on August 3 [7 favorites]


"I think prosocial preppers should fear antisocial preppers and consider defense and deterance with comparable armaments as an important part of mutul aid"

I'm not afraid of people like Barrett Moore because he's obviously a fuckup who won't follow through, will fail miserably, and will have the guns he stockpiled stolen from him quickly after the fall.

The point being, I'm not that scared of fuckwits who will likely use their guns to kill each other with infighting before they even come looking for us.

Which, good luck, they chose bumfuck nowhere to set up shop. They won't make it this far.

Somebody's watched too much Mad Max.

Also, stockpiling guns just adds violence to the equation and essentially turns prosocial preppers into antisocial preppers by default. Wilderness survival guides cover this, you don't bring a gun because it causes more problems than it solves among a desperate group.
posted by deadaluspark at 7:59 AM on August 3 [2 favorites]


Seriously though, the first thing that will happen at these prepper survival compounds is internal power struggles. There won't be enough of them left when they're done with each other to come and try to take from everyone else.

Like all conservatives, they already pretend the rest of the world doesn't fucking exist, and so when the "world ends" and they fuck off to their bunkers, they will continue to think the rest of the world doesn't fucking exist and attack each other and vie for power in their bunker before they come out and attack others. We saw with Trump and co. how willing they are to backstab each other and Barrett Moore and his flunkies seem no different.

Sure, maybe some of those groups will be more well organized, but there's only one god damned Brotherhood of Steel, you know.
posted by deadaluspark at 8:07 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]


Seriously though, the first thing that will happen at these prepper survival compounds is internal power struggles. There won't be enough of them left when they're done with each other to come and try to take from everyone else.

I agree. However, groups that start off with high social cohesion (like religious communities, cults, military units, etc) would be perfectly positioned to take advantage of the disorganized survivalists and their supplies.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:11 AM on August 3 [3 favorites]


Who was it that said that (at least in the US), the police departments will be the first ones to transition into rogue militias/killer caravans?
posted by acb at 8:29 AM on August 3 [2 favorites]


As I noted above, in the common parlance, “prepper” refers only to the anti-social group.

How so? There are many self-described preppers who take a community-first approach to their preps.



The term is definitely fraught, not least because the worst of the bad actors gives the whole enterprise of preparedness a bad name.

I call myself a prepper because it conveys certain key information, but wince inwardly at the connotations it also carries which aren’t accurate. A lot of like-minded folks wish there were a different descriptor that was less loaded.

The problem is, “prepper” used to be that less-loaded term. The older term used to be “survivalist”, but that got so tarnished that we needed a new word to describe those of us who weren’t “one of those kind of survivalists” and instead we’re just trying to be better prepared for crises.

But whatever less-loaded term is chosen by the more pro-social types will be co-opted by those less so, because they’d prefer not to be branded with the more-loaded term.

I guess the real problem in terminology is that the difference between the “pro-social” and “anti-social” prepper is often one of degrees, and it’s not always easy to tell if someone falls into one category or the other until you’re really in a crisis and they show you.

I do rather like “community prepper” as a descriptor, because that emphasizes a certain kind of civic-duty, neighbors-helping-neighbors approach that is distinct from the stereotypical and scary, every-man-for-himself doomer. It also sends a signal to the anti-social variety that there is an important value distinction in what primarily animates our respective efforts, basically contrasting individualist survival vs collectivist survival.
posted by darkstar at 8:40 AM on August 3 [6 favorites]


I expect you might be referring to this, but Bret Deveraux of ACOUP has spent a bit over a month saying this with a rather firm English-master-grabbing-you-by-the-ear tone.

Well, not exactly, because I have been teaching this for a few years now (after a student asked me to include more diverse material in my course than what the university-provided textbook could offer). But I strongly recommend the blog! History is fun!
posted by mumimor at 9:32 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]


Thing is, collectivist survival isn’t about preparing for some future that happens by chance, it’s about changing current systems to improve people’s lives in the here and now, and therefore also building the ties and capacity that will help in a disaster. And that’s just called activism or community organizing. If someone’s vision involves working together in some future time but discounts the possibility of collectively working toward change now, then it isn’t pro-social, it’s just fantasy.
posted by eviemath at 10:00 AM on August 3 [4 favorites]


I totally agree that collectivist survivalism implies/involves present-day activism. I don’t see it as an either-or, though. We can engage in present-day activism to improve our collective survival chances (e.g. on climate change) but also work to be better prepared to support our communities in the case of very real natural disaster, pandemic, a disruption of social order, etc.

There are definitely liberal “collective good” preppers who give a lot of thought to how to help their neighbors with food, water, medical support, etc. if/when a serious crisis hits.
posted by darkstar at 10:22 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]


That sounds like a community mutual aid group. They aren't prepping, they're implementing those plans as best they can right now.
posted by cmfletcher at 10:51 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]


Okay, this is basically getting into "No True Scotsman" territory.

If the argument is that I'm not a real prepper because I'm currently engaged in community activism, or that I'm not a real community activist because I'm also currently engaged in preparedness planning, then I really don't know what else to say.

So maybe the term I should be using to describe myself is "community mutual aid activist who also engages in future preparedness planning, but is not a prepper, because those guys, ugh". Is there a better word to encapsulate that?

We all bring certain biases and preconceptions to the discussion around prepping. One of the biases on clear display in this thread -- and has been explicitly stated -- is that "prepper", by definition, means "anti-social" and can't possibly include someone who is actually interested in community support.

Perhaps the insights I and others have shared that contradict that view are useful to re-calibrate those preconceptions. Perhaps not. In any event, if there's a better term that doesn't have its own baggage, I'd be happy to adopt it. For now though, I have a pretty good idea of who I am and what I'm doing, and how much and how often I'm engaged in helping my community, so that will have to be enough, I guess.
posted by darkstar at 11:07 AM on August 3 [4 favorites]


As someone who is not in America, I note that there are reasons this will be more complicated in the US than most other places. Hurricane Katrina is perhaps the most perverse example of how the US government does not work for its citizens. Come to think of it, Bush's reaction to the hurricane was yet another precursor of the Trump administration, seemingly clumsy but in hindsight probably more sinister.
The people who have lost their homes and livelihoods in the floods in Europe these past weeks will have to struggle and fight the authorities for years, I'm sure. But they were not shot at, and they will get relief. The governments will seriously try to figure out how to avoid a repeat event. In China, the care for the victims might be even less impressing, but there is no doubt that the government will look for solutions for the future.
I can can see how in the US, progressives might need to embrace "prepper" methods in order to secure communities of color or communities that are poor. It sucks.
posted by mumimor at 11:23 AM on August 3 [3 favorites]


I mean, the question was “gee what should we call ourselves since anti-social types have taken over the ‘prepper’ term?” The answer is ‘activist’, ‘community organizer’, or ‘part of a mutual aid collective’. All of those terms imply actively planning for and working toward a better future. Mutual aid collectives, in particular, have an eye toward planning for people’s material needs after various plausible natural disasters or likely human disasters. If none of them feel like they fit, maybe you’re not actually doing the collective work now, just imagining that you will in the future; in which case my personal opinion is that you aren’t some sort of pro-social prepper, just a regular prepper with less disturbing or dangerous fantasies.

Governments also stockpile supplies against foreseeable disasters. Well, responsible ones, anyway - irresponsible ones go and get rid of strategic stockpiles of PPEs that previous responsible administrations built, or throw out pandemic plans and monitoring networks, etc. We don’t describe governments as preppers because that’s simply part of the regular job or role of good government, it doesn’t need an extra name.
posted by eviemath at 11:24 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]


I'm not afraid of people like Barrett Moore because he's obviously a fuckup who won't follow through, will fail miserably, and will have the guns he stockpiled stolen from him quickly after the fall.

Or, at least just as likely, repossessed or stolen before the fall.
posted by Stoneshop at 12:45 PM on August 3 [1 favorite]


In case anyone is interested, this handy little cheat sheet on how to do lots of things, assuming civilization has gone by the wayside (where you can get insulin, how to measure a meter, etc).

I literally keep this in my wallet because you never know if you’re not going to be home when the apocalypse happens.
posted by LizBoBiz at 6:55 PM on August 3 [5 favorites]


LizBoBiz, here's $100, I'd like to buy your cheat sheet right now.
posted by EatTheWeek at 9:13 PM on August 3 [9 favorites]


The Red Cross calls it disaster preparedness. Local governments around here usually call it that or "emergency planning." "Prepping" very definitely means the bunkers-and-guns end of the spectrum. I've done more disaster prep than most people, I think, but I wouldn't call myself a "prepper" because those guys are planning for the total collapse of civil society. I'm planning for two weeks without utilities before FEMA puts me in a hotel.

I think the dividing line between preparedness and peppers is basically exactly that: Preparedness is people who prepare for disasters with the knowledge that the government or red cross or local groups will be out there as soon as the disaster ends. It might not be efficient or well-run, but I watch my local community clean up from a big tornado that destroyed an entire town. Police were going door to door within an hour, firefighters from several communities were on site, the state had their resources and National Guard there by evening. They gave people contacts and caseworkers to help them with insurance and stuff.

And of course other local non-governmental groups jumped in too. Food Trucks were handing out free food to displaced person's and to the emergency responders. School groups volunteered to sort debris and try to save photos and papers .

Preppers are preparing for (and in many cases, outright cheering for) the total collapse of civil society and a time of complete anarchy.

If you're planning for earthquakes and you plan involves "and then San Francisco will check the buildings" your not a prepper. You're doing sensible planning for a realistic disaster with a realistic undersranding of how long you might be on your own.

If you're planning for earthquakes and the plan is, "And then the US can't reestablish contact with San Francisco which causes riots, then anarchy, the martial law, then shooting wars as the US falls completely apart.

If you're stockpiling food before a blizzard, that's prudent preparedness. If you're stockpiling 10 years of iodine tablets and 135 guns because when the blizzard arrives, the American government will collapse ..... That's "prepping" and it's looney
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:19 PM on August 3 [8 favorites]


I agree, that’s looney. It’s also an extreme example and doesn’t really help resolve the ambiguity in the terminology. I think it’s well accepted that there are loons that fit in the prepper label. But it seems to leave out a whole swath of the spectrum of preparedness in its worldview.

What do you call someone who engages in Red Cross disaster preparedness and community activism, who is definitely NOT hoping for the collapse of civilization, but who has enough food and household supplies to weather a few months’ disruption in the supply chain caused by a possible pandemic, and maybe owns a firearm or two?

That seems to go beyond the simple two-week disaster preparedness as envisioned by the Red Cross or FEMA (and which I also recommended as adequate in my comment, above). But it seems not to be so egregiously over-prepared that it should fall into the same category as the extremist loon with a bunker and 10 years of iodine pills.

I haven’t heard a useful descriptor for that kind of intermediate stage practitioner of disaster preparedness. The term “prepper” is basically all we’ve got right now, but it really does seem to conjure up the most extreme, worst examples for some folks.

But I really do like the term “community prepper” and as a final consideration before moving on from this discussion, I think I’ll start using that in the future.
posted by darkstar at 2:25 AM on August 4


I haven’t heard a useful descriptor for that kind of intermediate stage practitioner of disaster preparedness.

Backpacker? Camper? If you're prepared to stay out in the woods for two weeks, you're prepared for a lot of things.
posted by mikelieman at 2:54 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


Most backpackers I've met were well prepared to stay in hostels in mayor cities for two weeks.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:59 AM on August 4 [3 favorites]


Red Cross volunteer/community activist with anxiety? Someone who lived through a period of economic insecurity such as the Great Depression and who still bears some of that trauma? Slightly over prepared for most eventualities? A homesteader? It depends a little bit on other aspects of the situation.

A firearm or two is generally not considered a stockpile.
posted by eviemath at 3:54 AM on August 4


There’s even a term for homesteaders who don’t have the luxury of living in rural areas: urban homesteader. One aspect of homesteading versus prepping is that homesteading involves the current practice of skills that would also happen to be valuable in longer term disasters. There’s often an individualist, self-sufficiency aspect to materials on homesteading too, but the focus at least is on doing now (side effect being prepared for societal breakdown), even if that involves attempting to drop out of general modern society. Homesteading generally involves preserving food for leaner seasons, but from a perspective of preserving, not of stockpiling. So while it’s not mainstream among homesteaders, “communal homesteader” would not be a oxymoron.
posted by eviemath at 4:08 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


The term “prepper” is basically all we’ve got right now, but it really does seem to conjure up the most extreme, worst examples for some folks.

"Prepper" is fine. There's no reason to accommodate ignorance. "Leftist Prepper" if you must make a disclaimer.
posted by Press Butt.on to Check at 6:54 AM on August 4


“Leftist prepper” could mean mutual-aid anarchist with an interest in disaster recovery, or it could mean Trotskyite accelerationist or something.
posted by acb at 7:44 AM on August 4


Or, you know, someone who makes preparations for various disaster scenarios while holding left-of-center political views. A lot of overthinking here
posted by Press Butt.on to Check at 8:06 AM on August 4


who has enough food and household supplies to weather a few months’ disruption in the supply chain caused by a possible pandemic

I'm in this category (and was pre-covid as well) and don't think it really needs a label, but if anything I would just call myself someone with food hoarding tendencies. Definitely wouldn't consider myself a prepper, and not just because of the negative associations, but more because my "stockpile" is not intended for surviving a zombie apocalypse or whatever the preppers imagine is coming, it's more for rare-but-realistic events exactly like the pandemic, but also mostly just because it makes me feel (irrationally) safer to have it.
posted by randomnity at 8:29 AM on August 4 [5 favorites]


"Here's $100, I'd like to buy your cheat sheet right now."

*Takes your $100 and hands you sheet of paper with "Available as a print and shirt at www.topatoco.com" written on it.*

Thanks for doing business with me! I hope you enjoy this cheat sheet for where to buy the cheat sheet.
posted by deadaluspark at 8:40 AM on August 4 [3 favorites]


A lot of overthinking here

That's kind of what we do here.
posted by Lexica at 10:18 AM on August 4 [10 favorites]


My point was that the term “prepper” is freighted with ominous connotations that the adjective “leftist”, in its big-church broadness, does little to assuage.
posted by acb at 3:23 PM on August 4


“Prepper” does, at the least, imply some degree of individual accumulation, which might reasonably be argued is contrary to economic leftism.
posted by eviemath at 4:10 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]


Therefore what? A person who self describes as a leftist prepper must be wrong on at least one of the counts? I am truly perplexed why are you being so insistent the title prepper cannot be worn by anyone with the slightest amount of decency, but will be leaving it alone now.
posted by Press Butt.on to Check at 4:38 AM on August 5


My point is that wanting to self-describe as a prepper but not be associated with those other, antisocial preppers is unrealistic. Not that there isn’t a spectrum of sociality among preppers, I’m sure, but asking the rest of us not to lump you in with the other preppers you, personally, don’t like or to change commonly understood definitions of what is meant by a prepper ignores some of the other issues that some of us have with the ideology. I get that not everyone agrees that there is something inherently antisocial with any degree of individual accumulation after some point, and that different people who do agree with that proposition still have different cutoff points. I’m also allowed my value judgement that there is in fact something inherently at least a little bit antisocial with any prepper-level individual (not communal) accumulation.

(Excepting situations stemming from trauma, severe anxiety, or other mental health issues. These aren’t a choice, so value judgements don’t apply.)
posted by eviemath at 10:46 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


Observation: "disaster preparedness" is something you do, but "prepper" is something you are. Is thinking about it as part of your identity some of the reason this is so fraught?
posted by aneel at 4:28 PM on August 6 [2 favorites]


When this farm I'm on could subside a family before artificial pesticides and fertilizer there were four adults working it, plus three children who probably contributed quite a bit

When my partner and I decided to adopt, my mother had an incredibly negative reaction to the idea, which turned out to be rooted in her childhood on a subsistence farm in the 1930s. Her primary experience of adoption had been families near where she lived adopting children to be laborers, and then treating them badly.
posted by Orlop at 1:20 AM on August 7 [3 favorites]


But on a local level, when things first shut down, my local Facebook group — which had mostly held complaints about dog poop — mobilized people to get food to seniors, by shopping for them but also by expanding a local Anglican food bank. I’m still shopping for one neighbour, mostly just her dog’s fancy food.

Our neighborhood NextDoor group went from a bunch of people jumping into helping someone who needed food for her dog but had no money because of Covid unemployment, to establishing a pet food and supplies bank that opens in a nearby park twice a week and is still going strong.

It was good to be reminded of this because at the moment they're getting out the pitchforks to defend our little suburban utopia from legalized weed shops.
posted by Orlop at 1:41 AM on August 7 [3 favorites]


That sounds like a community mutual aid group. They aren't prepping

Um, yes, they are? At least some of them? I know a ton of mutual aid pantries and leftist canners who are stockpiling so it can be offered to the community in case of disaster. Was super helpful during Covid.
posted by corb at 10:51 AM on August 7 [4 favorites]


« Older Anyone Can Whistle   |   That New Peppa Pig Album Got the Streets Talkin Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments