That didn’t take long. The Discovery Channel premiered its first episode of Doomsday Bunkers last week (fun fact: Both shows had the word ‘bullets’ in the name of their premieres). I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a lower form of life on this planet than the opportunistic parasite network producer. For that reason I imagine it won’t be long till we get even more granular spin offs in this new doomsday genre: Roadkill Kitchen, Real Housewives of Bartertown, how about MTVCribs: Bunkerz? Needless to say, Doomsday Bunkers has an arguably more practical format with less schlock, but like Preppers, spends more time sensationalizing and less informing. Shocker!
I’ve got to acknowledge that this week’s Preppers episode was probably the best of the bunch, particularly Atlanta’s Mike Mester, who seems to be one of the most intelligent and reasonable folks presented so far on the show. The Mester family seems to have a great balance of prep skills and retention of humanity. Mester doesn’t seem to attract eye-rolling from his family by engaging with hilarious overcommitment like the deer hide-clad stick sharpener Michael Douglas from Episode 4, nor does he foolishly put his loved ones in danger like Tim Ralston and his stubby thumb. Doing little things like having plans for each family member, adding loyal guard dogs, training his family to use firearms at a legit firing range and reuse/recycle of paper goods to create long burning briquettes for heat was pretty cool. The family seems on board with his plans and I thought it was commendable for the ‘experts’ to recommend that he engage his neighbors and community – this is exactly the kind of guy I would love to have living next door, and thats the tip of the iceberg to make a prepared community, which is leaps and bounds more beneficial than a prepared household. Above all, Mike just doesn’t seem to have the same slightly wacko disposition as the others and he commanded my attention and respect, from one human being to another.
Last weeks post created some conversation on Reddit, with some who claimed that it was unfair to label preppers as crazy; the show is produced and edited to exaggerate these eccentric personalities to make the show entertaining. Obvious point is obvious, but I want to reiterate my point: it should be more important to be informative than entertaining. Nothing much is hanging in the balance when we watch Hoarders or Ace of Cakes – the repercussions of false information in the survivalist context is potentially deadly. That being said, It was pretty interesting to go from Mike Mester to Preston White, who is afraid of the bogeyman prospects of Fukushima fallout in America. The former seemed lucid and practical while the latter seemed to be have a closet full of tinfoil hats. So, really — is there a casting director getting fired for allowing average dad Mike Mester into this menagerie of maniacs or is it more likely that theres a predisposition for these characters to be a little crazy, or maybe just more willing to let producers lead them into it?
In the weeks since the show aired, theres been more than a few interviews with show characters who have expressed frustration in the way they were portrayed on the show. Definitely worth checking around for post-airing interviews across the board – one of the most common gripes was producers encouraging preppers to choose ONE EVENT that they were preparing for. I don’t get it, it’s apparently boring for anyone to have a well rounded, prepare-for-the-worst approach to their planning, and instead we’re treated to far too many crackpot doomsday scenarios. Seriously, who at NatGeo has a hard-on for cataclysmic polar shifts? Every episode, there seems to be a wealth of improbable scenarios with absolutely no basis in science or historical precedent.
The other highlights from episode 5 for me was tinfoil hat Preston White’s impressive seed bank (11,000 in reserve!) and portable quick-assemble tent shelter (the image of him playfully spinning around inside the tent like Laura Ingalls, pitching the audience: “Safe for your Family!” will be lulz-worthy for a long, long time). The HHO Generator that a friend brings by was also pretty neat, although the cosmetic rope lights gave it about as much appeal as a neon-pimped 98′ Civic – Flux Capacitor it ain’t. Riley Cook is a metalworker who fabricates bunkers – but the watertight pull cart beast he made was even more impressive to me – crafted from aluminum and weighing a paltry 100lbs, he can actually haul 9 times his body weight by himself and the thing even floats and can act as a mini barge and cross water if necessary. Practical awesomeness.
Finally, we managed to find out who the ‘experts’ were on this show, and i’m not disappointed at all. You can check out their Youtube channels here and here, which are chock full of prep information. In one self interview, Scott Hunt (Engineer775) even laments NatGeo’s decision to name the show Doomsday Preppers, regretting they couldn’t name the show ‘American Preppers’ or something that might engender more regard and respect than shock value. Unfortunately, we also discovered that the Expert Analysis that they provide is done almost as an afterthought – they only work with what the producers give them and never actually meet the characters on location. Now I don’t blame the experts, if I were as serious and established as they were, I’d not trade airtight OpSec for 15 minutes of fame – but I’d still rather see NatGeo find a bullpen of experts that could be far more involved in the shows production and execution.
All in all, the latest episode was the tightest so far, so I’m curious to see what they have for the remaining 4 episodes and how they approach next season. The addition of Doomsday Bunkers will at least provide some contrast and motivate better production. We seem to be finding a fair amount of likeminded people who have been putting out similar criticisms: the content is great, we’re all interested, now its time to take responsibility and recognize that prepping as a movement has more value in its information than its entertainment value.
Back in January, we made the outrageous claim that the Department of Homeland Security essentially admitted they were monitoring our website when it was revealed they were monitoring and recording social media for the topics we cover.
Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act, we now have internal Department of Homeland Security documents that detail the keywords and types of activity that warrant surveillance and scrutiny by government public safety officials.
To be clear, it’s not the DHS themselves but rather a well-compensated government contractor plumbing the public data to give real-time insight into whatever we’re supposed to be scared of today. We’re guilty of using about half the words on the list in the last few months alone. We here at News for End Times take the documents as definitive proof that our coverage of Eco Terrorism Suspicious Package/Device Viral Hemorrhagic (come on, who is going to spell that out?) Fever Drug Cartel Maritime Domain Awareness Brush Fire (brush fire? really?) is being tracked.
Any student of journalism knows about the chilling effect, which essentially is a discouragement to talk about something by threatening legal action, even though talking about it would be protected under First Amendment rights. We see this happening today, for example, with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) trying to chill speech of a whistleblower who proved one billion dollars worth of scanners are worthless and easily defeated. It’s happening now around the blogosphere as we scratch our heads wondering how the hell this is supposed to help our security.
It begs the question: “What’s worse, corporations tracking your online behavior for their own profit, or government contractors invading your privacy to protect against some largely imagined terrorist threat.” Data mining on social networks is much like the other billions spent in vein by wasteful government efforts to project a false sense of security. They ought to just take their multimillion-dollar budget and buy us some emergency food and water supplies.
We are disappointed, but not surprised, that members of our federal government believe that surveilling the public data of the Internet will surface credible threats to the integrity of our nation. If such were true, they would have caught Kim Kardashian a long time ago.
After watching the first five episodes of the new ‘reality’ series Doomsday Preppers, I still can’t quite determine what the National Geographic Channel thinks the entertainment value is. The casting choices focus on survivalist stereotypes. But there’s also that extra reality TV ingredient: selecting the most ‘out there’ and socially awkward people to provide for some good ol’ fashioned humiliation-tainment. I’m pretty sure that NatGeo isn’t producing this show — at least this first season — with a straight face.
If you’re tuned in to the apocalypse, there’s plenty to learn from and empathize with on Doomsday Preppers. But if you’re an average viewer/denialist/sheep then chances are you’re watching the show in the same vain as A&E’s Hoarders or TLC’s My Strange Addiction. Dropping in on GetGlue discussions, for instance, demonstrates the majority opinion on the prepper community: these people are fucking nuts.
No doubt, the average prepper provokes the audience with bouts of exaggerated paranoia and obsessive compulsive behavior like the hoarding of guns, ammo and supplies, so it is hard to fault the average viewer for seeing psychosis instead of practical preparation. On the other hand, it does seem unfortunate that the show format and characters presented produce more chuckles and “Are you kidding me?” lamentation than attentive regard. In this day and age, we could really use some mainstream programming that educates through the promotion of practical preparation and sustainable living. NatGeo is definitely going down the right street with Doomsday Preppers. They’re just driving on the wrong side in the wrong direction.
End Times Experts? Please.
I always thought that reality TV producers cling too tightly to the notion that every series should revolve around competition. There must always be winners and losers, doesn’t matter if you’re cooking, losing weight, designing clothes, baking cakes or crab fishing, theres an assumption that viewers will only endear themselves to the characters if they’re competing to win. Doomsday Preppers clumsily inserts this element through rating each person via ‘preparedness review’ by ‘practical prepper experts’ at the end of each segment. It’s not so much the hilariously cheesy 0-100 scale meter graphics as it is the seemingly arbitrary criteria and the fact that by episode 5, we still haven’t been introduced to the ‘experts’ at all.
Who are these experts, and more importantly, what makes them experts? The show utilizes a disembodied narrator but strikes me as the type of show that could really benefit from a host or hosting panel, personalities that could help endear the viewers to the subjects. Imagine an A-Team of survivalist professors leading this show: Bear Gryllis ex-military survivalist types, Mythbusters-style DIY engineering mechanics, homesteaders, community agriculturists, peace corps doctors and anthropologists. Giving me the faces, names, degrees and resumes of these true ‘experts’ would instantly provide validity and real-world relevance for the ratings and criticisms. Right now the pass/fail ratings are an afterthought and the advice is shallow, addressing superficial concerns while ignoring elephant-in-the-room scale problems.
Take Tim Ralston in Episode 3, who fears an electromagnetic pulse (EMP). Aside from accidentally blowing his thumb off, gets reprimanded for not having his bugout uber-shelter built yet, but is left off the hook for evacuating in his Jeep, which would be rendered useless in an EMP attack. How about Jason Charles, NYFD, who fears a Yellowstone Supervolcano eruption and gets a poor rating for not having more supply caches, but doesn’t get called out for the cognitive dissonance of insisting on living in New York City, let alone any metropolitan area?
This routine suppression of ‘big picture questions’ confounds me — this is the really interesting stuff behind collapse and post-collapse strategies, and the producers consistently decide not to rain on the preppers’ parades, preferring to play nice and look the other way. This sophomoric approach cheapens the quality of the information presented. Compound this with the lack of debate and attention to real problems and you’ve no choice to conclude that the real star of this show isn’t the learning experience, its the eccentric behavior of its paranoid misanthropes.
Only the Crazy Survive
Lets talk about those paranoid misanthropes for a second. The crew here at News for End Times stands well outside the typical demographic presented so far. Most of the preppers featured are older and seem to have financial independence. As corporate retirees living on fat pensions or disability, they seem to have enough disposable income to commit tens of thousands of dollars to supplies, and potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in remote real estate. Most of them seem to be free of the trappings of a 9 to 5; Megan Hurwitt claims to work out 4 hours a day, 6 days a week, Kathy Harrison cans food for 6-8 hours a day. Theres a level of commitment and scale here that the average American just can’t afford in time or money. The majority of them hail from midwest states and are religious, social conservatives (I’m positive there’s hours of birther-esque drivel cut from Pat Brabbles’ segment in Episode 3).
But maybe the most glaring difference between the majority of these people and myself is an inherent fear of everyone else on the planet. Step one for most of them is to get in a vehicle and travel far far away from the rest of the population, who they insist is bent on raping and pillaging from the first day of post collapse. Interestingly, its not the disaster event, but this mistrustful mindset that drives most of the aforementioned paranoia – and the behavioral result is epitomized in the title of Episode 1: “Bullets, Lots and Lots of Bullets.”
The arsenals held by preppers like Paul Range, Tim Ralston, Pat Brabble and Martin Colvill are borderline comical. They stock enough guns and ammo to kit up a decently sized militia. It’s not practical weaponry either — tricked-out semi-auto handguns and assault rifles with rail systems. Or consider the case of Jason Charles, who in lieu of being able to own firearms in NYC, opts for a dizzying array of knives and swords that look like they were all bought at DragonCon. This trade of practicality for spectacle and “wow” factor leaves you with the impression that they’d be more comfortable LARPing than they would ever be in a post-collapse scenario. I’m not going to deny that I’ve fantasized about donning black leather and a sawed off double barrel whilst cruising the wasteland in a V8, but I feel like I would do a pretty good job separating reality from fantasy when budgeting for what weaponry I need vs. what looks awesome on my hip. To me, It comes off as ‘playtime’, you can see their eyes light up at the prospect of maybe getting to play cowboys and Indians.
Reality vs. Reality TV
The show features an endless list of bad craziness that makes me hope I never run across these people post-collapse. Only two preppers have really impressed me so far: Kathy Harrison and Jules Dervaes (his own review of the Doomsday Preppers visit is worth reading). Why am I impressed? Well because instead of preparing for the end of the world to flip a switch and go into bugout mode, they’ve opted to make simple changes to their lifestyles in anticipation, and also live well while they do it. Theres a recognition with them that civilization needs to change, end of the world or not. They put some distance between themselves and the least sustainable aspects of modern life, they’ve embraced DIY and localism and community, they’ve simply worked hard to keep things in perspective and approach day to day life with some measure of modesty in terms of where we as humans stand in our environment. They seem to draw great satisfaction in the present from living this way, where many of the other preppers seem anxious and afraid, sitting around waiting for the day they have to start shooting. No doubt, the experts dropped the hammer on them for naively not stockpiling guns and ammo or trusting their neighbors – but Kathy’s response to the criticism is enlightening:
Granted, Kathy lives in a small pastoral New England town. Survival certainly wouldn’t be as easy for Jason Charles living in NYC due to the inevitable stresses that come with unsustainably dense population zones. However, her view on strong communities is the key to the kingdom. Because what Doomsday Preppers does not address — ever — is what these people plan on doing after the shit hits the fan. What does Tim Ralston and his family plan on doing once they descend into their buried cargo container bunker? Will Martin Colvill drive his tractor trailer indefinitely across the wasteland? Will Donna Nash sit in a plastic bubble forever, waiting for the bird flu to dissipate? Consider the existential conflict of living in Cold War-era nuke shelters, where a family would entomb themselves for weeks or possibly months or years on end waiting for the radiation to clear, eating freeze-dried food and shitting into chemical toilets three feet from where they sleep. Yet you can still travel around the southeast and find countless bomb shelters from the 50′s and 60′s — thousands upon thousands bought into the notion that life in a steel coffin was better than no life at all. Is that a life? No. It’s a half-life.
So what to do? What makes the most sense to me is right in line with Kathy Harrison’s philosophy. Humans are communal by nature — we’ve never advanced our species on this planet as solitary individuals. Every wonder and joy we’ve experienced has come from humans working and sharing experiences together, and the end times are no different. It really comes down to creating, or failing that, joining communities that you want to be part of — fostering relationships and becoming neighbors and families that share a mutual respect and love. If the fallout from an end times scenario is a paradigm shift to localized, neo-agrarian communities that exist on a smaller, sustainable scale but retain all the wonderful technology, communications and medicine of the 21st century, I’d actually just rather skip ahead now and leave all this terrible bullshit behind, wouldn’t you?
If you can read between the lines though, and try to ignore that the show is psycho-voyeurism masquerading as edu-tainment, there are redeeming qualities. It is a good thing that a shows like Dommsday Preppers are on television bringing an awareness to the subject and getting people thinking. As the producers run out of the more, um, vibrant individuals, they may turn to the more practical, average people — and it might wind up being more interesting as a result. Like most reality TV, If it enjoys even moderate success it will no doubt spawn copies on Discovery and TLC and who knows where else. Each network will put its own spin on it, and there’s plenty of room for that. One of them may actually get it right… just don’t hold your breath.
Check back each week for my episodic review/analysis of Doomsday Preppers. Now that I’ve got all that off my chest, I promise next time I’ll be more concise.
Money is Debt, is American Economic Collapse Imminent? 8% Inflation, 15% Unemployment, 47M Poor, Deficit >100% of GDP
If you want to understand how the modern world may end as we know it, the odds-on favorite to study is economic collapse. The only people who could argue some sort of collapse hasn’t already happened are either hopelessly optimistic or well compensated by the multinational corporate interests consolidating the wealth. To bolster that sweeping generalization before I start a Keynesian flame war, some statistics:
47 million U.S. citizens live in developing-world conditions today. We’ve seen 8% inflation on everyday goods over the past year. And while political leaders would lead you to believe unemployment is around 8% too — it’s really closer to a whopping 15% with fully 1 in 5 americans reporting they are underemployed, not making enough money to make ends meet.
The truth is, it isn’t difficult to understand why we’re in this collapse. It’s almost intuitive — the obscenely wealthy consolidators of power and wealth have really knocked it out of the park this time. Media and politicians obscure the fact that paper money has ever-decreasing value for the same self-serving goals as the multinational corporations who profit from selling the Doritos that just went up in price. Mass-produced snack foods are essentially bite-sized subprime mortgages on one’s health and wallet. But I digress…
I believe most of us have a general sense that our country is in deep debt. I think if you asked most people they’d metaphorically think of it as a few maxed out credit cards. Which is a very apt metaphor if you have a credit card with a $15 trillion credit limit and make, oh, let’s say $15 trillion per year. Try getting a 1:1 loan on your salary at the local credit union! Yes, U.S. debt officialy overtook our GDP last year.
To understand how our economic wealth is essentially imaginary, you could do no worse than to watch the famous (on the Interwebs) feature-length animated documentary Money as Debt.
As you sit back and watch this mind-enriching video (admittedly no Pixar blockbuster) it won’t take long before you begin to understand that the modern concept of currency value is essentially imaginary and based on an infinite abyss of debt.
The optimist in all of us wants to believe the economic recovery is real — that our elected officials and corporate-appointed economic overlords have our best interest in mind. A recovery is certainly not out of the question. After all, the next value-injecting tech bubble could be just around the corner with a breakthrough in hardware, software, nanotechnology, genetics or quantum physics. But it’ll still be another bubble.
It doesn’t take a quantum physicist to see that this gargantuan credit bubble will burst one day. If we don’t proactively adjust our system of currency and valuation to a more realistic scope, the force of the market will do it for us, and may crush more than our economy in the process.
You won’t find News for End Times making any political endorsements in this Presidential race (we’re anti-authoritarian like that) but you might be surprised that one of the candidates — Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas) — held forth earlier today about this very fiat currency crisis to none other than Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Fed.
Today WikiLeaks began releasing over 5 million emails in what they’re calling the Global Intelligence Files. Though only a few dozen of these emails have been officially released, the information is incredibly damning for the company they came from, private intelligence group Stratfor. The formerly well-respected analysts are no doubt having a very bad day, as evidence of money laundering and questionably legal investment schemes are coming to light with these recent leaks.
Though there is much to discuss in these documents, we’ll stick to what we do best — end times analysis. Chief among the revelations was a remark made by one insider analyst whose very credible sources suggest the Iran nuclear issue is simply a distraction from the real resource being fought over — oil. In this incredible exchange, Stratfor staff candidly debate the brewing war in Iran:
To which one of his cronies replies:
What kind of credibility this intelligence has outside of Stratfor is still being considered, which is part of the reason the major implications of the WikiLeaks report are being ignored by many media outlets. This difficulty of corroborating the intelligence hearsay (despite it being from all accounts sourced reputably) — combined with the chilling effect of government and corporate persecution for anyone reporting on the subject — makes this a severely underreported story.
Other apocalyptic insights gleaned from the leak include news of a new Iskander missile from Russia which has offensive capabilities eclipsing any weapon in the arsenal of the U.S. and the world at large. The country is reportedly now converting these sophisticated, interception-defying projectiles into multiple-warhead nuclear devices.
You really have to dig in there and read the emails themselves to come up with golden nuggets like this one, where the analysts discuss Brazil’s decision to purchase arms from France because the U.S. is not good enough at bribing Brazil:
As you can imagine we here at News for End Times are eating these leaks up, fork and spoon, and will have more info for you as it surfaces.
State Representative David Miller, R-Riverton, thinks the end is nigh. That’s why he’s introduced House Bill 85, which appropriates $16,000 for an end times task force. Says Miller of the apocalyptic threat:
“Things happen quickly sometimes — look at Libya, look at Egypt, look at those situations… We wouldn’t have time to meet as a Legislature or even in special session to do anything to respond.”
The bill recommends that the task force focus on the continuity of government in doomsday scenarios ranging from food and energy shortages to the complete breakdown of the Fed. Miller believes that if the country continues to go the direction it’s currently going in — straight down the financial tubes — that “this is the way any society ends up — with a valueless currency.”
It’s too early to tell if this bill will be dismissed as rapture-ready quackery or seriously considered as a civil defense measure. We’ll be watching other states closely to see if they undertake similar legislative action to prepare for the end.
A new microscopic, drug-resistant strain of the Staphylococcus aureus microbe known as CC398 was the subject of of a recent genetic study getting lots of attention. The rapid spread of this frightening infection, which has been shown to be highly communicable on farms between pigs and humans, is the latest in an alarming series of discoveries.
University at Buffalo researchers have raised the alert over mutating and hypervirulent strains of Klebsiella pneumoniae. Say the scientists:
With 7 billion people causing their own infection on Earth, we are entering into a world where pandemic megadeaths are not an if but when. Given all we know of infectious disease, scientists are frankly stunned such a catastrophic health disaster has yet to befall the modern world. Make sure you visit pandemicflu.gov to at least get the basics on being prepared.
As we celebrate President’s Day, we’d like to bring you news of Dwight Eisenhower’s three meetings with aliens, related to the press recently by a former US government consultant.
Yes, dear reader, you parsed that correctly. The 34th President of the United States reportedly set out “telepathic messages” to extraterrestrial intelligent life forms to arrange a series of meetings between intergalactic beings and the free world.
This is all according to UFO lecturer Timothy Good, who also happens to be a prominent and respected academic, having consulted with the U.S. Congress. In his own words:
Alien invasion remains an unconfirmed but potential threat to all humans. Such an invasion need not be flying saucers with laser. It could be as simple as an Andromeda Strain scenario in which an alien microorganism terrorizes our species. Whatever the case, we wish you a happy rest of President’s Day!
Today’s reports that Russia narrowly averted a nuclear disaster that rivaled Chernobyl in December 2011 rocked the disaster-watching world.
The country was moments away from releasing untold radioactive contaminants into the atmosphere as a nuclear submarine carrying 16 R-29 ICBMs — each with a 1 megaton nuclear warhead — caught fire. The craft had to be partially submerged to douse the flames that threatened not only the nukes, but also the nuclear reactor of the craft itself, not to mention the thousands of pounds of torpedoes and mines onboard.
The well-respected Russian magazine Vlast reported on the incident, saying:
Had even one of those torpedoes exploded, we’d be looking at a serious nuclear accident affecting the globe. Nuclear energy, though much more threatening and accident-prone in weaponry than in civilian uses, is one of the most dangerous threats to humanity. The closely avoided devastation faced in this scenario should serve as our umpteenth strong warning: one day these nuclear chickens will come home to roost.
We’ve been poring over the impressive Global Risks, 2012 report by the World Economic Forum. This juicy document aggregates the opinions of experts across the globe to determine just how the world as we know it is likely to end this year.
The fascinating report is really worth a look, and if you’re in a hurry, just check out this crazy infographic:
As you can see, it’s really quite simple: Unsustainable population growth increases complexity, risking critical systems failure as chronic fiscal imbalances test our very survival. Global governance failure means there is no apparatus to contain the problem as rising greenhouse gas emissions throw the environment into chaos. The rapidly disintegrating fabric of society might catch fire before it unravels.
OK, so that’s the doomsday scenario — clearly it would only take only one of the above disasters to seriously tilt civilization toward the edge. That’s why it’s helpful to cross-reference the above with this really cool interactive infographic which displays the likelihood of SHTF in economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal and technological contexts. Each risk is also ranked by impact on how band it’s gonna screw up your day… and the days of 7 billion other folks.
So what do the experts say we should be watching out for the most? On a scale of 0-5, with 5 being ‘unavoidable’, “severe income disparity’ and ‘chronic fiscal imbalance’ rank just above a 4. Major systemic financial failure may only rank around 3 in likelihood, but it’s the hardest-hitting disaster at around a 4 impact. Other notable threats include environmental hazards and shortages of food and water, which the survey finds more inevitable than not.
While the report urges action to mitigate these threats, it paints the picture of a dystopia bound for mass casualties, noting that our preparedness has not evolved alongside the threats. World leaders are reading this report to learn how they can exploit these weaknesses. Business leaders are reading this report to see how they can profit. We highly recommend you at least skim the report, as a stakeholder in the survival of the fittest.