The Bizarre and Dangerous World of Real Life “Doomsday Preppers”

doomsday-preppersThe recent popularity of the show “Doomsday Preppers” has cast a light on the odd subculture of people who believe that at any moment, we could face an apocalyptic event that they have to be ready for.

They have a variety of imagined events to prep for, some quite plausible, others not so much. The common denominator here is that most of these folks appear to be normal human beings that have rather odd obsessions, and this isn’t a new phenomenon either.

A couple of decades ago, my mother was friends with a family that was into survivalism/homesteading. They lived in a log cabin on the top of a mountain near Marlinton, WV. To get to their house, you had to drive a couple of miles on a dirt path up the side of that mountain. If they didn’t know you were coming there was a good chance you could get shot by the father, who had a small armory on hand. Bill had a strange obsession with the UN and black helicopters (sound familiar?), and was blatantly racist in describing who he’d like to shoot with the “Street Sweeper” shotgun he kept loaded by the bed.

People like Bill used to be relegated to the dark corners and halls of seedy convention center gun shows where they’d hand out anti-government pamphlets and talk about how “the South is gonna rise again.” For the most part, they were considered to be weirdos, and the vast majority of people would walk past them without a second thought.

Today, they’ve managed to retool their image, and media personalities like Glenn Beck have brought survivalism and a more subtle anti-government mentality to the edge of mainstream culture via the internet, TV and radio.

There’s nothing wrong with being prepared for some natural or man-made disaster. Having some canned goods, a generator and even some weapons is a good idea when you live in an area like here in Louisiana where chaos reigned after Hurricane Katrina. If you or someone you know are just taking reasonable precautions, this article doesn’t apply to you.

Bill and many others like him aren’t preparing just for a disaster, they’re also hoping that an apocalyptic event will destabilize the local, state and federal government to the point where they can “take the country back,” which should also sound familiar. “Taking the country back” isn’t just the delusional ramblings of someone who wears a tri-cornered hat with teabags to local school board meetings; it’s also a code word for the literal armed revolt they dream of when a Marxist, Socialist, Kenyan Muslim President sends the UN to seize their guns and put their kids in FEMA re-education camps ran by Hillary Clinton.

You may think these are just people with a bizarre hobby that probably need medication, but they have money, and wherever there’s a niche market there’s someone to deliver a product. In this case, gold investment companies and gun manufacturers have spokesmen like Glenn Beck to play to the fears of anti-government types, for big profits.

What makes it even more dangerous is that they have to keep ramping up the rhetoric to keep people afraid, and therefore continuing to buy their products. I recently saw an ad on Facebook for a survivalism/camouflaged anti-government website which claims that FEMA can confiscate a household’s stores of food. Why would they do that? To sell a book, which will then get people to go out and buy guns to possibly shoot government employees during the next hurricane or earthquake.

You might think I’m joking or exaggerating, but if you’ve experienced this bizarre mindset in person, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. As they continue to escalate the conspiracy theories and anti-government rhetoric, we will continue to see a rise in events like the Sikh temple shooting, or God forbid, another Oklahoma City. That’s why we must do everything in our power to counter this type of dangerous paranoia with facts and logic, and continue to educate as many people as possible. Because if we can prevent even one person from going down that dangerous path, it will have been worth it.

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  • Lorielye Hayes

    Not all people who are preppers are extremists though. My husband and I both earned degrees in Public Administration and took a heavy load of disaster management courses. Add a military background and we both want to live in a more rural setting where we can be self-sufficient and “off the grid”. It’s more environmentalist and common-sense based for some. We don’t leave loaded shotguns laying around our kids either though. We just have “go bags” for evacuation in hurricanes with important documentation easily locatable, small basic toiletries (if we have left overs from a hotel stay I throw them in the go-bags). Not all prepping is a bad idea. We attended an American Society for Public Administrators event the year after Katrina and sat in on a few discussions with FEMA personnel. It taught us just how little we had prepared for common emergencies. I agree with you though that there are some factions in this movement that you really need to be aware of. Just look up the “oathers”. Many serve in law enforcement and military, are heavily indoctrinated into very neo-Nazi racist rhetoric, and are actively planning on betraying the government. Those are the ones that have checked out of reality and their rhetoric reads very McVeigh.

    • You mean the Oathkeepers? Oathkeepers are just personnel who’ve taken a personal oath not to obey any orders to harm the people. If ever a president, governor, or police chief said, “Officers, line these dissidents up against a wall and shoot them,” these are the people who would say, “No.”

      And you think this is a bad thing, worthy of describing as “neo-Nazi”??? A couple years ago with all the Occupy protests, cops were going crazy beating people and shooting them with pepper spray and rubber bullets, just for assembling peaceably. Oathkeepers are the ones who say they won’t do that. How is this a bad thing?

      Manny sounds like he’s out of his element anywhere he can’t get an espresso macchiato just the way he likes it delivered to his desk, and thus has a need to generally vilify anyone with more foresight or political savvy than himself. I mean, he’s blaming the Sikh temple shooting not on racism or cultural ignorance, but on the habit of stocking up on canned corn and toilet paper…a habit generally practiced by people who live far, far away from grocery stores.

      Don’t feel obliged to find someone to bash just to make him feel like he’s the sensible one. With your background, you understand the wisdom of being prepared. There’s a reason “Be Prepared” is the Boy Scout motto…and it has nothing to do with neo-Nazis or shooting up Sikh temples.

      • J-Way

        SSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! We don’t tell people about the Oathkeepers!!!

        Countless extremist gun-grabbers AND gun hoarders fall asleep to wet dreams of the “guv’mint comin’ fer mah guns”. Extremist conservatives fantasize about finally being able to prove they were right all along, extremist liberals fantasize about all those dead gun-hoarders after the US military drops nukes on US soil. Both groups are full of idiots, but letting them have their fantasies keeps them a little bit quieter.

      • romancaesar

        True, but the “gun and gold hoarders” would not FEEL that way – along with MILLIONS OF OTHER AMERIKANS – if Obama, Feinstein, Pelosi, Harry Reid and others weren’t always trying to “gin up the gun rhetoric” themselves and talk openly about disavowing the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – which they “clearly” do not respect. They make it quite OBVIOUS to all that “eventually” they want complete gun and ammo confiscation which is a flagrant violation of the U.S. Constitution (which still exists by the way…..) It’s the government types too who say to each other “Hey goober, I can’t wait to get my orders as a govmint soldier of fortune and start bashing in some people’s doors to git their guns! hey huh!” Maybe some of these “doomsday people” are not quite as “polished” as Mr. Manny Schewitz would like, but they’re also not as dumb as they look.

  • khublai

    There will be people easily and quickly offended by this. They are the ones the article is talking about. I like the loud ones. At least they let you know you should watch them.

  • This article is fucktarded. Who the hell wants to rely on government assistance during a disaster? For that matter the government itself recommends you keep things in preparedness. I also don’t see what homesteaders/hobby farm people have to do with nutty tea baggers. WTF?

  • Manny, Hopefully you’ll never prep, and like most sheep, depend upon others (FEMA, Govt, someone, anyone, but yourself) to take care of you in an emergency. Prepping isn’t about zombies, asteroid strikes, supervolcanoes, etc… ‘that’ is just used to ‘sell’ the tv show.

    good luck surviving if you don’t prep…

  • J-Way

    There’s an infinitely wide and fuzzy gray line separating someone who’s “just getting prepared for an emergency” and a full-blown apocalyptic prepper. If you have a few days worth of food and water and maybe a weapon for home defense, that’s clearly just being prepared. If you have multiple years worth of freeze-dried food, water, fuel, and a storage shed packed with guns and ammo (story about that one later), then you’re probably a full-blown prepper.

    But what about a weeks worth of food and water? Two weeks? Three guns with 500 rounds each? Ten guns with 1000 rounds each? The separating line between being “prepared” and being a “prepper” is up to each individual person. Usually, a “prepper” is someone with just a few more supplies than what you personally have.

    Personally, I have enough supplies for my family for a week (food and water). In 2011 a series of severe storms knocked power out and few were out for up to 10 days, and that’s my “survival” goal (most stores were back online within 2-3 days, though). Anything beyond that and my plans are to 1) get the hell away from the city as quickly as possible because the liberals who tend to live in cities don’t do well when the government life-lines they depend on fail; and 2) make my way to my family’s home in rural Mississippi. I have friends and relatives who are farmers and ranchers with livestock and crops, and there is game to hunt, ponds stocked with fish, access to fresh water via wells, a small stockpile of guns and ammo (mostly for hunting game), and almost unlimited area for gardening.

    No one I know is planning on operating an armed resistance camp; no one is planning on shooting at anyone in the military or law enforcement. But in a true SHTF scenario, people desperate for food will try to take it from people who have it. I would never let someone starve, but it’s better if they ask politely for some of your supplies because you’re strong enough to defend them than if they take them by force because you aren’t strong enough.

    Eventually, civilization will restore itself and we’ll all go about living our lives.

    As for the storage locker full of ammo, a friend of mine bought the contents of a storage locker from the widow of a prepper for a few hundred dollars. It was packed with tens of thousands of rounds of ammo. Rifle, handgun, and shotgun, mostly “self defense” style rounds. He made a small fortune selling it off this past December. That’s what’s going to happen to most “preppers”. Eventually they’ll die before the apocalypse comes and whoever inherits their “estate” will sell off, give away, or throw away all their precious supplies.

  • mfh

    Talk about a biased article and opinion. I am a prepper. I prepare for both local disasters and the eventual collapse of the dollar. When the dollar pops all those commenting on this site making fun of preppers will be the ones starving and asking for hand outs. By the way, we prepare what we use in other words we have years of supplies that we use every day. Not only will it help us in a disaster or crash, it saves us tons of cash. Not having to drive to the grocery store or hardware store or any place else, we just take a walk to our own store and of course, we bought most when the prices were about half what they are today.

  • Anderprepperstein

    Wow, talk about myopic generalizations and misinformation. Good to know a few things though. 1. You left wing dystopians won’t be sitting on any caches of food or ammunition during the inevitable crash. 2. I won’t feel bad about turning you away. 3. You breed less.

    • The Bane of Your Existence

      Four months ago… How long were you “prepping” before that? How long were you harboring contempt and hoping to prep to turn people away before that? So hows that “crash” “apocalypse” thing working out for you?

  • AJsOverThisShit

    There sure is alot of judging and ignorance in this article as well as some of these comments. If you don’t know a prepper, then you shouldn’t believe everything your government wants you to believe about them. These are people that see a grey area, not just the black and white. Being prepared has nothing to do with conspiracies or Oathkeepers. Open your mind and learn to be accepting of others ideals, not just your closed minded views. Being prepared is a good thing, not a kook thing.

    BTW, this article is rubbish, talk about ignorance. I think if you’re going to write an article, you should actually have to be a bit objective. Like real journalists used to do.

  • Eduardo Blanco

    Sounds to me that the author of this article might be the real extremist.
    Hey, Schewitz. Calm down, the preppers aren’t out to get you.
    I don’t prep, but if someone wants to be prepared I’m not about to start spreading rumors about them out of fear.