Not a week goes by that my news tab doesn't have a few stories on the American survivalist movement, courtesy of the presence of doomsday electromagnetic pulse references in all such pieces. The homespun country paranoids are now firmly in the US entertainment mainstream, notably in newspapers, almost purely because of the semi-success of one of the crummiest television reality series ever, National Geographic's Doomsday Preppers.
The prepper movement shows all the collateral damage [the rubbish from the Cult of Electromagnetic Pulse Crazy, a GOP construction] has wrought on the suggestible and unbalanced.
Conspicuously, this increasingly nuts demographic is almost entirely white, far right, heartland, fundie Christian religious and breast-beatingly patriotic.
It is not a surprise that cable television feels this niche large enough to monetize. Death cults/apocalypse believers have always been part of the American experience. However, until social media, micro-casting and the Internet there wasn't an easy way to cynically gather all of them up into a nice exploitative package for advertising.
Two stories this week underline it.
An excerpt from the Seattle Times, on the survivalists in the Pacific Northwest:
"[Tom Martin, 34, a long-haul truck driver based out of Port Angeles] and other preppers are adamant about not being mistaken for survivalists, especially after the recent news stories about the North Bend man who police say shot himself in a hillside bunker after killing his wife and teen daughter ...
"On its website, Puget Sound Preppers says, 'This group is NOT involved in: revolution, war, militia, political parties, religious activities, racism, or lobbying. This group is about skills and knowledge.' "
Ah, but they doth protest too loudly. Here -- a Google search for 'preppers,' 'Obama,' and 'socialism.'
[Electromagnetic pulse] is the primary concern of Jan Sterritt who, along with husband Bill, runs Carolina Readiness Supply in Waynesville N.C..
"It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when (an EMP will hit)", she says ...
"Of particular concern to Bill, is the 'occupy' movement. Bill points his finger toward Asheville, about 20 miles East, where protesters gathered over the summer.
"' There are those who want to disrupt our constitutional system. I mean there are anarchists in the street. They've been in the street since last fall. I fear they'll be out in the streets this spring and summer. They're being subverted by anarchist elements, communists, there's a lot of subversion going on within these groups. It's scary.'
"Bill is now more animated as he talks about his real motivations. His political interest in prepping dovetails with trends in the national news. When the economy cratered in 2008, when Barack Obama moved into the Oval Office, when concern grew about Federal debt, preppers multiplied nationwide. In the western Carolinas they're around every corner."
There is no progressive viewpoint within the prepper movement. And they have an allergy to the descriptor "survivalist" because of its association with neo-Nazis, militias and the far right. They are inescapably a part of this social fringe, on television, always visibly infatuated with fortified home ammo dumps, machine guns, and paramilitary training.
They all share an uneducated, simplistic and diseased world view, half of their daytime life spent obsessing over how they'll defend themselves from the others who will come for their stuff in the inevitable fall. And you know who all the others are.
Poke them hard enough with hard questions, or supercilious articles, and they'll snap. Since they are always carrying and displaying weapons, general news reporters may feel reluctant to press them on such matters.
However, one does not have to go very far on YouTube to find men in camouflage, advertising themselves as preppers, recommending shotguns or other firearms for use in shooting future interlopers in one situation or another.
"We want someone in our group who is very familiar with weaponry and the art of fighting ... I am thrilled to have somebody who actually knows how to use a gun and that means more than plinking away at a range where the target does not move ..." sez my favorite prepper, the Patriot Nurse, in her latest video.
It's arguable whether National Geographic has done anyone a service by thrusting preppers into the limelight for the sake of some money on cable television.
So you can see I'm opposed to making kooks more kooky. Which brings us to JJ Abrams new television show -- Revolution -- on civilization's collapse, also handily illustrating how marinated US popular culture is in electromagnetic pulse doom mythology.
In the real world, however, you may have noticed it's solely the property of the extreme right wing. But you can't have a television show with just those limited characters. That would be called Doomsday Preppers, and it already exists as a niche product designed to monetize the peculiar rather than vend something to a much larger audience in the world of network primetime family viewing.
Anyway, these days It's gotten so you can't turn around without being hit by another JJ Abrams creation. There are so many of them you know he's like everyone else in such a production position, an exalted deity who assigns his name to lackeys, allowing them to phone in whatever it is that needs phoning in under his blessings.
And Revolution sure looks it from the trailer. How unique! Another tv series with civilization destroyed, electricity gone, people playing survivalist, separated into various warring tribes, this time using bows, arrows and muskets.
Is there anyone who doesn't see "electromagnetic pulse" crap on tv or in movies as plot devices/scenarios/predictions a couple times a month in 2012 USA? Not likely.
What sets Revolution slightly apart, and any other thing like it in the last three or four years, from the survivalist craze is that the cast can never be like anyone you see in prepper videos.
For television everyone is caught flat-flooted when disaster arrives. Nobody has a years worth of dried corn and pemmican, no basement armories with a quarter ton of ammunition, no gun room with a couple belt-fed weapons. The houses are never built from cast-off shipping containers. And they're not all camo-dressed right wingers. About half the cast will be visibly worried about falling into a world where only the gun, mercilessness and physical strength rule. The fascists are almost always the bad guys.
While you'll see the bits about having to fight off others coming for your stuff, those coming for it are never the same types the prepper/survivalists mean when they advise on learning how to shoot moving targets. For tv or movies, the progressives, liberals, educated and registered Democrats/Commies aren't the unprepared slugs everyone is hoping they won't have to put down because they've come stumbling up the road to the safe house.
Which brings us to yesterday's Wall Street Journal and the usual groups who've spent years ably spreading all the fertilizer and topsoil in the garden of electromagnetic pulse crazy and end of American civilization legends. It's all about preparation against solar flares, or the lack of it:
"With a peak in the cycle of solar flares approaching, U.S. electricity regulators are weighing their options for protecting the nation's grid from the sun's eruptions--including new equipment standards and retrofits--while keeping a lid on the cost ...
"They are studying the impact of historic sunstorms ...
"'This is arguably the largest natural-disaster scenario that the nation could face,' said [Mr. John Kappenman.]
"Mr. Kappenman has consulted for companies that make equipment to harden the grid.
"Others are more cautious in their predictions ..."
The private sector and scientists with the US government have now turned wise to what happens when the lobbyists from the Cult of EMP Crazy (or EMPAct America) run wild. And they have successfully shoved off to the fringes of actual political power the constant assertions that the nation faces an imminent return to the days of the horse and buggy.
That hasn't stopped the electromagnetic pulse lobby, which is the same as the Bomb Iran lobby. The people simply change the name of their group to something that sounds important knowing that reporters won't check the rosters from the old websites for matches.
And so, one of the chief lobbyists for EMPAct America, Peter Pry, appears in the Journal story as "executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, a group that members of Congress designated to track electrical-grid risks and that supports Mr. Kappenman's conclusions."
The Task Force on National and Homeland Security, functionally speaking, is EMPAct America under a second name, the same small and mostly ineffective group of right-wingers that has always been lobbying for ballistic missile defense and bombing Iran pre-emptively so Ahmadinajad and the mullahs cannot send American civilization into the abyss using a missile launched from an offshore barge.
More interesting is another thing Pry is in, the Noah Project, a sort of high-button version of what looks like a commercial effort to be in the prepper business.
Look! There's Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen!
The Noah Project is to help advise you and possibly save your life during the coming Gotterdammerung, maybe by selling you a nice property in a "Certified retreat community," like this one in the Appalachian Mountains.
Far, far away from the unprepared swine (and Democrats) in the cities who will be wanting to take your stuff after the grid collapses.
Today's pop music interlude -- Chainsaw Rally, loud electric folk on heavy garden machinery with a nod to Ted Nugent.
Originally published at Dick Destiny blog.