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"Doomsday Preppers" features some of the worst ideas ever.

I was going to write a thing today about the various Body Snatchers movies in order to ring in the Halloween season, but I somehow failed to notice that there was another one made in 1994.  So, I'm going to put that on hold for a week or two and write about something not nearly as seasonal: "Doomsday Preppers," a TV show about a bunch of sympathetic, but horribly misguided folks.


For the uninitiated, this is a documentary-styled show about people who believe the world will be coming to an end in the near future and who are accordingly hoarding food, water, weapons, and other supplies in order to survive as long as possible in a theoretical post-apocalyptic environment.

The show came out in 2012, so surely I'm behind on the times, but... has anybody else noticed how terrible this show is?

Well, not the show, necessarily, but the philosophy.  As an artistic creation, the show is actually okay.  It's edited well, it has some good transitions, and there's some nifty little factoid boxes that pop up in the corner and inform you of useful tidbits.  (One particularly well-timed pop-up ended up being the most hilarious moment on the entire show when somebody said out loud, "Preppers know that cooking kills nutrients, so we advise that you eat your food raw," right before shoving a fistful of bloody fish into her mouth, followed immediately by a bubble informing us, "Cooking does not kill nutrients, but it does kill harmful parasites.")

The problem is that the show, like most of its fellow entries in the let's focus on a particular psychological problem and turn it into a docudrama genre, does nothing to dissuade either its viewers or its subjects from the titular neurosis.  It's not that the show "glorifies" doomsday prepping - it just doesn't provide a whole heck of a lot of facts to set the issues straight.

What you end up with is this morbid microscope that feeds into the preppers' paranoid delusions.  Kinda like giving the Munchhausen Moms on Toddlers and Tiaras camera-time when what they really need is a big hug and some anti-anxiety medication.


So, here's the deal, guys.  If you're already a prepper or you're already heading down that path, I'm probably not going to be able to set your mind at ease.  And if you're already the type that watches this show ironically, then you probably don't need to be convinced that it's a foolish hobby.  So I'm addressing the rest of this post not to either of the extremes, but rather to the impressionable folks on the fence who heard about doomsday prepping and thought, "Maybe that's a good idea?"

For those folks, I want to say, in no uncertain terms: it's a massive waste of time and resources.  Everything about it is based in logical fallacies, panic, and non-science.  It's perhaps the smuggest, most irritating, most selfish, most arrogant, most awful thing I've ever witnessed - and yes, I'm even comparing this shit to Honey Boo-Boo.

There's just too much bullshit to try to cover in a single blog post without devolving into mindless, angry ranting, so let me try to tackle this in traditional Internet List format instead.  Here's five of the biggest reasons why you shouldn't waste your time prepping for doomsday:

5. All the doomsday scenarios you're worried about have already happened - or they're impossible.


There's not a single thing on the show that hasn't happened in some capacity already.  Most of those scenarios are not only survivable, but they are downright tame.  A dirty bomb?  Turns out it actually doesn't have terribly many long-term effects.  Famine?  Goin' on right now, baby.  A horrible global economic depression that contributed to the breakdown of local economies and eventually a horrifying war culminating in the detonation of nuclear devices?  Not only did it happen, but we enjoyed it so much we can't stop romanticizing it.  And despite all that, guess what species is still thriving regardless?

Sure, effects on individuals will vary, and it will absolutely suck if you happen to be at the epicenter of an epidemic or an earthquake - but people recover.  Time tells us that humans are resilient and work quickly to restore normalcy.  Consider the Mount St. Helen's eruption.  It killed lots of people and wreaked havoc, but in less than three months, stability resumed.  In fact, transportation - and thus rebuilding efforts - was pretty much restored in about 10 days.

You can make the argument that A Really Big Disaster would be unrecoverable.  But in those cases, either the Really Big Disaster is not possible (e.g., the entire planet rearranging itself in a matter of weeks after a polar shift) or you're talking about something of such major scope that there's not even a chance of surviving it in the first place - so why bother prepping?


4. There's no possible way to test anything to see if it even works.


I know that you can test the individual components of your system or your plan.  If you want to build a Faraday Cage to protect your electronics, then sure, you can test the Faraday Cage.  You can also test your individual skills.  And you can even run elaborate drills to run through evacuation plans.  But you can't actually test your preparations as a whole unless you actually go through the end of the world.  And guess what has never happened?

It's incredibly naive to think that your bug-out locations, your supplies, your plans, your routes, your vehicles, or pretty much anything you've prepared will actually function entirely as intended in a real-world disaster.  There's just no way for you to test it to be sure.  Anything short of the actual end of the world is just glorified LARPing.

3. You can do the fun stuff without the assy aftertaste of the apocalypse.


The people on the show frequently divide their time and money between three things: buying shit, buying or building a place to store all their shit, or practicing survival skills.  One of these is not like the others.

A bit of self-improvement's always welcome, even if it's a skill you hope not to have to use.  You want to get better at using guns?  Be able to sew your own clothes?  Farm your own crops?  Start a fire with nothing but two sticks?  Hey - go for it.  All of these are skills that could be useful in many situations.  Even if you don't put them into practice very often, it at least gives you the chance to expand your hobbies and you'll have something fun to talk about at parties.

But you don't need the end of the world as an excuse.  You can just practice your camping skills because you enjoy camping.  Why bring the apocalypse into it?


2. Survivors of actual disasters get through them by working with other people and specifically not by isolating themselves.


A recurring source of frustration I have on the show is that the preppers will look at the camera and say something like, "When the shit hits the fan [they just looooooooooOOOOOOOOOOOoooove that phrase], ever'body's gonna come up to MY house and ask for help, and I'm gonna say, 'No way!' I gotta look out for my family!"  Then they'll fold their arms like self-satisfied assholes while bragging how they're going to survive and everyone else is going to die.

The problem is, that attitude is the exact reason that most people die during actual crisis situations.  You want to survive a true disaster?  Here's a tip for you: stick with the crowds.

The one piece of advice that you will always get from any legitimate (read: statistically-validated) resource on disaster management is to let people know your location and whereabouts.  Why is that?  Simple: if people know where you are, they can come help you.  Your greatest asset in any kind of crisis is the combined efforts, expertise, and talents of other human beings.  Your greatest weakness in a crisis whatever your current weaknesses are - only amplified a hundred times over.  You alone are worthless.  You with everyone else are an essential piece of a survival machine.

If you hole up in a shack in the middle of God-knows-where in the mountains with 10 years' worth of canned beans and a shotgun, then the rest of the world is going to be rebuilding New Earth while you trip, cut yourself on a jagged can lid, and bleed to death in isolation because nobody has any idea you need a hand.

1. Even if Doomsday ever does hit, you're almost certainly going to die no matter what you do.


Penn & Teller had a pretty good bit about this over a decade ago when they did an episode of Bullshit on "The End of the World."  While getting a massage, Penn explains (paraphrased): Everybody always talks about what 'they' are going to do when the world ends, as if it's not an event that will kill 90% of the world's population.  Teller and I are betting we're gonna die.  You should see our credit card bills. That hits it home pretty well.

The problem with any prepping mentality is that people seem to think that there even is such a thing as "being prepared" for the end of the world.  By definition, a doomsday event is an unexpected, unpredictable, and unstoppable force of destruction that kills without mercy or logic.  There simply is no way to prepare for it.

The truth is that all of us are dancing on the edge of a knife.  Every day bears witness to a hundred thousand chance events that could kill any one of us or all of us.  Disease, natural disasters, war, a meteor strike... Even if you could prepare for one of those things, you can't prepare for them all - and you'll never know which one is going to pop up and take you out.

When you view the world through that lens, it's easy to panic and become unnerved.  There's so much uncertainty about the future that any tiny thing you can do to control your destiny becomes a feeling of empowerment.  I can completely understand that desire.  Being able to grab an extra can of food and hold it in your hands and say, "I own this," gives you something tangible that will literally give you extra life.


But it's all hubris.  Doomsday prepping is based on the foolish notion that uncertainty is a thing to be conquered rather than managed.  It makes total sense to make some minor, well-informed preparations for short-term disasters, but anything beyond that is a detriment to your life and well-being.  You'll end up convincing yourself that you are in control of more than you possibly can be, and that sort of arrogance will destroy you faster than anything else.

The best way to prepare for the end of the world?  Take a deep breath and contemplate inner peace.  It's more closure and reassurance than your death bunker ever will be.