People are quite good at adopting philosophies that rationalize doing what they would do anyway

March 12th, 2012

Have you heard of Preppers? I hadn’t until a friend of mine–who was interviewed on the National Geographic Channel’s new show, Doomsday Preppers–told me all about it. In a nutshell, Preppers prepare for a world where they can’t rely on society. What the disaster is, varies: solar flare, EMP attack, terrorism, financial collapse, zombies (hey you can never be too prepared!)

The Times has a scathing review of the show (it’s really, really harsh):

“Doomsday Preppers” introduces an array of end-of-civilization types who at first seem surprisingly varied. These preppers live all over the country, in rural areas, suburbs and cities. Each has a different reason for turning a perfectly adequate home into a canned-food warehouse or building an escape hideaway (or bug-out location, to use the prepper term) in the mountains. One expects the North and South Poles to swap places, one a global economic collapse, one “an electromagnetic pulse that will disable the transportation system of the United States.”

But the people on this show and the customers of Deep Earth Bunker are more alike than diverse. Who knows how representative these shows are of the prepper universe, but the people they feature are disproportionately white. They can’t speak for long without employing that cliché involving excrement and a fan.

What fascinates me the most about the review is how this fear of apocalypse–and the attendant steps of preparation–fits in nicely with preconceived notions of political philosophy and culture. People who like guns will relish in a philosophy where guns are an important aspect of society.

And whatever their religious beliefs might be, something “Preppers” doesn’t generally explore, most of them put their real faith in firearms.

“Preppers” and “Bunkers” are both full of footage of people firing or lovingly cradling their weaponry, which in many cases is frighteningly extensive. (You really don’t want the guy in last week’s “Preppers” living next door; in addition to a house full of ammunition, he has stockpiled 50 gallons of gasoline, an unsettling combination.) One notable exception was Kathy Harrison, a New England woman profiled on a recent “Preppers.”

Or, this piece from CSM about America’s gun culture:

“Part of it is being ready for cataclysm every day,” says Gazda, a hospital maintenance engineer. “And to be honest, I started carrying precisely to protect not just myself, but my family, and anyone around me who needs help.”

I’m pretty sure Mr. Gazda enjoyed shooting long, regardless of what the laws are, and long before he had a family or feared the cataclysm. But, such thoughts are quite helpful to rationalize shooting.

Serious confirmation bias.