Saturday, December 1, 2012

Watching Doomsday Preppers

Google it if you need to. I'm not going into details. My psychologist sister in law thinks the show exploits the mentally ill, but I enjoy it.

Besides, in the spirit of Szasz perhaps those sorts of concerns are themselves condescending.

Here's my question: how should we partition this behavior between (1.) extreme risk aversion, and (2.) inaccurate assessments of the probability of doomsday?

Szasz types would probably err on the side of (1.). I don't see how you can watch these people explain their thinking without putting the bulk of it on (2.). If we were talking bomb shelters in the Cold War there's probably a lot of room for (1.), but not in most of these cases.


  1. Kate just made a good point: She said she's surprised that these sorts of people would willingly let camera crews in and broadcast their story on TV.

  2. I don't think we have to partition it either way. I see it as an attempt to have a feeling of agency in a world where the centers of power are remote and inscrutable.

    The reality of the situation -

    1) Too many hands on the political/economic/social steering wheel to easily make predictions
    2) Little chance of your average schmoe getting even a finger on that wheel and steering
    3) The likelihood that this remote and inscrutable process will dramatically affect one's life

    - is dispiriting.

    Better to focus on an imagined and neatly defined disaster and work towards solving that problem. I believe that in the psych lit it is called displacement behavior.

    There's also a great deal of reinforcement. Once someone starts down this particular rabbit hole, visiting websites and perusing catalogs, the "evidence" stacks up for the (fill in the blank)-pocalypse. I have seen a couple of people go into the internet paranoia death spiral.

    As for Kate's point, I'll theorize that the presence of TV cameras is both a validating experience and a chance for evangelizing.

    As a solar installer I have seen my share - houses way too far out in the boonies with way too much canned food.


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