There has been much discussion of late in the Prepper community about National Geographic’s “Doomsday Preppers”. One frequented point is that the show severely skews Preppers in an effort that can be summed up as “making good television”. This is evident not only through viewing the show itself, but through the format they have built the show around. Some highlights of that format include:
- Featuring one Prepper for 15 minutes only, ensuring that you don’t get too comfortable with them or learn very much about them
- Requiring each guest to pigeon-hole themselves into one thing they are preparing for – almost always a “doomsday” scenario
- Creating conflict and drama via their “experts” who review the segment and then condemn or condone what the Prepper has done – all within the context of the “one thing” they’re preparing for
The core belief of The APN is that “every family should strive to become self-reliant”; and our Mission is “to teach Self-Reliance to every household in America”.
Therefore, we are very pleased to see Prepping getting so much attention in the media! While most of us can probably agree that in theory this is a good thing, many of us appear to also agree that the presentation through Doomsday Preppers is not necessarily accomplishing those goals.
To demonstrate this point, I would like to bring your attention an article published yesterday in The New York Times: “Doomsday Has Its Day in the Sun”. In it the author draws conclusions that, at first pass, appear to be a scathing judgement of Preppers. He says:
But the unmistakable impression left by these programs is that what these folks want most of all is not to protect their families — the standard explanation for why they’re doing what they’re doing — or even the dubious pleasure of being able to say to the rest of us, “See, I told you the world was going to end.” What they want is a license to open fire.
“What they want is a license to open fire”. Is this true of our community? I fervently say “NO!” However, I believe it is an easy conclusion to draw from watching the show and the way National Geographic presents us. Additionally, I believe there are members of our community who do feel this way on some level – I think it’s a very, very small minority, but I think they’re out there.
Presenting anything to the mainstream that allows them to easily draw this conclusion is something we would like to see avoided. Every person who draws this conclusion will look at us as crazies, as they should, and not only will they not investigate becoming self-reliant themselves, but they will spread the counter-message that we are a sub-culture that should be avoided.
I’ve seen some outrage in the community over this conclusion being drawn by the author – but was he wrong? Think about it critically for a moment and consider some of the quotes coming out of Doomsday Preppers and the overall way in which the guests are presented. If I remove myself mentally from being a Prepper and consider it, I could very easily draw the same conclusion. In fact, from that perspective, I wouldn’t want to be associated with several of the presentations I see on the show. The bottom line is, Doomsday Preppers isn’t necessarily doing us a lot of favors in their presentation of us to the mainstream. As for the author and his conclusions – I don’t think he’s wrong, from his perspective.
In short, by allowing, promoting and participating in (as guests) the show we have consequences; The consequence of Doomsday Preppers is a negative viewpoint being presented and built of our community.
And this is exactly what they want. I’ve talked to them – long before the pilot was put together last year. Their view of our community and the view that they want to present is that we are on the fringe, we are not normal and that we are gun nuts. And WE are letting them do it – for a literal 15 minutes of fame. They are getting exactly what they want; they present a show with a bunch of crazies and they get the largest viewing audience they’ve ever had all at the expense of our community and how the public perceives us.
Perhaps they should call the show “Rawlesian Survivalists”, because the show is a lot more about that type of thinking than the general Prepper Mindset. Not that we have anything against James or SurvivalBlog – but the ideas he espouses about “Opsec” and total collapse survival are just like the show Doomsday Preppers – Preparing for ONE situation and one situation only. Self-Reliant living or Prepping is about living a lifestyle where you are able to handle the ups, downs, ins and outs of life – not just when there’s a total and complete collapse.
As for Neil Genzlinger, the author of the Times article, he has a special needs daughter. I know quite a bit about that. I’m more than willing to bet that if he read a little bit about us and why we prepare it would make a lot of sense to him. Having special needs kids actually makes you into a specialized Prepper of sorts – I’m positive that Neil has ready access to medication, physicians, specialized care and so on and I have no doubt that whatever his daughter needs to sustain her, he has plenty of backups for it. What we do isn’t really any different – it’s just that where he’s very targeted on one issue, we’re doing it broadly so we can deal with anything that may come.
Because I’m sure I’ll get called on it for writing this, I’ll address my own show - Meet the Preppers. While there is certainly some “made for tv” drama in my show, we have deliberately and carefully made sure that we aren’t presented as fringe. While my show deals with some unusual topics for television, they are real world topics that happen every day. As the show progresses, you’ll see that we’re dealing with everyday scenarios in each episode – not the “End of the World” as it were.
As for those few in our community who may be “wanting a license to open fire” – our official policy is to please leave our community and go find a different one – Thanks!