The Effects of Media on Prepping

Recently, we here at SHTFblog.com were contacted by the folks at National Geographic regarding a “Blog Carnival” they were hosting to promote their new two hour movie “American Blackout” and the new season of “Doomsday Preppers“. The question they submitted for us to run with was this: “Judging from recent apocalyptic films This is the End and World War Z to ‘what if’ disaster shows like NBC’s Revolution or Nat Geo Channel’s upcoming American Blackout, to reality fare like Doomsday Preppers, it’s safe to say that the “end of the world as we know it” is on everyone’s mind.  But what effect have TV shows and films like these had on the prepping movement?”

From NGC’s American Blackout: The father of the Prepper group in Ohio with his supplies in the underground bunker. (Photo Credit: National Geographic Channels/ Stewart Volland)

Interesting.

First off, it’s a tad bit, well, ironic that they’ve asked us about this, since we are probably the only SHTF site where none of the contributors watch much in the way of TV (not that the NatGeo folks knew that, of course.). Movies, yes; TV, not so much. But we have seen our share of these shows from time to time…enough to get the shorthand version of what’s offered out there. I believe that the “prepping movement” is depicted somewhat differently via these two mediums: one leaning towards the short burst of lunacy and wackiness that keeps your attention through commercial breaks, the other showing more “prepared” people who aren’t afraid to machine-gun a squirrel and throw in an explosion or two, since the special effects budget can swing it.  Of course, the way preppers as people are shown in TV and movies run the gamut from a bumbling boob who forgets to pack a can opener in his bomb shelter full of canned goods, all the way to psychotic, violence-craving lunatics who would give Gary Busey on PCP a case of the heebie-jeebies. But how does all of this effect our personal decisions, how does it steer how we prepare for the worst, if it does at all?

 

Jarhead Survivor, our fearless SHTFblog.com leader, had this to say on the topic:

“Interestingly enough I’ve been thinking about this very topic for awhile now.  The conclusion I’ve come to is that these shows have a huge impact on prepping.

I look at these shows through different lenses.  First, the movie World War Z was just that – a movie for entertainment.  It was one of the better zombie flicks I’ve seen recently.  The plot moved quickly, the characters were good, and it was a real nail biter.  I made some popcorn, grabbed a soft drink and sat back and enjoyed it  immensely.

In prepping “zombies” tend to represent those people who are either totally unprepared or worse, know of your preparations and are out to get them.  How many of you preppers out there have heard people say, “I don’t have to prep.  If anything happens I’m just going to show up at your place.”  Quite a few I’ll wager.

The reality based shows like Doomsday Preppers tend to cast some of the people in a crazy light.   I understand that this is what sells T.V. shows and the people who produce these shows are out there to make money.  They ain’t a charity!

Despite this they do have a lot of good ideas.  A friend of mine watches religiously and after every episode he always says, “Did you see the show last night?  Man, I never thought of doing that!”  In other words these shows do provide a lot of good information and it’s always interesting to see how the experts are going to grade the participants.

One of the things I personally don’t care for is that they are always prepping for something very specific such as, “I’m preparing for a solar flare and the destruction of the electric grid.”  That’s kind of like taking all your money and placing it all on one card game.  The chances of losing are a lot higher that way.

…I think that people who aren’t preppers that watch these shows fall into two categories:  1.  Those that love the entertainment value of watching people dress up in radiation suits (or whatever) and practice their escape from the city.  Or 2.  Those that never really thought about prepping, but after watching a few episode suddenly begin to realize that maybe these “preppers” really are on to something important.

In that light I believe that these T.V. shows are converting more people than a hundred blogs ever could, which is a good thing.  People should have some food and water stored away in case of emergency.  It doesn’t have to be a years supply of MRE’s, but having a month of food in your pantry just might save the day in case of some far fetched scenario like a government shutdown and you’re a federal worker suddenly without a job or a paycheck.  Right?  Remember, a SHTF event doesn’t necessarily mean a solar flare, it could be as simple as losing your job, but if you have some preps stored away that would at least be one area you don’t have to worry about.”

Some good points – by bringing the “prepper movement” to the forefront, these shows and movies heighten awareness. The average Joe could be watching any of these glowing-box offerings, and think to him/herself, “Yeah, these guys may be a little over the top, but basically the premise is sound… Maybe I have room for a few gallons of water and some ramen noodles in the basement or the pantry.” And just like that, these shows are beneficial entertainment. You don’t have to go to the extremes that many of these people do; just upping your preparations in the form of water, food, batteries, candles, whatever, will get you further ahead in case any disaster may befall you or your family. Asteroid strike or blizzard, you’re a bit better off. You might also see a great idea in action, one you’d never thought of…or could even improve upon if you see it fail. Ain’t nothing wrong with learning from mistakes, even if they are cinematic or scripted in nature.

“The Prepper Movement”:, or, “How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love Spam”

The term “prepper movement” covers a lot of people and lumps them into a single term. Yeah, it’s misleading, I think, since it could mean that the aforementioned fellow who throws a couple extra gallons of water in his basement can instantaneously be thought of in the same light as a guy who builds a bunker in the woods and stocks up for doomsday. And let’s face it, folks: due to media portrayal, it ain’t a kind light. I see enough of a stigma in it that people could actually talk themselves out of a perfectly sound idea because they didn’t want to be thought of as a wild-eyed survivalist waiting for the four horsemen. My wife rolls her eyes when I talk about being prepared, because she automatically makes the mental jump that I can’t WAIT for the bombs to fall so I can live by my wits and my rifle…not thinking that the same blankets, food, generator, and water I’ve put aside can keep us comfortable in an ice storm here in the Maine woods, an extended power outage, or hurricane. But you know what? I’m fine with being lumped in with loonies if it means my family is well taken care of during an emergency. Check and mate.

 

…just in case.

 

However, due to these movies and TV shows bringing these issues to the forefront (albeit in a skewed way to boost ratings…nobody wants to watch a TV show on a guy who spends 10 dollars a week on water gallons and canned goods. I’ll admit THAT.), it’s now becoming cool to be a prepper/survivalist type. Go to a Cabela’s sometime. Once the bastion of serious outdoorsmen, it’s now littered with zombie-specific ammo, Bear Grylls knives, and five-gallon buckets of freeze dried food. The “Prepper movement” has never had it so easy to find good stuff, (and some ridiculous stuff) custom-made for our way of life.

Seeing the silver lining

Folks: these days, if you take the media seriously, you might become a loonie too, over-worrying, not worrying enough. But, hey, it’s there for us to use if we cast upon it in the right light. It’s a tool for us to learn what we CAN do, and what we shouldn’t do. Garner ideas, expound upon them, help friends, build community. Don’t be dragged down by what over-the-top skewed portrayals may be out there; because you know what? You don’t have to go that far if you don’t want to. Ain’t nobody gonna look down their noses at you for trying to be a good provider for your yourself or your family…before or after SHTF. You don’t have to prepare for the Zombie Apocalypse; prepare for a flood, or hurricane: real-life scenarios that are much more likely than dead bodies crawling out of the ground trying to chew on your ass, or complete societal collapse. If that day comes, you’ll be glad you did, and you won’t feel the least bit crazy at all, I promise…you’ll be proud of yourself.

So watch, learn, extrapolate, build, share. You might as well be entertained while you do it.

By the way, check the link I highlighted in the first paragraph for “American Blackout”. The trailer alone makes me want to get more batteries. (The actual movie will be shown on the NatGeo Channel on Sunday, Oct. 27th at 9pm. A new season of “Doomsday Preppers starts on the 29th, in case you were wondering.) And while you’re at it, keep an eye on the NatGeo Channel blog website for SHTFblog to be featured!

What do you guys think?  Does the way media portrays prepping influence how you prepare?

Stay safe!

-TRW

 

 

 

18 comments… add one
  • Templar October 16, 2013, 7:24 am

    I’ve never actually seen any of those programs; I know about ’em from keeping up with blogs like this one. The net effect of them on MY preps is to quiet me down— I don’t preach nearly as much as I have in the past. I’ve also heard “I’m headin’ to YOUR place” too many times, so I don’t use myself as a model anymore. I’m never satisfied with my preps; I’m always thinking of some other thing I should be doing. As a cop, I have a bit more credibility among some folks, but basically the general populace I encounter every day is so infused with “normalcy bias” that I don’t waste my breath much these days.
    They all think it’s MY job to take care of them when the SHTF. So I say, do your best to prep for as many likely (or unlikely) scenarios as is practicable, and don’t talk about it too much, Everybody ELSE watches these shows, and they’ve got YOUR number.

    Reply
    • Expat October 16, 2013, 1:26 pm

      Well said.
      Those who thinks cops will protect them in SHFT is foolish. Police are trained to protect themselves and other cops first, do their duty (to established authority) second, and protect the community third-if still there. Think Katrina. Sticking a gun in some innocents face ( Boston) is a just bonus.
      Mr. Templar may be a Knight but a lot of them aren’t. To paraphrase TR. Walk softly and prep.

      Reply
      • Templar October 16, 2013, 4:34 pm

        Thanx, Expat. I always endeavor to not be “badge-heavy”……….. and I keep a copy of the Constitution in my cruiser.

        Reply
  • RoosterVT October 16, 2013, 8:33 am

    Growing up in ME & NH both grandparents had shelves of food in the basement. Canning was a big deal where all the great aunts would come over and “can” the garden. They even made their own pasta. When I was home on leave I would get up at 0’dark 30 to help make bread as my grandmother did not have the strength to knead the dough. This does not sound like prepping, just common sense. At least that is how I was raised. Most recently my wife’s father was sick and could not get out to the grocery. The man is 80 yrs old and lives alone and never asks for help. Fortunately our pantry was able to provide him enough food for a couple of weeks once delivered. This is what it is about. Helping out family when times are tough. Defining tough is up to the individual and circumstances change like the weather. But, being somewhat prepared or well rounded in supplies pays a huge dividend.

    Thanks for the work here…

    Reply
    • Jarhead Survivor October 16, 2013, 8:36 am

      Well said, RoosterVT. And thank all of you out there who read and support us here at the blog.

      Reply
  • Steve suffering in nj October 16, 2013, 9:45 am

    Caught doomsday preppers a few times. Really didn’t like how the people had there kids involved. Young children shouldn’t be focusing on end of times events. They should just be kids and let the adults concern themselves with a perceived threat. to
    That said, I don’t consider myself a “prepper”. I’ve just lived long enough to see store shelves bare, gas stations completely out of fuel. Not to mention without city water when the powers out there’s no water. I’ve personally boiled lake water on a BBQ grill because I didn’t have enough water on hand. Now I’ve got water stashed, enough food for a couple months and some fuel on hand. I think it’s just common sense, not prepping per say. However, seems lately common sense is becoming less and less common.

    Reply
  • farmgirl October 16, 2013, 10:33 am

    I haven’t watched any of the prepping shows either, so I can’t say they’ve had any influence on me and my urge to prep. If anything media related has caused me to prepare more it’s the news reports of the government, and their complete and total failure at accomplishing anything other than running this country into the ground.

    Reply
  • Al October 16, 2013, 10:38 am

    I read an interview somewhere once with one of the Doomsday Preppers. They said natgeo made them pick just one scenario to focus on for their episode. Also at the beginning of each segment the announcers say this calamity has happened before and probably will happen again. Then at the end of the segment their announcers say there is barely a snowballs chance in Hades it could ever happen again. Just a little something to make the people look crazy.

    Reply
  • Anonymous October 16, 2013, 10:44 am

    I don’t watch much TV or go to the movies but I have a good idea what goes on in those shows. If it stimulates some people to plan for emergencies, then I think the shows have done some good.
    I am very private about what I do in that area. I don’t preach about our lifestyle and always stay under the radar.
    Like some of you, my wife and I both grew up with gardens and canning in our families so having a good quantity of food in the house has always been normal to our way of life. We have just taken it up a notch or so.

    Reply
  • irishdutchuncle October 16, 2013, 12:37 pm

    I can’t see my TV for all my junk and “projects” piled up in front.

    I don’t see myself as a “Prepper”. my dad set the example for me back in the early sixties: he stored a few large jugs of drinking water. then he built a pantry shelf in the basement. (this was after the big ice storm, after leaving the shore early ahead of a hurricane, and just before the Cuban Missile Crisis came to a head) they kept the basement pantry well stocked, until recent times, and used what they stocked.
    I had a few pieces of camping gear with me when I went off to college, and a fairly complete tool kit in the trunk of my car.
    being a little prepared just makes sense.

    Reply
    • irishdutchuncle October 16, 2013, 2:51 pm

      ahead of Y2K, even the government strongly suggested that people should prepare, as though for a winter storm.
      (good advice)

      growing up I heard stories about the 1958 ice storm. (I was there, but too young to remember it) yet, even after 9/11 preparedness, self reliance (or anything else wholesome), is ridiculed by Media types. (even after Katrina. but especially during any Republican administration)

      Reply
  • David: San Antonio October 16, 2013, 1:21 pm

    I have seen one or two episodes of ‘Dooms Day Preppers’. Yes, the media does portray “preppers” as those crazy people in “tin foil hats”, but I expect is because they, the media, have been TOLD to do so. To make light of or portray people who “see through” our current administrations’ BS as “nuts” is a very common tactic. Keep prepping…quietly or within your own “ranks” and remember ‘OPSEC’.

    Reply
  • Badger359 October 16, 2013, 1:41 pm

    I used to watch the show, not sure if it even on now, I do not watch much TV. I try to look any silver lining (Intel) that I can gather and look beyond the some of the wackiness and production/direction angles being projected by the show. Prepping is what I do / Self Reliance is what I live by. My father grew up raising a garden, growing taro and other things, hunting wild with a knife and his dogs in Hawaii growing up, mt mother is a pioneer descendant from Iowa farming, putting up stock and living off the the farms production, canning, live stock, curing, soap making, you name it. My grandfather told me to be humble, quite and observe, but be ready to act and when you do, make it count. A professional will always look for information from anywhere that will give them an advantage in what they are doing (Work smart, not hard) your already doing that. The fact is the infrastructure of centralized control is breaking down, and the more is decomposes the harder they clamp down for control. I agree with the article it has reach more people and it should, it also means more competition for us creating a supply and demand issue, so work with it. Three things that I picked up from the that was of (intel) for me was #1 how a Texas family converted animal/human waste into CH4 gas that they harness for cooking. #2 Closed loop Aqua ponics from a family in Arizona with Tilapia, Chickens and duck weed. #3 considering the back grounds of many of these people may indicate they know something that most do not (some of these are from profession that would have access to what going on)

    Reply
  • Pineslayer October 16, 2013, 11:59 pm

    I watch most of the shows off and on. We have satellite and a DVR, the only way to watch TV, so it is easy to set it up and watch it when time is available. I have friends who proudly confess to not watching TV, but spend hours in front of a computer screen. I find that I learn or think about a different aspect of survival after every show or book or season of growing stuff. Everything in moderation. If these shows get more people thinking about and planning for problems it is good. There are some bad shows, guests, or videos, but not all genres are perfect. If the media portrays us as weird, we are doing something right.

    Reply
  • ThatguyinCA October 17, 2013, 10:58 am

    Have watched Doomsday Preppers. Not religiously. If I turn on the TV and see it while scrolling through the channels, I’ll put it on while I continue to scroll through and if nothing else is on, it stays on. I don’t really pay much attention to the scenarios they are prepping for or how crazy they try to make them, that’s TV. But as I’m watching, I’m assessing their preps. Making suggestions in my head. I’ve probably watched about 9-10 episodes in total. But it was all worth it for one thing I saw someone doing. Auqaponics. I’ve done container gardening for years (and in my college partying days had a hydroponic system), and I’ve kept a decorative fish pond in a large stock tank for years. So I already had experience and knowledge on building up and maintaining that type of system, not a big learning curve jump at all. That was a real eye opener for me. Of course it only really works with electricity and I’m working on setting up a solar powered system, that will be disassembled and stored in a metal container until situations require it’s deployment. But of all my preps, it is the one that helps me sleep at night and is “active” meaning it’s helping me now. Everyone who is able should look into this system. So, for this alone, I give Doomsday Preppers a thumbs up. It can be the dumbest show in the world but if everyone learns 1-2 new things they incorporate or even better yet, changes the way they approach their prepping, then in my book it’s a success. No preppers I want to be associated with assume they know it all or have it all covered. I also give it a thumbs up if it creates more preppers (not the stock up on all the ammo types).

    Reply
  • smokechecktim October 17, 2013, 3:02 pm

    What I know of these shows is mostly the commercials advertizing them. One word…OPSEC. One showed people working on protecting large window openings in a building they designed??? Why did you make the windows large? They all have various gas guzzling vehicles and seem to spend lots of time designing flame throwers and armored cars and other incredible devices that seem a incredible waste of time. Which brings me back to OPSEC. You’re on TV…no OPSEC. If you feel that you might need a tank trap, you are in trouble. If someone is going to the trouble to attack you with a tank….bad OPSEC. If I saw a large number of MZB or whoever heading my way, its time to leave. These shows are basically great comedy entertainment where nonpreppers can point to preppers and lump us into the same category as those religious wack jobs who predict a certain day that the world will end.

    Reply
  • Betty October 18, 2013, 2:52 pm

    My daughter and I just decided yesterday that prepping is the way she, my grands and I should go. Since we share a household, it’ll be a family thing. We’re a house of all women and I’m going to be soaking up all the information I can from your blog archive and get moving on this lifestyle. Thanks, ahead of time, for what I’ll be learning.

    Reply
  • Ray October 20, 2013, 11:12 am

    We disconnected the TV a year ago, Canceled the Cable . the only “entertainment” here is radio and movies.

    Reply

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