Rich, poor or just paranoid — everyone's obsessed with the new doomsday prep trend

Rich, poor or just paranoid — everyone's obsessed with the new doomsday prep trend

CultureJanuary 25, 2017 By Isabelle Kohn

Prepper Tom lived with his mom, all nice, and warm, and comfy
But Prepper Tom, obsessed with “zom” was sure a little gumpy

He didn’t know just where to go, to grab a bite to eat-o
But his AR was tricked as fuck, it really was quite neat-o

The flashlights, lasers, optics too, were great for all guerrillas
But Prepper Tom knew very well, it’s not the time for killas

... That pretty much describes what you'll find on Reddit's r/Preppers subreddit, the internet's booming, premiere locale for doomsday preparation.

World war. Natural disasters. Nuclear winter. Plagues. Zombies. Whatever you need to survive, you'll find it on r/Preppers. Inside its innumerable threads, you'll encounter thousands of paranoid global citizens sharing tips about improvised weaponry, how to convince friends and family that the end is imminent, and how to create a proper home bag, a sack of ultra-necessary survival shit you should have on you at all times if "SHTF" (that's "shit hits the fan," a favorite acronym of preppers). You'll learn how to start a fire with gum wrapper and a battery, and what the perfect Yellowstone Supervolcano explosion outfit is. There's even required reading about off-the-grid living, how to access medicine like antibiotics if all the pharmacies have been nuked, a couple hundred Trump disaster capitalism conspiracy alerts, and solutions to the pivotal question, "If The Grid Went Down For 1 Year (Hypothetically) What Assets Would Be Best To Store Your Wealth (That Maintain Or Increase In Value) In Besides Gold/Silver?"

Alcohol. That's the answer to that last question, by the way. You'd stockpile alcohol and sell it to the zombies.

From comments such as "The time has come, I must buy weapons," and topics like "How to eat a pine tree to survive," it's clear that some sort of reckoning is imminent in many people's minds. How common is this sort of disaster-based thinking?

Very, as it turns out. r/Preppers isn't just some miniscule, sectioned-off population of paranoia operating on some dusty corner of the internet — it's growing movement, one that's at least 32,000 people strong on that particular subreddit alone. And, as fears about things like Trump's presidency, climate change and the increasing probability of nuclear warfare swell, more and more people are joining in an effort to prepare for the worst.

Survivalism's increasing popularity has ballooned in recent years, surfacing more and more often in mainstream culture, in part because apocalyptic events such as natural disasters, domestic terrorism and disease epidemics have seemingly intensified as the internet increases our ability to share — and mutate — information. For that reason, it's no surprise that National Geographic's 2012 docu-series “Doomsday Preppers," which profiled a series of Americans bracing for the end, drew more than four million viewers to become the most popular show in the channel's history. Likewise, a survey conducted by National Geographic afterwards revealed that 40 percent of Americans thought that stockpiling supplies and building bomb shelters was a smarter investment than a 401K.

One of the most surprising groups to subscribe to the growing panic is the mega-rich. In fact, Business Insider reports that doomsday preparation has become one of the more prevalent hobbies among the Silicon Valley elite as they use their massive wealth to build survival shelters, invest in life-preserving technology and alter their own bodies in preparation for the apocalypse. According to Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, the prepper movement among tech-made billionaires is largely inspired by fear that artificial intelligence will one day displace so many jobs that there will be a revolt against those behind the technology, a dystopian future that even President Obama warned about last week.

This type of thinking is so prevalent among the moneyed that Hoffman estimates that “50-plus percent” of other tech billionaires now have a home outside the country to escape to in the event North Korea gets frisky with us. Many of these homes are in New Zealand, a country with ultra-lax immigration policies and a debilitating skill deficit that would make finding gainful employment there easy. In fact, in the week following Election Day, over 13,400 Americans registered with New Zealand immigration authorities to seek residency, which The New Yorker reports is over 17 times the average rate.

Even the CEO of Reddit himself, Steve Huffman, isn't taking any chances. He just underwent laser eye surgery so he could have proper vision in case doomsday wiped out all the optometrists or contact stores.

"If the world ends — and not even if the world ends, but if we have trouble — getting contacts or glasses is going to be a huge pain in the ass," Huffman told The New Yorker. "Without them, I’m fucked."

Huffman is just one of many one percenters to take actions like that recently. Marvin Liao of Yahoo confessed he was taking archery classes to protect his family, and Tim Chang of Mayfiend Fund is buying up international real estate and holding doomsday prep dinners for his wealthy friends where typical dinner table discussions include "stocking up on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, to figuring out how to get second passports if they need it, to having vacation homes in other countries that could be escape havens.”

Justin Kan, co-founder of the gaming network Twitch, first heard whispers of survivalism among his peers around the financial crisis of 2007.

“Some of my friends were, like, ‘The breakdown of society is imminent. We should stockpile food,’" he told The New Yorker. “I tried to. But then we got a couple of bags of rice and five cans of tomatoes. We would have been dead if there was actually a real problem.” 

“Lots of money and resources,” will save him and his friends, he says though.

For richies like Kan, those things can buy them a spot at a survival resorts like the Survival Condo Project or Vivos, private posh doomsday shelters where the financially loaded can live out the end of days in lavish style.

At Vivos Europa One, a community survival pods in Rothenstein, Germany, a standard shelter will come with a swimming pool, hair salon, nursery, TV and radio station, hospital, and a hydroponic garden, all for the low, low entry fee of $4,350,000. For the more modest, there's a discount option in South Dakota called Vivos X-Point that'll run you about $25K ... not bad for this kind of setup:

However, while the wealthy have archery and mansion-missile silos, the plebeians r/Preppers have each other. The community knows that no amount of money is a substitute for preparedness, and thus, it's become a life-spring of valuable information for the common man. Guides on water purification, where to go during a nuclear explosion, and most importantly, what do when SHTF and the internet goes out are written with the average Joe in mind, an important factor when you consider that the majority of Reddit's readers are millennials, and millenials have been proven to lack the same basic survival skills older generations have. When it comes to reading maps, fishing and starting fires, our generation's pretty much useless. That's why we need internet doomsday movements on aggregate sites. It's the only way we'll ever learn.

So while the ultra-rich may be able to afford services and structures that bypass the need for these skills, the rest of us normies would do well to poke around r/Preppers and see what the hype's about ... because it never hurts to know how to eat a pine tree in the midst of a nuclear fallout.