Youtube has a funny way of determining what you’re into. For example, I started learning Arabic a couple months ago, and after watching a few Arab language learning videos my “recommended” videos section started to fill up with stuff like this:
No wonder ISIS has become such a problem. A bunch of innocent young people just wanted to learn Arabic and thanks to Youtube’s recommendations they started watching videos from increasingly radical imams until they went full-blown Salafist. Thanks, Youtube. Thanks, Obama.
Seriously though, I’m bringing up the issue of Youtube recommendations because lately I was looking up some videos on counterintelligence. I have this hobby of reading a lot of stuff on one theme until I get sick of it, and then moving onto something else for a while. Lately I was reading this book by an ex-Mossad agent, as well as some other books about the covert conflict between the Mossad, Black September, the PLO, etc. in Europe. On the topic of counterintelligence, I was really interested in how agents detect, lose, and burn opposing agents who might be following them, therefore I watched some videos on counter-surveillance. Pretty soon I start getting recommended videos about survivalism. I figured there was no harm in watching a few of these and this is my verdict.
First of all, I will grant that many of these videos have decent production value and some of the speakers seem quite competent, at least when it comes to survival tactics. Nobody went into rants about FEMA camps or UN occupation troops. They just referred to having to “bug out” when a “SHTF”(shit hits the fan) situation occurs. Nonetheless, I still have to say that it was all pretty amusing.
I get a kick out of Americans imagining that our country will be invaded or otherwise face some kind of total breakdown of law and order which will require people to “bug out” into the woods and the mountains. These are the same people who own professional cameras, PCs with video editing capabilities, registered cars, probably homes, and some of them might have monetized their videos meaning that Youtube sends them money. I’m not saying that these people couldn’t survive a long time in the wilderness with the things they seem to have prepared, but I’m not sure how mentally prepared they are for such a situation.
Americans wake up in the morning, have some coffee, watch flat-screen TVs or check Facebook on their iPads or smartphones. They drive to Wal-Mart and buy all sorts of food at extremely low prices. You can go into pretty much any supermarket and be sure that they will have the same brand-name products, or at least an exact equivalent. Every four years, a new president is elected via a system which is ridiculously unrepresentative in comparison to other forms of liberal democracy, yet remarkably stable. My point here is that Americans simply don’t know what it means to have to contemplate bugging out. I didn’t know what that means; now I do, and so do many of my former colleagues or friends. I know what it is to feel that your life teeters on the edge of a knife, and that your capacity to do anything about it can be extremely limited. You have to carry on like everything is fine but you know it can come crashing down at any moment.
Now at this point Guy Fawkes mask-wearing American dipshits will start screaming about PRISM, corporate money in politics, the militarization of police, and so on, all in an attempt to assure me that yes, there is a danger in America and thus planning for that SHTF scenario. Well, no. Are there serious problems in America? Of course. Should people stand up and try to fight against them while they can? Yes. But is there going to be one single event that suddenly ushers in martial law, bringing war to America’s streets? Probably not. Chicken Littles like professional con-man Alex Jones have been predicting this event for more than a decade, others have been predicting the same long before he ever came on the air. The truth is that in the US you still have a lot of capacity to oppose unpopular government and/or private sector policies, and you ought to use them instead of stocking up on ammunition and MREs.
See, SHTF scenarios simply do not happen in top economic powers with functioning liberal democratic systems and rule of law. You don’t go from electing different presidents from different parties to martial law and civil war at the drop of a hat in the modern world. It starts when you no longer have a competitive political system, or you have a president for life, or most of the country becomes impoverished while a small elite few rule with an iron fist. Modern, industrialized governments need an existential threat to initiate that kind of unpopular crackdown. Once a nation achieves a certain level in terms of standards of living, the formula for power comes from maintaining those standards of living, not using state power to crack down on people. You want people to have a stake in the system, so that they have too much to lose from rebelling or “bugging out.” The carrot is far superior to the stick.
I’m not so stupid as to go full Fukuyama and pretend that America is something eternal which will exist as it does now in perpetuity until the sun explodes, but in the foreseeable future, the US will continue to maintain very high living standards and great sway in economic matters. It’s political system, as fucked up as it is, still generally follows its own rules. Could America change into a country where such a scenario is possible? Of course, but it has to go through those other stages first. Indeed, the mentality of America’s ruling class has become quite delusional in light of the fall of socialism at the end of the 1980’s. Some have made the comparison to the so-called “Gilded Age.” The media has been complicit in a racist backlash that has been brewing for decades. Sowing mistrust and disunity among a population is a great way to destroy a society.
I think the problem with all this survivalist nonsense is that much like conspiracy theory-based populism, it is utterly impotent in terms of changing society. It concedes that the “shadowy elites” have won, and the only option is to prepare to run off into the woods and of course make some monetized Youtube videos about how you plan to do it. Many of these people will rant about the coming gun confiscation or pacification troops just before they head off to Sonic and stuff their face with chili-fries or play Call of Duty for seven hours straight on their Xbox. Is this what you do when you believe you must be prepared to bug out into the woods at a moment’s notice? I can’t say I’m terribly prepared, but in the past few months I’ve been giving away books, selling stuff, and whenever I can I exchange rubles for dollars, as does my wife. I still lead a pretty laid-back life, but that nagging fear is always there. Does Mr. Multicam with his expensive AR-15, souped up with Magpul after-market parts and accessories, know that feeling? Or is it just a fantasy he lives in order to give his life some kind of meaning?