“She prepared for the worst. Last time we visited her in person, we talked about prepping — are you ready for what could happen down the line, when the economy collapses?”
According to her sister-in-law, Marsha Lanza, who was interviewed in the Telegraph, Nancy Lanza, mother of the Newtown school shooter, was a “prepper.”
In an interview with the Daily Mail, her sister-in-law said that Nancy Lanza was storing up food and learning to master the use of firearms because she feared the consequences of the financial crisis.
Nancy Lanza was killed by her son, who then went on to kill 26 people, 20 of them children, at an elementary school in the midsized town of Newtown, Connecticut.
In the United States, preppers (from “prepping” or preparation) form a community of several million people. Between the fiscal cliff threatening the economy, a barrage of hurricanes and, of course, the end of the world, which has never been closer, they are all preparing for an imminent disaster.
Preppers have grown more and more numerous in the past two or three years, their fears heightened by the catastrophically poor management in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the economic crisis.
They believe they’re being watched by the FBI, which supposedly “traced” visitors to SurvivalBlog.com, the most popular prepper site. The blog attracts 300,000 visitors a month, but dozens of other sites also help preppers get ready for “the end of the world as we know it.”
There are also books, seminars, radio shows and even a reality TV show on National Geographic — “Doomsday Preppers” — the second season of which just started.
Who Are the “Preppers”?
They’re a diverse group, and they are far from being sociopaths. In The New York Times, Nancy Lanza is described as a passionate gardener and gun owner, two popular interests among preppers:
“Ms. Lanza was a slender woman with blond shoulder-length hair who enjoyed craft beers, jazz and landscaping. She often went to a local restaurant and music spot, My Place, where at beer tastings on Tuesday evenings, she sometimes talked about her gun collection.”
Preppers refuse to be compared to the survivalists of the 60s and 70s, who prepared themselves for the end of the world by hiding out alone in underground bunkers. They emphasize community and encourage their friends — they aren’t hermits — to prepare themselves as well for a catastrophe so that everyone can rebuild together.
Preppers can be found just about anywhere in the United States, but they are especially common in suburbs inhabited by the white middle class. Some have jobs, others don’t. Many, but not all, are ex-military. Politically, the movement is complicated.
The majority of preppers are far-right and libertarian in the manner of the tea party or Ron Paul: they absolutely do not trust the government. But the movement also includes ecologists who fear climate change and proponents of self-sufficiency in terms of food supply. The vast majority is Christian and believes in the end times.
But there are exceptions everywhere. In an episode of “Doomsday Preppers,” Kathy Harrison of New England says:
“It’s easy to feel a little left out of the prepper community if you live in New England and if you’re not fairly right-wing and conservative politically.”
“But I just don’t spend all my time worrying about storing guns and ammunition, because our security comes not from stockpiling weapons, but from having a community that respects each other, supports each other, and we have each other’s backs.”
Sgt. David Williams, who serves in the Marines and loves tattoos, emphasizes the idea of community. He created the prepping blog Survivology 101. In an interview for the Navy Times website, he says:
“Survival really is a community effort. If you’re just one dude or one family living in a bunker, what are you living for? What’s the point? What are [you] trying to stick around for? You might as well go out with everyone else because there isn’t going to be anything when you climb out of your hole.”
“If we all die together, we all die together. But if we make it through, we become a strong community and we rebuild.”
What Are They Afraid Of?
The mother of the Newtown school shooter was preparing for an economic collapse. It’s been a popular fear among preppers these past few months.
Arte dedicated a report to British preppers and met with Simon Dillon, who lives in a Manchester suburb and fears an inflation bubble similar to the one that hit England in the 20s.
“I’m preparing for the collapse of the economy. Look what’s happening in Greece. People are hungry and no longer have the means to buy food for the simple reason that the country is bankrupt. And that could happen anywhere else. So if everything goes haywire it’s good to have supplies.”*
He says that all you have to do is turn on the TV or the radio to know that things are going badly.
On National Geographic’s “Doomsday Preppers” site, an application constantly keeps track of Twitter feeds to analyze which “end of the world” scenarios are most popular.
On Monday, pandemic was in the lead with 29 percent of doomsday tweets, followed by a 2012 apocalypse (26 percent), nuclear war (20 percent) and economic catastrophe (18 percent). At the time, an eventual major oil crisis was no longer worrying many people (2 percent).
But not all are preparing for the end of the world. Some just want to be independent in the event that the electric grid, modern transportation or the Internet ceases to function.
Chuck Izzo, a prepper interviewed by a BBC journalist in 2010, assured that it has nothing to do with paranoia:
“Having a couple of months’ worth of food, some first aid training, potentially if you can afford it having a back-up power system to maintain the electrical systems in your house … I don’t think that’s paranoia … I think that’s just a degree of readiness. I think it improves our confidence and our quality of life.”
How Do They Prepare?
The ultimate preppers are those who have several months of food and water on hand, a nearby bunker and guns stacked up from floor to ceiling.
On “Doomsday Preppers,” the participants are graded on five criteria: food, water, shelter, security and the “X factor,” which is a combination of all the other criteria.
Specialized sites teach people how to cultivate their own food, store water, construct a shelter or become a perfect shot in a few days, so many preppers spend all of their time between their greenhouse, their shelter and their shooting range.
An entire economy has been built up around preppers, composed of vendors who supply freeze-dried food, pieces of silver (in case currency becomes useless), electric generators and secured shelters.
The American company Vivos offers luxury subterranean bunkers and has supposedly already constructed several in the United States. The most luxurious bunker, which can shelter about 1,000 preppers for at least a year, costs $35,000 per person. But for that price, there’s a full wine cellar, a bakery, billiard tables and a home theater. (SEE HERE)
All of this raises at least three questions:
• What’s the point of being in an underground bunker if the world is going to end, as some believe, because of an earthquake or a volcano?
• Wouldn’t it be better to die in a nuclear explosion rather than get in a fight with 1,000 other preppers every night over which DVD you’re going to watch in your giant home theater?
• How long can you eat dried fruit without going crazy?
*Editor’s note: This quote, accurately translated, could not be verified.
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