September 1, 2015
Liberty Under Attack (372 articles)
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Modeling Threats & Analyzing Risk: A Rebuttal Against “Doom Porn”


This article was written by Kyle Rearden and originally published at The Last Bastille blog and is being mirrored at LUA.


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By: Kyle Rearden

Individual cognitive traits possess a high degree of variety amongst humans. Institutions, such as organized religion and corporate media, take advantage of the predilection some folks have for immersing themselves in speculative fantasy; consider the popularity of television shows like Jeremiah, Jericho, and even The Walking Dead franchise. The problem here, though, is that hypothetical lifeboat scenarios encourage people to reorient their entire lives around waiting (or “preparing”) for their calamity to occur, usually at the expense of everything and everyone else in their lives.

Wheel of Doom End of the World

Bruce Schneier gave a lecture at TEDxPSU back on October 10th of 2010 entitled, “Reconceptualizing Security.” His thesis was that we should bring our intuitive feelings and rational models of security in line with the objective reality of security, because for the most part, the typical feelings and models are not consistent with reality. Humans make security tradeoffs all the time in order to survive, but there is a tendency to exaggerate infrequent, unknown, personified, or uncontrollable risks while downplaying common, known, anonymous, or manageable risks. In other words, risk analysis can be irrationally skewed by not only confirmation bias, but also by normalcy bias.

Rolf Dobelli that same year explained why the news cycle is detrimental to an individual’s sense of reality. Not only does the news feed confirmation bias, but it also skews risk analysis, mainly because it fails to explain the underlying processes at work. While I do appreciate the good faith effort in revitalizing the practice of citizen journalism, not everybody in the alternative media provides quality reporting, as evidenced by theopportunity costs, physiological addictions, and learned helplessness observed in some consumers of new media. Put another way, the news encourages incorrect threat modeling due to its pandering to the availability heuristic.

Eric English, a survivalist vlogger, has taken issue with the way most “preppers” rationalize their activities in terms of coping with their own pet visions of “doomsday.” His thesis appears to be that the only two categories of shit hit the fan (SHTF) scenarios that should be “prepped” for would those whose occurrence is least likely, yet very severe, and those that are most likely, yet not severe, or at least, mildly to moderately harmful. He elaborates on this by saying that due to the outlier fallacy, the focus of most preppers lies squarely upon the SHTF category of least likely, yet very severe, usually at the expense of prepping for the other category of most likely, yet not severe. Again, this would seem to reinforce what both Dobelli and Schneier have separately argued, in the sense that the existential risk of highly improbable events appears to have taken precedence over that of more likely threats.

So, the pertinent question then becomes, should probabilities dictate priorities? As I’ve mentioned before, the answer to security theater is security culture, and an indispensable element of security culture is threat modeling and risk analysis. Given that the news cycle skews risk analysis, threat modeling becomes just as vulnerable as well; since this is indeed the case, it would explain why facts, statistics, and data take a back seat to fanciful stories of Armageddon. Despite the various and often conflicting tales being spun regarding the apocalypse, there are individuals who believe probability should never dictate priority; my question to them, then, is what should dictate priorities, instead? Subjective nightmares? Non-falsifiable “precognitive” visions? Good old-fashioned bigotry and prejudice?

You might be wondering, at this point, what threat modeling and risk analysis even are, since they are rarely mentioned within the alternative media. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Surveillance Self-Defense project, threat models and risk analysis are defined, respectively, as:

 

“A way of narrowly thinking about the sorts of protection you want for your data. It’s impossible to protect against every kind of trick or attacker, so you should concentrate on which people might want your data, what they might want from it, and how they might get it. Coming up with a set of possible attacks you plan to protect against is called threat modeling. Once you have a threat model, you can conduct a risk analysis.”

“In computer security, risk analysis is calculating the chance that threats might succeed, so you know how much effort to spend defending against them. There may be many different ways that you might lose control or access to your data, but some of them are less likely than others. Assessing risk means deciding which threats you are going to take seriously, and which may be too rare or too harmless (or too difficult to combat) to worry about.”

 

Obviously, these concepts are borrowed from the field of computer security, however, I think they can be made directly applicable to all sorts of disaster scenarios in order to gauge the realistic probability of these worst case scenarios actually coming to pass. Applying the scientific method to SHTF scenarios, the worst of which might also be referred to as The End of the World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI), is seldom done, for reasons that will become apparent later on.

Doom porn, for all intents and purposes, are sensationalized guesses about how TEOTWAWKI will eventually occur; it is defined by the Urban Dictonary as:

 

“Articles or videos online (prevalently in the blogosphere) that mainly talk about the collapse of either the financial world or the world in its entirety. People can develop a fascination/addiction reading this stuff (much like people who watch regular porn).”

 

In other words, doom porn is applied conspiracism. Once conspiracists lay off fretting about the details of, admittedly, violently suspicious events, such as the 9/11 attacks or Sandy Hook, then the most practical they ever seem to become is “preparing” for TEOTWAWKI, because they appear to have a deep seated, almost nihilistic wish for everything to just end. Conspiracism, and doom porn specifically, are greatly influenced by the news cycle, which, as a matter of course, throws intuitive feelings and rational models of security completely out of line with reality, while also increasing learned helplessness by encouraging its adherents to commit the outlier fallacy.

I would like to present, for your delectation, a handful of SHTF & TEOTWAWKI scenarios, whose very narratives strain credulity. They are presented here, not with the intention of ridiculing anyone who sincerely and genuinely believes that these scenarios could, or will, come to pass, but rather, with the intention of stressing the importance of homeschooling over that of speculation, gossip, and conjecture – even for adults.

 

Seattle’s “Overdue” Earthquake/Tsunami Combo Pack

Kathryn Schulz’s article in The New Yorker last July claimed that Seattle will slide into the Pacific Ocean because of a tsunami caused by an earthquake resulting from the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate colliding with the North American plate. Exacerbating this is the quoted statement by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region X director Kenneth Murphy, who said:

 

“Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast.”

 

FEMA estimated that about a million buildings throughout the Northwest will either collapse or become compromised due to this earthquake, which is only considered “overdue” because of an estimated average that an earthquake in this region occurs in a 243 year cycle, and that considering it’s been 315 years since the last one, then therefore Seattle should be destroyed by a tsunami any day now. Add in the fact that the Pacific Northwest has no early detection system for tsunamis and earthquakes, mix it with the fanciful imagery of a 700 foot liquid wall containing a five-story assortment of “pickup trucks and door frames and cinder blocks and fishing boats and utility poles” heading right towards the west coast in about 15 minutes from onset of the first shake, and you have a concoction for mindless panic and consumerist hysteria for prepackaged disaster kits.

Seismologist John Vidale was asked on Reddit about the realistic probability of this “overdue” earthquake actually demolishing part of the west coast, and Seattle in particular. Eric Holthaus’s article in Slate tackled the accuracy of this doomsday scenario by summarizing Vidale’s answers:

 

“Vidale said that the chances of the worst-case scenario happening in your lifetime, if you’re planning on living another 50 years or so, is about 15 percent. That’s probably a better way of looking at the recurrence statistics than on an annual basis. Historically, the frequency of major earthquakes in the region is about one every 300 years, which means we’re overdue for a megaquake if you average the past 10,000 years of Northwest geology. But the spacing between past magnitude-9 quakes was between 200 and 900 years. If the fault system maintains that pattern, the next big one could happen again tomorrow or in the year 2600. There’s no way to know.”

 

Obviously, this would suggest that the “overdue” earthquake/tsunami disaster would fit squarely into Eric English’s typology as being least likely, yet very severe. If Mr. English’s previously mentioned contention is true, then all of this concern about Seattle’s “overdue” earthquake suffers from the sin of misplaced emphasis. To add insult to injury, Holthaus reported that Schulz engaged in “poetic license” in describing the magnitude of the entire affair. Not only that, but Holthaus further mentioned that the risk to Seattle was insignificant because that city is protected by the Olympic Peninsula and Puget Sound; Portland was similarly protected by both its 100 mile distance from the coast, but more importantly, the Columbia River as a natural barrier. Misleading statistics, much?

As a corollary example, the Geological Society of America published a scientific white paper this past August entitled, “Pleistocene Relative Sea Levels in the Chesapeake Bay Region and Their Implications for the Next Century,” which posits that Washington, D.C. might be deluged by rising sea levels due to global warming. Although I do have some empathy for those living right outside that den of inequity on the Potomac, would anybody with a conscience really miss the imperial city of the federal government? Ever since Adam Kokesh’s house was raided by government police for loading a shotgun at the (Orwellian titled) “Freedom Plaza,” it’s just sad for me to read about how these scientists are fretting about how to save and preserve the headquarters of Leviathan.

Needless to say, “natural” disasters, whether they be in the form of rising sea levels or earthquake/tsunami packages, are noticeably hyped up by the corporate media for their own sensationalistic reasons, besides the fact that it increases the opportunity costs for their respective audiences, at least in terms of restoring or securing their own liberty. Whipping people up into irrational hysterics virtually guarantees their unquestioning obedience to whatever “authority” tells them to do, thereby perpetuating the Hegelian Dialectic, regardless of whether the original “problem” was genuine or not.

 

The Interminable Economic Non-Collapse

Amongst all of the TEOTWAWKI scenarios, this one is, perhaps, the most convincing of the bunch. I must confess that over half a decade ago, I believed in what the doom-and gloom-peddlers were spewing about bank runs, empty grocery store shelves, and worst of all, no Internet! Unfortunately, acolytes of the socio-economic collapse disaster scenario, in my experience, have typically been economically illiterate, since whatever knowledge they’ve gleaned about economics has been limited to Zero Hedge, the Trends Journal, and worst of all, The Economic Collapse Blog.

Speaking of the Trends Journal, I remember when Gerald Celente said the following on the May 7th, 2010 broadcast of The Alex Jones Show:

 

“The top trend: ‘The Crash of 2010.’ We stick with our forecast. Before the New Year begins, no one will be able to deny that the great equity markets have crashed. The currencies are being devalued around the world. Gold prices are well over $1,500; we are still sticking with our forecast that the markets will crash before the year is out, and I also want to make this very clear: it’s not only going to be a financial crash, it’s going to come from a lot of different directions. Our greatest fear, and we said this when they began the great bailout bubble in March of 2009, is that when all else fails, they take you to war. So, our scenario is this, Alex – we’re going to see 9/11 magnitude terror strikes happen. When they happen…the last time they happened after 2001, they closed Wall Street down for several days. If you had CDs, you couldn’t cash them in (they are financial instruments). This time, they are going to close the banks, and when they reopen the banks, we forecast they will have devalued the dollar. So, they’ll say, ‘Don’t worry about it, you’ll be able to get your money out, it’s backed by the FDIC, but you can’t get it out all at once,’ [yet] when you do get it out, it’s not going to be worth a fraction of what it was before. So, these are the integrated systems that we are looking at, and I’m saying this so that people take proactive measures now. Don’t wait to wake up one day, as you did yesterday, and see the markets collapse around you! Take proactive measures now, it doesn’t cost anything, but if you don’t plan for the worst now, and the worst happens, then you’ll lose everything. If you take measures now, and things happen slowly, you haven’t lost anything, you’ve gained.”

 

Jones, of course, lapped this up like nothing else, as is his way, by nearly salivating over the possibility of an economic collapse deteriorating into a “Road Warrior” situation. Fast forward over five years later to August 8th of 2015, when Celente told Eric King the following:

 

“I got it wrong, when I believed, that following the panic of ’08 we’d have the big collapse in 2010. I had no idea that they would invent a thing called quantitative easing. I had no idea that they would keep 0% interest rates as a matter of policy that still exists today, and as your listeners well know, this free money that they’ve been pumping into this system, whether it’s in China, whether it’s in Japan, or the European Union, is what has kept the equity markets floating high, with the stock buybacks and the mergers and acquisitions, everyone knows the facts; however, I’m ready to forecast now, that between now and the end of this year, the end of 2015, we are going to have panic on Wall Street. There’s going to be panic on the streets, more than Wall Street: the bottom has fallen out. They’re only keeping Ponzi alive with this monetary methadone that’s no longer able to fix his habit. What’s going on in China is a global disgrace the way they are rigging the markets, and we heard from the IMF chief, Christine Lagarde, that she’s basically in favor of China rigging the markets, as she is, with the U.S., the European Union and what they’re going to it, and [unknown] in Japan, and all the rest, but it’s running out of steam…[t]his is global. It’s going to hit the equity markets, there’s going to be panic on the streets. Eric, you are going to see a global stock market crash by the end of the year. It’s not only going to be the Dow, it’s going to be the DAX, [unknown], the ShanghaiNikkei, there’s going to be panic on the streets. From Wall Street to Shanghai, from the U.K. down to Brazil, you’re gonna see one market after another begin to collapse. ”

 

So, let me get this straight – Celente admitted to King that he was wrong about what he told Jones’ listeners five years earlier (and everybody else at the time), yet I find it rather telling that he didn’t know the Federal Reserve would coin the term “quantitative easing,” despite the fact that Stewart Dougherty mentioned quantitative easing by name in his article published on May 15th of 2010 at LRC, a mere week after Celente’s interview with Jones. Perhaps if Celente had familiarized himself with the Austrian school of economics, he would’ve understood that, according to Austrian business cycle theory, malinvestment is caused by an expansion of credit during the boom phase, which sows the seeds for the bust phase during the inevitable credit crunch.

Vloggers such as BrotherJohnF, SGTbull, and Chris Duane typically advocate silver stacking as the best hedge against inflation, despite the fact that JPMorganChase has attempted to corner the market on silver bullion over the past few years. Any doubts about the viability of silver stacking, not to be used as sound money, but rather as just a hedge to be converted back into Federal Reserve Notes (FRNs) once the spot price is high enough, has been propagandized away by the production of “miniature documentaries” (aka, “mini-docs”) such as The Madness of a Lost Society trilogy, which spells apocalyptic disaster for all, but, for the “relatively low” investment of thousands, nay, tens or even hundreds of thousand of dollars, you too can join the ranks of those who have become the “awakened” by buying up all the disaster supplies you’d ever need to throw into a closet and forget about since you’d never intended to use them, anyway. The whole exercise was one of security theater to make you feel safer without actually improving your security in any real way.

Total economic collapse does not make any sense whatsoever, especially if you view it from the perspective of the central bankers. Remember, fractional reserve lending necessarily requires the federal government, as well as individual borrowers (such as those who take out a home mortgage from a commercial bank), to ceaselessly borrow FRNs into the money supply in order to perpetuate never ending “economic growth.” As such, there is interest attached to the principal being borrowed, but this burgeoning “national debt” can never be paid back, of course, and that’s the point. In this authoritarian nightmare,money is debt, and for the central bankers to deliberately tank the economy into societal collapse would be to kill the goose who laid the golden egg.

But wait! Wouldn’t it be possible for the central bankers to inadvertently kill the goose (that is the free market) just through sheer recklessness, especially considering Argentina and Zimbabwe last decade? You must keep in mind that the Fed, as a central bank, is older than most central banks (except the Bank of England). They know all the tricks, and they know how to play the angles with their asset purchases, simply because they’ve been doing it longer than most. I’m not saying the Fed is invincible or otherwise immune to the laws of economics, but rather, these central planners need “the economy” to operate in order for the State to parasitically feed off of the Market, and a hyperinflationary depression, or even “just” a currency war, interferes with that “business as usual.”

Downward class migration is likely to be the most accurate explanation of what the doom porn aficionados misleading describe as an economic collapse. Simply put, Jack Spirko’s thesis is that due to the government failure that is central banking, most of the population on the socio-economic scale moves down a notch; the upper middle class become the lower middle class, the lower middle class become the working poor, the working poor become totally destitute, and so forth. Considering that the banksters are magicians, nobody who is even slightly knowledgeable about the evils of central banking should be surprised with, for example, the Fed’s stubborn refusal to raise interest rates since 2008. In light of the fact that the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) has repeatedly statedthat they intend to keep the interest rates artificially suppressed in order to “manage inflation” at a steady pace of 2% a year, in part to “stimulate” higher employment, is, quite frankly, laughably hysterical. The result of the FOMC’s actions does little else other than incentivize malinvestment, which repeats the business cycle once again.

Hyperinflationary depressions give us the best window as to how living conditions would deteriorate during a socio-economic collapse, but it would not become a TEOTWAWKI post-apocalyptic dystopia by any means. I say this because the total number of hyperinflationary depressions in recorded history took place over the course of two centuries. If the ratio of hyperinflationary events to the overall length of time from when the earliest began to when the latest one ended was measured, this could reveal something enlightening.

Therefore, in light of the fact that Wikipedia lists 12 hyperinflationary events occurring over a time span of 213 years, I calculate that the probability of hyperinflation occurring anywhere in the modern world to be a 1 in 18 chance; however, if I only calculate the probability of a hyperinflationary depression occurring here in America, then based on the hyperinflation from the Continentals during the Revolutionary War and the Confederate dollars during the War Between the States, then the probability of an “economic collapse” in America would be a 1 in 114 chance, based on the United States’ historical longevity. This latter result would fit more comfortably into the “not likely, but very severe,” category of Eric English’s typology.

What might be the result of all this centrally “planned” economic turmoil? The further centralization of power into the iron fists of the State, of course. Leviathan has no wealth, so any pretense of money it has it had to inflate, borrow, or tax from the productivity of the hapless democratic citizenry. Inflation destroys the capital saved from the past, taxation robs from the fruit of one’s labor in the present, and borrowing enables deficit spending whose bill is footed upon the backs of the unborn. Whenever the central planners hit a snag, they can just prod the executive branch of the federal government to launch an unconstitutional war, which serves two purposes, namely, to distract the public from the seriousness that is intergenerational theft, and more importantly, to steal from the resources of foreigners who have caused us no harm in order to prop up fledging equity markets.

 

Electromagnetic Pulse: Solar Flares or Thermonuclear Warfare?

Ever since the publication of novels such as One Second After and the airing of television shows like Revolution, there has been a growing popular concern about the electrical power grid becoming suddenly inoperable, especially by way of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP). Whether it be due to natural phenomena or human attacks, EMP occurrences would definitely count as a TEOTWAWKI scenario, simply due to the sheer severity that a forcible take-down of the power grid would affect the business of everyday American life. Scientific facts and government documents, however, reveal quite a bit of detail that undercuts the assumptions promulgated by mass media.

Solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CME) are natural phenomena emanating from the Sun. These flares are sudden bright flashes, which are often accompanied by massive bursts of gas and magnetized fields from the solar corona. The 1859 Carrington event directly hit the planet, causing telegraphs to fail, sometimes resulting in electric shocks to those operators. CMEs are a regularly occurring facet of nature, because they can happen anywhere between one CME every 5 days to three CMEs every single day, depending on the frequency of solar activity.

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) released two reports that I think are demonstrative of the baseless hysteria that seeks to divorce one’s feelings and models of security from the objective reality of security. NERC’s 2012 Effects of Geomagnetic Disturbances on the Bulk Power System white paper reported in the executive summary that:

 

“The highly complex, interconnected North American power grid has provided a long record of reliable, secure delivery of electric power. However, solar storm or geomagnetic disturbance (GMD) events have demonstrated their ability to disrupt the normal operations of the power grid. The most recent example in North America occurred in March 1989, when a GMD led to the collapse of the Hydro-Québec system, leaving more than six million people without power for nine hours.”

 

Notice that in an admitted “collapse” of a specific power grid, those 6,000,000 people had to go without electricity for only 3/8ths of a single day. Referenced inside this white paper was an earlier NERC report that was co-authored with the United States Department of Energy (DOE) in 2010 entitled High-Impact, Low-Frequency Event Risk to the North American Bulk Power System, which stated in its introduction that:

 

“While some of these events have never occurred and the probability of future occurrence and impact is difficult to measure, government and industry are working to evaluate and, where necessary, enhance current planning and operating practices to address these risks in a systematic and comprehensive fashion.” [emphasis added]

 

Whoa, hold on there for a moment – did DOE just admit that the probability of rare events that could negatively affect the North American electric grid, including “extreme solar weather,” are, at best, tough to calculate? As if that wasn’t bad enough, consider this sentence from the joint DOE/NERC report:

 

“We will need the support of all of our readers to realize the vision of this effort: effective public/private partnership to address HILF [High-Impact, Low-Frequency] risks in a coordinated, systematic fashion.” [emphasis added]

 

Ah, there you have it – an abusive use of the precautionary principle by bureaucrats as an opportunity for a power grab. Why, may I ask, would these benevolent rulers want to encourage the development of even more fascism? In any case, I guess it’s refreshing to see the federal government and their “private partners” give an official sounding title to Eric English’s “not very likely, but very severe” category.

Speaking of fascism, I think it’s important to understand the nature of the relationship between NERC and the federal government. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission(FERC) is an administrative agency ordered by the Congress to “remedy” the effects of the 2003 Northeast blackout through the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which “authorizes” FERC to designate a non-governmental organization who would be subcontracted out to enforce regulatory policy with FERC playing an oversight role. This corporatist relationship between NERC and FERC was established because in case anything went wrong, NERC would serve as, quite literally, the designated fall guy, while FERC could rush in and proclaim itself our savior. According to Dr. Peter Pry’s testimony before FERC regarding the previously mentioned 2012 NERC report:

 

“We urge the NERC Report’s authors to recognize that their report, unique among all others in its optimistic assertions, could contribute to a possible failure to harden the U.S. grid against a severe geomagnetic storm. The electric grid alone is not at risk. Everything in our modern society depends, directly or indirectly, upon electricity, including all the other critical infrastructures–communications, transportation, banking and finance, food and water–that sustain modern civilization and the lives of 300 million Americans. If a great geomagnetic storm proves to be catastrophic, as all previous U.S. Government studies have warned would be the case, then NERC could be responsible for contributing to an unprecedented national catastrophe.”

 

Dr. Pry, as the executive director of the task force on national and homeland security, goes onto slyly suggest that the electric grid become nationalized in order to protect American electricity from either a natural or artificial EMP. This use of the Hegelian Dialectic, combined with horribly asinine fiction like One Second After, essentially promotes centrally planned socialism as the solution to the fascism they themselves legislated in the first place.

Pursuant to an act of Congress, the federal government established the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack (the EMP Commission), which found that there is “critical infrastructure” that presented a “national security vulnerability,” from the high-altitude detonation of a nuclear weapon. Dr. William Graham, chairman of the EMP Commission, said in his 2008 congressional testimony before the House Armed Services Committee that:

 

“Several potential adversaries have the capability to attack the United States with a high-altitude nuclear weapon-generated electromagnetic pulse, and others appear to be pursuing efforts to obtain that capability. A determined adversary can achieve an EMP attack capability without having a high level of sophistication. For example, an adversary would not have to have long-range ballistic missiles to conduct an EMP attack against the United States. Such an attack could be launched from a freighter off the U.S. coast using a short- or medium-range missile to loft a nuclear warhead to high-altitude. Terrorists sponsored by a rogue state could attempt to execute such an attack without revealing the identity of the perpetrators. Iran, the world’s leading sponsor of international terrorism, has practiced launching a mobile ballistic missile from a vessel in the Caspian Sea. Iran has also tested high-altitude explosions of the Shahab-III, a test mode consistent with EMP attack, and described the tests as successful. Iranian military writings explicitly discuss a nuclear EMP attack that would gravely harm the United States. While the Commission does not know the intention of Iran in conducting these activities, we are disturbed by the capability that emerges when we connect the dots.”

 

Besides the fact that Ed Snowden would probably like to take Dr. Graham to task for using misleading analogies for intelligence collection, what cannot be ignored is Dr. Graham’s not-so-subtle saber-rattling against the Ayatollah’s theocratic government. Might it be possible that all of the mainstream media’s interviews and simulated depictions of how an EMP attack could occur is thinly veiled neo-conservative propaganda, which advocates for preemptive thermonuclear warfare against the Iranians?

Of course, the real crisis is not a future EMP attack, but rather the monopolization of the electrical grid itself. Sure, one could point out that the Texas Interconnection is proof that there is no such monopoly, but what they fail to realize is that the Texas Interconnection fails under the auspices of NERC, and by extension, FERC’s “rulemaking” authority.Privatization, not corporatization, would have adverted this problem right out of the gate, but unfortunately, most people are economically illiterate, which would explain why central planning is so ubiquitous to the government’s own emergency preparations, especially considering they created the vulnerable “interdependent” infrastructure in the first place.

What is the probability of either a direct CME hit or a nuclear EMP attack disrupting the electrical grid and plunging Americans into a total blackout? According to a workshop report by the National Academies Press entitled, Severe Space Weather Events: Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts, it says:

 

“A widely accepted approach to risk analysis involves estimating event probabilities and then making estimates of event consequences. It was noted, though, that in complex systems characterized by strong interdependencies, it is very difficult to identify all impacts from a large-scale disruption, let alone to quantify their physical and financial consequences.” [emphasis added]

 

In other words, calculating the probability of these disruptive events is virtually impossible to do so accurately. Consider also, that a CME hit is more of a global concern, whereas a nuclear EMP attack is mainly limited to the North American continent. Keep in mind too that as I read the copious literature on both CMEs and nuclear EMPs, that these “experts” kept repeating that they have little in the way of “historical experience,” and that much of what they are postulating is based, at most, upon computer simulations, in much the same way the National Institute of Standards and Technology determined how the collapse of World Trade Center Building 7 occurred without being hit by an airplane on 9/11.

Guessing as to the likelihood of a CME event produces wildly dissimilar results, as you can imagine. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is “predicting” that solar flares have a 80% chance of impacting Earth today, yet there is also a reference to a indie movie trilogy promoted by the same author; the only original source I was able to find was this NASA press release from May of 2013 that said they discovered three X-class flares within 24 hours. Probably a more realistic guess would be a 1 in 8 chance by 2020, which itself is based upon a 12% success rate by 2024, according to physicist Pete Riley.

Needless to say, I disagree with these guesses for at least two reasons. First, the Earth’s orbit keeps the planet a constantly moving target from the Sun’s CMEs, which are shooting blindly since they are not consciously being aimed; as Dr. Michio Kaku has explained,although there have been CMEs that have grazed Earth’s orbit, the chances of a direct hit are pretty slim, arguably lower than random chance. Second, even if Pete Riley’s estimates were objectively correct, the other side of the coin is that there would also be an 88% chance there wouldn’t be a direct CME hit by 2024, and by extension, a 7 in 8 chance a direct CME hit would be avoided by 2020.

Regarding the probability of a nuclear EMP attack, think about the fact that, aside from nuclear test explosions, atomic weapons have only be used in warfare exactly twice:Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The horror of what the Japanese suffered greatly encouraged other nation-states to tread carefully on the use of their nuclear stockpiles, particularly with regards to nuclear proliferation, even accidentally. Effective military strategies like mutually assured destruction incentivized even the most soulless, war-mongering politicians to avoid creating their own nuclear holocaust if for no other reason than for the sake of maintaining their grip on absolute power.

What lessons can be learned from these overly hyped CME/EMP TEOTWAWKI scenarios? Decentrally privatize the production of electricity so it would be unnecessary in the future to patchwork together Band-Aids if a security concern arises, stop fretting about things that probably won’t happen, and if they do, your earlier actions in hardening the infrastructure is the best you can do anyway. Most importantly, central planning never,ever, works when it comes to economics, and it will never work for emergency preparedness either; having plans by the many, and not by the few, will greatly aid in not only survival, but also increasing the quality of life right now. Manipulatively using the precautionary principle on the grounds that a CME or nuclear EMP will cause an electrical blackout since they are “existential threats” seems little different to me than when Henry Paulson demanded (or would that be threatened?) Congress to hand out bailouts for Wall Street bankers on the non-existent justification that the free market is an “existential threat” to stock-brokers and derivatives traders.

I doubt this will win me a ton of friends, but it needs to be said – what concerns me more than this nonsensical drivel about TEOTWAWKI being caused by a CME/EMP type event is this recurring diatribe about how the Iranian theocrats will, allegedly, be the ones most likely to launch such an EMP attack against America. This presumption that these Muslims will kick off the apocalypse seems to thinly justify the use of a pre-emptive nuclear strike, which if accomplished, would more likely kick off World War III instead. I don’t know about the rest of you, but the last thing Americans need is another unconstitutional war to embroil themselves in.

 

American Islamism: “Stealth Jihad” to Impose Sharia Jurisprudence

Over the past several years, the American patriot faction has expressed concern about what they consider to be a plot by naturalized and native-born Muslims to wage a “stealth jihad” in order to establish a caliphate within the United States that would impose Sharia law, thereby subverting and overthrowing the 1787 federal Constitution. According to proponents of this claim, like Brigitte Gabriel, this is why the violently suspicious events involving Muslim perpetrators, such as those in Garland, Tex. and Chattanooga, Tenn., happened at all – these Muslim jihadists decided to go hot, as it were, because “they hate us for our freedoms,” or so we are told. This belated attempt to revive the legitimacy of the terror war is patently ridiculous at best, and exceedingly dangerous at worst.

Right off the bat, I think it’s essential to remind everyone of the United States federal government’s foreign policy towards Islamism for the past several decades. Between 1979 – 1989, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) armed and financed the mujahideen as the primary mission of Operation Cyclone. Following the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, the surviving mujahideen were betrayed by the CIA once they had outlived their usefulness to them and were subsequently relabeled “Al-Qaeda,” a label that later served its purpose as the convenient boogeyman responsible for the 9/11 attacks, which itself was the result of blowback. Once the Iraqi “insurgency” had been greatly quelled, the surviving “Al-Qaeda in Iraq” Islamists regrouped by joining up with the so-called Syrian Free Army in 2011, which soon after coalesced into the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Three months ago, Dan Sanchez wrote:

 

“Given all this, you would think right-wing nationalists would be alert to and aghast at abundant reports that their own government has knowingly supported Islamic extremists in Syria (and elsewhere), including al-Qaeda, the very group responsible for 9/11; especially since that support led to the rise of ISIS (formerly al-Qaeda in Iraq, or AQI) and that such a treasonous policy has long occurred under ‘crypto-Muslim’ Barack Hussein Obama. But, oddly enough, they’ve given Obama a pass on this. Why hasn’t Fox News been blasting alerts like ‘Obama Backs Muslim Terrorists, Helping to Create the Islamic State’ for years? Wouldn’t their xenophobic viewers gobble up such red meat with relish? Couldn’t the Republicans make stacks of political hay with such a talking point? But, no, apparently bigotry and scaremongering are only to be harnessed to support war, and never to oppose it.”

 

In much of the same way that serious martial arts disciplines have a traceable lineage from sensei to apprentice, ISIS is descended from the Afghan mujahideen, who might as well be disgruntled ex-employees of the federal government.

I remember how those of Arabic ancestry were treated after 9/11. They were frequently unjustly profiled at the airport, and commonly reviled by those who had been suckered in by the sophistry of the neo-conservatives like William Kristol. Much like those Americans of German ancestry during World War I, as well as those Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II, the Americans of Arabic ancestry during this “War on Terror” were targeted by the federal government, including the ones who weren’t even Muslims, such as the Coptic Christians. Equal opportunity oppression, much?

Semantics are very much in play here as well, especially in light of the so-called “moderate” versus “radical” Muslims. Gary Hunt has explained the difficulty in distinguishing between these two descriptors, based upon what Fahah Ullah Quereshi said to the Sunnis in Scandinavia last year. Might I suggest an alternative that’s a tad bit more accurate – perhaps Muslims versus Islamists? It’s one thing to worship in accordance with one’s faith, but once that faith has transgressed across the wall of separation between church and state, then it’s time to stamp out the emerging theocracy before it can entrench itself within the government, and that very constitutional guideline applies not only to political Islam (that is, Islamism), but also those who promote the erroneous notion that “America is a Christian nation,” despite Article 11 of the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli:

 

“As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion, – as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen, – and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from the religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.” [emphasis added]

 

I’ll remind the American patriot faction that in order for them to be consistent with the original intent of the Founders in upholding constitutional republicanism, they ought to follow the tradition of religious toleration as set forth by Sir Thomas Browne if they truly value religious liberty, instead of pandering to special interests run by manipulative clergy who seek to use the monopoly power of the State as their own personal billy club. Back in 2011, Cathy Young wrote:

 

“The push for Shariah bans is puzzling, to say the least. Since Muslims make up about 1 percent of the U.S. population, and government establishment of religion is prohibited by the Constitution, a Shariah takeover in America is about as likely as a zombie apocalypse. Yet to proponents, this is a threat that must be stopped while there’s still time. A closer look at the purported evidence for ‘creeping Shariah,’ however, shows a lot of skewed and garbled facts—and issues by no means unique to Muslims or Islam.” [emphasis added]

 

The fact of the matter is that American Christians have more political clout with the enemy rebel government than American Muslims ever had, and I think they will continue to do so for the foreseeable future; that is the reason why I’ve said before that Islam is not the problem.

Who would stand to gain from demonizing religiously devout American Muslims as being equivalent to the Islamists (that is, political Islam) using the very same guilt by association technique that the Southern Poverty Law Center used against American patriots? The Clarion Project has released a number of hit pieces that were produced, funded, and even written by a Canadian-Israeli dual citizen, Rabbi Raphael Shore. In terms of answering the infamous Cui bono? question, it would seem to be the case that this hostile foreigner wants the American federal government to wage proxy wars against Muslim countries on behalf of Israel, which seems to coincide nicely with General Wesley Clark’s exposing of the “Defense” Department’s plan to topple seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, the Sudan, and “finishing off” Iran, thereby exponentially increasing the risk of thermonuclear warfare. Apocalyptic death-wish, much?

What frustrates me more than anything about this TEOTWAWKI scenario is that it completely ignores or misrepresents the anti-Islamist Muslims. Maryam Rajavi and the Iranian Resistance have steadfastly held that a separation of church and state is their answer to the Ayatollah’s theocracy, which debunks the entire notion of an Islamic “global jihad” by itself. “Madrasa” is just the Arabic term for school, and does not connote some sort of uniquely Islamist brainwashing propaganda mill, unlike American government schools. Ironically, the vast majority of terroristic related deaths are Muslims themselves, especially considering that Western wars have killed 4,000,000 Muslims since 1990.Where exactly is this “Islamization” happening in the United States, other than those cherry-picked locations like in Dearborn, Mich., in light of the fact that only 7 – 15% of the American population is Muslim, as opposed to 76.5% being Christian?

The history of empires automatically debunks a global caliphate, because once empires get too large, they lose control and collapse, every single time, without fail. I suspect part of the reason none of the American patriots have taken up my proposed business model for handling those Mexican nationals who trespass across the Rio Grande is because they’d rather guard military recruitment centers instead, despite the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878; why bother protecting private property for profit when it’s so much more acceptable to guard government property for free? Sensationalism, first and foremost, is what drives this virtually non-existent threat of an Islamist “takeover” of America, and notice also that this mindless fear is being driven primarily by the news cycle and the terror-industrial complex.

What is the probability of Islamists violently overthrowing the federal government and enforcing Sharia law, thereby subverting the U.S. Constitution? If the Islamists can survive a 24/7 rolling gun battle with the Chicago Police Department over the course of a week, then they might have a slim chance of victory; absent that, I’m going to go ahead and assume that their chances of establishing an American caliphate are about a successful as the Banzhaf power index for each Illinoisan voter actually determining the results of a government election. To paraphrase St. Paul, it is time to put away childish things.

 

Eschatology & the Intellectual Dishonesty of Lifeboat “Ethics”

Predications about when TEOTWAWKI will happen have always been incorrect, without exception, and the proof of this lies in the fact that you and I are still here and enjoy the quality of life that we do. Harold Camping’s proclamation that “the Rapture” would occur on May 21st of 2011 turned out to be the failure that the atheists correctly presumed it would become. Given the historical precedent for mass hysteria, even from admittedly fictional TEOTWAWKI scenarios, like Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds, when will people learn to become more skeptical of these outlandish speculations and unfounded conjectures about the so-called “end times?”

Eschatology is a theological sub-field that focuses on the study of how TEOTWAWKI might occur. Believe it or not, there are tales that have been spun in Abrahamic religious texts that describe TEOTWAWKI in excruciating detail, which interestingly enough, tend to mimic each other. Christian eschatologists believe in a 7 year long “tribulation” period ruled by an “antichrist” who will be eventually defeated by Jesus of Nazareth and who will then, ironically, rule here on Earth for a millennia; Muslim eschatologists similarly describe that Isa (Jesus) will assist the Mahdi to engage in a “final battle” against Mashi ad-Dajjal (the “antichrist”), which afterwards the General/Last Judgment will take place of all humanity by Allah/Yahweh.

My irreligious spirituality might be termed, “deistic apatheism,” by which I mean that I think the universe was created and then naturally evolved on its own without any supernatural interference from that point forward, but I don’t think whether other humans share this position will encourage them to fundamentally alter their behavior for either the better or worse, so it’s not worth mentioning publicly at any real length, quite frankly. I mention it here, though, to explain why I take a pretty dim view of theology, and eschatology specifically, because it’s all based on revealed religion, which itself relies on a trifecta of clergy, designated buildings, and “holy books” that are used to perpetuate confidence tricks against highly gullible people out of their hard earned wealth. In a somewhat similar vein, Montagraph’s vlog about the projected collision of Nibiru with Earth this upcoming September 23rd will certainly by October reveal that doom porn really does require quite of bit of blind religious devotion in order for its adherents to believe in it, despite whenever it proves to be blatantly in error once the predicated disaster falls to come to pass.

The pertinent question here, though, is whether eschatology is the source behind these wildly implausible and improbable TEOTWAWKI scenarios? I don’t think so, because all of this speculative conjecture about TEOTWAWKI gave rise to eschatology, not the other way around. If I had to make an educated guess, it would be the irrational application of our reptilian brains, which are hardwired for survival, to the real world that gave rise to doom porn.

An expression of this irrationality is the use of lifeboat dilemmas to either justify or delegitimize a range of beliefs, ideologies, and lifestyles. Murray Rothbard and Ayn Rand both detested the use of these so-called “lifeboat ethics” to trash libertarianism and Objectivism (respectively), because they were usually used by authoritarians of various stripes and flavors to prop up the “authority” of the State. Unfortunately, “preppers” immensely enjoy positing lifeboat dilemmas as if it was going out of style; for instance, J.D. Dutra invented Conflicted: The Survival Card Game, which is a tabletop gamewhereby you are presented with a hypothetical scenario and then you have three minutes to describe to all the other players how you would handle the situation. Preppers have been seriously using this game as a vetting tool to weed out potential undesirables from their retreat groups, and Dutra even admitted that this was the original purpose behind his invention of the game. Needless to say, David Kobler should know better than to promote lifeboat hypothesizing as a form of gaming, especially considering not only that hard cases make bad law, but also because of the myth of the line in the sand.

Listen, even if it turned out that I was wrong about the previously mentioned TEOTWAWKI scenarios by having one of them actually occurring, that does not therefore mean doom porn would be proven correct or even legitimate, for that would be to succumb to the non sequitur fallacy. A systematically recurring problem with doom porn is that it regularly commits different types of fallacious reasoning, and the cure for doom porn is homeschooling, which usually teaches cogent reasoning at some point. The fact of the matter is lifeboat dilemmas are used to manipulate human emotions, thereby skewing one’s feelings about security, which result in a mental detachment away from the objective nature of security, as Schneier pointed out.

 

Common Signs of Actual Disasters

Outside the imaginations of doom porn enthusiasts, disasters that actually occur tend to share characteristics, regardless of the specific emergency. Generally speaking, the features of a genuine SHTF emergency include at least some, if not most or even all of the following:

  • No Internet and/or the phone lines are jammed or busy
  • Empty grocery store shelves
  • Bank runs and/or ATMs no longer work
  • Empty gas station tanks
  • Overrun hospitals
  • Gridlocked roads
  • No tap water
  • No AM/FM radio wave broadcasts
  • No electricity (aka, “grid down”)

Should any combination of these signs come to pass and either happen very quickly one right after another or pop up one at a time over the course of, say, a week, then it’s probably time to get out of Dodge. The cause of whatever happened is only significant initially if it will help you survive; otherwise, just make your decisions in order to keep living and then maybe you can begin figuring out what the hell happened, assuming you even care in the first place.

I’d like to address whether physical violence is a sign of a SHTF emergency. The survivalists I keep in touch with recommended to me, in preparation for this article, that I include things like frequent yelling, hysterical screaming, car crashes, road pileups, urban rioting, rampant killing, and gunfire and explosions as common features of actual disasters. I fail to see how physical violence of any kind is a key recurring feature of disasters in general, but rather, they seem to me to be more of a secondary set of features; for example, if there is no way to travel by car and buy food, then desperately scared people make careless mistakes and end up dead, or amorally opportunistic jackasses decide to rob and maybe even kill those who don’t possess or know how to wield liberty’s teeth in order to forcibly defend their own private property.

However, instead of dwelling on SHTF emergencies, I prefer to focus on self-sufficiency, because the only disaster worse than a sudden breakdown of the infrastructure is the continuation of our overall political situation. Self-sufficiency, including living off-grid in the here and now, is perhaps the strongest expression of a vote of no confidence in the established system as it stands. I, for one, do not “need” some ridiculous doom-and-gloom scenario by which to motivate me to separate myself from this decrepit cesspool that manifests itself as the raw power and lie of the moment, and I think I have amply demonstrated this already by canceling my voter registration. How many other people can honestly say the same?

 

Realistic SHTF Scenarios

If economic “collapse,” Islamist caliphates, “overdue” earthquakes, and CMEs or nuclear EMPs knocking out the power grid are notorious examples of doom porn, then what would be realistic emergencies instead? Generally speaking, most realistic emergencies are only dangerous as they are because of the State’s coercive monopolies on the provision of security and adjudication services, what constitutionalists refer to as the executive and judicial branches of government, respectively. Anytime you invite central planning into any human endeavor there is government failure, which is committed through a myriad of ways that has provided enough subject material to last the entire publishing careers of free market economists.

For the sake of brevity, it is the American police state that exacerbates or generates the conditions for realistic emergencies, aside from the weather and infrastructure breakdowns (such as trucker strikes). Consider the statistics of arrests made, the incarceration rate, civilly forfeited property, search warrants issued, wiretapping orders granted, home raids, traffic stops conducted, and democide, and then gauge the probability of whether you are going to spend a night in jail versus being killed by an Islamic jihadist, for example. Once you’ve done that, then come back and tell me that “America is not a police state” with a straight face, if you can.

Other realistic scenarios might involve computer difficulties or even betrayal. Any number of breakdowns or targeted hacking might compromise your data, and don’t forget that it is common for the government to nab people’s computers during raids. Fraudulent child support through false parentage as a result of infidelity, demonization, and particularly snitching have all been used to incur the wrath of the State through their police forces, especially in phony “domestic violence” or “kicked out of the house by an angry spouse” scenarios. According to Laura Southern, men are raped more often than women if you account for prison rape, men are almost half of all genuine domestic abuse victims, and men commit ~ 80% of all suicides. If these statistics are objectively true, then if those vile situations that Miss Southern mentioned don’t count as SHTF scenarios, then I don’t know what does, honestly.

 

The Necessity for Bugging Out & Alternative Shelters

Obviously, you can play the “what if-ing” game all day long, but what’s needed in order to just survive are realistic options for coming out the other side of a disaster at least half-way intact. If you already know how to reduce ratios, you are well on your way towards calculating for yourself the probability of certain types of events happening or not happening, presuming your measurement assumptions are correct, of course. Should you require a refresher on middle school arithmetic, then be sure to read my primer on homeschooling for your educational options.

Go ahead and pretend that you are suddenly broke, impoverished, deeply indebted, or otherwise homeless, for whatever reason. What are you going to do from that point onward? Try answering the following list of questions:

  • Would you have anyone to turn to for help?
  • Are you capable of living on the street, if only temporarily?
  • Could you survive the climate outside without electricity where you live for a week, or even for a weekend? If not, could you quickly travel to another part of the country where you can?
  • Have you got an alternate place to sleep, whether that be a travel-trailer, van, cave, tent, or anywhere at all?
  • How would you communicate if your computer had been seized? Could the government police easily read your data? Would you have your backup files in a secure place?
  • If you have children or elderly family living with you, how would you feed, clothe, and medically treat your dependents?

If you answered “no,” or worse, “I don’t know” to any of these questions, then consider those security vulnerabilities as guidelines to what you need to shore up on so you can have the confidence and peace of mind that no matter what situation may be foisted upon you, you have gotten your bases covered. As you can no doubt tell, I am encouraging you to formulate a bug out plan ahead of time for realistic SHTF scenarios, much like you ought to make an arrest plan. Freedom is all about making your own choices, and knowing what your choices are, or creating them ahead of time, is what responsible adults do.

Don’t run around like a chicken with its head cut off, though – take your time and do it right. Whether it be caring for your dependents, constructing alternate shelters, opening a foreign bank account, securing your archived records, or burying supply caches, your actions in the present might just make the difference as to the quality of life you’ll enjoy in the future, if not also quite possibly your very survival, depending on the nature and severity of the emergency. What I do suggest, before you begin exploring these and other options, is to first perform some threat modeling and risk analysis, so you can realistically figure out what you’re probably going to be dealing with in the first place.

 

The Grandiosity of Conspiracism

Security culture is the application of espionage techniques towards increasing and maintaining an individual’s personal privacy. Threat modeling and risk analysis inherently threaten the integrity of conspiracists, because it exposes and debunks their most fervently held misconceptions of the world they live in. Historical revisionism and detailed investigative exposés provides original material for institutional analysis, which is the antithesis, and the antidote, to conspiracism.

Conspiracism is, first and foremost, a hobby and a lifestyle simultaneously. Conspiracists derive their sense of self-worth from projecting their worst fears onto others. They are not interested in redressing their grievances, but rather, they believe that the very act of proselytizing their grievances IS the remedy itself. Most conspiracists are reformists, and since reformism is applied collectivism, this would imply that most conspiracists are, quite possibly, collectivists of some kind.

Doom porn is only possible because of conspiracism; doom porn is meant to reveled in forever, for without it, conspiracists would quickly become empty hollowed-out shells of their former selves. It is because of conspiracism and the mindless sensationalism it breeds, is a large part of the reason why liberty has not been restored here in America in any sort of noticeably broad way. The news cycle generates conspiracism much like how the sun causes the chlorophyll in plants to engage in photosynthesis. Mean world syndrome infects the minds of die-hard conspiracists, and can even transfer to their non-conspiracist allies.

Science and logic are the enemies of conspiracism. Doom porn reinforces the victim mentality, especially learned helplessness, primarily through information overload, which is usually delivered through such as rapid fire, emotionally charged hysteria that is difficult for the recipient to calmly evaluate and judge the information on its own merits in real time. Like the news cycle, doom porn reinforces confirmation bias.

More than quite a few people will likely feel greatly offended by this article, and my hope for their disillusionment from treating their survival as some sort of twisted live action role-playing game is exactly what I was aiming for. The probability of most TEOTWAWKI doom porn scenarios can’t be calculated anyway, and even when they can be, the success ratios are so incredibly low that the more typically mundane yet dangerous things are what should be “prepped” for instead, assuming that probability dictates priorities. Regardless of a particular scenario, the signs of a genuine SHTF emergency, as well as what you should be doing to survive it, are more similar than not.

Too much of an emphasis has been upon potential future emergencies, and not enough on self-sufficiency and independence for right now, despite whatever atrocities the State commits this week. At the risk of sounding like a pothead hippie, your actions should be motivated by your love of freedom, not by your dread of the apocalypse. Survivalism and security culture are firmly within the realm of direct action, yet, I simply disapprove of how they’ve been applied up until now; instead of acting upon libertarian principles, they have been used, thus far, to supplant them.

If there is anything I’d like you all to take away from this examination into conspiracism, doom porn, threat modeling, and risk analysis, it would be this – skepticism is healthy! It will always be the end of the world, as we know it. And you know what? I really do feel fine about it, because I am already free within my own mind. You can be too, provided that you commit yourself to rational discourse and scientific inquiry.

Liberty Under Attack

Liberty Under Attack

Shane is the founder of Liberty Under Attack Radio, The Vonu Podcast, and LUA Publications, an independent publishing company. He has been a guest on many podcasts and radio shows and his work has appeared on sites all over the alternative media. When he's not producing content (which isn't often), he enjoys riding four wheelers, reading, and drumming.

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  1. […] another example of doom porn would be what the author describes as the argument from apocalypse (AFA). As he puts […]

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