August 9, 2019
Following a weekend when mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio killed more than 30 Americans, researchers now say that Doomsday Preppers—once viewed as motivated by extreme right-wing or apocalyptic views—are now becoming part of mainstream U.S. politics and culture.
Indeed, research conducted by Dr. Michael Mills, a lecturer in Criminology in the School of Social Policy, Sociology, and Social Research at the University of Kent in the United Kingdom, has found that “prepping” has been on the rise in the United States for more than a decade—and that, for most involved in the movement, it is a response to mounting fear,
Prepping—which involves stockpiling supplies including food, water, medicine and weapons—originally was considered to be an extreme political reaction to the presidency of Barack Obama.
However, when Dr. Mills interviewed preppers based in 18 states to examine their motivations for hoarding items, he found that—although fear of President Obama and his political agenda played a role—those who engaged in the activity were motivated more by the general culture of fear that informs modern mainstream American society. Further, the research argues that a regular flow of recommendations from the US government on how to prepare for potential disasters, including, for example, advice to stockpile water, have, to an extent, helped fuel the growth of “prepping.”
Dr Mills’ research presents a more nuanced view of prepping, which has traditionally been portrayed as an apocalyptic belief in imminent disaster or the end of the world. Rather, modern preppers are responding to a general sense of fear and concern about such risks as economic collapse, cyber-attacks, terrorism, pandemics and environmental disasters—causing them to seek self-sufficiency “just in case” the worst should happen.
Dr. Mills notes, “Fear is now deeply entrenched in modern American culture and is the principal reason that so many citizens are engaging in ‘prepping’. Many believe that the government’s response in the event of a calamity, whether it’s a natural disaster or an act of terrorism, simply won’t be adequate to meet their needs. Many also believe that, under Democrat leadership, America becomes more vulnerable to terrorist attacks, financial collapse, and international hostility.
“While the media portrays ‘preppers’ as extremists,” Mills adds, “our view is much more nuanced.”
Research contact: @UniKentStaff