Thursday, February 16, 2012

An Open Letter to NatGeo

Dear National Geographic:

First, I want to commend you for devoting resources to create the television show Doomsday Preppers.  FEMA, the Red Cross, and countless other government and non-goverment organizations (NGOs) strongly recommend people make plans and obtain the resources to support themselves in an emergency.  Your television show certainly draws further attention to the need to be prepared.

Having watched several episodes of your show, however, it has become clear the goal of the program isn't to promote preparedness or to give people ideas on how to better prepare themselves.  Instead, the hour long program appears to be aimed at finding the most morbidly obese people who have taken prepping to such extremes that they ought to be seeking the help of a psychologist. 

Your use of subtitles throughout the show to challenge what people are saying is rather off-putting.  To criticize the woman who is stocking up in cocoa because, in her words, it had gone up 30% in price over the last year by running a subtitle which said something to the effect of "cocoa prices have gone down over the past year" is rather misleading.  To be sure, cocoa prices did fall dramatically in 2011, but the price spiked throughout Q4 2010, to the point that CNBC ran regular features on cocoa prices throughout early 2011.  Yes, her data was a bit stale, but the fact she was paying attention to commodity markets - something I doubt many at NatGeo HQ do - reflects her understanding of what's important for a prepper to monitor.

Further, you seem to think these preppers have unlimited resources to devote to prepping.  To chastise the young woman from Houston for not having more water in her modest apartment, when it was clear to any viewer watching the show she was doing the best she could with the resources she had, reflects a complete disregard to the fact preppers are making do with the resources at their disposal.  Not all of us have huge budgets to enable us to set back three years worth of food, water, medical supplies, guns, ammo, clothing, and miscellaneous supplies. 

By the way, who are these nameless, faceless "experts" who ostensibly know so much?  It's hard for anyone to give any credence to what they say if we don't know their credentials.  Why not make their identities and qualifications public so as to allow viewers to vet them?

And does it ever dawn on your experts that if someone is prepared for hyperinflation, they are also better prepared for a loss of a job?  Or a storm?  Isn't the person that's preparing for an EMP event better prepared for an economic downturn as well, merely by the fact they're more self sufficient?  Apparently not, since you never seem to make that point.  I've been prepping and blogging for a long time, and I can't recall meeting anyone who is prepping for just one one particular peril.  Preppers plan for a wide spectrum of scenarios.  Why you don't recognize that is beyond me.

Let me encourage you to keep the show on, but rather than using it as a tool to ridicule the "outliers"  with nameless experts, use your program to offer normal preppers meaningful guidance from established professionals.

Again, I hope you keep the show on.  It does serve a good purpose.  With some improvements, it could be a phenomenal show.

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