My paper for this Media & Society course is called “THE NEW SURVIVALISM: How news media-inspired fear and social media-inspired networking have produced the modern American Prepper.” In researching, I’ve realized how attenuated I’ve become to the connections between journalistic media, advertising, and entertainment.
Hurricane Sandy spawned this NYT article about survivalism last week. Writer O’brien uses a survivalist industry business owner as his interview subject…and somehow manages to drop said business’ name 9 times within a single page.
Of course, at the top of the article are the standard Google, Facebook, and Twitter icons for “sharing.” The NYT article also mentions plenty of (for-profit) books, magazines, expos, and blogs, as well as iPad, Macbook, Chevy Suburban, Smith&Wesson, Hooters, Sun Ovens International, Vivos Luxury Bunkers, Starbucks, Frappucinnos, National Geographic TV channel, EnerHealth, et al.
Each of these company’s websites feature plenty of other “mixing” of media—the Vivos site, for example, uses a Discovery Channel video embedded from YouTube to sell its Armageddon “prophecy” (and the requisite need for a Vivos brand luxury bunker).
It’s a wonder that each of the 52 items shown in the NYT lead photograph didn’t include brand names (or simply an button to add them to your Amazon.com shopping cart). Truly, this media project has forced me to reconcile the imminence of the Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment. Did Hurricane Sandy have a sponsor? Is “preparing for the end” just a ruse to get us to buy more crap while we can?