Collapsitarians and their doomster porn

Summary: Here K.L. Cooke provides a perspective on one of the fascinating aspects of our time, the lucrative market for doomer porn (lucrative for the sellers, not the buyers). It’s been a frequent subject of posts, debunking their predictions of end times. Hyperinflation, dollar collapse, social collapse, resource exhaustion, the word burning, Y2K, bioterrorism, atomic war, and Satan winning — there are so many things that can go wrong. Cooke describes the view from inside the community. Every new doomster is a win for the 1%, passively working while they gain the wealth and power to reshape America. {1st of 2 posts today.}

End Times

 

Doomer Porn

By K.L. Cooke, 3 September 2015

At Martin van Creveld’s website

Posted with his kind permission

Introduction

Sometimes I think about the “good old days,” and by that I do not mean my youth. Rather, I refer to the time following my retirement, but prior to becoming aware of the imminent collapse of civilization. The time when I still believed in the future. The change occurred with the financial crisis of 2008, though it was not caused by it directly. There was a series of events that began some years before with the so-called dot com meltdown. In 1999 I was involved in the launch of a telecommunications business that turned out to be like a small boat leaving harbor and sailing into the teeth of a hurricane.

Technology recovered, of course, and E-commerce is alive and well, having shaken out the early, ill-starred ventures in on-line dog food and the like. But my business remained on life-support, kept alive by heroic measures until futility forced my retirement. I was in my early sixties, with a portfolio of mutual funds, so contentment was brief. There was the oil shock of 2007, when filling the gas tank became a major budget item. More worrisome were the implications for the economy, as I was insulated from direct impact by no longer having to commute.

But then came the financial crises of 2008, when value went into free fall and there seemed to be no bottom. There has always been a business cycle. One trimmed the sails for a year and fair weather returned. But this time it was different. I had the sense that something was very wrong.

I searched the Web, where for good or ill there is more information (not to be confused with knowledge) than one could ever hope to process, and came across the term “collapsitarian.” This refers to the theory that industrial civilization is about to tumble into a new Dark Age, precipitated by overpopulation, fossil fuel depletion and climate change, which will bring about global conflict, famine and epidemic disease. The more optimistic proponents foresee a near term population reduction to ten percent of the current load. The less sanguine envision mass species extinction to include Homo sapiens.

My conversion. The superstars of doom.

I became a collapsitarian, immersing myself in a large body of literature that has come to be known colloquially as “doomer porn,” presumably due to the addictive properties of morbidity. I found an on-line collapsitarian community. It is not quite a cult, but certainly has cult-like properties. There is no single charismatic leader, but rather a variety of gurus who keep blogs with updates detailing the process of devolution. The weekly entry is followed by a forum where a screen named commentator provides strophe and antistrophe.

There are three superstars of the doomer porn blogosphere, each with his own approach. I will refer to them here as the Wizard, the Curmudgeon, and the Provocateur. They are all prolific writers who use their blogs to promote the sale of their numerous books (which I do not disparage, as given the current state of publishing, this seems to be the only way authors, save a chosen few, can hope to rise above the noise floor). That they are able to support themselves on their royalties, presumably supplemented by the occasional honorarium, speaks of their talents.

The Wizard (so called due to his background in mysticism and the occult, though this is not particularly featured in his collapse blog) takes an historical approach. Drawing from Spengler and Toynbee, he emphasizes the cyclical nature of the rise and fall of civilizations, puncturing the “myth of progress” as the fore defeated driver of economic theory since Adam Smith. His forum is strictly moderated for civility and propriety, but his followers are generally high minded. Typically they offer mélanges of social theory, religion and philosophy to answers to the coming crisis, or else describe their preparatory efforts through organic gardening and cottage industries. Political correctness is practiced to a degree.

The Curmudgeon’s background is ‘60s activism. His slant is cultural, aimed at the degradation of the American polity. His pieces are short, but highly entertaining, due to his capacity for hyperbolic vituperative hurled at the governing and elite classes, as well as the proletariat. The so-called “sheeple.” But ultimately he sounds like an exasperated missionary who has spent a lifetime watching his converts backslide. His forum is a looser ship that attracts a rowdy crowd of armchair Black Bloc types who misuse the space to express identity politics, anarchy and class envy en paroles. But the dialectic invariably

The Provocateur is Russian, though he chooses to live in the United States, as our harshest critics often do. Formerly his writings emphasized technical analysis of the unfolding crises, with suggestions on how to prepare. More recently, however, he has become a gadfly of the “West” (meaning primarily the U.S.A.), which he characterizes as a Great Satan, responsible for all ills, and upon which retribution will fall the hardest. This is not to say he lacks a case, but he presents it from a Russian centric point of view. The Motherland is held up in comparison as a paragon of stability and virtue that will weather the storm on national character. (The Soviet Union has failed, but the canard of the worker’s paradise lives on.)

His tone is similar to RT, the state channel that seems less intent upon informing the viewers as on discouraging them. And both seem to assume a lack of awareness of Russian history and current events. The Provocateur’s following tends to vote the party line, like good apparatchiks.

Despite divergent points of view, these writers and their followers agree on one thing: Collapse is certain and the only questions concern depth and timing. There is little to be done to mitigate the descent and reparation such as homesteading, stockpiling or relocation will ultimately be of small value. So we talk about it week upon week, parsing the lugubrious details.

The Doomer market

But it occurs to me that the blog gurus are not so much issuing jeremiads as exploiting a niche market. A market that seems to be expanding, for where collapsitarians were once a fringe group, articles on the subject are beginning to appear in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The Economist. We have scorned these publications as “cornucopian;” promoting a false doctrine of infinite resources on a finite planet. So this new mainstream interest suggests a growing undercurrent of doubt in a public formerly concerned with business as usual. Also worth noting, the purveyors of media entertainment are increasingly proffering apocalyptic fare,

Prophecies of end times are not new. If I properly understand Spengler (not an easy challenge, even in translation), the West has been in decline for a thousand years. There is also a long American tradition of predicting the exact date of Judgement Day, by preachers whose followers dispose of employment and worldly goods to await the end, only to find themselves embarrassed. Further, the current issue of global warming caused greenhouse gasses follows an opposite concern from a few years back, predicting global cooling due to solar activity. Maybe the two will offset each other. Wouldn’t that be nice?

"Games People Play" by Eric Berne

What then is the attraction of doomer porn? Is it the pleasures of the game that Dr. Eric Berne called Ain’t It Awful? I note the blog participants are typically middle age or older, with an “outsider” mentality. It may be that intimations of mortality and general frustration have given voice to a subconscious wish to bring down the roof like Samson.

Further, the millennialism of the Abrahamic traditions of the West and beyond is possibly being amplified by overcrowding, wealth disparity and “red queen running,” striking a harmonic on a string of Thanatos. That we are facing global constraints of resource scarcity, climate change and financial instability is undeniable, though there are those who continue to deny. But the West, particularly the United States has a history of technocratic optimism. And for every prophet of destruction there is another predicting the triumph of technology.

Conclusions

When doctors disagree, who is to decide? Usually lawyers, but in this case it will be history. The more measured collspsitarians advise that collapse is a slow process. Barring a “Black Swan event,” celestial or man-made, the projected Dark Age is many generations away.

We know what became of the grandeur that was Rome by accounts such as that of Rutilius in the 5th Century CE, and not long after the Eternal City was virtually empty, with the Old Forum used to raise wheat. Yet modern Rome stands atop its past, as do Istanbul and Jerusalem.

Machu Picchu, by contrast, turned into a ghost town in short order, remaining such for centuries before becoming a tourist attraction. The Incas experienced a Black Swan event in the person of Pizarro. So one speculates upon the future of cities like New York, London, Beijing or São Paulo a thousand years from now, and one is tempted to fiction.

———————-———————-

Kevin Cooke

About the Author

K. L. Cooke is a retired project manager and veteran of the Silicon Valley. He has a new job watching grandchildren, with the rest of the time spent fishing, reading and dabbling in painting and writing. See his book Arts & Letters (2014) — A memoir based on the letters of Dr. Pauline M. Cooke, Physician and Occultist.

For More Information

Every new doomster is a win for the 1%, passively working while they gain the wealth and power to reshape America. Here are some articles about collspsitarians and doomsters…

Please like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and post your comments — because we value your participation. For more information see all posts about doomsters, about fear (perhaps become our greatest weakness), and especially these:

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32 thoughts on “Collapsitarians and their doomster porn

    1. Godfree,

      Great point! It’s brought wealth and fame to people like attorney-turned-China guru Gordon Chang (China will collapse in 2006, 2011, 2012, really really soon.

      Interesting contrast with our previous maximum enemy, the Soviet Union. Right up to its collapse the authorized story told of its might and enduring power.

      Like

    1. pete,

      Attributing normal regional weather to climate change is one of the great scams of our time. Droughts like the present are normal in Syria. We see these claims with almost every extreme weather; then years later come the studies showing that this was normal weather (by then the alarmists have moved on to new claims).

      Also, the Kelley et al in PNAS found a trend to less precipitation centered on the Turkey-Iraq border and Iran (not in Syria) — and even there only at the 90% significance level (vs the 95% usually required in non-climate alarmist papers).

      Like

  1. And then there’s the Fukushima reactor explosion. Really, sometimes bad things do happen, including financial collapses. A whole lot of bad came down on those people in Syria, and Lybia and Yemen, etc. For me, it’s in my genes. My father was put in camps as a child for being Japanese. If someone talks about rounding up people into concentration camps, I have no sense of immunity about this. I have to consider, yes, this happens. But, ultimately, it’s about perspective — I think whatever external threats are out there, for me personally, first has to come health and money. I’m way way more likely to die of heart disease or cancer than I am of any scary news thing.

    I suggest. Really, take care of your body, make as much money as you can, get out of debt and save as much as you can. If trouble comes, then you’ll have much better options, like running away — if trouble doesn’t come, buy a car or something. Don’t let this consume you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Getting back to the main topic. I read Kunstler’s blog (I’m not sure whether is is the wizard, grumpy, or one of the 5 other dwarfs). What I don’t understand is their basic premiss that a lack of fossil fuels would mean the loss of all technology and science to 1830. I small solar collector would power a smartphone or laptop. Giving up all the knowledge on the internet would be worse than burning ancient libraries. What I don’t like is their (barely hidden) enthusiasm for reducing the population by 90÷. As far as entertainment goes it is pretty good, like some snacks I eat, with no food/intellectual value whatsoever.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Socialbill,

      (1) “I read Kunstler’s blog”

      You will never get those minutes or hours of your life back. As an information source, Kunstler is on the same level as comic books.

      (2) “a lack of fossil fuels would mean…”

      (a) Economic impacts are largely a matter of their rate of change. Sudden peaking of oil is possible, and would have severe effects. Slowing growth, ugly regional effects, disruptions, etc. But — as you say, nothing like the collapse of civilization, or loss of technology back to 1830.

      (b) The “running out of” minerals story results from activists’ ignorance. The fundo law of geology is that ore quality and quantity are inversely related. So prices rise over time (long periods), mediated by technology (which reduces costs) and opening new areas for development (a one-time process, now ending). We don’t “run out”.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. “I read Kunstler’s blog (I’m not sure whether is is the wizard, grumpy, or one of the 5 other dwarfs).”

      He’s the curmudgeon. John Michael Greer is the wizard. Dmitri Orlov is the provocateur. As for the rest of the Seven Dwarfs, I’d look at the rest of the featured subjects of Prophets of Doom with the possible exception of Michael Ruppert; he’s dead. He believed his own projections about the world, decided he didn’t want to see them come true, and shot himself.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. You’re welcome. I read enough of their blogs to recognize them by their biographies and angles on collapse. In fact, I still read Kunstler’s and Greer’s blogs, but found I generally avoid Orlov for exactly the reasons that I no longer pay attention to Russia Today (RT); both have become too obviously a media organ of a hostile power, one that is interested in encouraging trouble-makers, malcontents, and outsiders. Their ideology does not matter, only their discontent. Instead of Orlov, I recommend Ugo Bardi, whose blog is called Resource Crisis, but used to be called Cassandra’s Legacy. He’s a little more of a technological optimist than the rest of the trio.

      As for your opinion of Kunstler, I see it hasn’t changed for the better since I summarized it in Fabius Maximus and I discuss Kunstler, a conversation that my readers extended in Discussing Kunstler for the fourth year of Crazy Eddie’s Motie News . If anything, it appears to have become a bit dimmer. I don’t entirely disagree with you, he’s too much of a stuck clock and he ignores or dismisses anything that doesn’t fit his world view. He shares that with the rest of the Peak Oilers. Consequently, they viciously attack fracking. If it succeeds, it makes their predictions wrong, at least in the near term. Therefore, it can’t succeed in their writings, even if it works in the real world.

      Liked by 1 person

    4. Neon,

      “If it {fracking} succeeds, it makes their predictions wrong, at least in the near term.”

      that seems quite wrong. First, fracking technology already has succeeded.

      Second, most of the peak oilers predicted peaking in 2005 -2010 (many said in 2005-2008 that it had peaked in 2005). It’s now 2015. We have a large glut of oil, so that prices have collapsed from their $150 peak in summer 2008 to roughly $50 now — with more supply coming from Iraq and Iran, plus other nations that begin to use fracking.

      Liked by 1 person

    5. “that seems quite wrong.”

      That’s not stopping them.

      “First, fracking technology already has succeeded.”

      Undeniably. The U.S. is producing more oil now than it has for the past 40 years. That’s not their line of attack. They are not addressing the technology directly, not even the pollution from the fracking fluid and drilling waste. Instead, both Kunstler and Greer see the economics of fracking as the weak link in the chain. Kunstler has stated his firm opinion that oil above $70/barrel will bankrupt the general economy while oil below $70/barrel will bankrupt the drillers. Consequently, he doesn’t see a way to keep cheap enough oil flowing long enough to sustain the U.S. economy the way it is currently structured. As for Greer, he doubts the profitability of fracking at even higher prices than $70/barrel. Instead, he sees the financing of fracking as a big speculative bubble that will cause a chain reaction when it bursts, eventually pulling the rest of the U.S. and world economy down with it.

      I think both are wrong. While some drillers are indeed losing their shirts, the more efficient ones are able to make money at $60/barrel, which is why drilling increased in North Dakota when oil hit that level again. Also, the U.S. economy was expanding just fine when oil was at $90/barrel. Kunstler is right that there are oil prices too high and too low to keep things going for more than a year or so, but he’s wrong about the band. So far, lower prices for petroleum have resulted in more unemployment in the oil patch and loss of profits and falling stock prices for the oil companies, but they have translated into more activity in the rest of the economy, which I documented in More on low gas prices for Labor Day 2015. The fracking bubble popping is not the same as the real estate bubble bursting, something I told Greer at the time. Instead, I said that 2014-2015 was more like 1998-1999 than 2007-2008. Of course, he dismissed my point.

      “Second, most of the peak oilers predicted peaking in 2005 -2010 (many said in 2005-2008 that it had peaked in 2005). It’s now 2015. We have a large glut of oil, so that prices have collapsed from their $150 peak in summer 2008 to roughly $50 now — with more supply coming from Iraq and Iran, plus other nations that begin to use fracking.”

      They won’t back down on that point, as their calculations did not include tight oil. In fact, they’ll repeat the claim that annual total conventional oil production did indeed peak in 2005, as they forecast. Because they really doubt the economics of fracking, tar sands, and deep-sea drilling, they see all of that as oil too expensive to keep the economy going, so it doesn’t really help the situation and therefore doesn’t count. Even someone like Greg Palast, who dismisses Peak Oil as Greer and Kunstler explain it, acknowledges that Peak Oil is the end of cheap oil, not of all oil. That we had six of seven years of expensive oil during which the law of supply and demand raised prices in the face of higher demand and limited supply but failed to deliver more supply to meet the higher demand just encouraged them. “See, we really are running out of oil!” They haven’t changed their tune and are still expecting fracking to fail economically, even if it succeeded technologically.

      Liked by 1 person

    6. Neon,

      “That’s not stopping them.”

      Of course not. They’re making good bucks selling doom. So long as there are buyers there will be sellers. That’s true even for outright harmful products such as tobacco products and heroin.

      Re: fracking

      It’s much simpler than you imply. Commodity prices are governed by boom-bust cycles. Cattle, corn, oil, etc. The large capital & time requirements for petroleum mean that the cycles are decades long, and therefore deep (unlike ag, where overproduction means less is produced next year). The Kunstler analysis you describe is quite bogus.

      Oil has been one of the most cyclical industries — locked into boom-bust profits-bankruptcy roller-coaster — since Spindletop blew in 1901. Only government cartels stabilize prices, from the Texas Railroad Commission to OPEC.

      That they “doubt the economics” of fracking and oil sands shows that they are either ignorant or conmen. As for their readers…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. FM Editor

    Would someone who believes the petrodollar will fade over the next decade be called a Collapsitarian?

    How about those who think that this third equity bubble of the century is going to pop soon (just like the other ones did)?

    Most of the people I know who read the doom porn that you referred to don’t think society is going to disintegrate they just think we’re in for some bad times ahead – and they are preparing accordingly.

    Like

  4. Fine essay. Thanks to Messrs. Cooke and Maximus.

    Clearly I am addicted to doom porn, as I had no trouble identifying the Superstars cited. ;]

    I guess my attitude is ‘we’ll see’… as I like to stay informed, and it seems I can only influence outcomes in a local, personal way. It may interest you to know I have recommended the Fabius Maximus site to friends as a corrective to the propaganda churn from both sides, especially on the climate change issue. Not sure if they take my advice (we playthe ‘Ain’t It Awful’ game often, usually over beers)…

    Keep up the good work. Thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mark,

      “and it seems I can only influence outcomes in a local, personal way.”

      That is the ill effect of reading doomer porn. Their flood of one-sided, often bogus, information tends to create a passive — even defeatest — attitude. In fact you can influence outcomes on a national level. What will wreck America for sure is a large fraction of its citizens adopting that attitude.

      America was created and built by citizens who took responsibility for the nation. When people decide all they can do is fiddle with the local school board and recycling contracts, we deservedly become pawns of the 1%.

      “I like to stay informed”

      Why? That is the question. If you don’t act on the information gained, I can recommend more entertaining sports and pursuits.

      Like

    2. Okay. Fair enough. I’m guilty, although ‘doomer porn’ is by no means the only thing (I’d peg it at 5% max of my ‘net time) I pay attention to. It seems Mr. Cooke became much more fully immersed than me at some point.

      What do you recommend? Most folks (who are suggesting a course of action on any given issue) advocate the ‘school board’ route. ‘All politics is local’, ‘… make a difference in your world…’, etc. This isn’t meant to be a snide or rhetorical question. If I could see how to influence the policies of my nation at a macro level I like to think I’d have the courage to do so, and am open to suggestions.

      And per ‘staying informed’ , I think maybe I do.

      “…passive — even defeatest — attitude. … What will wreck America for sure is a large fraction of its citizens adopting that attitude…”

      I find that most people I interact with enough to have a serious conversation are hiding. They aren’t stupid or lazy. They’re completely overwhelmed. I try to keep up with what’s going on (Afghanistan, not the Kardashians) and tend to drag conversations around to important (in my opinion) matters. This makes many uncomfortable, and I’ve lost more than one friend because of it. I do it anyway because it’s crucial; how else are we going to “…re-ignite the spirit of a nation grown cold…” if not by having a serious discussion as a society about the real problems/issues that confront us? And if enough of the people figure it out, the leaders may have to follow…

      That’s the point of your website as well, no? At least that’s why I read it.

      I think we’re in substantial agreement (only been reading your site for a while), but that may just be confirmation bias on my part… ;]

      All best.

      Liked by 2 people

    3. Mark,

      I understand your perspective, and agree with much of it. There is no one path for a citizen to become involved; each person must find his or her own way. For different perspectives on this see the posts listed at Reforming America: steps to new politics.

      As for “being informed”, I would bet big that you are well informed. My point was rather that information has become an opiate for America’s Outer Party (its manager and professional classes). My question to them is “why bother”? Why spend the time and energy, like squirrels collecting shiny rocks instead of nuts.

      For more about this see Becoming better informed won’t help. Here’s a small easy step towards political change.

      Like

  5. Hi All,

    love the thought provoking post here. Nevertheless i would love to discuss the philosophy of John Gray. If i understood him correctly he does not see himself as an apocalyptic thinker, as he considers revolts/chaos as natural. He seems to me as a voice of reason in times of fleeting political ideas. As an example he criticized the iraq war or the euro from the beginning.

    Regards
    Felix

    Like

    1. Studosi,

      I can’t discuss Gray (knowing nothing of him). However, here are some articles I found useful:

      A NY Times review of his book “Black Mass”, looking at the evolution of Grey’s writing.

      A blistering review of “Straw Dogs” by Terry Eagleton in The Guardian: “Humanity and other animals” — “In Straw Dogs, the blistering eccentricity of John Gray’s polemic feels more like a symptom than a solution.”

      Like

  6. The big problem I have with the addiction to doomer porn, is that, for the most part, it is logically consistent. Once you have realized it, there is no way to un-know it. I wish I could argue that NO, as a matter of fact, fossil fuels ARE infinite and burning them does not in any way contribute to the greenhouse effect. I wish I could state with conviction that our growth in population and technology was NOT due to cheap energy, and that even as the cost of fossil fuel extraction increases, we WILL be able to develop new technologies because we are just that INTELLIGENT. I would be thankful for any argument that could make me believe we have NOT caused potentially irreparable harm to the entirety of the biosphere by polluting the air, water and soil with the byproducts of ‘civilization’.

    Like

  7. If somebody is interested i can only recommend the following two books from gray. Not easy to digest, but political books should be like that, i guess…

    the delusion of global capitalism
    black mass: Apocalyptic religion and the death of utopia

    Like

  8. perhaps it would be useful to examine some of the suggestions for action offered by the purveyors of “doom porn”. reading a few of their blog entries would result in a list a bit like this:
    1. avoid debt.
    2. have a supply of food and other essentials on hand.
    3. learn to do something useful,e.g. garden, brew beer, carpentry.
    4.strengthen your relationships with family, neighbors and community.
    5. live in a simpler, less stressful way.
    given the amount of debt that people live with, given the potential for natural disasters (katrina, sandy), anthropogenic disasters (fukushima, chernobyl) given the “bowling alone” phenomenon is there anything in a list like that that is so terribly offensive? the degree of self righteous snark prevailing here would have one think that “doomers” are advocating human sacrifice.
    the above are simple things that anyone can do, as the mormons and the amish have for generations, that will provide some degree of protection against bad events.
    you may very likely be correct that the collapse of civilization is not in the cards. i certainly hope you are. but from new orleans to new york city there are many graves filled with people whose plan for disaster was passively waiting to be rescued.
    disasters don’t have to be universal to be deadly.

    Like

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