Preppers Are Getting Ready for the Barackalypse
Stevens’ book, Making the Best of Basics, may be the closest thing the survival industry has to a bible (aside from the actual Bible). It has sold more than 800,000 copies since hitting the shelves at Kmart during the gas crisis in 1974. Stevens is not actually a doctor, and, come to think of it, he’d rather you not call him a “prepper,” which he considers a slur meant to impugn self-reliant folks like himself as paranoid loons. But it’s become part of the lexicon, and Stevens is somewhat paranoid about where the United States is headed (he foresees a borderline tyrannical second Obama term that begins with massive gun confiscation and ends who-knows-where), so he’s rolling with it. As he puts it, “I don’t really like cuss words, but I know how to use them and I know what they mean.” Besides, it’s good for business.
I met Stevens at the Self Reliance Expo in Mesa, Arizona, one of the nation’s leading “readiness” trade shows, where attendees (about 5,000 over two days) shop for bulletproof vests and dehydrated peas or practice suturing an open wound on a severed pig’s foot. Stevens’ cosponsorship amounts to a sort of papal blessing for the event. “He’s the bomb, he’s the godfather,” says Tony Tangalos, the Phoenix-based host of The Prepper Patch, an AM radio show. “He’s like the Elvis Presley.”
Over the past four years, Stevens has witnessed something of a renaissance, coming out of retirement to hawk an expanded edition of Basics and a water-filtering system that’s so efficient, he tells me, it could make urine taste like bottled water. The product has netted Stevens and his partner $1.5 million in profits in just over a year. And he’s far from the only one making a living off the coming collapse of civilization. Sites like Revolutionary Realty and Survival Realty list rugged properties with amenities such as a “defensible hillside location.”