One of the maxims I try to live by is this:
Truly impressive people don’t need to endlessly remind other people how impressive they are.
People telling you how impressive they are and attempting to seem like deep thinkers or that they are super cool are invariably creeps and mental midgets. Just about everyone on social media with their credentials in their user name are dimwits desperate to be taken seriously. It happens everywhere, there are plenty of people on /ourside/ that are far less effective than they could be because they endlessly have to tell people how intelligent they are or what a badass they are. Again, smart people don't need to tell people they are smart and badasses don't need to brag about being badasses.
At the heart of a lot of this posturing is one of two motivations, a desperate need to be taken seriously or money. Attention seekers are sad, hustlers are something else. I am not all that concerned today about the attention seekers who fight imaginary wars against opponents that don't even know them or who spend all day trying to argue with people online to get likes and upvotes. My concern today is with the people motivated by money.
The world has always been full of hustlers, slick fast talkers who can baffle the gullible. The internet is making this worse and it is not surprising that the prepper/2A community has our own share of them....
Here in America there is a long tradition of the rugged individualist living apart from society on his own terms. Daniel Boone, Davey Crockett, the pioneers traveling to new lands in the west to carve out a homestead. It is one of the most abiding themes of America. No one wrote stirring novels about mowing a postage stamp sized lawn in a subdivision.
As the Cold War dragged on in the 1950s, many Americans became interested in fallout shelters in case the Soviets nuked us. It was a real concern and there were several incidents where this might have actually happened.
Then in the 60s and 70s violent crime started to take hold in American cities, leading to lurid footage of race riots and the rise of movies like Dirty Harry and Death Wish that featured men who were willing to go beyond the law to take matters into their own hands. By the late 1970s a new genre was rising, the post-apocalyptic survival story. The Mad Max movies portrayed first a world coming apart and then in the Road Warrior a vision of a society completely broken down into chaos. Lots of book series sprang up revolving around survival after a nuclear war and I read a bunch of them as a kid in the late Cold War era.
When Clinton took office and enacted the "assault weapons" ban, it came on the heels of the slaughter at Waco and Ruby Ridge. The buzzword then was all about the "militia movement" that was short-lived. In the 2000s the concern was Islamist terror and then the election of Barack Obama, the most openly far left President in my lifetime. Now, after a stolen election in 2020 following a "pandemic" and widespread violent unrest, coupled with increasingly charged rhetoric from the Left and a teetering U.S. and global economy, people are thinking hard about prepping once more.
Anytime there is a highly emotionally charged subculture, you can be sure it will attract hustlers and grifters. It is true in politics and in religion especially and it is increasingly true in the 2A and prepping communities. I was reminder of this thanks to an article in the Intercept (HT: Johnny Paratrooper at American Partisan)
The Intercept is clearly not a sympathetic outlet but the information and lesson are solid. The very long story is about one Barrett Moore, a kind of Harold Hill for preppers. Moore had one scheme after another, in a tangled web of shell companies, that all were aimed at the prepping community. He managed to bilk some pretty wealthy people out of a lot of money, including best-selling author Brad Thor who writes hokey adventure novels that apparently feature the ubiquitous "former Navy SEAL" characters (I haven't read any of his books, maybe I am wrong). The article is pretty interesting but what grabbed my attention was this:
As Moore’s fortunes ebbed and flowed, so too would his venture abruptly shift in scope and detail (as well as corporate monikers, à la Blackwater). But no matter how many LLCs Moore shifted through, selling Life Continuity remained a constant. As a product, Life Continuity works like the grandest of all possible insurance plans, a hedge against doomsday geared toward the right-leaning rich. Just as the most opulent health and dental plans entitle patients to spa-like care in the case of personal misfortune, Moore offered a vision of serenity and safety in case of global mayhem: the hope that while cities burned and nation states crumbled, your family could continue their way of life. It was an almost biblical promise of salvation and hope amid chaos, right down to promotional materials that read like they were plucked from Scripture. At one point, Moore’s venture was named Sovereign Deed. His hideaway for the chosen was called the Haven.
Sovereign Deed. The plan was to create survival compound, an escape hatch, for the ultra-wealthy. If things went sideways, Sovereign Deed would evac their clients to a small rural airport where they would then ride out the chaos. The town this little rural airport was located in? Pellston, Michigan. The reason this caught my attention was that we used to live in a small rural Northern Michigan town called Alanson less than ten miles from Pellston (red arrow points to airport, blue to where we lived)
While we were living up there I recalled seeing an ad in the local paper for a new venture coming to the airport for a company called....Sovereign Deed. It sounded like a great deal especially for Pellston, I sent in an inquiry but got a generic answer. Northern Michigan in general has a very odd income distribution. There are lots of vacation homes owned by the well-to-do, one I can think of in particular that has a year round caretaker who watches the place for 50 weeks a year and prepares for the 2 weeks a year when the family comes up. There are very few truly middle-class residents and lots, and I mean lots, of low income year round residents. So an employer promising "300 to 500 new jobs" was a dream come true. In early 2008 we were relocated by the bank I was working for to metro Detroit and I didn't really think much about Sovereign Deed again until I saw this article.
You should set some time aside to read the whole article but in a nutshell the entire scheme was smoke and mirrors, and some people like Brad Thor ended up getting suckered and losing a lot of money. From all appearances, Barrett Moore played on people's very real and very valid concerns to bilk wealthy people out of money. Nothing scares rich people more than not being rich. To quote the philosopher Billy Ray Valentine:
Yeah. You know, it occurs to me that the best way you hurt rich people is by turning them into poor people.
It terrifies them, the thought of losing that which makes them better than others. Many rich people are simultaneously revolted by and frightened of regular people. Plus the really wealthy know that when the urbanites run out of liquor stores in their own neighborhoods to burn, they will start looking for the high end suburbs where the wealthy live. Of course this fear makes them highly vulnerable to hustlers.
Barrett Moore figured this out and got a lot of loot from a lot of suckers. An important reminder:
Being rich doesn't necessarily mean you are smart.
Likewise being "poor" or relatively not wealthy doesn't mean you are stupid. I have known a lot of wealthy people and some of them were dumb, and more than a few were ignorant because they live in a world where they don't have to really think things through.
What jumped out at me is that a lot of what is quoted in this article are things that I absolutely believe in and have stated the same basic thing on many occasions on this page. Like this quote:
“Few people understand how supply chains operate, how heavily we depend on them, and how critical they are to our existence—this is especially true for urban dwellers,” Moore wrote in an essay on one of his websites.
Or this one:
"Today, it is becoming apparent that this post-WWII period of global prosperity was just an Aberration in Time: our economic stability is fading, having been undermined by poor leadership, erroneous policy, ideological self-centeredness, and unprecedented levels of debt that render the future much more ominous than the recent past.
We have conspicuously lived beyond our means for too long, and soon America’s city, state and national governments will be forced to make efforts to pay out what is owed under impossible social and fiscal contracts. We may well face a day of reckoning where a choice between buying “beans or bullets” is starkly set before us."
Barrett Moore is clearly a huckster but those statements are completely true. The implications of them, namely that you need to purchase an expensive membership at a Club Med for survival, may not be but the basic gist is true. The global supply chain is very shaky, remember that container ship stuck in the Suez that blocked global commerce for a week? Our current prosperity is an aberration and we can see the endgame looming. This raises another important lesson and a rule to live by:
The best lies are based in truth.
If Moore had been selling a shelter against Atlanteans rising up and conquering the coastal cities, that wouldn't have sold much but when he bases his hustle in the truth, it makes it far more plausible. You don't have to convince me that things are bad, you just have to convince me you have the solution.
What seems to be the real underlying issue here is this: people like Brad Thor got suckered by the flash and dazzle of Barrett Moore and didn't really do their due diligence. Whatever you think of the Bible, it does have lots of pithy wisdom that is true regardless of your faith, like this:
Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21, ESV)
On /ourside/ and in the survival/prepper/2A community we tend to get dazzled by the people who talk the tacticool talk. Ever since Osama bin Laden was allegedly killed by SEAL Team 6, there has been no greater appeal to authority than saying you are a "former Navy SEAL". That alone gives you instant street cred. The problem is that while being a SEAL is very impressive, especially to someone like me that can barely swim, it really makes you an expert only at SEAL stuff. It doesn't necessarily mean you know anything about politics or economics or any subject other than doing SEAL stuff. Moore would talk about his special forces connections in that community and his work in military intelligence but apparently failed to complete ROTC training:
“Moore never completed his Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program in college and was discharged from an inactive branch of the Reserves in 1994 without ever having gone through basic training.”
No one bothered to check this because he spoke with confidence and authority, despite having none. So another key lesson:
Don't take anything at face value especially when someone is making grandiose claims.
If I tell you I used to work in a garden center as a teen, that isn't something likely to be made up. If I claim to be a "spy" with a vast network of connections in the special operations community? You better check that out.
Moore is hardly the first huckster who used his military background to make some shekels. Last year I wrote about the founder of Black Rifle
Cuck Coffee Company, Evan Hafer, who not only threw Kyle Rittenhouse under the bus but turns out to be a political donor to anti-gun politicians. See I Hate Phonies
Hafer and his company sell a bunch of coffee because they put guns on their coffee bags and have the right tats and the stirring videos. He acts the part and makes the right noises but just because he is a vet, it doesn't mean he is on /ourside/. Then after that blowup he decides to give an interview to the New York Times, which is dumb on every level, in which he says this after being asked about a bag with an image St. Michael stomping on Satan that is allegedly the same image being used by "White supremacists" (I have never seen this online anywhere):
“You can’t let sections of your customers hijack your brand and say, ‘This is who you are,’” Best told me. “It’s like, no, no, we define that.” The Rittenhouse episode may have cost the company thousands of customers, but, Hafer believed, it also allowed Black Rifle to draw a line in the sand. “It’s such a repugnant group of people,” Hafer said. “It’s like the worst of American society, and I got to flush the toilet of some of those people that kind of hijacked portions of the brand.” Then again, what Hafer insisted was a “superclear delineation” was not too clear to everyone, as Munchel’s choice of headgear vividly demonstrated.
“The racism [expletive] really pisses me off,” Hafer said. “I hate racist, Proud Boy-ish people. Like, I’ll pay them to leave my customer base. I would gladly chop all of those people out of my [expletive] customer database and pay them to get the [expletive] out.”
Hafer virtue signaling on the pages of the New York Times about the "racist" Proud Boy-ish people tells you a lot, mostly that either he knows that the Proud Boys aren't racist and doesn't care or he doesn't know and is just parroting back what he thinks the NYT wants to hear. Either way he is a d-bag and his company deserves to get dragged. Of course Hafer being Jewish he had to cry to the NYT that he was "bombarded on social media with anti-Semitic attacks", which I really, really doubt and frankly I don't believe a word he says.
Anyway, Hafer is another example of someone who talks the talk but is deep down full of shit. Yes he was a Special Forces guy and served and all of that but here is another reminder and lesson:
Simply having a DD-214 is not a reliable indicator of being a decent human being, much less being on our side.
Johnny B has a video here about it if you are interested. Big Country Expat also has a post about it here.
There are lots and lots of dipshits and assholes who served. You don't get a free pass on being a douche because you served in the military (also applies to law enforcement).
It is obviously understandable that many people, and more each day, are very concerned about imminent economic collapse of some sort.
When people are scared and uncertain, they become vulnerable to hustlers and grifters and often all it takes is a confident voice and an appeal to some sort of authority.
While I watch quite a few gun guys on Youtube, I try to not take what they are saying at face value. Where did they get the gun, where is their funding coming from, what are their ulterior motives? Hell, all of us have preconceived notions and personal opinions that we can make sound like fact. I read stuff from guys who humble brag about their tactical background and that is cool and all but it doesn't automatically make them an expert or someone you should listen to.
I guess all of that to say this. Don't assume that because someone a) talks a big game or b) has some sort of military/LEO experience that they know what the hell they are talking about or that they have your best interests in mind. Guntubers want views and likes and subs so they say what will get them views, likes and subs. Instagram influencers are the same way. People selling training classes is one thing, which is a great idea, but only if they know what they are doing. Being an expert on a subject doesn't mean you can teach someone else.
Be suspicious or at least skeptical. Figure out who you can trust and who you can't. Never take at face value something said by someone online that you don't even know in real life. Only you are ultimately responsible for your own security and that of your family, and a guy making a buck from tacticool merch online won't be there when the wheels fall off. Seek out the best information online that you can but always have your bullshit detector operating. The best hustlers prey on your emotions and nothing is more emotional than protecting what is yours. Understand that and you go a long way toward avoiding being suckered by people who are all hat and no cattle.