Paul Casserly 's Opinion

Paul Casserly watched too much TV as a child.

Paul Casserly: Doomsday Preppers

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Tama Iti, Te Rangikaiwhira Kemara, Urs Signer and Emily Bailey. Photo / Greg Bowker
Tama Iti, Te Rangikaiwhira Kemara, Urs Signer and Emily Bailey. Photo / Greg Bowker

Something occurred to me just a few minutes into Doomsday Preppers - the new show in which American survivalists reveal their preparations for the day the world falls apart.

Typically we see them with shotguns, practising hand-to-hand combat and preserving fruit. In other words it's just like that surveillance footage of the Urewera Four with the addition of preserving jars. Who knows, the cops may actually have hidden camera footage of Tuhoe activists bottling peaches, pears or even meat. I'm not surprised they didn't leak that too, it would have ruined the whole terror vibe.

The dots seemed to connect a little further on Tuesday morning on Radio New Zealand when Kathryn Ryan interviewed two of the infamous four: Urs Singer and Emily Bailey.

Seems that Bailey is also expecting a doomsday when the current financial and governmental institutions will fail catastrophically.

This is also a common theme on Doomsday Preppers. All across America and the rest of the world people are expecting - and in some cases hoping for - everything to come tumbling down. When it does, they'll be ready with throwing knives, shotguns and all manner of preserves.

I was hoping that Kathryn Ryan would ask about the preserving side of the Tuhoe operation but I don't think her interview prepping includes Sky Channel 72. Even if she had, they'd probably remain as cagey about their marmalade and bully beef as they have been about their 'activities' in the bush.

Ryan was good at making them feel comfortable and gave them space to talk about themselves in a way that shed some light on the who, but the why wasn't so forthcoming. When the, 'So what exactly were you doing in those videos" question finally came, the pair clammed up.

There was a pause, an intake of exasperated breath, followed by Urs: "Who are you addressing that question to?" That was followed by an unsatisfying explanation that included something about how corporate dudes like to dress up in camo and shoot each other with paintball guns - which also looks like a military activity when you think about it.

There was also possibly something about guns in Tuhoe country being like yoga mats in Ponsonby. It's a bit like getting a straight answer out of Winston Peters. Why can't they just tell the truth? Clearly they were doomsday prepping.

While we lock up our Doomsdayers, the Americans turn them into TV stars. The format is a good one. Each episode features a selection of preppers, usually couples, often rotund, and typically armed to the teeth. Each has their own idea of how things will turn to custard. The electrical grid going offline is a popular worry, as are earthquakes, sunspots and the ever-present collapse of the financial system.

Once the jobbies hit the fan, zombie-like non-preppers are expected to follow this tidal wave of unpleasantly faecal custard. The implication is that they'll be up for a bit of a rape, after which they'll want a feed and something to drink.

But the preppers will be prepped. Guns are loaded. Thousands of gallons of water are stored in containers. One couple have their bed lifted shoulder high on a dozen barrels of the stuff. Another spends eight hours every day preserving fruit: "And we still don't have enough."

After showing us their survival secrets, the preppers are given marks by an expert (off-screen) panel. "Not enough water" is a common comment, along with, "That will only last you a week". A pacifist family were even told off - "You really need to think about weapons" - although, maybe they weren't such pacifists after all. A shirtless member of this wonderfully kooky whanau suggested that he'd simply charm the marauding intruders with tasty preserves and if that didn't work he'd "poison them or slit their throats in their sleep".

But there's at least a semblance of reality at play. At the end of each profile, the narrator passes judgement on the reality of the perceived level of threat. Earthquakes are a real worry, sunspots not so much. If only they were on hand when Howard Broad sent his men into Ruatoki.

I did feel a little better when the narrator said the likelihood of a complete financial collapse "isn't something currently expected by any of the world's leading economists".

But today, I have to admit, I have also found myself thinking about stocking up on bottled water and tins of spaghetti. I just hope my neighbours don't see me lugging them down to my basement and call the Po-Po.

* Doomsday Preppers (National Geographic, Sky 72, Thursday 7.30 and 10.30pm, Sat 9.30pm, Sun 2.30pm)

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Paul Casserly

Paul Casserly watched too much TV as a child.

It began with Dr Who, in black and white, when it was actually scary. The addiction took hold with Chips, in colour. He made his mum knit a Starsky and Hutch cardigan. Later, Twin Peaks would blow what was left of his mind. He’s been working in radio and TV since the 1990s and has an award in his pool room for Eating Media Lunch.

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