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This Book Will Save Your Life
Featuring all new material not included in the print edition, including: two deleted chapters, the contents of Neil’s Bugout Bag, a disaster survival cheat sheet on how to survive 35 catastrophic events, and ten emergency-preparedness myths that can kill you.
Terrorist attacks. Natural disasters. Domestic crackdowns. Economic collapse. Riots. Wars. Disease. Starvation.
What can you do when it all hits the fan?
You can learn to be self-sufficient and survive without the system.
**I've started to look at the world through apocalypse eyes.** So begins Neil Strauss's harrowing new book: his first full-length worksince the international bestseller The Game, and one of the most original-and provocative-narratives of the year.
After the last few years of violence and terror, of ethnic and religious hatred, of tsunamis and hurricanes–and now of world financial meltdown–Strauss, like most of his generation, came to the sobering realization that, even in America, anything can happen. But rather than watch helplessly, he decided to do something about it. And so he spent three years traveling through a country that's lost its sense of safety, equipping himself with the tools necessary to save himself and his loved ones from an uncertain future.
With the same quick wit and eye for cultural trends that marked The Game, The Dirt, and How to Make Love Like a Porn Star, Emergency traces Neil's white-knuckled journey through today's heart of darkness, as he sets out to move his life offshore, test his skills in the wild, and remake himself as a gun-toting, plane-flying, government-defying survivor. It's a tale of paranoid fantasies and crippling doubts, of shady lawyers and dangerous cult leaders, of billionaire gun nuts and survivalist superheroes, of weirdos, heroes, and ordinary citizens going off the grid.
It's one man's story of a dangerous world–and how to stay alive in it.
Before the next disaster strikes, you're going to want to read this book. And you'll want to do everything it suggests. Because tomorrow doesn't come with a guarantee...
432 pages; ISBN 9780062136466
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Birthday Clowns to Avoid
"You need to pick a group that won't kill you."
The voice on the phone was that of Jo Thomas. A fellow New York Times reporter, she was on the cult and terrorism beat. She'd interviewed Timothy McVeigh after the Oklahoma City bombing, covered the Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland at the height of their reign of terror, and investigated the aftermath of David Koresh and his bloody last stand against the FBI in Waco.
I had just volunteered to spend New Year's Eve 1999 with a death cult. It seemed like a good idea at the time. But, just to be safe, I'd called Jo for advice.
The newspaper was sending reporters to different locations to prepare a package of features on the millennial moment. And I wanted to take part in it. I envisioned a group of middle-aged men and women on a remote hillside, clasping hands and awaiting the apocalypse. And I wanted to see the look on their faces when the world didn't end at the stroke of midnight. I wanted to hear how they would rationalize it afterward.
Back then, I had no idea that I'd ever feel unsafe in America or be preparing for disaster myself. We seemed to stand monolithic and invulnerable at the center of the political, cultural, and moral universe, unchallenged as the world's lone superpower. For all the headlines screaming doomsday and worldwide computer shutdown, no sane person really believed life was going to come to an end just because a calendar year was changing. We'd survived the last millennium well enough.
But there were some very panicked people out there who truly didn't think we'd make it to January 1. And those people, Jo warned, were not just likable kooks.
"I don't think anyone in New York knows how scary these groups are," she explained. "A lot of them are nuts who stockpile guns. And most of them consider the media the enemy . . . especially the New York Times."
She then gave concrete examples of just how dangerous these groups could be. One antigovernment militia group in Sacramento had just been busted for planning to incinerate two twelve-million-gallon propane tanks to start a revolution for the New Year. And a second group, calling itself the Southeastern States Alliance, had been caught three days earlier trying to blow up energy plants in Florida and Georgia.
"That's crazy," I thanked her for the advice. "I'll definitely be careful with this."
That didn't satisfy her. "I don't know how old you are," she warned before hanging up, "but however old you are, you're not ready to leave this world."
Death isn't something we're born afraid of. It's something we learn to fear. According to studies, children have little conception of death up to age five. From five to eight, they have a vague understanding of the finality of death. Only at nine do they begin to understand that death is something that one day may happen to them.
My awakening came at the age of nine, thanks to the copy of the Chicago Sun-Times that my parents left on the kitchen table every day. One morning, this caught my eye:
I sat down and read the story. Dozens of bodies of young boys, many of them close to my age, had been found buried in a basement and yard in the northwest section of Chicago, my hometown. A birthday clown named John Wayne Gacy had tortured, molested, and killed them. From that day forward, I realized I was no longer the master of my own safety. It wasn't just climbing trees and running with scissors that could harm me—it was other people.
Before making my decision about the millennium, I called a friend of Jo's at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks cults and hate groups, and asked him to recommend a few relatively safe sects to celebrate with.
"There's a very anti-Semitic fascist group called the Society of St. Pius X in Kansas you might want to look into," suggested Mike Reynolds, one of the center's militia task force investigators. "They're probably not going to do anything to you."
"Well, there's also William Cooper, who heads a militia group in Arizona. He's training them to go to war after New Year, when Satan is supposed to appear. Or you can try Tom Chittum, who's looking to start a race riot, which he calls Civil War II. Maybe that would be too dark for you. Then there are the Black Hebrew Israelites in Chicago . . ."
Clearly Mike didn't care if I survived the New Year.
Despite the Oklahoma City bombing five years earlier, I had no idea there were so many networks actively trying to destroy America from within. Where reading about John Wayne Gacy had woken me up to the danger lone madmen posed to my safety, talking with Reynolds opened my eyes to the existence of organized groups of them. So in light of this information, I decided to narrow my search to more friendly, unarmed, cuddly doomsday groups.
The next day, I began sending solicitous e‑mails to various doomsayers and survivalists, asking if I could spend a few hours with them as the year changed over. I promised to bring my own food, water, and emergency supplies, hoping that somehow this would convince them I was a believer.
I soon discovered that one of the difficulties in writing about people who think the world is going to end is that they instantly know you don't believe them. Because if you did, you'd know there wouldn't be anyone left the next day to read your article.
The first person I contacted was Thomas Chase, a writer and theorist who predicted that the millennium bug would cause a massive electrical crash, triggering a worldwide depression and the coming of the Antichrist. I wondered what kind of sacred and meaningful ritual he'd be performing to prepare for the terror of the apocalypse.