Doom Porn as Spectacle by Vera Bradova

This is an excerpt of a longer essay on the perils of “doomer porn”. In this piece, Vera Bradova (aka Leavergirl) makes the case that doomer porn is another form of spectacle perpetuated by empire to keep us distracted and afraid. She discerns the difference between “awareness and acceptance of the multiple and converging crises we faceand obsessive dwelling on and morbid fascination with the mind-boggling, terrifying and plausible images of coming destruction” which just plays into Business As Usual. You can read the full essay here.

P.S. Also, watching Guy McPherson embarrass himself in the comments–by yelling at people who actually agree with him about civilization and collapse–is worth the price of admission.

P.P.S. Vera Bradova (aka Leavergirl), who writes her blog Leaving Babylon and at Resilience.org, is my latest intellectual crush. She writes about civ, ag/food/soil, power, and something called “guerrilla refusal”, which I’m going to be writing more about here soon. If you fall in love with her blog too, I’m taking credit for introducing you.


I have spent way too much of my life gaping at various spectacles civilization churns out. The attempt to leave them behind has turned into yet another trap. Mother Culture is nothing if not wilier than Wile E. Coyote himself.

Last summer and fall into winter, my spectacle of choice was linked to my growing self-identification with the doomer community. As I gradually made my exploratory inroads into the doomersphere, perhaps as the natural extension of my previous fascination with the unfolding economic shenanigans, I spent more and more time reading jolting essays attempting to wake people up and build a meaningful narrative encompassing all the various crises humanity is facing. I thought I finally found a community of kindred folk who were obviously out of denial and into clear seeing. I hungered to be with other people who were past denial! My local friends note the bad news du jour but rarely venture into bold analysis, much less into preparing for a radically changed world.

As the months wore on, I became aware of a certain compulsive quality in my daily search for yet another rousing doomer post. Since I am a ferret by inclination, I first attributed this directly to my excitement with having a new idea-community to explore. Eventually, though, I had to admit there was something else going on. My daily life was suffering from spending so much time glued to doomer websites, aghast, paralyzed by the sort of appalled fascination that – once I began to reflect on it — seemed akin to what the Puritan parishioners of Jonathan Edwards must have felt attending his fire, brimstone and damnation sermons. I recoiled from this image, surprised more than anything. I never would have thought myself susceptible to the allure of Calvinist gloom!

So it came to pass that I turned to fellow doomers, sharing my insight and looking for a sympathetic understanding and correction. None was forthcoming. Puzzled and frustrated, I began to counter those regular doses of climate and other doom as panic-mongering, hoping for a less shrill and more nuanced understanding. It got me labeled as a skeptic, and evidently, in doomerworld, skepticism is not a good trait. It was at this time that I began to notice an occasional fellow traveler complaining about family members scoffing at their “doomer porn.” Hmm … could this be a clue to my own predicament?

You may well ask, what exactly is doomer porn? Unfortunately wikipedia does not yet have an entry for this phenomenon. [Editor’s note: There is an entry on urban dictionary for “doom porn.” I offer this to save readers the frustration of googling anything with the word “porn” in it–with the attendant, predictable results.] Scouring the web, I have congealed a number of people’s meandering opinions into one less-than-pithy definition: In brief, it means overwrought or unrealistic forecasts and predictions of shit hitting fan. More narrowly, it involves wrenching stories of global disasters that threaten the extinction of the human race; all is assumed to be lost except for a scant remnant of humanity.

Obsessive dwelling on and morbid fascination with the mind-boggling, terrifying and plausible images of coming destruction brings on satisfying feelings of grim exhilaration. Fantasies abound of outwiting the Four Horsemen, surviving all the desperate zombies and marauding hordes and entering a cleansed world. Doomer porn plays on base emotions and thrills — anxiety, fear, and fright and the urgent need for sudden climax — all for the furthering of someone’s agenda. This agenda is usually a mix of apocalyptarian messianism and salesmanship, although some purveyors seem to do it for the thrill of salvific prophecy alone. Such sky-is-falling storytelling has the same sort of can’t-look-away quality of a car crash or pornography, seducing its fans into seeking repeated addictive fix.

This sensationalist, distracting, time-wasting blight induces an urgency to DO SOMETHING, usually translated into buying someone’s books or reports, although the purveying of lecture gigs, precious metals and survival paraphernalia plays a role as well. Images of impending doom are obligingly served up by people whose internet readership and often financial well-being depends on my thrall. In other words, kidz, a good chunk of doomerism is BAU [Business As Usual], dressed up to fool those of us longing for an “out of denial” moment of truth. Doomer porn is but one of the many freak side shows of the empire.

And so it finally dawned on me I’d been had. What I had seen as an unfortunate aberration, a mistaken zeal, is in fact part and parcel of the psychological underpinnings of the doomer gestalt. While enjoying the shared understanding of the crises facing humanity, I had unwittingly allowed other, less savory elements in through the same gate. And in so doing, I had became hooked on doomer porn.

It is one thing to be sharply critical of empire and this civilization, and to keep one’s eyes open to its disturbing actualities and prospects. Quite another to create an alternative reality of phony certainties, shrill frantic claims, manipulatively frightful forecasts, and magic circles of wishful thinkers who long for these forecasts to come true and to be among the Remnant who avert a total disaster.

I am henceforth taking the doomer community with a large pinch of salt because I see its reliance on repeated doses of doomer porn and true believerism as an integral aspect of the doomer worldview. Understanding its cheap-scare hijinks as entertainment of a rather dubious sort, I am calling doomerism on its brazen hype overlay and point to its BAU nature of “selling more stuff.” …

My kind of community has clear awareness and acceptance of the multiple and converging crises we face, the understanding that cornucopian techno-salvationism is not the path forward, and heavy focus on the need to go back to basics: local food and manufacturing, a sane economy, self-reliant frugal living, community, and common sense. But alongside, it also understands the perils of groupthink, cultish solipsism, gurus who cloak same-old same-old authoritarian posturing behind a façade of prophetic utterance, and yank-my-chain self-promoters who use the community of would-be Babylon escapees as another way to get ahead. 

[Editor’s note: Mic drop.]


You can read the full essay here.

Published by John Halstead

John Halstead is the author of *Another End of the World is Possible*, in which he explores what it would really mean for our relationship with the natural world if we were to admit that we are doomed. John is a native of the southern Laurentian bioregion and lives in Northwest Indiana, near Chicago. He is a co-founder of 350 Indiana-Calumet, which worked to organize resistance to the fossil fuel industry in the Region. John was the principal facilitator of “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment.” He strives to live up to the challenge posed by the Statement through his writing and activism. John has written for numerous online platforms, including Patheos, Huffington Post, PrayWithYourFeet.org, and Gods & Radicals. He is Editor-at-Large of HumanisticPaganism.com. John also facilitates climate grief support groups climate grief support groups affiliated with the Good Grief Network.

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