The Doomer Feedlot  

Posted by Big Gav

JD at Peak Oil Debunked can be pretty funny at times - and this post is one of those times (though I'm sure it has caused plenty of annoyance, as per usual).

For those of you just coming to peak oil, you're going to want to understand the most basic concept of peak oil: The doomer feedlot. Forget about the Hubbert curve, and oil, and all that complicated math/science bullshit. That's all irrelevant to the actual day-to-day reality of peak oil. Today, I'm going to tell you what you really need to know to survive in the peak oil world.

First you're going to want to go to a doomer feedlot, like peakoil.com or DrumBeat at the Oil Drum, and get a user ID. It's like one of those tags that they crimp onto your ear. All the doomers look the same, and they're all packed nose-to-bunghole into the feedlot, so the feedlot needs a way to tell them apart in case one "goes down" or flips out etc.

Now, I know it's intimidating, but you're going to want to shove your way through all those packed in, fly encrusted doomer asses until you get to the trough. It's a real thrill, waiting for the truck. You got grizzled doomers on the left and right. Their fat guts are thickly marbled from all the scary news articles they've read over the years. They'll body check ya if they sense you're not scared. Just look one in the eye and say: "We are soooo fucked." They'll think you're one of them.

You're going to want to get used to this ritual of bellying up to the trough, cause you're going to be doing it about 10-20 times a day at the doomer feedlot. Ideally you'll want to work your way towards the front of the trough, near the fresh news items, but don't get too eager, some of the grizzled old-timers have staked out the best positions, like that Westexas bovine that just hangs there at the front of the trough, come rain or shine. Animals can be real stubborn like that.

Then the tails start waggin. Hot diggidy dog! Here comes the truck!! It's Leanan, in her overalls. She shovels the doom into the trough every morning, so you get your head in there and start slurping those juicy news items.

Here comes a shovelful: "Babies freeze to death in Kyrgyzstan."

That's got the stink of doom all over it, and the cows' eyes bug out with excitement...

"Babies freeze to death in Kyrgyzstan? Oh mama... Got bunker?"
"We are soooo fucked!"

Leanan really knows how to blend that feed. You see, lesson 1 is that peak oil is not about peak oil. Peak oil is about the inevitable die-off of industrial society and mankind due to hubris and stupidity. Any news item which advances that thesis... goes in the feed.

Remember: This is very much NOT about helping suffering people in other countries. The die-off is inevitable, so help is pointless. It's about the process of deriving nourishment from suffering in the form of news. Plowing through reports and commentary and blogs, day after day, for years on end, for signs of depression and mass death. Using reports of suffering to score debating points. ...

One of JD's comments on the post points out that pure doomerism is really a form of entertainment (I said something like this about Kunstler a long time ago, and gave into the same temptation myself eventually - the entertainment aspect, not the doomerism - hence my forays into all sorts of weird territory from time to time, which I thought was a more positive variant than fear mongering - albeit one which clearly hasn't been appreciated by some readers).
I think it's a classic Marshall McLuhan situation: we like to think it is the *content* of the news items which is the reality, but, in a way, that's just an excuse, and the real story is the social relations created by a new media (in this case, the internet).

Consider power outages and brownouts, for example. Certainly, there have been chronic failures of power grids for decades, paticularly in the 3rd world. However in the past you couldn't agreggate real-time news of such outages into a feed. But now you can, and you can also aggregate a readership around it. And the feed has a sort of iconic, brute power. Imagine a teletype machine in the back of a room, reeling off power outage news 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It would be even more effective if you had a robot voice read the reports over a loudspeaker. It would be totally unnerving... You would start worrying that the world was ending due to a massive overload of power outages, simply due to the number and flow rate of reports.

In fact, though, you're just reading/listening to noise. It was there all along. You just didn't have a microphone hooked up to it before.

In a way, I think we're all just drunk on the power of the internet. The ability of the media to generate news is now surpassing the ability to digest it, so you need feedlots of media consumers to try to choke it down, like a snake trying to swallow a pig. The ability to gather and analyze statistics has taken leaps and bounds too, resulting in new forms of journalism like Stuart's massive opuses. But we're starting to reach saturation, where the consumers can't choke it down. The supply of peak oil information is grossly exceeding the reading capacity.

The solution to this problem is the Feedlot. Zones of concentrated, intensive media consumption. It's ironic that peak oilers are so strongly against "consumer society", and yet they tend to be absolutely feverish consumers of the classic post-industrial product: Media.

You've got the spellbound people, huddling around the speaker, listening to the never-ending power outage news, and they like to think they are in touch with "reality". But they aren't actually obsessed with reality. They're obsessed with *media*.

I think, if you asked a lot of wives out there, the #1 impact of peak oil on their family is their flabby husband addicted to the computer. *That's* the reality.

Peak oil is something you can cope with quite easily, without following any news at all. So that doesn't explain the phenomenon of the feedlot. It's like you say: there is an illusion that something useful is being done, but in fact, it's more akin to entertainment, like people watching sports.

9 comments

JN2   says 5:05 AM

So true. I gave up on The Oil Drum after Christmas. I was spending 2 to 3 hours a day there. Definite addiction to doomer porn. Now I let Big Gav filter out the useful articles for me!

Anonymous   says 8:06 PM

Well he does have a point...
I don't read the main TOD page anymore for similar ish reasons.
Especially the virtual staking out of territory.

But just as there may be a "doomer feedlot" where participants digest the latest truckload of doom, there is the "cornucopian stick mag" where all promising virtual technological solutions are pasted; todays centre fold, the "hydrogen economy"... look at those vibrant voluptuous fuel cells. And the participants masturbate just as furiously as those in the feedlot masticate.

SP

In defence of TOD, some of the posts on the main page are optimistic (see some of Stuart's recent ones for example, or almost all of mine).

I'm trying not to turn it into a cornucopian stick mag though (hornucopian ?) :-)

Not to forget the angry doomer who used to assail Odograph with his "pornucopain !" insults either...

Anonymous   says 9:19 PM

pornucopian might have legs... though your misspelling hints at the tedium of these confrontations ;-)

pornucopian: obsessively profligate promoter and consumer of shiny new technological solutions; some barely dreamt of. Although tech. literate, pornucopians show scant regard for the laws of thermodynamics.

SP

Anonymous   says 9:26 PM

Addendum:
To a pornucopian, tech solutions are by definition better with no undesirable consequences. The tech future is a better place to be; "Luddites" will not be tolerated.

I wish Blogger would let me correct spelling misteaks :-)

While uninformed techno-optimism is almost as stupid as uninformed apocalyptic doom mongering, I will (once again) point out that there are a lot of solutions with an environmental cost that seems acceptable (to me anyway) that can solve our current problems if we choose to use them.

I think there is a practical mix of bright green techno solutions and dark green efficiency / conservation / restructuring that could be satisfactory to almost everyone...

Anonymous   says 10:38 PM

I use Firefox with the spell checker turned on (British and Australian dictionaries)... misspelt words in comment boxes appear with a red line under them. Right click to fix. Interestingly, Firefox is not recognised!

Speaking of environmental costs worth taking... the 7:30 report also had an Orange Bellied Parrot story... hmmm?

SP

Between my TOD spell checker and the spell checker in my text editor I'd never felt the need for much more scrutiny of my words.

But thanks for noting that Firefox can do what the Blogger comments field doesn't...

As for OBP's - I like them. A lot. But I think they'd survive the construction of a few wind turbines.

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