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Zompocalypse Now:
America’s Training Wheel Tribalism

1,710 words

Part I: “Zombies Are People, Too”

A few decades ago, only B-movie buffs and Michael Jackson cared about zombies. Now, there’s no escape from the undead. From feature films, popular TV dramas and comic books to Zombie walks, pub crawls and 5ks, the people want zombies like zombies want brains. America’s growing appetite for zombietainment has been called a commentary on cubicle life and brain-dead consumerism, and it’s been attributed to fears of economic instability and bioterrorism, but those explanations don’t quite cut it. Zombies aren’t like other monsters or aliens — they’re other people who suddenly turn on us. It’s because zombies are humans who become sub-human that the “Zombie Apocalypse” has become America’s safest shorthand for our most taboo tribal fantasies.

Guns Don’t Kill Zombies, People Kill Zombies

Last week, my gun-nut pal came back from the magazine rack with a copy of the premier issue of Zombie Nation. Intermedia Outdoors — the company that publishes Guns & Ammo, Shooting Times and Bowhunter — dreamed it up to cover the growing zombie niche of the weapons trade.

That’s right; gun manufacturers are producing real guns to appeal to people who want to protect themselves from imaginary monsters. And they’re coming up with some pretty cool shit.

Take, for instance, the “Zombie Muzzle Thumping Device” (ZMTD). For 200 bucks, you can attach it to the end of your assault rifle and use it to stab a zombie in the face in case you run out of ammo — or don’t want to make noise that would attract more zombies. You can get it from Specialized Tactical Systems, or you can just buy the complete “Zombie Slayer,” a “uniquely zombie” AR that ships with the ZMTD and a copy of the Zombie Survival Guide.

Mossberg has come out with the ZMB series of zombie-themed pump-action shotguns for your Zompocalypse needs. The editors of Zombie Nation argue convincingly that shotgun ammunition will simply be easier to obtain in the end times, because military and law enforcement will consume most of the NATO-spec ammunition while fighting the initial outbreaks.

The producers of the classic USMC KA-BAR knife have put out a line of bladed weapons with toxic-green grips.

There’s also a fully functional zombie-killing chainsaw that you can attach to the end of your AR to “cut through a cord of firewood” or “chew through the rotting flesh of the reanimated dead.”

What’s more, Valkyrie Armaments has developed a series of mods for your AR-15 to help you determine for yourself if happiness really is a belt-fed weapon. Zombie Nation assures us that their goal wasn’t to create a “civilian-legal machine gun.”

Of course it wasn’t. Don’t be ridiculous. What kind of decent red-blooded American man would want to own a thing like that?

[Caution: gun porn ahead. NSFW.]

To get you in the end times spirit, Hornady has come out with a line of zombie-themed ammunition. In cooperation with the National Guard, they’re also hosting a “Zombies in the Heartland” shooting event in Nebraska this July.

Companies are selling zombie-themed shooting targets (there’s a freebie foldout in Zombie Nation) and even zombie dummies that bleed when you shoot them. (Undead character options include “The Ex,” the “Terrorist,” and of course . . . the “Nazi.”)

Zombies may be completely fictional sci-fi monsters, but rest assured that all across the heartland, God-fearing Americans are preparing to blow them to smithereens . . . just in case.

But Why Zombies, and Why Now?

Writing for Alternet, Kristin Rawls recently supposed that Zombiegeddon was the greater of two evils, an imaginary external “doom that we cannot possibly defeat,” contrasted with an “impending self-destruction” that “offers us a shred of agency.” For Kristin, zombieland is a wanton escape from the overwhelming moral burden Americans must feel in a world with “diminished standards of living and growing inequality.” She also believes zombie fantasies actually ease our fears and anxieties about an uncertain future because the prospect of social, political and economic decline isn’t quite as terrifying as rotting corpses clawing their way into our condominiums.

Isn’t that cute?

What Kristin Rawls is either too naïve and solipsistic to comprehend or too uncomfortable to mention is that not all Americans are so deeply troubled by inequality or the coming collapse. Not everyone navigates solely by guilt and fear.

My guess is that for every smug, spoiled liberal rending her earth-friendly active wear and gnashing her privileged teeth over each and every HuffPo headline, there’s a guy out in ‘Merica whose pants got a little tighter when he heard about those homeless dudes caught chewing off each other’s faces.

“Is it finally ON?”

Zombie Nation and Mossberg aren’t catering to the people planning to face the end times sobbing with their heads in their hands, wondering what they could have done differently. This isn’t about the red wine and Seconal set.

It’s about people who see the same problems in the world, but see in civilizational collapse an opportunity to fight for their own survival. Even as they fear disaster, they crave it. The tagline for The Walking Dead comic is, “In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally start living.” Our world offers measured indulgences and meaningless distractions; the Zompocalypse promises meaning and life-or-death immediacy.

Zombies are People Too

For most of human history, survival wasn’t a “human right” owed to you by some benevolent bureaucracy; it was something you worked for — something you had to fight for. Humans have always wondered what they would do if outsiders came to kill them — if the “shit hit the fan.” Survivalists are often treated like tinfoil hat crazies or dangerous psycho gun-nuts, but what they are doing is the most natural thing in the world.

My pal reminded me it wasn’t so long ago that folks in the NRA’s demographic were waiting for the Russian invasion and World War III. During the Cold War, the Russkies were our sworn enemies. It was OK to talk about Russians as if they were all Bond villains and lab rats who bled pure evil. Now, the Russians are just foreigners, and we’re fighting Muslims — but we’re killing them to win their “hearts and minds.” We’re not supposed to hate them or treat them like they are really our enemies. The general idea is that there are bad Muslims and good Muslims and we’re all supposed to agree that the bad Muslims are merely “misinformed” or “confused” about their own religion and what kind of lives they want for themselves.

These days, actually saying that you want to kill any people — really ‘em dead – will get you into trouble in polite company. We’re not supposed to want to feel those kinds of feelings, because we’re supposed to be better than that.

We’re supposed to be more “evolved” than that, but that’s not exactly how evolution works. The engines of evolution aren’t fueled by bumper sticker sentimentality. We’re still basically the same bellicose bipeds who went to war with neighboring tribes over women or honor or resources — or just because we were bored and thought we could win.

We’re not much more evolved, but we are a lot more civilized. We’ve all been taught to say “please” and “thank you” and to love our neighbors or at least pretend we do. We’ve been taught that we’re all part of the same big, happy multicultural human family and that it’s wrong to judge others who look different or behave differently or who have customs that seem strange to us. As Kristin Rawls would surely agree, when people threaten us, we’re supposed to say and believe it is because they’ve been improperly socialized, or because they’ve somehow been disadvantaged.

All of this goody-goody, nicey-niceness relies on a cultish faith in a perilous dogma, and even Kristin somehow senses that its spell is breaking and that the elder gods — the Gods of the Copybook Headings — will return with terror and slaughter.

Prepping for the Zompocalypse gives the more adventurous folks on your cul-de-sac a way to dip their big toes into a kiddie pool of tribalism and get used to the feel, texture and temperature of blood. It allows them to work through primal gang survival scenarios using live ammo without looking like psychos. Zombiegeddon also gives tactically-minded parents a socially acceptable way to train their overly sensitive, public-schooled children how to kill without freaking them out about stranger danger or blowing Bambi’s head off.

It’s only the zombies. It’s only for fun. It’s just a game, like on the Xboxbut louder.

The Zombie threat fantasy gives normal people a way to work through separating “us” from “them.” Dehumanizing outsiders is a survival strategy, and given the “one world tribe” re-education Americans have received over the years, they are bound to be a little rusty. The Zombie Apocalypse helps nice people separate the humans from the “sub-humans.”

Zombies are socially acceptable substitutes for the people we’re afraid of, the people we worry we might have to kill if we don’t want to be killed. Zombies are stand-ins for violent “youths,” for the hungry poor, for criminals and gangs and the people out there who want to break into your house and take your stuff.

Prepping for the Zompocalypse is training wheel tribalism. It offers Americans an atavistic fantasy, a way to return to barbarian life as a pastoral nomad, to a simpler form of social organization, to a group where everyone who is “in” really matters — and everyone who is “out” is dead meat.

Head down to your local gun shop and have a snicker about stocking up for the Zombie Apocalypse. They’ll get the joke. It’s lighthearted shorthand for something even scarier — the idea that you’re getting ready and maybe even getting a little excited about the idea of killing other people. You might even think to yourself that, when things get ugly, if they’re not coming to help you — if they’re not “us” — “they” might as well be walking corpses.

I have another point to make about zombies in ‘Merica, but you’ll have to wait for that. The sequel to this post is “in development.”



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  1. Fourmyle of Ceres
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Absolutely perfect.

    The Soulless, Evil, UnDead versus Us.

    Indeed, note that Zombies win only I repeat ONLY by our passivity.

    Thank you.

  2. B.B.
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Symbolism came a bit too close to reality when CAPCOM decided to set Resident Evil 5 in Africa.

  3. uh
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Now, this is brilliant. Goadlike. The MSM are pitiably far behind in their prolefeed analysis of pop culture. Zombie apocalypse and Family Guy are the most popular amusements in America right now. Apart from Xanax and bath salts.

  4. Jef Costello
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    Your psychological analysis of zombiemania is spot on!
    Congrats on another great essay, Jack.

  5. Posted July 11, 2012 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, guys. Glad to see it was re-posted here.

  6. Lew
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    Good essay. I put 100 rounds of Hornady Zombie through my 9mm awhile back. Wicked 115 grain JHP, and the recoil wasn’t bad. It shot pretty well.

  7. Lew
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    I simply cannot believe the Valkyrie AR is a civilian legal weapon. How did that ever get past the BATF? It’s about an $8,000 rig if I’m reading the pricing correctly, maybe more. It’s almost 5K for the rifle, 3K for the conversion, plus the furniture.

    That’s a lot of money for that style of rifle, and although I’m no expect on this stuff, I don’t think it’s the type of weapon that would best serve a civilian in a “zombie chimpout” situation. Most preppers argue that when and if the zombies chimp, you want to lay low until it blows over, not shoot it out with them.

    I have always felt a good firearm investment for a private citizen is a long rifle chambered in .308 for sniping. It would be a great insurgency tool, if it ever comes to that. You could hide out, take out a zombie mercenary, then blend back in with the other civilians.

    I attended a gun show a couple of weeks ago having not attended one for a few years and discovered gun shows aren’t an all White affair any more. About 25% to 30% of the customers picking up guns and ammo were urban youfs, hardcore, menacing-looking ones too: do-rags, chee wee hair, saggy pants, African colors, the works. The other 70% – 75% were White. The White crowd seemed mostly anti-fed, anti-UN, anti-NWO types, basically aracial or openly anti-racist Ron Paul+Alex Jones mindsets. I did, however, notice one guy picking up copies of Hunter and The Turner Diaries. The vendor’s Hunter / The Turner Diaries stack was low, too, so he must have sold many copies. What does that mean? I don’t know. I hope it means there were 12 or 15 white men there that day who are thinking the right way.

    I also saw a lot of guys wearing T-shirts with some form of “3%” incorporated into the shirt. After some Google searching, I found out this is a reference to an idea in the gun community called the “Doctrine of the 3%,” described as follows:

    The Doctrine of the Three Percent

    The Three Percent are the folks the Founders counted on to save the Republic when everyone else abandoned it.

    And we will.

    There will be no more free Wacos and no more free Katrinas.

    For we are the Three Percent.

    We will not disarm.

    You cannot convince us.

    You cannot intimidate us.

    You can try to kill us, if you think you can.

    But remember, we’ll shoot back .

    We are not going away.

    We are not backing up another inch.

    And there are THREE MILLION OF US.

    Your move, Mr. Wannabe Tyrant.

    That formulation from comes from the Sipsey Street Irregulars blog***. According to Fortune magazine, the principal author, Mike Vanderboegh, brought the fast and furious scandal into the mainstream using information passed to him from someone inside the ATF. He writes a lot of stuff like this (ex: re: Obamacare to a reporter from Media Matters):

    The health care law carries with its meeching platitudinous promises the hard steel fist of government violence at the center. If we refuse to obey, we will be fined. If we refuse to pay the fine, we will in time be jailed. If we refuse to report meekly to jail, we will be sent for by armed men. And if we refuse their violent invitation at the doorsteps of our own homes we will be killed — unless we kill them first.

    Personally, I think this guy might be a Hal Turner type plant in the gun culture. He talks about violence so much it’s suspicious. Plus, to the extent he pushes an intellectual paradigm at all, he pushes a useless one either out of ignorance or on purpose (aracial Constitutionalism with an emphasis on violence with guns).

    It’s hard to know how useful the gun people might for our side long term. Many of them go out of their way to denounce racism, yet they hate and oppose the US Federal Government, the principal enforcer of anti-racism, enough to get on DHS/FBI/SPLC/ADLs shit list. The usual suspects that don’t like us don’t seem to like them either. Interesting times.

    • kennewick man
      Posted July 12, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Permalink


      I read some of these type of sites, and was an “aracial constitutionalist” myself. AG Holder, with accusations of racism for anyone who opposes him, and the whole “justice for Trayvon” thing seem to be racially awakening people who last year would carry out the on-line equivalent of lynching someone who argued that intelligence is mostly hereditary. When Obama said that if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon, people said that if they had a son he would look like Christopher Newsome. The sites also report racial violence that the MSM suppress. I think there is hope for a lot of these people.

    • Posted July 16, 2012 at 8:29 am | Permalink

      Interesting times, indeed, Lew. Thanks for the additional information and perspective.

  8. April Gaede
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    My husband and I spent almost our entire Valentines Day dinner discussing what we would do differently than the characters in the Walking Dead show… was really damn fun.

  9. Petronius
    Posted July 12, 2012 at 6:01 am | Permalink

    Psychologically speaking, killing “zombies” is also a way to reduce feelings of guilt while at the same time indulging in slaughter fantasies – after all, you are just killing people that are already dead.

  10. Tosti
    Posted July 12, 2012 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    Very well done Mr. Donovan!

  11. Posted July 12, 2012 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Not much to say except Jack Donovan kicks ass each and every time he gets in the ring.

  12. Posted July 12, 2012 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    “the Gods of the Copybook Headings — will return with terror and slaughter.”

    Holy Crap! I was thinking about that poem NOT MORE THAN AN HOUR AGO whilst reading the account of 1880s countyside schooling in Lark Rise to Candleford. No zombies though.

    “Zombies are socially acceptable substitutes for the people we’re afraid of, the people we worry we might have to kill if we don’t want to be killed. Zombies are stand-ins for violent “youths,” for the hungry poor, for criminals and gangs and the people out there who want to break into your house and take your stuff…. Prepping for the Zompocalypse is training wheel tribalism. It offers Americans an atavistic fantasy, a way to return to barbarian life as a pastoral nomad, to a simpler form of social organization, to a group where everyone who is “in” really matters — and everyone who is “out” is dead meat.”

    It occurs to me that Bill Burroughs’s The Wild Boys was sort of the inverse of that: the world’s youth essentially turn into “zombies” and launch attacks on the rich and middle class but THAT’S GOOD.

    • Jaego Scorzne
      Posted July 12, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      Why would that be good? That’s an anarchist/communist sentiment. As Fascists, we are for Law and Order and nice green lawns. You might be interested in a movement called Occupy Wall Street.

      To put it more exactly, you are falling into Wilber’s pre/trans fallacy – confusing pre-egoic structures with post egoic structures just because neither one of them is egoic. The lure of the primitive is strong, believe me I know! But we must fight it so that we can fight for our Race and Civilization.

      • Posted July 13, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

        Well, I meant that the book presents it as a good thing, unlike the zombie situation where we are supposed to identify with the “good normal people.” [In fact, in the progenitor of them all, Night of the Living Dead, we are supposed to cheer on the heroic Negro, not the bald white Archie Bunker guy, and find it ‘ironic’ that he’s killed by the presumably ‘bigoted’ sheriff].

        But yes, it’s good! I was coincidentally re-reading ch. 1 of Men Among the Ruins — on the subway!- and Evola is clear, that when the state has rotted sufficiently, the only thing to do is tear it down, or let it fall, not strive to ‘prop it up’ like the Conservative. No one spoke more witheringly about ‘green lawns’ and the bourgeoisie than Evola — except perhaps Burroughs! Both men were quite proud of never having worked a straight job in their lives.

        It all depends on what you think the base is. As the Situationists said in ’68, “Under the pavement, the beach.” Anyone who counts on some kind of ‘natural’ moral savage or equality or matriarchy will be sorely disappointed, like the Bolsheviks who expected to find a New Soviet Man or the Randians who expected ‘natural’ John Galt to emerge from under the Soviet wreckage, rather than the Jewish mafia.

        But, by imagining a future [1985!] in which society collapses into the hands of the Wild Boys, Burroughs is aligned with Evola’s notion of the Mannerbund as the origin of Aryan culture. The rotting superstructure has been infected with the Judaic virus, and good riddance to it! Let us return to our Aryan roots and rebuild!

  13. Tim Askin
    Posted July 12, 2012 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Although zombies have been around for a long time in pop culture the code word “zombies” has been used in the gun shops before the recent zombiemania hit. You wink at the guy behind the counter while checking out your purchase and he’d smile and nod knowing exactly what you mean when you’d say–“Its perfect for when the zombies attack”.

    You can’t make fun of the way people act and speak(except if your Scottish–please see most recent Pixar and other animated movies) and you can’t enjoy killing anyone except Nazi’s and Zombies. Since Nazi’s are all to old and feeble we need to concentrate on the zombies.

    I’m waiting for a comedy group to show up to a zombie movie premiere with placards and megaphones screaming “Zombies are people to”, “Zombiphobia is Racist”, “Hey, Hey,
    Ho, Ho, Zombigitry has got to go”.

  14. Jaego Scorzne
    Posted July 12, 2012 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Also Blacks have been prominent in the Zombie Community – both as Zombies and their Human opposition. The first Romero movie was PC Classic with a well dress young Black guy taking control over vicious and stupid Whites and Zombies.

    In a Zombie movie a few years ago, the King of the Zombies was Black. After defeating them, the defenders let them leave peacefully, since “they were just people too”.

  15. denikin
    Posted July 12, 2012 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Zombie movies are pointless diversions for the already zombie-like White populace. Whites like zombie movies because they have lots of shooting and gore. That’s it.

  16. Posted July 12, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Permalink


    How about something comparing the Zombie thing, with, say, the phenom of ‘Road Warrior’ from 30-ish years ago? Rather than an Us v. them, Road Warrior, put Mel, I mean us, sort of caught in the middle.

  17. Jaego Scorzne
    Posted July 14, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    Ah James, to be young again and believe in the goodness of man! As you are an Agent of Chaos, I must oppose you but without hatred. Too much Burroughs at too young an age did you in. I got Robert E Howard and Herman Hesse from my Brother’s book draw. That’s the only reason I turned out better.

    You remind me of the one of Ramana’s (insignificant fat man/sage) attendants who hated women and couldn’t stand the idle chit chat of the ashram. He utlimately killed himself and came back as a Peacock who carefully avoided all the Peahens in the Ashram. He used to visit Ramana and sit exactly where he used to sit when he was a man.

    Btw, I assume you are a survivalist since you hope for chaos? You have a retreat, guns, food, etc? Or do you hope but not believe?

    Evola was an aristocrat, right? Did he have to worry about money and jobs? Burroughs had a small trust fund and he was quite frugal. Also he did work many jobs at least part time. Yes, quite a character. Did he have any racial consciousness btw? I read a bio but don’t remember anything. On the other hand, that’s just the kind of thing many follower types would leave out. Scandalous!

  18. Sandy
    Posted July 15, 2012 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    To fully appreciate Jack’s essay I would suggest as background music The Angel of Death and The Pale Horse and his Rider Goes By, by that American icon Hank Williams.

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