Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Debunking FEMA Corps Conspiracy Theories

Editor's Note: This is Andy Tisdel, proprietor of Tisdel's Tirades, talking. This post may or may not reflect the opinions of a majority of FEMA Corps Team Summit 5; it is nothing more or less than an ordinary blog post.

You would think that a group of dedicated, motivated young people signing up to serve their country for ten months, working in disaster zones and helping individuals and communities get back on their feet, would be immune from the panting fever-dreams of conspiracy theorists in the dregs of American political thought. If you thought that, well, you'd be what we in the Corps like to call an 'optimist'. It's far from a mainstream opinion even among the legions of sweating nutjobs that believe in such tripe, but this particular 'article' has been making its way around the Internet since October. It hasn't bothered me, unlike many of my fellow Corps Members--my position is that there will always be crazies, it's just something you live with, so why get worked up about it?--but it occurred to me today that pushing back on this particular conspiracy theory is right in my bailiwick. I've done quite a bit of it on this blog, and it actually pertains to me and mine, which is enough justification in my eyes. 

I'm not going to link to the article directly, because it's not worth the photons. I will link to a post that debunks the claims pretty thoroughly; because that's quite comprehensive, instead of going point-by-point on the article, I'll just offer my perspective as a member of FEMA Corps. Here are the three biggest lunacies that the letter offers up.

The first thing that jumps out at me is the idea that we are all supposed to be highly trained killers, and that millions of rounds of ammunition have supposedly been purchased for our use against Americans. Yeah, no. Like all members of Americorps NCCC, FEMA Corps members aren't allowed to bring firearms onto campus or on spike. No semiautomatic rifles, no hunting pieces, no pistols, no BB guns, no paintball guns. They even frown on us having pocketknives! The most dangerous projectile weapon in my room right now is a battery-operated Nerf gun with three plastic darts in it. Call the goddamn Special Forces. 

 Second big thing: Can these idiots count? They warn of the rise of a Hitler Youth-style FEMA army with "tens of thousands" of members. The official FEMA press release they quote from earlier in the article lists the Corps's maximum size at 1,600, which they must've just somehow missed (har har), but never mind that for the moment. Let's hypothesize about what would happen if there really were tens of thousands of us with guns. What would happen to such an army? The regular U.S. military, which has a total active and reserve force of nearly three million members, would utterly destroy it. A lot of these conspiracy theorists believe that President Obama is plotting to overthrow the government; if he was planning on doing it with an untrained army orders of magnitude smaller than the regular armed forces, he'd be less an evil mastermind and more of a total lunatic. (I know logic only gets you so far with conspiracy theorists, but I can at least give it a try.)

Third and final big thing: This isn't a dig at FEMA. I've had the opportunity to work with a great many FEMA personnel from Atlanta to Connecticut, and a majority of them are good at their jobs and interested in getting things done as quickly as possible. But can you imagine what would happen if FEMA, of all the huge government bureaucracies, tried to take over the country? Seriously? They'd get bogged down in Incident Action Plans and 215 forms and a mountain of other paperwork! I have seen with my own eyes that FEMA could not take over so much as a middle school parking lot without getting into a fight with the local mayor's representative (who was rather an odd duck herself). FEMA could not be farther from the grim, faceless, implacably evil bureaucracy imagined in the email. It just isn't even close to their personality or what they do, except in the paranoid fantasies of sad, lonely people. Don't believe the garbage.


Lea Gavrieli said...

The last paragraph is the best :-)

Jan Foucault said...

Andy, I had the privilege of helping to support your outfit's initial training in Anniston, AL and chat with, and get to know a little better, some of your cohorts at the Queens, NY JFO and I am a big fan of you all. I love your blog, you are a talented writer. I LOVED the final paragraph's observations; so true!

Eric Swetts said...

As a soon-to-begin FEMA Corps member, I have seen this story populating every Google search pertaining to the program that I am about to give ten months of my life to. Thank you for addressing this internet garbage head-on, as your blog is the first that I have seen do this.

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