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Con Men, Billionaires, and the Rest of Us


— July 12, 2021

Between the billionaires’ space race and the con men taking advantage of chaos back on Earth, who will support the rest of us in the times ahead? We must.


The news has been getting wild lately, hasn’t it? Florida considers which homes to abandon to the sea, unable to save them all, while drought is baking and burning the American West with some of the highest temperatures ever recorded. Farmers are giving up on their wheat fields, and COVID is on the rise as unscrupulous pundits endanger public health for higher ratings. Instead of stepping in to stabilize the chaos, the richest among us are squabbling to see who gets to go to space. What about the rest of us, stuck down here with the con men taking advantage of it all?

The legal entanglements of a particular Florida man making a big stink about his social media experience may have overshadowed all this, but there’s another (alleged, of course) swindler up in Michigan whose case is moving through the system. Barrett Moore, the one-time proprietor of “Life Continuity” services for the nervous rich, had a pretty ballsy schtick going. For a rather significant fee, Moore offered to provide a protective haven and “state within a state” to protect his clients, if and when chaos broke out and [dog whistle alert!] urban areas became unsafe due to social unrest. He promised uninterrupted supply chains and a secure ten mile periphery that would hold space for the wealthy to enjoy shuffleboard, ice fishing and a game room in complete safety as the rest of us suffer around them.

Luckily, the apocalypse hasn’t rained down (yet) because court records indicate that Moore’s claims were almost 100% pure, fictional puffery. Although Moore convinced his would-be customers that his multiple hideaways would shelter hundreds of people against “any hazard” while boosting the northern Michigan economy, all he had to offer was his lakefront home and “Garage Mahal,” a reinforced pole barn stocked with N95 masks (that they may or may not have paid for), freeze-dried food rations, guns and ammunition, and other people’s gold. Moore, however, was not a “special forces operator” as he told clients; he hadn’t even completed his college ROTC program. In a 2016 deposition, he wouldn’t even claim to have a driver’s license, and his financial records were so murky that his Chapter 7 bankruptcy couldn’t be administered effectively.

A seated blond man in a shirt unbuttoned to the chest, smiles.
Richard Branson discussing Virgin Galactic in 2014. Photo by Steve Jurvetson via Flickr. Image cropped. CC BY 2.0

For those with the means to escape the chaos without the help of right-wing preppers, there’s space. Jeff Bezos (rich even before making a pandemic killing), Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson, and Elon Musk of SpaceX have all dropped fortunes on the billionaires’ space race. Any of these men could have put a significant dent in some major world problems instead of forming a company so they can rocket away from the rest of us, yet chose not to. Indeed, they’re arguably adding to the burden. If a single round-trip transatlantic flight expends more energy per passenger than each person would generate in a lifetime of muscle use, how much does it take to lift even one vain plutocrat to the edge of space, and wasn’t there anything better to do with it?

As our economic and ecological situations spiral out of control, it’s pretty clear that neither the government, nor business, nor the very rich are going to step up to help. The answers won’t be found in separatist bunker-mentality and they’re not on Mars. Survival for the rest of us means down-to-Earth solutions, adaptability, cooperation, resilient communities, skilling up for the challenges facing us, and mutual aid. It’s about becoming more tightly knit and interdependent with our friends, families, and neighbors. Together, we can do more than we think.

Related: Elon Musk is Not a Progressive Superhero

Sources:

The Rise and Fall of the Ultimate Doomsday Prepper
Billionaire Blastoff: Rich riding own rockets into space
Richard Branson space flight beats out Jeff Bezos. But all of humanity loses.
Space Billionaires, Please Read the Room

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