Emergency preparedness from a Counterintelligence Agent

Beware False Knowledge

beware of false prophetsBeware False Knowledge

With summer in full swing, my teenage son has found a lot of free time on his hands. (Even after the chores given to him by an “over-demanding” father.  LOL)  So some of his free time has been spent watching TV.

Now I’m not one to have my son sit around all day and watch TV. I give him chores around the house, he helps out at the homestead, etc. And when he does watch TV, I tell him he needs to watch something that will improve him somehow. Be it educational, instructional, etc. Watch something worthwhile I said.

I came home the other day and he was on Netflix, watching old episodes of Man vs Wild. The fact that he might be taking an interest in being outdoors, and about survival and being prepared made me smile. So I sat down beside him and watched an episode with him. I’m glad I did as it opened up a learning opportunity for him.

This particular episode, our “hero” was in some abandoned factory somewhere in Poland I believe. I said nothing as I watched Bear climb up and rope across multi-story buildings, and then climb into ventilation shafts. I was guessing maybe this was an attempt to remain unseen? Otherwise why not just break out a window or door?

Are "explosions" apart of your survival plan?

Are “explosions” apart of your survival plan?

But then he used explosives to blow open a door, (how he accomplished this was NOT shown on camera), all sense of what he was attempting to teach went out the window. Why show people how to survive by using skills they do not possess and you are not allowed to show? Not to mention the fact that it would be much less risky (and less noisy) to use a window or door as opposed to potentially setting the entire building on fire!

I then watched Bear climb down an elevator shaft to the bottom floor of a building, and I began to laugh. I’m willing to bet that in Poland, they have stairs. When it comes to survival, NEVER take unnecessary risks.

But the coup de grace was watching him climb up 5 or 6 stories high using pipes in the abandoned factory and then “tightrope walk” over a narrow beam to eat two small bird eggs located in a nest near the ceiling. I told my son that this was idiotic. Not only would a normal person be risking death, but that he most likely burned more calories getting to and from the eggs than what the eggs provided…..ie a calorie deficit.

I understand this is a “made for TV drama”, and scaling buildings and climbing down elevator shafts is more entertaining than gathering fire wood or feeding chickens. But it made me wonder how many people would watch this and think this is the way to survive?

But it isn’t just TV “survival” shows that spread misinformation. I have watched numerous Youtube videos and read many articles on survival and/or prepping and thought “Are people really passing this off as good info?”

Now if you are reading this and thinking to yourself, “He must be talking about so and so”, stop! My point in this is NOT to call anyone out or to point fingers. Yes, I ripped Man vs Wild. But let’s face it, anyone who stars in a survival TV series trying to teach people how to survive but then spends his nights in a hotel needs to be called out.

(For the record, Bear Grylls did have a show called “Worst-Case Scenario.” This show, only one season long, did have some good information and tips should you find yourself in certain dangerous situations. Yes, at times the episodes were overly dramatic, but the tips were still solid.)

The point in this to be wary about what you read or watch, especially when it comes to your safety and security. Bernard Shaw once said that false knowledge is more dangerous than ignorance. I could not agree more.

So how do you know what is crap and what is good information?

If what you are reading or watching feels “off”, chances are it is. If there seems to be conflicting data on something….dig deeper. Much deeper.  Don’t watch one video or read one article on something. Study multiple articles. Learn who is considered the experts in that field. Get a general consensus of what they say.

Read case studies. Read government reports if there are any. These aren’t exciting, but they can and do present a good source of knowledge.

And even if you know a subject well, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep up with it. Things change. New studies come out dispelling old beliefs. So stay current on topics you feel you are already familiar with. We can always learn new things or better ways to do something.

Next, in trying to separate fact from opinion, I tend to avoid videos or articles that are overly dramatic, self-promoting, seem to have an ulterior motive, or play on peoples’ fear and negative emotions. If you do watch/read them, at least take them with a grain of salt.

I also realize that if people are promoting certain survival items, they may be paid or compensated to do so. This isn’t always a bad thing…but I am aware that there could be some inherent bias.

Third, and the most important in my opinion, is to learn it for yourself. Experience is the greatest teacher after all.

You might watch three or four Youtube videos on starting a bow drill fire. You might study them in detail, memorizing each step until you know how to make a bow drill fire. Right?


You don’t know how to make a bow drill fire until you actually do it yourself. And once you do it by yourself, you will realize that it SUCKS ASS! You will realize that after 35 minutes, you will give up and say “to hell with this! I don’t need a campfire tonight!!”

You will know that even though it only took you 10-15 minutes on your second and then third try, you still are not an expert because you failed miserably on your 4th try. You will learn that sometimes, it won’t work. For whatever reason, despite the fact that you have made a bow drill fire at least half a dozen times before, today it simply won’t work.

I am not an expert at making bow drill fires. But I have made them enough to know that if I had to make one right now, there is a chance I might not be able to light the tender. I might make my shoulder sore and ruin a perfectly good shoe lace with nothing to show for it.

I also know from experience that when I made a solar still, I didn’t get much water from it. And what water I did get tasted yuck!

I know from experience that you can bake a cake and bread in a solar oven. It works. Tasted ok too. But I also know that if you forget and leave your cardboard and aluminum foil oven outside during a rain storm, it becomes a huge mess of a blob. And as a result, I know that you can mix flour and water into patties, and cook them right on the coals of the campfire. Dust off the ash, and with a little brown sugar they aren’t that bad if you are hungry.

I have this knowledge from first-hand experience, and that is something I CANNOT get from a video or an article.

Ultimately, YOU are responsible for your safety and security. Let common sense be your guide, and understand that there is more to learning than just reading about it or watching a video. The best way to learn and gain REAL knowledge is hands on experience!

Graywolf here:

For a perfect example, check out this video from a VERY popular youtube channel:

BTW, the PVC evap air conditioner model I designed works without having to load it with ice – and it won’t kill you. Just sayin’


About James L

A police officer in Oklahoma, James is a gun enthusiast and certified police instructor. In his off time, he is a single father who enjoys playing with his kids and watching football.

Come visit his Preparedness site at Plan and Prepared


  1. Survival Skillcraft says

    There is no reality in these shows or very little. I found an inexpensive kindle book that talks about this exact topic. It is a short but interesting read that many people do not really think about in regards to these shows. It is called:

    “Reality” in Reality Survival Shows by Gunner Morgan


    • The only one I’d watch was Dual Survivor with Cody Lundin. And even then it was usually when I was bored.

      But you are correct Gunner, it is all made for TV. Not something to base your life and/or safety on.

  2. Good article. I love the fact that it is Bear, Chief Scout, that gets an airing – as a Brit I find him in deperate need of therapy, who would make so much fuss?! Always go for Ray Mears if you prefer to watch a British accent. Yes it is sedate, steeped in references to historical figures who survived months in inclement weather, and he has lovenhandles rather than a six pack! But he produces things that are digestible, information rich, drama free and the accompanying music is usually a gentle accoustic
    guitar which is a good sign that what you are watching is not meant to drive you to the nearest gadget shop for an adrenalin fueled shopping spree.
    Trying things out for yourself may seem difficult in a hectic life, but a great way we have found is the Kelly Kettle in the garden with experiments of tinder and other materials gathered from our local woods, grass verges, hedges etc. Safe enough for the kids to try with a little supervision and you really enjoy the coffee you make. If people only did this one morning a week, they would still learn a lot about lighting fire, local materials and how to be tenacious (a sadly lacking skill in many) and bloody minded about something that could ultimately prove to be a lifesaving skill. People usually die of exposure before they die of thirst!

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