Selco on Martial Law: Forget your “movie illusions about being a freedom fighter”

The Organic Prepper

Selco interviewed by Daisy Luther

Let’s talk about martial law. This is when the normal law of the land is suspended and the authority comes from the military or federal government.

One recent example of undeclared martial law in the US was when the police were looking for the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing and went door to door, forcing innocent people to come outside with their hands on their heads at gunpoint, while their homes were searched without warrants.   

It turns out that many of us have some serious misconceptions of what it’s really like to live through a martial law situation. I asked Selco, who has personally been through it, to clear up the myths and tell us what it’s actually like.

Would you say that your city in Bosnia was under martial law for any part of your ordeal? How long did it last?

During Yugoslav wars, in different regions (states) based on particular timing and events you can say that martial law was in place, or “state of direct war threat” as some call it here.

There were different “stages” or even levels of it, but one common fact is that during that all normal civil rights and laws were completely and absolutely a matter of the will of the “war government.” (Or “military council” or “war headquarters”.)

The names were different for different regions, even cities, but the results were the same.

In the case of my city in that particular time, it was “war government” that had little influence on ordinary citizen simply because there were too many factions.

But prior to that time and after that year I experienced and went through something that looks more like real “martial law” as your readership imagines it.

Many people in the prepper community think they’ll be able to take on the militarized police or army rather than bending to the new rules. How do you think that will go? Can you give any examples of people attempting to defy the military?

Yes, I am aware that lot of preppers imagine martial law to be like some black and white situation (with clear causes, solutions, and views). In reality, it is quite different.

It is a situation where all stakes are much higher, and solutions-actions  that the government ( ruling  party, military leaders or whoever in your case) wants to achieve will be attempted with all means. That can include some new rules where what you think about it usually does not mean anything.

Lot of preppers think about “martial law” but in reality they think about it still in normal terms, with rights, law, constitution, and rules…

You cannot defy military , at least not openly, because they will deal with you fast and efficiently. In times like that it is so easy to get labeled that you are dangerous, an enemy of the state, a terrorist or anything similar, and most probably you will not have any help.

Forget about the movie illusions of openly being a freedom fighter.

No matter how well-organized you are, those who impose martial law have better organization than you. Remember that martial law usually means an information blackout.  “They” will own information and present it to the public the way that they want to present it.

There are a lot of myths about martial law in prepper lore.  Can you discuss a few of them?

In my opinion here are few really widespread myths in prepper movement about martial law:

“The UN will somehow “occupy” my land, impose martial law.”

When it comes to martial law I would choose to be worried about my own government first when times get really hard. That’s because most probably your freedom will be taken by those people through the martial law so they can achieve they own goals, or in order to stay in power when all goes to s..t.

It is not about who lives where, and what kind of system you have, and how much you love your country. It is about powerful people staying in power when times get really hard, even if that means taking all your rights and eliminating all possible threats from the common folks.

Patriotism does not have anything to do with that.

While you are looking for some outside “exotic” threat, the danger may be next to you all the time.

“I will recognize the threat (coming martial law, repression etc), and fight against it.”

Most probably you won’t because it will be arranged into something easily “digestible.”

For example, it will be a fight against terrorism, foreign threat, patriotism euphoria, or something similar, and then one day you’ll realize you are living in the middle of “no more rights” situation. Maybe even you’ll even be labeled as an enemy of the state simply because you have a weapon, or an off-grid retreat or similar.

Do not expect to see one day a big neon sign that says “martial law is coming”, because it will be smartly packaged into something reasonable and understandable. And most probably it will not be called martial law.

It will be packaged in a way that most people will actually welcome it, because they will not recognize what is actually, and those who openly recognize it and call it by its real name will be the first in danger.

The majority of people will look for it and ask for it, because they will think it will resolve a hard situation.

If you are going to be able to fight it, most probably you’ll have to fight it in a silent way, like a real underground resistance movement.

“I just need to obey the rules and look after my own business and all will be fine.”

Actually yes, this is true. But it is hard to obey rules when those rules actually take all of your freedoms.

One of the first actions in martial law situations is to eliminate possible threats – or let’s say “subversive elements”.

It can be done in a soft way by shutting down free press. for example. Or making you obedient (docile) by taking away your resources, and making you dependant on resources that they will give you. Or it can be done the hard way by making “problematic” people “disappear” after raids for example.

You can be that problematic man if you are openly opposed to them taking your rights, if you have other political opinions, are in the prepper movement, or similar.

Maybe you are already on some list of “emergency detention people” in case of an event.

Run away, or obey publicly while you are silently working whatever you can against it.

You simply need to be grey.

What is life really like under martial law?

There are two faces of it:

The outside face: martial law is there because of whatever reason. There are new rules, and if you obey all will be fine.

The real face: martial law means whatever they want at a particular moment. For example, the military may confiscate all your food and meds and you’ll be hungry and sick the day after. Or you may be detained for as long is necessary, or even killed.

The real problem is that in the case of serious martial law for a prolonged time (nothing like bad weather event or similar) people will hear only information that “they” want you to hear (remember free press and speech is gone). So it will be quite easy to after some time to make the majority of people to believe in whatever they want them to.

It is really scary how easy it is to make people believe in something ridiculous if that is repeated enough times and i the situation is out of ordinary.

There was a period in time during martial law here in my region when the order was that people were to leave all doors (on houses and apartments) unlocked and only partially closed (ajar) because the authority issued an order that all folks are subject to house searches at any moment. The authority did not want to lose time breaking through the door. Any closed and locked door would be considered a threat and would be attacked.

Now you can say “I will defend my home”, but I will say that if you are already caught in that situation (you did not bug out somewhere or you do not have a big organization) you will simply die, and everybody else in that house will too, because you’ll be labeled an enemy of the state or a terrorist.

Homes like that did not even get searched or checked. They were blown up from the outside.

You were labeled simply as a threat.

Just obey in situations like that.

How much do the laws change?

There are no “laws.” There are proclamations which direct your aspects of living. You obey or you are a target.

In some of the regions here where martial law was in rule but still no real war or violence, the press that still worked had completely identical headlines, full of praise for the rulers, generals or those in power.

It was ridiculous to see the same stuff in every newspaper, but people read it. Actually, most people, after some time, believed it.

That is scary.

I remember the case of one journalist who opposed ruling people in some article in his newspaper.

A few days after, he disappeared. Later he was found dead. He had been tortured.

Years later the truth emerged that the ruling party leader paid a few criminals to do that.

But what was really scary is fact that in the moment of his death most of the common folks commented with words like, “He got what he deserved” and  “he was traitor.”

The point is that after some time of living in martial law conditions, a lot of people start to believe all that is “for their own good.” They are ready to get rid of everybody who thinks differently, even if that means one day they will be next who will “disappear.”

The sad truth is that a majority of people are sheep.

How does martial law hamper your efforts to survive?

It is completely opposite to what survival movement is about.

A big part of survival is having the means to be independent, self-sufficient, and ready all the time.

Martial law is about having people under control, with less than needed resources(so they can be controlled by it), with constant fear and threats of the unknown. It is about taking your rights and freedoms.

It is about control.

You are not in control anymore. You are not in control of your life.

Were there ways that people got around the rules of martial law or were able to fight back? 

Yes, but you are going to be “outlawed” and hunted like a mad dog. You’ll be labeled as a “great danger” and you will not have any rights at all in terms of expecting to be spared.

It is (again) how strong you or your group is, if you are common man with family, you need to obey or look like you obey.

If you have some organization, maybe a prepper group, and you belong to something bigger and stronger, then your options are different.

But the big thing here that you’ll be labeled by the majority of folks as a “enemy” or “terrorist” or” lunatic” or whatever because it is what majority of folks are going to believe. In times like that, the majority of folks will obey because of blind trust, fear, or simple stupidity.

Are members of the military held to different standards of behavior during a martial law situation?

Yes, there were different actions from them based on the individuals who were in charge during the particular situation.

There were cases of soldiers rejecting orders from some officers because they felt it was against everything they were taught.

Usually those soldiers disappeared too.

Military was big machinery, and parts of that machinery operated on orders like any military. In martial law times, orders are rarely questioned because punishments for that were hard.

Can you tell us anything else about this?

Do not adopt opinions about some romantic version of martial law, because that does not exist.

You as an individual may have huge preps and means and plans, but in a martial law situation, you are way to small to count on any real results if you try taking your rights and freedoms back.

More from Selco 

More information about Selco

Selco survived the Balkan war of the 90s in a city under siege, without electricity, running water, or food distribution.

In his online works, he gives an inside view of the reality of survival under the harshest conditions. He reviews what works and what doesn’t, tells you the hard lessons he learned, and shares how he prepares today.

He never stopped learning about survival and preparedness since the war. Regardless what happens, chances are you will never experience extreme situations like Selco did. But you have the chance to learn from him and how he faced death for months.

Real survival is not romantic or idealistic. It is brutal, hard and unfair. Let Selco take you into that world.

Read more of Selco’s articles here:

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The Organic Prepper

6 thoughts on “Selco on Martial Law: Forget your “movie illusions about being a freedom fighter”


  2. Selco is from a very different culture than ours.

    “….all normal civil rights and laws were completely and absolutely a matter of the will of the “war government.”….”

    That’s the end of his description of martial law as far as I’m concerned, because Americans should be at full-blown war with their government before that happens here.

  3. “It will be packaged in a way that most people will actually welcome it…”

    Amerikans? Suckered into something like that!!?

    NEVER! Everyone here is “too smart for that”!


    “A nation with a collective, room-temp IQ”

  4. Selco seems to think that resisting the military is futile. Apparently he hasn’t noticed how much trouble the US and its puppets have had in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Even if it comes to a point where citizens are in a no-win conflict with tyrannical forces, those citizens can still take some of the enemy down with them. That would be a far better outcome than surrendering and living on one’s knees.

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