Monday, January 08, 2007

The Psychology Of Fear

Since the 9-11 attacks, most Americans have come to the realization that attacks on our soil are not something that happens in other countries, but can happen here, if we allow our guard to drop.Over the weekend and this morning, we see two incidents that may well have been overblown. But certainly, both serve as a stark reminder that we are at still at risk and must continue to improve our security, in order to better serve the people of this nation.

The first was the Miami port incident as told in this article here.

The second is the incident that is playing out right now in NYC, with the peculiar natural gas smell that cannot be explained (at least not at the time of this writing). You can read about it here, if you haven't already done so.

Fear is a naturally occurring emotion, and is a natural response to danger when. Fear also helps us recognize danger. It can alert our senses to a higher state of vigilance, and help us to recognize threats. In contrast, fear can paralyze people and render them totally ineffective, when it is irrational and baseless. When that happens too often, it can ruin lives and generally make people miserable.

What the terrorists of 9-11 did besides kill thousands of innocent people, was place a seed of fear in the psyche of many Americans, by showing that they could beat us from the inside. They showed our vulnerabilities so much that most every time there seems to be an incident like the ones cited here, there is more media spin than is necessary.

Yesterday, it was the Miami port incident saturating the the news channels. Today, it's the odd odor in NYC. But what many people do not realize is, there are many incidents that reach the same level of concern with Homeland Security officials as these, but without the media fanfare.

But being the skeptic I am, I am not as concerned about these incidents themselves, as I am about other things. Could these incidents have been dry runs designed to test reactions of authorities? Could they have been a smokescreen for other incidents that have yet to be detected? I think these are important questions to ask ourselves, in a rational way.

The reason it's important is simple. War strategies include the effective use of decoys. Inner city gangs use them sometimes, it only stands to reason that the terrorists are able to figure out how to use them, as well. If we do not think in these terms, we can and will fall for a false incident, while something more real is happening that can and will be over looked. As I have said many times before, to be deemed successful, we have to be right 100% of the time. The terrorists only have to be right once and many, many people could and would be killed, never again able to roam the earth.

Being in Homeland Security has to be one of the highest pressure jobs, in the world right now. With all of that riding on their shoulders, it's a wonder that we haven't been hit again. But thankfully, we haven't. Yet.

8 comments:

Greg said...

The "dry run" theory immediately came to my mind as well. We've seen several possible cases since 9/11. We already spoke of the "flying imams" in Minneapolis. There's also the case of a musical group that engaged in some wierd behavior during approach to Las Vegas several years ago. The incident this weekend at the Miami port smells fishy ;)

However, it's really no wonder at all that we haven't been hit. We've hardened our homeland defenses and given law enforcement some of the common sense tools (like sneak'n'peak warrants and roving wiretaps) they need, through the Patriot Act. And we've also taken the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan and elsewhere. When they are forced to spend most of their energy hiding and staying alive, they are less likely to be able to plan and execute sophisticated attacks. We're still, and always will be, vulnerable to the unsophisticated attack on soft targets, a-la 7/7 bombings in London.

I feel more confident than ever since 9/11. I think "alert" is a better word than "fear" in this context. People now recognize the threat, which they did not pre-9/11; but they also understand it more than immediately after the attack, which lessens the fear that we all felt back then.

LASunsett said...

Greg,

Your commentary is very well said.

//we've also taken the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan and elsewhere. When they are forced to spend most of their energy hiding and staying alive, they are less likely to be able to plan and execute sophisticated attacks.//

This portion is exceptionally so. Yet, it amazes me that there are some people that cannot/will not allow themselves to see that this is a valid strategy. They may not like it, that's for them to decide. But to deny that it does work, indicates a lack of knowledge of basic military science.

LASunsett said...

PS:

Many contend that healthy fear is the same as a healthy anxiety. For what it's worth, the words may be interchangeable. But regardless of the wording, if the end result is the individual or group is at a higher state of alert, it is healthy.

Anonim said...

Someone said, one who is willing to sacrifice liberty for security deserves neither. Or something like that. Still, I am not going to dwell on this and give the benefit of the doubt to your arguments on the domestic side of the story. You have after all enough dissenters at home.

On the foreign front, though, you are losing control. I can't help but wonder whether this gusto to enlarge the perceived terrorist blob is a psychological coping mechanism. Yes, you took "the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan," and not very many people found fault in that. The problem is with the "and elsewhere" part. "Elsewhere" is a sorry story of how a manageable situation can be blown out of proportion resulting in a multi-dimensional disaster that will reverberate for years to come. The other day, a reader of my local paper yearned for the good old wars of yesteryear, and asked why "we are not carpet bombing 'elsewhere' to oblivion." Some question to ponder...

I am holding my breath for what will unfold with a neighboring "elsewhere" in 2007.

P.S. LASunsett & Greg, "dry run" suspicions, the need for asking rational (detective-like) questions, ... are points well taken.

Always On Watch Two said...

LA,
Prior to 9/11, most Americans believed that such an atrocity could never happen. Indeed, on that day, at first few seemed to recognize that the first plane which hit the WTC wasn't a terrorist attack but rather just a terrible accident.

Some believe that 9/11 was a fluke. Others feel that authorities "missed" many warning signs and are "waiting for the next shoe to drop." Either way plays into the hands of Islamic terrorists.

I think that this is quite possible:

Could these incidents have been dry runs designed to test reactions of authorities?

As I understand it, something odd also happened in Austin, Texas, at the same time as the incident today in NYC. I'm not sure as to the details; the NYC story got saturation coverage.

Post-9/11 (and the anthrax attacks and the D.C. snipers), I find it quite difficult not to be a tad paranoid.

LASunsett said...

//As I understand it, something odd also happened in Austin, Texas, at the same time as the incident today in NYC. I'm not sure as to the details; the NYC story got saturation coverage.

Post-9/11 (and the anthrax attacks and the D.C. snipers), I find it quite difficult not to be a tad paranoid.//


Yes, this most certainly is weird. Many birds were found dead in the downtown area.

It's hard not to be a tad paranoid. I don't really enjoy this. But, I suspect that you have even more reason to feel more so, given your locale.

LASunsett said...

Anonim

//Someone said, one who is willing to sacrifice liberty for security deserves neither.//

As a long time advocate of getting government out of our lives I haven't been too happy about this whole thing. But, on the other hand, we cannot leave gaping holes, either. It's not a feel good choice, regardless of which one we opt for.

Always On Watch Two said...

LA,
I just stumbled across this, which might possibly of interest.