UPI Homeland and National Security Editor Shaun Waterman has a very interesting analysis that reveals the communications dimension of terrorism counterstrategy.
“Fear of Terror Worsens Attacks” examines a Department of Homeland Security document pointing out how the “number of people suffering psychologically induced symptoms could far outweigh the number of actual victims in a chemical, biological or nuclear incident.”
Allowing fear to metastasize across the population will do actual damage and could multiply the direct costs of any attack many times over.
The piece quotes yours truly (perhaps biasing me in its favor), but also brings in true communications experts:
“You have to give people a sense of control,” said Paul Slovic of Decision Research, a risk-perception specialist. “Either the sense that their government is in control, is handling it … and/or explicit information (about the possible effects of any attack) which will enable them to take control themselves.”
Though I have been looking for it, I don’t see any evidence that the administration or the Department of Homeland Security have done any real thinking about the strategic communications they should be using now to inoculate against fear. They should have a communications plan prepared, rehearsed, and ready for use in the event of any future attack.
Two years ago, I noted a particularly bad example of official communications, and in the current election I have pointed out the related problem of politicians inadvertently exalting terrorists.
Kudos to Waterman for some excellent reporting on this important dimension of terrorism counterstrategy.