At what point are we FEAR-MONGERING?

By now we’ve all read or at least heard of the piece in The New Yorker about the impending doom that shall be wrought by the Cascadia subduction zone.  It brings about some interesting thoughts.  Certainly the foundational premise of the article is based in some measure of science.  There IS a Cascadia subduction zone and a major quake here COULD certainly be devastating.  This article has sparked a few pieces by others which took their bit of sensationalism to a much higher level.  Keep in mind, however, that sensationalism sells.

The situation begs some questions of our own profession, though.  Where is that line for emergency management and homeland security?  Of course we endeavor to be factual, but we also want to be convincing and COMPELLING.  We want people to take action.  How far do we have to go to get our point across that there are hazards which people need to prepare for?  How far do we have to go to describe the situations which people need to prepare for?  At what point are we SENSATIONALIZING?  At what point are we FEAR-MONGERING?  What kind of moral obligation do we have?

This post and these questions were actually inspired by this morning’s blog post from author Chuck Wendig titled “Fear is Fucking Us All Up”.  Mr. Wendig’s blog is raw, humorous, and insightful on a variety of topics.  I highly recommend giving it a look.  Reader beware – Chuck Wendig uses more than a bit of profanity (in case you couldn’t tell from the title of his post).  If you are offended, don’t read it!

© 2015 – Timothy Riecker



2 thoughts on “At what point are we FEAR-MONGERING?

  1. Good piece. As an emergency manager in the zone, I chose to capitalize on the momentum created by the sensationalism. It takes shock and awe to get anyone’s attention anymore. Once I have their attention, I can ratchet it down a little. But the article, as much as I despise the New Yorker, has actually helped. Btw, all they did was access the exercise scenario for the upcoming cascading rising regional exercise. Not very creative and they did not expend much effort. It is a theoretical exercise based on the worst case scenario. They did this to make the exercise more challenging. The New Yorker just got a copy of this and ran with it. The loss of critical infrastructure is the concern, not so much the shaking. But the casualties along the shore will depend on many factors, but they just plugged in the worst case estimates into the scenario document. Anyway, good job on the post.

    1. Thanks very much for the comment as well as the insight on where their material originated from. It’s a good strategy to ride the wave they created to capture people’s attention.

      Keep up the good work.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s