Crisis management: Critical lessons from Covid 19

Crisis Management is truly the difficult art and practice of Thinking the Unthinkable and then doing everything in our power to thwart it.

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Covid 19 has lessons for every field of human activity. One of the most important of which is Crisis Management (CM).

In a previous blog[i], I examined a series of arguments/claims that have constantly been bandied about for not getting vaccinated for Covid 19. In reviewing them, it quickly became clear that as despicable as the individual arguments/claims were, they were made worse by the disturbing fact that they strengthened one another in the most insidious of ways. Not only do the individual arguments/claims impact reinforce one another, but by banding together into tight clusters, they bolster one another even more.

To recall the clusters into which the fallacious arguments/claims with regard to Covid 19 fall, first and foremost is the Hoax Cluster. Namely, the Virus is not real, and therefore, not deserving of any serious attention whatsoever. It’s supported by the false assertion that the numbers of people affected are too small to worry about. It’s reinforced further by the Conspiracy/Paranoia Cluster. Namely, the Virus has been intentionally fomented by the Government so that by surreptitiously placing microchips in the vaccines, it can track our every whereabouts and thoughts at all times, thereby controlling them and thus taking away our precious freedoms and liberties. The I Know Best Cluster is the false belief that I and I alone know better than anyone else everything there is to know about myself. Therefore, I and no one else has the right to make important decisions pertaining to my body. The Invulnerability Cluster is the mistaken belief that “If in the highly improbable case that the Virus is real, I’m immune to it.” The Product Defect Cluster is the unfounded claim that the Vaccine, not the Virus, is the true culprit since it’s responsible for causing the Virus in the first place. In other words, it completely reverses the correct order of things. Furthermore, the vaccine has not been tested enough to ensure its complete safety. Therefore, there are no valid reasons for trusting in it.

As I ruminated, it became clear that the clusters apply to all of the Hot Button Issues facing us: Abortion Rights, Climate Change, Dis and Misinformation, Gun Control, Immigration, Individual Responsibility Versus Government Mandates, Voter Suppression, and so forth.

To see how it applies to CM, consider the following. As I alluded to, the Hoax Cluster is essentially a Seriousness Cluster. Namely, no matter how likely and consequential it is, how serious we should take a potential crisis? In turn, the Invulnerability Cluster is a Protection Cluster. Namely, how protected are we from potential crises? And of course, the Conspiracy/Paranoia Cluster is literally what it proclaims. In short, has a crisis been deliberately fomented by nefarious parties to do us grave harm?

Without a doubt, one of the most threatening of all crises is Domestic Terrorism. In a recent article in Foreign Affairs[ii], Cynthia Miller-Idriss, Director of the Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab at American University, makes the important point that while entirely understandable, the focus on International Terrorism diverted serious attention away from Domestic Terrorism. Thus, while Domestic Terrorism was certainly not regarded as a Hoax, it was sidelined by our preoccupation with International Terrorism. In this sense, its seriousness was downgraded. It unintentionally allowed Far Right extreme groups to flourish. While seeking to ensure our Protection from International Terrorism, it thereby lowered it with regard to Domestic Terrorism.

If this weren’t bad enough, it failed to keep up with new variants (pun intended). Thus, the often-violent acts of resistance to the wearing of masks in places where people congregate and are in close contact with one another are nothing less than prime examples of Domestic Terrorism. The point is that no type of crisis can be taken literally. New types are constantly being added by a complex world.

It also ignored one of the cardinal rules of CM. In a world that is completely connected in every possible way, all crises are completely interconnected as well. This means that in planning for any one particular type of crisis, one must also plan for the most seemingly unrelated ones that can occur as well.

Thus, consider the particular crisis with which the modern field of CM began, Product Tampering. In 1982, in a suburb outside of Chicago, numbers of people died from poisoning due to the placing of cyanide in Tylenol capsules. Although at the time it was not considered as such, it’s a classic example of Domestic Terrorism. In this way, seemingly unrelated types of crises have the strangest ways of coming together.

In contrast, there is no doubt whatsoever that the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was a clear act of Domestic Terrorism. It was unfortunately just the beginning.

Crisis Management is truly the difficult art and practice of Thinking the Unthinkable and then doing everything in our power to thwart it.

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