It's Easy to be Scared; That's Exactly What "They" Want

In an orthogonal departure from our occasional stream of relevant content here, or at least a tangential departure, we want to briefly comment on the senseless and tragic event that marred one of the most historical mass participation events in the country yesterday, the Boston Marathon.

(And incidentally, we promise to pick up the frequency and hopefully quality of posting here shortly.)

"Orthogonal" to the extent this has nothing to do with how business connects with its clients and customers.  "Tangential" to the extent this actually might have a connection if we think about the wholesale collapse of what should have been a wonderful day of celebration and well, yes consumption, but most importantly: What that might mean for the next massive marathon, like this Fall in New York City.

Look at the headlines and column feet of commentary -- for instance today's edition of USA Today declares: "TERROR RETURNS" and "That Post 9/11 Quiet? Its Over."  And we don't mean to single out USA Today; heck, it was the entire newstand regardless of publication.  Sadly, it sells papers and persists the awful truth that we're a voyeur nation.  But here's another take: our's with an all caps "FWIW" meaning "For Whatever It's Worth."

Its easy to be scared.  As the details of this tragedy unfold its easy for us to demand our government do something, anything to make it go away.  It would be easy, but wrong.  Doing so plays right into the hands of the criminals responsible for this.  And it simply glorifies and illuminates whatever crazed cause they may have.  We say "they" because we bet it was more than a lone actor, but that's totally beside the point.

You see, terrorism feeds on fear -- fear to go out, to be a part of massive crowds, or be found in large public places -- whether its the Boston Marathon or the first shopping day of the holday season.  And its designed to scare us well beyond the scope of what actually happened.  And that (what happened), we believe is actually more rare than our senses suggest.  Give credit to the nation's law enforcement and security experts for their vigilance following 9/11 to lock down on terrorist opportunities.  But recall the gloomy predictions that we would see chaos every few months afterward?  It didn't happen because by refusing to succumb to terror and being vigilant but carrying on, we better managed our destiny.  And avoiding the reality disotrtion field these rare events cause is imperative.

There has been a bunch of research on fear and the brain teaches us to exaggerate threats, especially ones that are rare, immediate, with shock and awe, and in the end random.  The media feeds it, and we ingest it. Terrorism pushes all of our fear buttons, very hard, and we overreact rather than respond. 

The simple truth is there is no fool-proof way to stop these senseless acts of terror -- whether domestic or foreign.  They will continue and so must we.  But we must not assume that at every corner chaos awaits.  Remain vigilant yes, but remain calm and carry on.

Remember, although it is easy to compromise the securtity of uncontrolled areas, terrorism experts will also tell you it takes an enormous amount of coordination, resource management, and precise execution of a plot.  Hollywood has made it spectacular (and deceptively simple) to blow things up.  In the real world it is really much harder to do; hard to bring together the materials, hard to get the coordination, and hard to make a workable plan go off like clockwork.  The result?  Yes, every so often there will be an unusual event where things come together and a tragic strike occurs.  But its rare, and we always adapt and adopt to the circumstances (even if it now means pulling our shoes off in airport security lines and body scans at nearly every public office entry).

We all should be angry; really upset.  For good reason.  But we should refuse to be terrorized.  And honestly, we think we'd all be better off if somehow the Media could contain themselves and refuse to sensationalize this.  Otherwise, we're playing right into the real plot of terrorism: to strike a disproportionate amount of fear, altering our behavior, and scuttling our daily lives.  Don't succumb to this. 

Sure, its hard to keep this perspective.  But how "successful" this attack is depends more on how we react in the next few months than the tragic and horrific scenes in Boston yesterday.  When we (over)react by changing laws, policies, or procedures that ultimately make our great nation less open, reducing our freedoms, and constraining our ability to flourish, then terrorism succeeds, even if the attacks fail.  If, on the other hand, we refuse to be terrorized, then terrorism tends to fail even if an attack is somehow a "success."

Like many of you, we have friends and family in Boston, our founding partner is originally a Bostonian, and we know many who went there to celebrate their achievement of being able to run 26 miles, 384 yards.  And as we (at C[IQ]) watch this unfold in the papers, on the 24-hours news cycle of cable, in the echo chamber that is the Internet, and at our airports' security checks (for some of us this morning) we feel compelled to remind our readers to refuse to be terrorized, because although its easy to be scared, that's exactly what "they" want.

We now return you to our regularly intended content.