What happens when a terrorist network (ISIS) finds a way to activate terrorists using social media (neatly piercing the security defenses that we pay hundreds of billions of $$ for every year) to randomly attack civilians (like the knife attack in Roanoke VA last week)?
You get a society at a tipping point. A society at this tipping point is reactive and labile. It is EASILY sent into a frenzied retreat.
How is this different?
Unlike the classic example of yelling "fire" in a crowded movie theater, this panic can be induced by anything that sounds/looks/feels like a threat rather than the claim of a specific threat (like "fire"). Nearly anything can set them off.
Here's three examples of that over the last two weeks (there have been many more):
- JFK Airport. Unfounded reports of gunfire led to an evacuation of terminals. Police march passengers out of the terminal with their hands up. Police speculate that it was started by load fans of the Rio Olympics.
- CrabTree Valley Mall (NC): Unfounded reports of an active shooter leads to a panicked evacuation of the mall.
- LAX Airport. Unfounded reports of a shooter led to people storming the jetway doors and spilling out onto the tarmac, people barricading themselves into bathrooms in multiple terminals, and more.
This public reactiveness may become the new normal both here and in Europe. If so, we can expect people take advantage of it.
All it takes is a single audio clip. Like this or this either near a public space or done remotely on a timed playback device is all it would take to ignite the FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) that leads to a large scale evacuation. In fact, people are so reactive now, I suspect it wouldn't even take a sound that is explicit, only something that sounds similar.
Think about this for a moment. The ability to shut down a public space for hours:
- anytime (just walk in and play the sounds),
- remotely (low cost playback device on timer/remote activation), or
- on a large scale (thousands of people playing the sounds on their smart phones in public spaces simultaneously)
is a substantial capability.
How so? Take this fall's election for example.
It is a far easier to close a voting location with a sound than hack a voting machine.