9/11 and the Dominipede

remembering-9-11-attacksIn the wake of another 9/11 anniversary, I thought it would be helpful to explore the conceptual nature of a dominipede through the prism of 9/11.  The dominipede (multiple, simultaneous human stampedes most likely impacting the NFL 1 o’clock slate of games) is a hypothetical scenario.  But I think there’s much to be gained from exploring some key similarities.

Black Swans

9/11 was a black swan.  If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s used to describe those incomprehensible moments in time that produce substantive change and alter the “way of things.”  As society adapts and moves forward, people often reflect in hindsight.  How could we not have seen it coming?  Why were we oblivious and ill-prepared?

Pre-9/11, everyone was familiar with the prospect of plane hijackings and suicide bombers, but few people ever theoretically connected the two.  Sometimes, the government and bureaucratic institutions cannot seemingly address an issue, no matter how generic it may be, until AFTER a tragedy has occurred.  It’s just a cold, hard truth regarding the inertia of big government and functionality of large organizations.

My research indicates that nobody is willing to address the core dilemma presented by the dominipede — the possibility of someone usurping the authority of incident command and launching their own, unsolicited stadium evacuation (almost surely with the intent of fomenting a human stampede).  I refer to this as “discussing the undiscussable.”  Hardly anybody’s willing to talk about it.  Assuming my hunches are accurate, if fans started receiving information or had evidence about real-world stadium stampedes elsewhere, they’d likely conclude their present location is unacceptable.  They’d wish to leave, or at the very least, aggressively move toward the concourses and exits.  As people see what’s unfolding, the herding mentality kicks in.  When authentic panic ensues, there’s no recourse.  Mitigation is not an option.  You do not mitigate stampedes.  You prevent them.

If you’re unwilling to acknowledge this overtly generic hole in stadium security (50,000-100,000 active cell phones capable of receiving and transmitting false information), you simply cannot address the problem… let alone try to solve it.  Public awareness is the cornerstone of any viable strategy designed to combat an artificially generated stampede.

Cost

It has been estimated that the 9/11 attacks required as little as $250,000.  9/11 had an unfathomably high ROI (return on investment).  For the cost of a nice house in the suburbs, Al Qaeda’s attack inflicted damage in the trillions resulting in the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and reconfiguration of the U.S. government, increased airport security and the implementation of TSA guidelines, not to mention the costs associated with multiple wars.  Many would argue that the 9/11 attacks are still a significant drain on the economy.

But a dominipede would set a far more disturbing precedent.  It could conceivably be attempted at virtually no cost whatsoever.  I can assure you, the psychological ramifications, monetary damage and physical toll of multiple stampedes would be significant.  Cost free and costly.  It would dramatically change the “way of things.”

Limited number of actors

Assuming you subscribe to the official narrative of 9/11, a total of 19 terrorists were ultimately responsible.  A dominipede could be executed by a single individual.  Recent history indicates that small numbers of people can inflict tremendous devastation to a nation’s infrastructure (controlling dams and roadways, sabotaging pipelines, etc.) and their collective psyche (public beheadings, suicide bombings, torture, etc.).  The future of warfare appears to be trending in the direction of economic systemic disruptions and distinctive acts of terrorism.

Generational Warfare

The U.S. military has a relatively well-defined business model.  It relies on government funding to build things that require large sums of money (bombs, ships, planes, etc.).  But a dominipede has no measurable costs or traditional weaponry.  There are no soldiers, no guns, no ammunition.  A dominipede harnesses the power of a large, confined crowd and uses the intangible elements of fear and timing.  This is more consistent with a 9/11-style act of terrorism as opposed to the old-school conceptualization of war, an aerial bombardment followed by a ground invasion.  A dominipede has little to do with our traditional notions of warfare, i.e., lengthy occupations and nation building.  As the largest manufacturer and distributor of military hardware, the Unites States is a poor candidate for trying to get a handle on weaponless warfare.

Multiple, simultaneous targets

It has been suggested that the original 9/11 plot called for as many as 10 separate hijackings.  However, it was presumably scaled back for logistical reasons regarding operational secrecy and execution.  Assuming someone tried to initiate a dominpede, they would most likely exhibit a serious progression of malicious intent.  The NFL slate of 1pm games would be the obvious choice.  Such targets would be consistent with “getting the most bang for your buck.”

Weaponization

Before 9/11, few people ever conceived of commercial aircraft being commandeered and used as suicidal cruise missiles.  Much in the same way, few people have ever contemplated the notion of weaponizing the transmission of cellular information potentially resulting in artificially generated stampedes.  Just like tall buildings, stadiums are high value targets.  While a stampede may be an out of the ordinary, phenomenal event, it’s also just a phenomenon.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Cracks in the System

The 9/11 plot took advantage of existing vulnerabilities.  At the time, there just really wasn’t a game plan to address the possibility of hijackers seeking martyrdom.  It was never part of the general discourse.  In a pre-9/11 world, if you had voiced concerns over multiple commercial planes near simultaneously crashing into buildings, you’d have likely been deemed mentally unstable or ridiculously paranoid.  Regrettably, people make these same snap judgments when you try to explain the premise for a dominipede.

Element of Surprise

Acts of terrorism are more likely to be successful if there’s an element of surprise.  It’s virtually impossible to plan for every potentially negative outcome.  Much like 9/11, a dominipede would capitalize on unpreparedness, unfamiliarity and untested societal expectations.
 
Asymmetry

Much like the hijackers commandeered relatively empty flights, I’m deeply concerned about the smaller market NFL teams — cities and stadiums where it would be easier to quickly and more credibly saturate a population with false or panic-inducing information.

9/11 witnessed passenger planes being used as missiles.  A dominipede utilizes cell phones to generate panic and confusion.  Both involve instruments we normally don’t view as weapons.

Military operations rely heavily on strict compliance and chain of command.  However, a dominipede would likely, although not necessarily, incorporate a heavily decentralized saturation of information.  The people you trust the most could be the ones inadvertently sealing your fate (prodding you to exit).

Most important, conventional past models do NOT apply.  In the aftermath of 9/11, it became necessary to throw out the old rule book.  Fortunately, the solution to the artificially generated stampede is simple and easy.  Just tell people the truth.  Give people the knowledge to adequately defend themselves.  In keeping with that idea, the solution is pretty much free.  Begin physically informing people that legitimate stadium emergency evacuation orders would NEVER come from their personal cell phones.  Snippets of knowledge, such as stop, drop and roll or look both ways before you cross street, are inexpensive commodities.  It doesn’t cost much to get the word out.

There’s a reasonable inevitability that an artificially generated stampede or a full scale dominipede will one day be attempted.  It might be successful.  It might not.  Either way, it will force a comprehensive discussion.  Since the government and the NFL will eventually have to be forthcoming, why not make a superior, moral decision?  Share this unpleasant information now and get ahead of the curve.

Adjusting perceptions

In the United States, roughly 30,000 commercial aircraft (major and regional airlines) take off and land without incident on a daily basis.  The same rings true for football games.  How many stadiums have hosted games without a stampede?  It has been said plenty of times… the most dangerous part of flying is the drive to the airport.  Although it’s reasonable to have aviophobia (fear of flying), the actual chances of a plane crash or hijacking are statistically insignificant.  Although it’s reasonable to have agoraphobia (fear of large crowds), the prospect of a human stampede is equally negligible.

In football stadiums, we occasionally see physical conflicts (altercations and random injuries).  And every so often there’s congestion and limited jostling, but nothing even remotely resembling a stampede.  Very few people consider the possibility of their lives being placed in imminent danger when they enter or exit a stadium.  That is where our current societal expectations lie.  Two variables missing from this equation are mobile devices and fear.  Add the element of a cellularly-induced panic and the circumstances would change markedly.

Although stampedes are more prevalent in developing regions (India, the Middle East and Africa), they are a global issue that affects ALL nations and ethnicities.  No culture is immune from the emotions of fear and panic.  To naively downplay or purposely avoid a discussion about the potential for human stampedes is unwise and inconsistent with current public safety standards.

The National Institute of Health did a study of human stampedes released under the heading of Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness.  During the 27 year period from 1980-2007 there were a grand total of 215 global stampedes resulting in approximately 7,069 deaths.  That’s an average of 33 fatalities per stampede.  An accurate tally of injuries is much more difficult to obtain, but I can assure you of one thing.  It’s vastly greater.  Broken bones, cracked ribs, concussions and oxygen deprivation are commonplace.

The study concluded: Standardized collection of epidemiological data pertaining to human stampedes is strongly recommended, and further study of this recurrent, distinctive disaster is warranted.

I agree with that assessment.  Furthermore, I would encourage the exploration of hypothetical mechanisms that could trigger stampedes.

During the last 7 years, human stampedes have become less common in the mainstream news.  This isn’t because they happen with less frequency.  It’s merely a decision that these incidents are not worthy of the news cycle.  For example, 3 human stampedes occurred just last month.

Mexico City, Mexico – Three fans were killed when pandemonium ensued after a wall collapsed at a rock concert.

Conakry, Guinea – At least 34 were killed during a celebratory rap concert marking the end of Ramadan.  A combination of overcrowding and lax security were deemed the cause.

Cairo, Egypt – Nine people were killed outside a military academy in Egypt.  Relatives were seeking to visit their loved ones.

You might be familiar with these incidents.  You might not.  However, you cannot deny these stampedes occurred.

One final observation.  The new 49ers stadium in Santa Clara, CA has 1,200 WiFi hubs.  That’s four times the league average.  That’s an absurd amount of connectivity for less than a half square mile.  Let me pose a glaringly obvious question.  Could there be a downside?

Football is an admittedly violent sport.  That aggression manifests itself on the playing field.  Much of the violence has been overshadowed by recent domestic altercations.  We’ve seen it on the field.  We’ve seen it in our homes.  We’ve even seen it in elevators.  Is it possible that same violence could take on a different form… in the steps and the stands, the concourses and rotunda, spiraling into the gates and exits?

In a September 19, 2014 press conference, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told the crowd, “I’m focused on doing my job to the best of my ability.  We can’t continue to operate like this.”  I realize he was referring to the NFL’s policy dealing with the scourge of domestic violence.  However, that same statement could just as easily apply to obsolete emergency evacuation protocol — the consequences of which, if left unresolved, will permanently alter the course history.  As I’ve maintained, the solution is a simple one.  The NFL and the federal government must make a bold commitment to share the AGSAF mission statement because

People have a fundamental right to know…
that if they are in a large, confined crowd and receive an evacuation order
 and/or panic-inducing information from their cell phone or mobile device…
it’s almost certainly a hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede.