Smokey the Bear Analogy

images-14The catch-22 presented by the artificially generated stampede is best understood through the lens of another famous government awareness campaign.

Only you can prevent forest fires.

Its origins date back to 1944.  The United States Forest Service decided it was necessary to educate the public about the dangers of forest fires.  So the United States government created a marketing campaign featuring an endearing mascot, “Smokey the Bear.”  This was more than a practical decision.  It was a moral one.  Forest fires represented a threat that would never subside.

Most people think that 9/11 was the first ever coordinated airborne assault on the continental United States.  Technically speaking, this is not the case.  Prior to the ad campaign, the Japanese Empire launched the Oregon Lookout raids in 1942.  It was an attempt to set ablaze rural, coastal areas.

With the potential for wide scale forest fires, discussion of the weather became an incredibly sensitive topic.  Immediately following the attack on Pearl Harbor, an emergency wartime agency came into existence.  Under the expansive guise of national security, the “Office of Censorship” monitored weather reporting in order to protect the war effort.

In 1944-45, Japan renewed their war effort by launching roughly 10,000 “fire balloons”  into the jet stream off the Pacific coast.  Only a tiny percentage caused actual damage.  Still, these hydrogen balloon bombs were reportedly discovered in 17 states as well as Mexico and Canada.

Surely some of our legislators had mixed emotions about the Smokey the Bear forest fire campaigns.  What if, by publicly displaying our trepidation, the Japanese seized upon those fears?  What if they prepared military strikes intentionally designed to ignite forest fires and wreak devastation?  The fact that the Japanese followed this exact course of action must have caused many Congressmen to second guess their budgetary allocations.

The Japanese fire campaigns were generally regarded as an abject failure.  Regardless, we can learn a great deal.  Because there’s a potential upside and downside to any course of action… and inaction.

There are some eerie parallels with what happened then and what COULD happen in the here and now.  I would encourage you to examine the anticipated trajectory of where we’re heading regarding the future of the First Amendment.  How might those freedoms be impacted by an artificially generated stampede, or in the worst case scenario, a dominipede?  Just something to think about.