South Park Solution to the Artificially Generated Stampede

peg1-stars-hollywood-signIn 2011, I made a personal commitment to raise awareness regarding the prospect of artificially generated stampedes.  I wrote a book about the topic.  The following year, I arranged a meeting with the FBI.  I informed them of my decision to initiate an extensive letter writing campaign.  I took my message to the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Communications Commission, the Department of Education as well as the NCAA, NFL and several other organizations.  Results have been mixed.  I’ve documented many of my findings and observations on the AGSAF website/e-newsletter.

It has always been my contention that mitigation is not an effective strategy for combating an artificially generated stampede.  Awareness is the key element.  This would entail extending a specific degree of knowledge to the general public.  The essence of that message is best described in the AGSAF mission statement.

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.

Furthermore, I believe that all human beings deserve to know that in the unlikely event of a stadium emergency evacuation, a legitimate order would NEVER initially originate from your personal cell phone.  It’s as simple as that.

But as you might expect, an overriding catch 22 keeps getting in the way.  For if you acknowledge or draw attention to a problem, you own it… and if it happens, you’re to blame.  A familiar analogy is the infamous “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” memo from August of 2001.  In the aftermath of 9/11, this memo’s leak was very damaging to the credibility of the Bush administration.  When attempting to asses hypothetical national security issues, the spread of knowledge and information can become a critical, future liability.  And even the tiniest paper trail can result in a bureaucratic train wreck and a public relations nightmare.

Much like the circumstances surrounding 9/11, very few are willing to acknowledge that artificially generated stampedes are an inevitable national security issue.  Here’s a question you might ask yourself.  Which action seems easier to perpetrate — the spreading of a mass, cellular hoax OR the execution of multiple hijackings and intentional crashing of passenger planes?

Even though the artificially generated stampede is a simple matter of public safety, the federal government is disinclined to be forthcoming.  Our government is in a difficult spot.  It’s faced with two bad choices.  Either acknowledge the catch 22 and brace the notion of accountability OR choose to remain intentionally ignorant to the point of woeful neglect and gross incompetence.  Neither is an enviable option.  And without a clear directive or any substantive guidance from the federal government, the NFL and NCAA are far less likely to broach the subject.  So everything remains in a dangerously extended state of limbo.

In my continuing effort to heighten awareness and inform the general public, I began to explore one additional strategy.  I termed it the “Hollywood Solution.”  I’ve often envisioned the possibility of a high profile Hollywood producer creating an epic movie documenting a full-blown dominipede (a cascade of simultaneous human stampedes most likely impacting the NFL).  The movie itself would venture into the undiscussable nature of human stampedes — why they happen and how they’re triggered.  If you have a powerful, urgent message, cinema is a great medium for conveying information.  Everyone might not be well-read, but just about everyone watches movies.

With the recent passing of Tom Clancy, I revisited this idea.  Clancy was well-known for his national security, political action thrillers such as Clear and Present Danger, Patriot Games, The Hunt for Red October and most notably, The Sum of All Fears.  He seemed like the ideal candidate.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that my concerns could be more easily addressed in a 30-minute South Park episode.  The creators of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, have a satirical format that encapsulates various types of humor (dark, surreal, ironic, shock, etc.).  And their syndicated cartoon has considerable worldwide reach.  My hunches tell me that creating an artificially generated stampede episode would be right up their alley.  The South Park founders have demonstrated an inclination for:

  • engaging in controversial political discussion
  • bashing organized religion
  • discussing taboo topics and showing unusually graphic and distasteful imagery

With these bullet points in mind, I created a narrative for a future episode.  Instead of writing an actual script, I’ve provided a brief synopsis for each scene.  A couple of the scenarios I explore may seem absurd, but the triggers are intrinsically linked to the concept of artificially generated stampedes.  They also resemble themes expressed in past South Park episodes.

South Park Solution

South_Park_Season_14

Scene 1:  The local church in South Park is raffling off a block of tickets to the upcoming Denver Broncos game at Sports Authority Field.

Scene 2:  The winners are selected.

Scene 3:  Everyone boards the bus for the journey to the big city.

Scene 4:  During the trip, everyone is obsessed with social media.  Every passenger has this overwhelming, insatiable desire to tell the world that they’re heading to the football game.  Texting, tweeting, sending pictures, calling, hacking, vining (the creation of short looping videos), selfies, instagram posts, continual facebook status updates, check-ins, etc.

Scene 5:  This self-absorption and narcissism continues during the game.  Nobody seems concerned about the action on the field.  They’re all engrossed in their cell phones, receiving and transmitting as much information as they possibly can.

Scene 6:  All of a sudden, bomb threats and evacuation orders simultaneously overwhelm large numbers of cell phones resulting in a mass panic.  An artificially generated stampede rips through the stadium.  People are screaming and crying, tripping and falling.  Naturally, many fans are crush asphyxiated or trampled to death.  Some are forcibly ejected off the spiral rotunda.

Scene 7:  The following day back in South Park, a church service and candlelight vigil are held.  The pastor explains the mystery of why bad things happen to good people.  It’s all part of God’s master plan.  We’ll learn from this incident and move forward.  In keeping with this theory, the pastor announces another church sponsored Broncos ticket raffle and another chartered bus trip.

Scene 8:  Once again, the bus leaves for Denver.  Some on board appear a bit edgy, but the majority are still preoccupied with social media platforms (more of the same behavior exhibited in scene 4).

Scene 9:  During the game, everyone’s cell phone begins conveying information that Miley Cyrus and Erik Estrada are holding an impromptu wedding reception on the lower concourse.  They’ll be twerking and signing autographs.  The entire stadium becomes gripped with an instantaneous case of celebrity, hero-worship.  And of course, another stampede ensues.  But there was no marriage.  It was all just a deliberate hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede.

Scene 10:  Another solemn memorial service is held, and sure enough, the pastor invokes the relentless human spirit and themes of 9/11 (we will never forget).  And in the repetitive South Park tradition, he offers up a defiant cure — the recurring Denver Broncos getaway.

Scene 11: This time during the ride, people are considerably more hesitant to embrace social media.  They demonstrate a little more discretion but eventually throw caution to the wind.  Outside the stadium are newly constructed warning signs that illustrate how fake celebrity weddings can be used to induce stampedes.  The public address system is running a looped message that disputes the possibility of other unlikely couples (Chewbacca & Cher, Bill Clinton & Monica Lewinsky, Sally Struthers and Meatloaf, etc.)

Scene 12:  Once inside the stadium, people are engulfed with information via their cell phones.  This time it’s about free hot dogs being offered at the concession stand.  Of course, this sets in motion yet another human stampede.

Scene 13:  Back at the church, another day of grieving is upon us.  The pastor’s sermon is the same established narrative.  Once again, he references the indomitable human psyche and how there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.  If we stand united, we’ll make it through these horrific tragedies.  And of course, he offers up another Denver Broncos excursion.

Scene 14:  But on this occasion, the townspeople are beginning to ask themselves, “Why do we keep falling for these malicious hoaxes?”  First it was bomb threats, then it was celebrities and now it’s hot dogs.  Needless to say, everyone’s on pins and needles.  They’ve all grown very leery of social media.

Scene 15:   The periphery of the stadium has more warning signs posted and looped messages concerning the potential dangers of free food.  Not only hot dogs, but also hamburgers, nachos, cotton candy, etc.

Scene 16:   Once again, stadium attendee cell phones are flooded with information about a free hot dog giveaway.  However, on this occasion, everyone has wised-up.  They know the hot dog messages are a sham.  It’s just another lie designed to create an artificially generated stampede.  As they’re congratulating each other for not being foolishly swept into another panic, a follow-up message comes across their cell phones.  This time the hot dogs will have MUSTARD!   The lure of the condiment proves too powerful an incentive.  And of course, another stampede breaks out.

Scene 17:  The next week people are walking aimlessly outside the stadium, mired in fear but still with a look of resolve and grim determination.   In the background, the public address system is warning fans about the dangers of condiments.  As the credits role, the list extends beyond mustard and includes other perceived condiments… ketchup, relish, chili, mint jelly, mini-marshmallows, pencil shavings, glue, etc.

END

Philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952) coined the following phrase, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  There are several other variations, but I think this one pretty much sums it up.

An artificially generated stampede can be sparked by a seemingly infinite number of triggers.  It cannot be solved through mitigation.  At some point in the future, likely in the aftermath of a horrific but preventable tragedy, the federal government will summon the inertia to inform its citizenry and openly discuss tactics of prevention.  Any core strategy will be centered around simple awareness campaigns.  I’m not a seasoned philosopher or political scientist, so I’ll just ask the most obvious question.  Why do we have to wait for the government to get its act together?