When the Spoken Word Spreads Like Wireless Wildfire

The core objective of the AGSAF website (Artificially Generated Stampede Awareness Foundation) is to shed light on the prospect of inducing real-world panic via cellular communications.  Specifically, the ramifications and consequences which could arise from a wireless saturation of false information in large crowds, such as stadiums or ballparks.  As is the case, I often find myself referencing the familiar “shouting FIRE in a crowded theater” analogy.  In plain English, I’m worried about the potential for human stampedes.

But very rarely do people actually stand up and shout “fire” or “I have a bomb” or “I am going to kill everyone.”  After all, it’s against the law.  For obvious reasons I might add.  Fortunately scenarios like this aren’t the norm.  They’re the exception.

I guess it all boils down to situational awareness and socially acceptable norms.  Most rational people don’t engage in unrestrained, volatile speech.  They don’t discuss child pornography at kindergarten bake sales.  Or walk into a bank and ask the teller, “Have you ever been held up at gunpoint?”  In that same spirit, I wouldn’t go around randomly initiating discussions about suicide bombings.  Now if you’re at a symposium on terrorism and asymmetric warfare, it’s a reasonable topic.  But if you’re raising the issue of suicide bombers with Secret Service agents at a Donald Trump rally in Elkhart, Indiana?  Well, uh, not so much.

My point.  There’s a time and place for just everything.  Contrarily, the opposite is true.  There’s also NOT a time and place for everything.  I’d hope we could all find some common ground on this one.

That being said, on April 27, 2018, something out of the ordinary transpired at a cinema complex in Redlands, CA.  The latest Avengers movie had just ended.  As the credits started to roll, out of nowhere, a rogue evangelist stood in front of the crowd and decided to preach the gospel.

The preacher, 28 year old Michael Webber, began his speech with an ominous remark…. “If you were to die tonight.”  Followed by loud statements about repenting for the sins of mankind and how judgment day would soon be upon us.

Now remember how I said “there’s a time and place for everything?”  Well guess what?  This wasn’t it!

Many in the crowd likely flashed back to the 2012 Aurora, Colorado movie theater mass shooting where James Eggan Holmes opened fire on defenseless individuals with an AR-15, killing 12 and injuring 70.  At the time, it was the largest number of casualties from a single mass shooting incident in U.S. history.  Since then, that distinction has been easily surpassed by the 2016 Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting and the Las Vegas country music festival slaughter of 2017.

The Redlands movie theater crowd suddenly went from blasé and indifferent… into full scale panic mode.  Because when people see others panic, they invariably panic.  It’s called herding instincts.  Suffice to say, everyone wanted out.  Some even jumped over railings in a desperate attempt to get to the narrow corridor leading to the exit.  Several people were trampled and injured amidst the chaos.  There were no fatalities.  However, one woman’s injuries were classified as severe.

So here’s the takeaway.  Do you recall my original analogy?  The one about shouting “fire” in a crowded theater?

Let’s take a moment and compare our esteemed President Donald Trump to Michael Webber, the misguided, overly-ambitious preacher.  What if Donald Trump decided to preach about the NFL… but on twitter?  What if he saw something he didn’t like while watching a game.  Maybe a player taking a knee or raising a fist during the national anthem.  What if someone on the sidelines had their hand in their pocket, instead of properly placed over their heart?  What if someone, anyone, failed to correctly adhere to his higher standard of patriotism?

What if Trump instinctively tweeted… “When NFL players show such blatant disrespect to our Wonderful Country and Great Flag, I’m calling on all fans to pick up and leave the Stadium!  We, the American people, have had ENOUGH!”

If that sounds even remotely the least bit plausible, well, it’s cause for grave alarm.  Because I seriously doubt that Donald Trump possesses the requisite intellectual curiosity or mental acuity skills to grasp that he would be subliminally executing an emergency evacuation order.  Let there be no mistake.  Trump might be the President of the Untied States.  But he does not possess the legal authority to order a stadium evac.  I suppose, if he thought it was necessary, he could weigh-in on the subject and go through the appropriate channels.  But tweeting such an order?  Whatever the reason or rationale, please understand, this would be both a severe evisceration of the existing incident command structure and a dangerously unprecedented violation of the established protocol.

When you’re dealing with packed crowds approaching the 100,000 mark, a single, unanticipated, unplanned presidential tweet could have dire consequences.  As in die… errrr.