"Y2k Spin Comes Home"

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

The Federal government's "Community Conversations" program could have been a step forward for Y2K awaremess. Instead, it simply pushes Y2K spin control down to the local level.

by Randy Guidry (from Hyatt's site

June 16, 1999

Ive often joked about the "party line" from the Federal Government when it comes to predicting potential Y2K problems"Experts" from the Fed have spent the first half of 1999 dispensing wisdom and explaining that any Y2K problems that do occur will do so only on "the local level." Well, all of us live on the local level, so I guess that limits those citizens who should be concerned to only about 270 million Americans, give or take a few.

Recent weeks have brought an increased focus on Community Preparedness on "the local level." On May 25, The Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Problem, chaired by Senators Robert Bennett and Christopher Dodd, held a Congressional hearing on Y2K and Community Action. Speakers included Writer/Speaker Ed Yourdon, the Cassandra Projects Paloma ORiley, and Liza Christian from the Rogue Valley Y2K Task Force in Medford, Oregon. (Transcripts are available here).

Senator Bennett urged the need for adequate preparation on the community level, stating "While I am optimistic about domestic preparedness as a whole, there will almost certainly be isolated disruptions. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you where those disruptions will be. No one canThats why its so important to take charge of your own Y2K situation, and to do it in a responsible way."

Yourdon added much commentary, and I highly recommend reading the full text of his testimony. He brings up several good points, including this one: "It does little good for an individual to be prepared for y2k disruptions if he is surrounded by neighbors who are not." Unfortunately, such insightful commentary from Yourdon will no longer be available on his informative website, as Yourdon has recently announced his retirement from the Y2K arena. Thanks, Ed. You will be sorely missed.

ORiley explained that the single greatest obstacle to preparations is inadequate information. "For example, there is much of what is coming to be known as 'happy talk' coming from our administration, government agencies, corporations, and institutions. 'Happy talk' is designed to lessen anxiety about Y2K among the general public, supposedly to prevent a panic. When asked, panic is defined as people pulling their money out of the bank or selling off stock. It's disheartening that panic equates not with accidental injury, civil unrest, looting, etc., but with the disruption of the economy. With a few notable exceptions, their concern seems not for our families' health, safety, and welfare, but with not rocking the economic boat." With such strong commentary from sworn testimony before a Senate Congressional Committee, one would think that the White House would respond by providing to the country that which is so desperately neededan outlet for properly informing citizens about the reality of the Y2K problem and instructions on how to properly and systematically prepare. However, this is not the case.

In the same stride as the Senate Hearings, the last week in May also saw the official release of a new community action program from the Presidents Council on Y2K Conversion. Entitled "Community Conversations," it marks one of the very few times that President Clinton has spoken out on the Y2K problem, and the first since April (when he commented on the Small Business Year 2000 Readiness Act). Before that, he hadnt spoken on the issue since his short comments at the State of the Union in January.

The package is intended as a "Y2K Community Meeting in a Box," so to speak, including an instructional booklet, a videotaped introduction by the President, case studies of successful Y2K Town Meeting programs in Clearwater, Florida, San Antonio, Texas, and Lawrence, Kansas, and even a list of Frequently Asked Questions about Y2K (along with the appropriate party-line answers).

In the videotaped intro by the President, he states "At the national level, weve been working tirelessly to ensure that critical systems are ready for the date change. Over 90 percent of the federal governments most important systems are ready for the year 2000. And work on the rest will be completed will before January 1stThese Y2K Community Conversations help us all to move step by step toward creative, concrete solutions. This town hall meeting demonstrates that we can and we must continue to work together, promoting partnerships so that the Y2K problem is the last headache of the 20th century, not the first crisis of the 21st."

I would like to say that the Community Conversations program is a step forward for Y2K Awarenessbut its not. In fact, its a huge step backward and a huge victory for the Federal Y2K propaganda machine. Just take a look at a sampling of the Questions and Answers from the Community Conversations Frequently Asked Questions booklet.

Q. "Will the Federal Government be ready for the Year 2000?"

A. Yes. The Federal Government will be ready for the Year 2000.

Q. "Will the problem create major national disruptions in critical services?"

A. No. Based on the best available information, there is no indication that the Y2K problem will cause national disruptions in basic infrastructures."

Q. "I keep hearing that the Y2K problem will cause massive power outages. Is this true?"

A. Massive national disruptions in electric power are unlikely.

Q. "Should I keep large amounts of cash at home?"

A. It is never a good ideanor will it be necessary at the end of 1999to keep large amounts of cash on your person or at home.

Q. "Will it be safe to fly on January 1, 2000?"

A. Yes. The FAA has already fixed all of its critical systems requiring repair work and is on schedule to achieve Y2K compliance by June 30, 1999.

Q. "How should people prepare for the Year 2000 transition?"

A. The Presidents Council on Year 2000 Conversion is advising people not to disrupt their lives because of the Year 2000 transition.

Q. "Ive heard about the President declaring "martial law" for Y2K. Is this true?"

A. The President has no intention of declaring martial law for the Year 2000 transition.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. Oh, and to play on a common Clinton joke, it depends on what your definition of "no intentions" is.

In my opinion, the Community Conversations program is essentially a means of dispensing the party line through organized local government channels via a pretty package. Including everything from sample flyers and posters to invitations for local celebrities and executives, the Community Conversations package has all the makings of a media dreamhigh exposure, familiar faces, and a lot of good news about the Y2K problem. Dont worry about Y2KGo back to your daily lives, citizens.

As of June 11, thirteen Community Conversations are already planned. Im sure that more will follow. To check and see if there are any in your area, check out the Community Conversations Schedule.

This program could have been a step forward for Y2K awareness. It could have been about full disclosure. It could be about preparing ourselves for the very real possibility of disruptions, but it isnt. In fact, its just the opposite. In an effort to "Lead the Way to Y2K" (as the brochure explains) they are instead leading us into a brick wall of disinformation.

After all, the whole thing is run by politiciansand everybody knows we can trust them. Right?

-- regular (zzz@z.z), June 16, 1999


Kentucky is having a "Community Conversations" meeting tomorrow in Frankfort. Here's a link for more background on it:


-- Linkmeister (link@librarian.edu), June 16, 1999.

Listen, people, it is vitally, vitally, vitally important that Rep. Horn's report card be addressed during every stop of this Y2K Thorazine tour. Ask very loudly exactly what "unknown" means - where agencies just "dunno" when they're going to achieve compliance.

Then ask Koskinen what exactly "ready" means.

-- lisa (lisa@work.now), June 16, 1999.

Yeah, but if our local government and utility industry officials lie to us, at least we know where they live.

Got rope?

(Hee. Hee.)


-- FM (vidprof@aol.com), June 16, 1999.

FM you kill me!

Seriously, I'm sorry to see Bennett in this situation and although I'm far to the right of him frequently he is (IMO) a man of character.

Too bad...

-- MidwestMike_ (midwestmike_@hotmail.com), June 16, 1999.

The kit described in this article sounds like a version of "Community Conversations" for investors:


"President's Year 2000 Council, SEC, NASD, SIA Team Up To Educate Investors About Y2K Preparations"

-- Linkmeister (link@librarian.edu), June 16, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ