Y2k fear turns to complacency ("From hysteria to disinterest)

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Y2K fears turn to complacency

Metro meetings marked by low turnout

Paula Moore Business Journal Real Estate Editor

Last fall, when the city of Boulder organized its first public meeting to educate citizens about possible year 2000 computer problems that might affect them, more than 800 people attended.

At the city and county of Denver's initial public forum last spring at East High School, only eight people showed up.

"I chalked up the low turnout to summer coming on and people not thinking about the new year and Y2K," explained Dave Bufalo, director of Denver's Y2K program as well as director of construction design and management for city buildings. "But we've had similar low turnout at the rest of our forums."

With fewer than 100 days left before the next 1,000 years begin, people's outward expression of interest in how badly the Y2K bug might bite the Denver area -- by requesting information and attending educational seminars -- has waned substantially. To local Y2K experts, that means citizens either have enough information or, experts fear, they're not aware enough of the potential for problems to get any.

Paloma O'Riley, a founder of the controversial, Louisville-based Cassandra Project grassroots Y2K preparedness organization, just left that group in protest of what she perceives as people's apathy about the issue.

From hysteria to disinterest

Most metro-area municipalities saw a lot more concern from citizens last year and early this year, when little true information was available but there was an abundance of bad data and frighteningly catastrophic, even apocalyptic, predictions. Rumors abounded that Venezuela won't be able to pump oil for itself or anybody else, there will be no prescription drugs, the Third World's lack of readiness will hurt the United States, people will have to abandon the cities for the countryside, the Internet address prefix "www" stands for "666," the devil, and the world's end.

"In the beginning, there were extremes of information on both sides," said Eric Singer, an information officer with the city of Boulder's public works department and its Y2K research analyst. "Some believed the world would come to an end, and some believed nothing was going to happen. Now, we've found the middle road."

Technologically and environmentally oriented Boulder residents, for the most part, are ardently interested in potential problems, swimming against the metro-area tide in general. As a population, Boulderites contend they can't be too involved in getting ready for Y2K. (snip)

-- Homer Beanfang (
Bats@inbellfry.com), October 07, 1999


This is the biggest link I've ever seen.

-- Dog Gone (layinglow@rollover.now), October 07, 1999.

Yes I'm glad that we have decided to make y2k no big deal by public decree. After all, It was really getting to be a drag. I guess we have all those "thoughtful optimists" to thank.

-- a (a@a.a), October 07, 1999.

I never understand when they talk about people having been hysterical before. Where was I? I don't recall any period during which there was a lot of Y2K fear. Am I mistaken???

Well, I spent the day talking to people in various places--people I know--about Y2K. I was not shy about my position, perhaps toning it down somewhat and not discussing the possibility of mass deaths in depth. The answer is that "I'm an optimist. I don't think it will be too bad....I have water in my refrigerator and I have a 55-gallon aquarium..."

"Everyone says it will last only three days."

I say, "Based on what? Based on the non-news you get on telelvision? Based on no research whatsoever?" I can lay out the problems of the supply chain, but somehow that isn't convincing enough. They know what they know...based on nothing.

-- Mara Wayne (MaraWayne@aol.com), October 07, 1999.


The story does describe an earlier time (a year ago) the way I recall it, where there was little hard good news and lots of very credible concerns. Those who paid attention then could see ample reason why serious preparation might be required, and little clear indication (other than ignoring it altogether) otherwise. So orders for certain seeds, generators, freeze-dried foods, and other usually low-demand items caused backlogs and waiting lists. Which were in turn reported, I would guess until those so disposed (I was one of them) had taken the important early steps.

Evidently, those people are now stocked and new people are not joining their ranks. As Declan once wrote here, y2k public awareness is now MUCH greater than it was, yet no notables have joined the ranks of the vocal warners, despite apparently close examination by many of those same notables.

And the evidence is where you choose to find it. My wood stove store is now back to fully stocked. There are rows of generators at Lowe's. Most survival goods that were back ordered aren't any longer. Anita and her band of remediators can't find work.

Whether this 'complacency' is due to determined government/media spin is an open question. Certainly no new household-name spokesmen have joined the dark side.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), October 07, 1999.


I've also observed a slide from serious concert to apathy and neglect. Not among all, but among most who had Y2K concerns last year and early this year. Flint's comments about back ordered items now in stock generally is quite indicative of this I think.

I think what is behind it is just that most people simply run out of emotional energy on most issues. They simply find it difficult or impossible to maintain a full head of steam for too many months. They get tired of worrying and being upset and being broke from buying preps. They just "shrug" and figure whatever will be will be...they aren't going to worry about it (like they have) anymore, and will just roll with the punches come Y2K. Plus, as the original post mentions, a year ago there wasn't a lot of information, and the possible "domino effects" were indeed worrisome. However, with the positive assesments, and lack of major breakdowns on predicted dates...1-1-99, 4-1-99, 10-1-99, ect, peoples fears have lessened a lot...and the probability of the "dominos falling" seem more and more remote to them. This is my observation and analysis...regardless of if the info they're basing their beliefs on is true or false, fact or "spin" as many here like to label everything. Not passing judgement or wanting to debate the merits of information on Y2K. I figure most here have their minds made up, no sense arguing....just my take.

This is what I've observed with most I know who were concerned about Y2K. I'm not saying this is good or bad. I'm not commenting on the "should" or "should not" of being this way. This is just my observation, and my analysis.

I think this is true with most issues. At least in our country. Think about different issues that carried the day in most peoples minds. People's interest would last up to six or so months maybe on a major issue...they they would tire of it, and go on to something else. Most issues only last days or weeks, not months. I think that since lots who "got" Y2K got it in late 1998 or early 1999, that's why there were several shortages, but...several months latter.....items are back in stock. Lots of people were planning to prep, but lost the "head of steam" before they spent their money...now it's a wait and see game.

I think there will continue to be lots of interest in Y2K thru early next year. Then, no matter who was right, interest will wane...except for the post mortem analysis ad nauseum. Lots of folks will be tuning in to see how things seem to be going, or what the latest "word on the street" is, but since the "head of steam" is gone, I don't think there will be much frenzied activity to "get ready" anymore. Those that were going to mostly did, the rest have their intentions, thoughts, conversations...but not much more. Exceptions, yes....especially some newbies or cult followers of the next "hale bop" maybe...but most folks are going to just amble into Y2K no matter what it brings, IMO. Then the post mortums will begin in earnest!

-- Genius (codeslinger@work.now), October 07, 1999.

Two more things,

First, I for one have been surprised that there hasn't been a mass panic and hording. I would have thought for sure such would occur. Now I don't think it will occur at all.

Second, I remember thinking over a year ago that rates for mainframe COBOL programmers like me would go thru the roof. Never happened. It did spike last summer, and lots of folks moved around, but no severe rate hikes. And I was really hoping! I've talked to a few head hunters lately. They have told me that as of several months ago companies were laying off the contractors they hired to help with Y2K remidiation. Then to now, companies are only hiring to replace regular staffers that leave or retire. Everybody's just "holding down the fort", having finished remediation, and are just waiting for Y2K to come and go. That's what I've heard from three of my head hunting contacts in the last 30 days. That's also the way it is where I work.

Again, just my thoughts and observations. No need to coment or argue if this is the way it "should" be....take care all!

-- Genius (codeslinger@work.now), October 07, 1999.


Finally something You wrote and I agree with :o) Back then both the OMB and the GAO said the US Gov. was in sad shape, the big three were the major consern and people were talking about seriously heading for the hills.

One problem with being to complicent though is that there are problems they are aware of now that weren't even mentioned much back then, waste water, chemical plants and even some areas of health were not as big a concern (meds, doctors offices).

-- Brian (imager@home.com), October 07, 1999.


When you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. Gary North was correct (IMO) in saying that 60 days of NO power means a very complete and long-term collapse. If power is too spotty, much the same. Without all the iron triangle's legs at least up and wobbling, the economy as we know it would be toast fer shure.

Now that it looks as though the infrastructure will survive pretty well intact, and most of the fear of embeddeds (at refineries, chemical plants, etc.) has evaporated in the light of investigation, we can breate at least easily enough to examine second-line aspects of our lives. We now examine economic downturns as most dangerous.

Not that medical care and the like are not important. But we're no longer looking at total failure of anything, just spotty loss of functionality and efficiency. With the big things looking OK, we can afford to sweat the smaller stuff. And for good reason, I think.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), October 07, 1999.

Flint do you remember what a decrease of oil imports did to this country in the 1970's? How quickly we forget how easy the boat is rocked. Take out a couple of major oil producers, throw in some overseas manufacturing capacity, eliminate one or two communications satellites, etc.... Don't worry about the icebergs, were on the Titanic!

-- Bill (y2khippo@yahoo.com), October 07, 1999.

Yeah Flint, I agree that most of the sheeples are so stupid that they might not realize that the power is out for 60 days or longer, but we are morally superior and much smarter.

-- smarter than a sheeple (smarter@than.sheeples), October 08, 1999.

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