Perception management after the rollover : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Earlier this year, John Koskinen said "Perception management is job number one". After all, nobody wants a panic. They are inherently unpredictable and potentially uncontrollable. Perception management was, and remains still, the official "cure". It has been speculated that distinguishing the cause of a failure situation around rollover may be problematic. Will an event be due to Y2K, or a terrorist action, or just one of those failures that "happen all of the time", or a combination, or something else entirely? How will we even know the cause? Perhaps in some cases we will and others we wont.

Causes and Cures.

I have noticed increasing references in the press regarding the fact that "failures happen every day". We are continually reminded lately not to assume a problem around rollover is Y2K related. Then there are the government statements over the last few days regarding "credible" terrorist threat possibilities around the Y2K rollover. There is also all of the talk about rollover-launched viruses and cyber attacks.

Now add in perception management to this mix. It makes muddy water even less clear, since it is possible we may not even know the cause of a problem to begin with. Assuming that the government holds together, the question can be asked: Will "the powers that be" continue to offer the same cure, or a different one, or perhaps the same cure in different measure? I think attempts to avoid panic will continue whenever possible, and that besides the "cure" still being needed for avoiding panic, after rollover there will be actual Y2K failures and situations to deal with - simultaneously.

Perception management will continue for as long as there is a need or even a perceived need for it. It could exacerbate trying to determine which end is up when it comes to what the cause of anything actually is. The "Fog of War" comes to mind. The more I think about it, the more I lean towards the possibility that we wont have any clear or accurate idea of what the heck is going on. Anyway, all of this is just my opinion.

What are your thoughts about perception management after the rollover?

-- Rob Michaels (sonofdust@roll.over), December 13, 1999


1. TPTB will attempt to manage the perception of those problems that occur. They will have mixed success...

-- Mad Monk (, December 13, 1999.

Personally, I intensely dislike being manipulated, which is precisely what the national government and the media are doing regarding public awareness of Y2K.

-- cody (, December 13, 1999.

If it's at all possible to convince people things aren't bad, I think we'll all be very happy. People tend to get irritable without power, water and food after a while. They might suspect something, won't they?

In any case, who cares what the problems are blamed on?

-- Flint (, December 13, 1999.

We may never have a clear, accurate idea. Like it or not, we need a good common enemy. How would you find one - even in this bunch?!

-- flora (***@__._), December 13, 1999.

Remember Billy Crystal's "It's better to look marvelous than to feel marvelous"?! I'm with Cody.

-- Hokie (, December 13, 1999.

I don't like being manipulated either. Too bad the entire purpose of this forum is perception management. Of course, we're trying to manipulate people for their own good, to trick them into proper preparations. So it's OK if we do it, see? We have *good intentions*, and that makes all the difference. Doesn't it?

-- Flint (, December 13, 1999.

I see you're feeling super saucy tonight.

-- flora (***@__._), December 13, 1999.

No electricity? That's normal, isn't it? Flint, perception management, by us? No. I don't think so. We are trying to find the facts...that's why so much news is posted. There isn't much in the mainstream media, but luckily we have generous souls here who carry back pieces of news so we can collate the information and try to figure out where we stand.

-- Mara (, December 13, 1999.

Hey Flint,

Nobody's engaged in 'perception management' here, except your friends Kosky and Greenspan. Read some history and learn how the government 'spun' the crash of '29 and the resultant depression.

I guess you prefer to think of it as being 'intentionally deceived'.

-- a (a@a.a), December 14, 1999.

These little tidbits just made the rounds on the [civicprep list]...

Subject: [civicprep] Y2K Czar favors early self-congratulation
Date: Mon, 13 Dec 1999 15:20:52 -0400
From: [snip]
To: "civicprep" < >

>From the Civic Preparedness discussion list. To post messages to this list, address them to

"Koskinen has even kept channels clear with his harshest critics, among them doomsayers who predict imminent collapse of society over Y2K. Every two weeks for the last year, he has had a conference call with Y2K activists to hear their concerns and share his own...."


[Fair Use: For Educational/Research Purposes Only]

Y2K guru optimistic

December 13, 1999


WASHINGTON--At a moment when "Y2K ready" has become a marketing slogan, government drumbeat and lingering international question mark, probably no one is as ready for Y2K as John Koskinen.

President Clinton's point man on the computer situation was appointed to lead the nation's technological overhaul almost two years ago. On Tuesday, he'll issue his final assessment of the nation's readiness, then get ready to hunker down himself on New Year's Eve for what he is predicting will be a quiet night.

The interim between becoming the nation's "Y2K czar" and the looming millennial moment, however, has been anything but quiet.

Koskinen, 60, has mastered mind-numbing detail on everything from home heating systems to the innards of Pentagon missile silos. He has logged thousands of air miles to more than 30 states to cheer the cause of Y2K. He has made dozens of appearances before Congress and given countless interviews to reporters. He reads more than 1,000 pages of e-mails a week, often from harsh critics who believe the federal government is doing too little or not saying enough.

"Certainly there have been hard times given the background noise and the criticism," Koskinen said in an interview. "But I would have done nothing differently. Clearly there are going to be some glitches, but we're very, very confident about the state of the nation's basic infrastructure, and I believe we'll come through this in fine shape."

Since Koskinen, a lawyer and career crisis manager, stepped into the role of alternate scold and cheerleader, the federal government has spent almost $10 billion fixing computers for faulty date coding that could cause "2000" to be read as "1900" with unpredictable results. Estimates of private sector spending range to $600 billion worldwide. And still no one can say exactly what will happen when the calendar clicks over.

Nor can anyone say what will happen after the New Year, which is why Koskinen's office will remain in operation through March to oversee lingering glitches and concerns. He said he has no idea what he'll do after that, but he may return to the private sector.

Critics argue the federal government should have done more. Particularly, they say, help and guidance came too late to smaller businesses, including those that handle hazardous materials.

They also worry that federal benefit systems that aid the poor, including Social Security and Medicaid, remain incompletely tested and delays and problems could mount early in the New Year.

Koskinen, however, both defends the nation's overall readiness and the way he has taken to the task, with a staff of 10 and no authority other than the pulpit of a presidential appointment.

A Yale-trained lawyer, Koskinen spent 21 years as the president of Palmieri Co., a firm specializing in turning around large bankrupt firms. Before he joined the government in 1994 as deputy head of the Office of Management and Budget, Koskinen oversaw the restructuring of Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Co., the largest life insurance failure in U.S. history. Among other high profile turnarounds, he also reorganized Penn Central Transportation Co.

The central lesson of that career, Koskinen said, was to resist using too much authority to fire people or mandate changes or simply order switches in routine. Instead, consensus building among existing people and resources, and quiet leadership, always proved the better course to institute lasting change.

It was clear from the very start of his public service, he said, that the need was for someone to define the problem of Y2K and be a clearinghouse of information without wielding a big stick. That strategy stuck after the initial work within the federal government evolved to include outreach to the private sector and to other countries. Ultimately it was at Koskinen's urging that the United Nations set up a coordinating center late last year in Washington that now links 160 national programs.

Koskinen has even kept channels clear with his harshest critics, among them doomsayers who predict imminent collapse of society over Y2K. Every two weeks for the last year, he has had a conference call with Y2K activists to hear their concerns and share his own.

He said he strongly believes the straightforward communication will pay off. "People have a lot of common sense. If we can get them information, they'll respond appropriately."


Subject: [civicprep] RE: Y2K Czar favors early self-congratulation
Date: Mon, 13 Dec 1999 21:56:24 -0500
From: "Steve Davis" [snip]
To: "civicprep" < >

>From the Civic Preparedness discussion list. To post messages to this list, address them to

This did not sound like a fair quote so I asked Mr. Koskinen about it. He says:

"...I've tried to make clear that there's a big distinction between the so-called "doomsayers" and Y2K activists. But poetic license on the part of writers often blurs the distinction.

In fact, I usually note that my disagreement when I began with those who thought the world as we know it was going to end (I try never to use the word "doomsayer") was not with their description of the magnitude of the problem -- which I have always stated is the biggest management challenge the world has faced in 50 years -- but simply with their assumption that there was no way we could solve the problem. I didn't know whether we could or not, but I always thought we'd do better at least trying to minimize the damage by organizing everyone to deal with fixing their systems."


Steve Davis


My issue with John Koskinen, et. al., and that of many, many nationwide Y2K activists, is while organizing people to deal with their systems... THEY SHOULD ALSO HAVE CHOOSEN TO PREPARE PEOPLE-- INDIVIDUAL HOUSEHOLDS AND COMMUNITIES!!

But... they choose not to.

That, IMHO... is where perception management ran away with the Y2K game, and our elected and non-elected leaders forgot... what was really important.

Time... and tide... will tell if the right choices were made. Or not.


-- Diane J. Squire (, December 14, 1999.

I wonder how TPTB will do "preception management" if the masses are cut off from the establishment media?

-- Ocotillo (peeling@out.===), December 14, 1999.

Diane and the rest of those upset with no "official" advice to prep:

Do you really feel it is the responsibility of the present teat-bearing government to tell us how to be prepared? When it is us who should be guiding our own destinies and C-our-own A's? Where exactly did this train of thought come from? They've been screaming for people to stock up for the "3-day strorm" for over a year, but do the people (sheeple) do at least that? NO! They wait to panic! Screw them! Natural selection will take care of that problem.

In terms of the media, I am a journalist by trade. When we tried to make an issue of the rollover for the last 2 or 3 years, reaction has been either a yawn or a cry of "Extremist!"

Now, with 2 weeks to go, the press is in a very sensitive situation. Sounding alarms to prep at the last minute will perpetrate a frenzy, but remaining calm and downplaying fears will provoke Doomers, Neo- Doomers and stark realists to call us liars and tools of the spin machine.

FWIW, I am a rabid doomer, but (see and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=0020MV) barring completely random events, (terrorism, accidental nukes) find myself in a quandry.


-- Tyler Durden (, December 14, 1999.

"Y2K guru optimistic"

Since when did bureaucrats become gurus?

-- Tall Tulsa (, December 14, 1999.

Seems to me like Joe Sixpack likes being told that everything is Aye-Oh-Kay, and that his problems are all the fault of some foreign looking guy with a towel on his head.

I don't see spin being a problem. Frankly, I don't care. I want Joe to stay in his home.

-- Servant (, December 14, 1999.

Thanks to those of you that actually answered the question. Again, what I am interested in specifically is the post-rollover period. In a probably futile attempt to get a discussion going, here are some related questions:

How will the simultaneity aspect be handled? Will it even be possible to handle it? Why or why not? I have seen mention of perception management remarks like "there are failures everyday" and other possible events being a setup as a type of smokescreen. Is this a load of crap or does it have some substance? Flora made an interesting point about 'common enemy' that no one has picked up on yet. What about that?

And then we have the psychological aspects to consider. What happens if all of those that can't or won't think past a sound bite suddenly realize it is more than a BITR? People's reactions will be a large part of what does or doesn't happen. How will they feel about the previous management of their perceptions then? What ramifications might this have on future attempts to manage perceptions after rollover?

-- (sonofdust@roll.over), December 14, 1999.

Rob -- The problem with perception management is that it has become not only a means to an end (we have had serious PR from 1920-1990) but an end in itself. The Internet has proven to be the only serious remaining obstacle to this -- if it stays up past-rollover, we have a shot at getting and transmitting meaningful data and news about Y2K. Otherwise, we will be at the mercy of official accounts.

I see TPTB's perception management strategy as having two legs.

The first has to do with embeddeds and short-term crises (through January 15). No matter what ACTUALLY happens, the goal will be to reassure the public that it is "temporary". Their longstanding goal to keep banks and markets afloat will become TOTALLY critical during this period.

The second (depending on how severe Y2K is) will be to restore and rebuild public confidence in key industry sectors by minimizing claims that a problem is "Y2K", maximizing predictions of how long it will take to get fixed (shorten them) and appeal by various means to citizens to "support the system" (banks, employers, government, etc). Don't underestimate the latter: the PR boys are very good at eliciting the desired behaviors WITHOUT needing to resort to clumsy measures like "marshall (sic) law".

It might turn out to be a blessing in disguise that forums like this one have been marginalized by the PR, since citizens are unlikely to turn to it or similar fora in large enough numbers to threaten the PR strategy. Otherwise, they would/will be shut down.

Look for improvised email-lists to be a key source of communication in scenarios where government sources are not trusted. I sure ain't gonna be communicating with trolls on this board if TSHTF. Unfortunately, whatever one thinks of media, email-lists are rife with gossip, speculation and rumor and will not be a source of reliable information either. Caveat emptor will be the order of the day.

The most reliable news source on local communities will probably be ham radio nets. Here again, because their mass influence is nil, they will likely be allowed to operate without hindrance. Plus, TPTB rightly rely on them for help in emergency situations - be thankful for that.

Ironically, just as there are many on this forum who view the masses as "sheeple" (let's be honest), so does .gov. Maybe we are in more agreement with TPTB on some of THOSE issues than we might like to admit, eh? While I am ethically repulsed by today's communications strategies in our public spaces, the control of information in those spaces (which goes on despite my wishes in any case) might keep Y2K a 7, rather than a 9.

Crises make strange bedfellows sometimes.

-- BigDog (, December 14, 1999.

Perception Management seems to be the next level of sleep inducement that is currently in the works.

Someone asked the question, "When the populace begins to hear about interruptions in different time zones, how do we attempt to nip panic in the bud before this happens?" Answer: We tell them now that failures happen daily and that when they hear about them, they should first assume that the failure has nothing to do with Y2K.. and has probably much more to do with the weather".

Yep, that's the perception management we are witnessing.

-- Zoned (, December 14, 1999.

From: Y2K, ` la Carte by Dancr (pic), near Monterey, California

There may be some major local weather showing on the weather map on TV that doesn't correspond to what you're actually experiencing. I experienced this last summer relating to the Chicago Airport computer glitch.

As frequent flyers we've noticed that although a high percentage of flights are not on time, they don't tend to get blamed on weather unless they involve an unscheduled overnight layover. Our cynical understanding of this phenomenon is that it is because airlines are not responsible for lodging if the failure is "due to weather."

Maybe the Y2K spin team will take a page from the airline playbook.

-- Dancr (addy.available@my.webpage), December 15, 1999.

You might be interested to know that the phrase "perception management" has been trademarked by Burston Marsteller, which is one of the top two public relations firms worldwide. (

-- Midas (, December 15, 1999.

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