Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Psychology of Gulf Coast Victims (Pt. 2)

BP and Obama Say
"All is Well"
Dave Hodges
Activist Post

In my first investigation into the health effects in the Gulf, data was sparse and the demonstrable health effects were mostly anecdotal. Today, we are beginning to see some very early trend curves with regard to health . . . and the trends are frightening. However, I am afraid that the emerging health data will fall upon deaf ears. In fact, it is more likely that non-Gulf Coast residents will readily see the dangers before the actual victims in the Gulf.

Subsequently, I am predicting that many in the Gulf who read this series on the Gulf will not be grateful that someone is willing to spend their time, without pay, to expose the omnipresent dangers in the Gulf. Rather, most in the Gulf Coast region who read any part of this series will react with strong anger and deny that there is even the hint of a problem. I predict that the comments section connected to my articles will demonstrate a volatility and hostility that will not be present in any other article that I have written. Why? This is because people from the Gulf Coast region will do so because of what psychologists call the normalcy bias.

Before I present the emerging hard data and the myriad of health effects in the Gulf, it is first important to examine the psychology of a crisis and why many in the Gulf have passively accepted their fate despite the omnipresent health effects. Recently, on my talk show, a Louisiana resident said that the crisis was not that bad despite having stated earlier in the same interview that nearly everyone they knew was sick and “stayed sick” since the Gulf oil spill. This person was demonstrating what has become known as the normalcy bias and most people in the Gulf are afflicted with this condition.

Before the hard data is presented on the health effects in the Gulf (Part Three), this portion of the series will examine the psychology connected to the Gulf oil spill and it will become obvious why most people in the Gulf are ignoring the dangers.

Normalcy Bias and the Gulf

Please allow me to first ask a question to every Gulf resident who has followed the Fukushima event. Do you think the people living within 50 miles of the nuclear power plant should have immediately moved following the event? Most people that I know would say yes. It is easier to answer to say yes when it is not you that has to pack up everything, try and sell the home, find new work, find a new place to live and resettle the children into a new school. If you are involved in the event, your brain begins to look for disconfirming reasons which deny the seriousness of the event so that you can continue on with your life with as little of disruption as possible.

We know Fukushima was, and is, a deadly event. Why then, did most Japanese stay? They stayed for two reasons. The government adopted the position that is a dishonorable act to question the government when the government says it is safe to remain near Fukushima. This is a cultural factor not commonly found in the United States. However, the second factor involved in why the Japanese are staying and dying is common to most people and it is due to what psychologists call the normalcy bias. In short, the normalcy bias causes people to deny a danger whose effects are already in progress. Secondly, the normalcy bias also causes people to underestimate the effects of a danger once the event can no longer be denied.

The normalcy bias came into play in Japan and the normalcy bias has also come into play in the Gulf Coast region. As I publish my findings in this and subsequent parts of this series, I know that the comments section from people in the Gulf will loudly criticize my findings more than people from anywhere else in the country and this is due to the normalcy bias.

Research On Normalcy Bias

Personnel who are deeply concerned with evacuation procedures, such as first responders, architects, stadium employees and in the travel industry are keenly aware of normalcy bias and write about it in their training manuals and trade journals.

In a 1985 paper published in the International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters, sociologists Shunji Mikami and Ken’Ichi Ikeda at the University of Tokyo (Kakuko Miyata. 1985, Mass Media Reporting on a False Alarm. Journal of Mass Communication Studies. No.34, pp. 193-213. Japanese Society of Mass Communication, Tokyo. Osamu Hiroi ,Shunji Mikami & Kakuko Miyata 1985, A Study of Mass Media Reporting in Emergencies. International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters, No.3, pp.21-49.) identified the steps one is likely to go through in a disaster.
  1. Disaster victims have a tendency to first interpret the situation within the context of what one is familiar with and to greatly underestimate the severity of the danger. Unfortunately, this is the moment, when a few precious seconds count, is when normalcy bias costs lives.
  2. People in danger will seek information from those that they trust first and then move on to those nearby for further advice. This results in another time delay which costs lives.
  3. Next, there is a tendency to try to contact family members if possible in order to seek advice.
  4. Then and only then, one will begin to prepare to evacuate or seek shelter.
I think there is no question that when the mainstream media over-hypes events such as Y2K, swine flu, SARS, etc., which helps to fuel the normalcy bias on a global scale. With so much of the media crying wolf, it can be difficult to determine when to be alarmed, and when it really is not a drill. BP, through their incessant network television commercials and public service announcements have added to the normalcy bias in the Gulf by promoting the fiction that all is well.

Delaying Defensive Action Can Prove Deadly

Why won’t they help themselves? Why don’t they just leave? Undoubtedly, many Gulf Coast residents see the dangers and have taken action. However, most have not, and I think it is important to answer these questions before sharing the scientific data which demonstrates how bad the conditions are in the Gulf.

According to a 2001 study by sociologist Thomas Drabek, people who are told to leave in anticipation of a hurricane or flood, waste precious time and check with four or more sources such as family, newscasters and officials, before deciding on a course of action. On 9/11, at least 70% of survivors spoke with other people before trying to leave, the NIST study shows.

There is a biological reason why people engage in the normalcy bias. It is commonly known that it takes 8–10 seconds to process new information. The stress associated with a serious event slows the reaction process. Further, when the brain cannot find an acceptable response to a situation, it often fixates on a single and sometimes default solution, which may or may not be correct. An evolutionary reason for this response could be that paralysis gives an animal a better chance of surviving an attack. It is commonly known that predators are less likely to eat prey that isn’t struggling. Therefore, if we remain calm and appear oblivious, the danger may pass over us.

Most of the people who died on 9/11, in the Twin Towers, were above the crash zone of the planes and were unable to find a way to safety. However, National Institute of Standard Technology (NIST) investigators are only now beginning to understand the actions and psychology of the thousands who had a chance to escape to calamity and did not. The NIST report found that the people who made it safely out of the World Trade Center, waited an average of 6 minutes before escaping, as noted in data that was drawn from a new National Institute of Standards and Technology study in interviews with nearly 900, 9/11 survivors. The research demonstrated that some people left fairly quickly while others lingered for as long as 30 minutes. Eventually, there was no denying the danger as everyone saw smoke and smelled the jet fuel. Amazingly, even after the crisis was evident to all, most people called relatives, and approximately a thousand people took the time to shut down their computers according to the NIST report.

Is There An Antidote to Normalcy Bias?

The solution to normalcy bias, according to Mikami, Ikeda, and other experts, is repetition on the part of those who can help and can subsequently have an impact in creating a paradigm shift. Repeating the warnings often enough, along with giving instructions, can create a new set of realities and can, therefore, become the “new normal”, and people will subsequently act in a timely fashion. The problem with creating an atmosphere which overcomes normalcy bias, and when precious seconds can make a difference between life and death, is that there may not be enough time to experience this paradigm shift.

Later parts in this series will irrefutably present data which clearly demonstrates that the health of 30-40 million people is imperiled. We have already lost nearly three years in waking up residents of the Gulf Coast. As the reader will see, the dangers are dramatic and cannot be overstated. The impact is both immediate and long term in its effects.


The toxicity of both the oil and the Corexit sprayed to “contain” the oil spill are deadly. The effects are cumulative. As I noted, we have already lost three years in which people are being exposed on an ever-increasing basis. However, I feel that if we can raise awareness as to the dangers, we can still save lives. It is safe to say that the toxins in the Gulf are in the air, the water in the food and in the blood of many people in the Gulf.

The health trends are so disturbing that if I lived in the Gulf region, I would immediately move my family and hope that we got out in time to avoid the various cancers and other assorted deadly illnesses resulting from this event. I know of people in the Gulf who are trying to sell their homes and move. My advice to them would be to sell their homes from their new location. Take a loss, if need be. I would let my home go into foreclosure before spending another three deadly years in the Gulf. In this series, the reader will see that these effects are not dissipating. Yes, the beaches appear cleaner. However, that is due to the fact that Corexit does not break up oil slicks as the media is inaccurately reporting. The Corexit merely buries the oil beneath the surface where its impact on marine life and our food supply is more dramatic.

Not every Gulf Coast resident is a passive recipient of their fate. However, most residents are in denial -- up to 70% if the research is correct -- and they will continue to accept their fate. This is tragic and I hope that by calling attention to the dangers, we can reduce the passivity level among the potential victims and increase the longevity for many of these residents.

Dave is an award winning psychology, statistics and research professor, a college basketball coach, a mental health counselor, a political activist and writer who has published dozens of editorials and articles in several publications such as Freedoms Phoenix, News With Views and The Arizona Republic.

The Common Sense Show features a wide variety of important topics that range from the loss of constitutional liberties, to the subsequent implementation of a police state under world governance, to exploring the limits of human potential. The primary purpose of The Common Sense Show is to provide Americans with the tools necessary to reclaim both our individual and national sovereignty.


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Anonymous said...

Good article.

Nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide.....

The economy and lack of jobs, makes relocating an entire family a terrifying and almost impossible task for most Gulf residents.
Even for happy healthy 'successful' people, a big move cross country is a highly stressful event. Gulf residents will stay and suffer on their land in their counties with their people.
The scum who rule this country turned their backs on the Gulf, and will hopefully answer for it in Hell someday.

It might do some of us good to reflect on hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese and Cambodians marching hundreds of miles in forced evacuations due to the US military destroying their communities.
Same goes for El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Palestine, Libya, Syria, and on and on. The American war machine has caused dozens of mass exodus crisis in the past 40 years. Those people and their children were every bit as real and decent as the Gulf people now suffering.

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."


biff Michael Appia said...

Thank you for talking about the BP Gulf of Mexico Spill since most news agencies have decided not to talk about it during the trial. A national blanket of no news. We will talk about everything else, but leave out the trial of the biggest man-made disaster in North America in our enlightened history.

Anonymous said...

I live in Florida and yes, the normalcy bias does exist. But we don't have anywhere else to GO!!!!!!! Otherwise I would have packed up my family in a heartbeat. And THEY know that.

Good job, Anon 10:05.

Anonymous said...

no, actually there are exact indicaters to the validity of your article. here in the northen louisiana city of shreveport/bossier you will find the largest boon in the south with building, industry etc. all hospitals, treatment centers, and a pharmacy on every block being built as fast as possible. foreign doctors are saturating the area. we have also numerous casinos for those that the medical poisons can't help. it is a 'get well or goout partying' atmosphere, surreal. and the local pharmaceutical manufacturers are owned by the groups of doctors, pushing their own products, i would think this vicious circle unethical. the sickness of the people is recognised and disgusting, what can we do, we are mad at the irroneus info being shown on 'friendly' politicly motivated tv commercials,tv news and even web sites. don't believe it, just ask anyone, we are either ill or caring for a family member who is ill, dieing. there are even free drugs to anyone who applies, no financial requirements, just fill out a short form, and boom, another poison and a placebo patch for the unknown, untested illnesses. buy stock in the medical field is the message. republicans are happy as hell here. and the owners of these facilities are ill also, just with greed.

Anonymous said...

Good article, I fully agree with you. HOWEVER. . . there is no where to run. They are poisoning our whole planet. Chemtrails in the air, GMO in the food, fracking contamination of our water, deadly vaccines. DEPOPULATION AGENDA activated!!

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