Government officials can help defuse the fear and anxiety terrorism has incited in people around the world, said psychologist Pamela Ryan, PhD, managing director of Issues Deliberation America/Australia (IDA), at a Sept. 10 press conference held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. IDA, the event sponsor, operates as an independent research group, but collaborates with universities such as the Australian National University and the University of South Australia.
Other speakers at the event underscored the importance of mitigating terror's psychological hold.
"The context of terrorist attacks needs to be narrowed," noted speaker Patrick Boyer, a political scientist and former member of the Canadian Parliament. "No society can sustain constant, generalized fear."
Drawing on the work of 90 experts on fear and terrorism--who convened at an earlier IDA-sponsored conference in Austin, Texas, Aug. 19-20--Ryan suggested that governments:
Fight fear with knowledge. Educate the public about the motivations and strategies of terrorists.
Make preparedness plans public. Publicize contingency plans to instill confidence in citizens.
Inform people of their risks. Help people gain perspective on their potential for being harmed in a terrorist attack. (In most places, the risk of terrorism is very low.)
Foster connections between government agencies. Collaborate and coordinate on the above goals--this aids the response to an actual attack, Ryan said.