If you’re like me, when you see someone shuffling down the street awkwardly you don’t assume he’s just drunk or injured, but instead you think, “Uh-0h, a ZOMBIE! I gotta get home and put my survival plan into action!”
The concept of “zombie” is burned so deeply into the public’s psyche that we should have a clear advantage over the oblivious characters regularly shown in movies. But media expert James Norton suggests that, in a non-catastrophic zombie outbreak, our enhanced awareness may actually cause more harm than good.
According to Norton, a key indicator in the level of panic and resulting societal breakdown in any crisis is our ability to access and rationally process new information.
“If we can’t get near constant updates on the situation at hand, our minds will jump to thoughts of a doomsday scenario. And because we already have an understanding of zombies, people will behave as if the end of the world has come even if the infection is small and contained.”
Highlighting the potential problem, Norton cites a Market Research World study showing that the public’s trust of official government information is at the lowest point in history. Traditional news outlets rely heavily on the government for updates in a public health disaster, so people will tend not to believe their televisions.
Shoot first and ask questions later may quickly become the rule of the day.
So if you ever hear reports of a dead person waking back up and biting someone, don’t knock on your neighbor’s door to share the news. You may get shot through the gut, just in time to find out that it’s nothing but a false alarm.