"Bringing the Future to Your Industry"

Forecast, Oct 1, 2001 v21 i16 p1

The Aftermath of Tragedy. John Fetto; Alison Stein Wellner; David Whelan; Sandra Yin.

Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2001 PRIMEDIA Business Magazines & Media

How will American behavior and attitudes change in the wake of terrorist attacks on our own soil?

The terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, September 11, ended an era in American history--an era where many, if not most, of the nation's 281 million citizens felt safe from terrorist threats, whether in their offices, in the streets or in the skies.

In the wake of these attacks, the behavior and attitudes of Americans are likely to change. For example, a Gallup poll conducted just after the attack found that one-third of Americans are planning to change one or more aspects of their personal lives to reduce their chances of becoming a victim of terrorism. This is a higher share than the 24 percent who said that they would make a change in their lives shortly after the Oklahoma City bombing.

What are some of the other ways that American lives are likely to change in the weeks and years ahead? In an effort to find out, the staff of American Demographics interviewed 24 experts, including historians, economists, psychologists and public opinion specialists. These interviews will run in the magazine's October issue. This issue of Forecast provides a preview of what several experts said about the future of the nation. Some of this commentary appears exclusively in Forecast due to space constraints in the magazine.

Full Size PictureJohn Zogby, president and CEO of Zogby International, a public opinion polling firm in Utica, N.Y.

Just as Pearl Harbor had an impact in so many ways, the events of September 11 will too. But this is new, and the memory is raw. The implications will be short term. In the future, this will dissipate. We will bounce back and this will become a memory.

In the near term, there will be less interest in high rises and less interest in working on the top floors of skyscrapers. But cities in general have undergone a revival and that will continue, although migration will be slowed down. In the short run, people will travel less and avoid airplanes. But in the long run, it will [and has to] get back to where it was. The global economy depends on it. The technology is there to bring people to all spots on the globe, and people will spend their discretionary income to do so.

Daniel Yankelovich, chairman, Public Agenda in New York and Viewpoint Learning Inc., La Jolla, Calif.

I don't think consumers are going to close their pocketbooks. I don't think consumer behavior is going to be affected as much as political attitudes and behavior.

And the political changes will be quite far-reaching. It's almost undoubtedly the case that we'll be willing to put our military forces at greater risk. I think it's also likely that civil liberties will be infringed upon in the interest of tighter security. What you have in the U.S right now is very large groups of people who represent threats to security. There's a strong incentive to find out who they are, whether it's by electronic surveillance, picking them up on the basis of suspicion, maybe even a kind of semi-racial profiling.

Neil Howe, economist, historian and co-author of Generations (Morrow Press, 1991), The Fourth Turning (Broadway Books, 1997) and Millenmials Rising (Vintage Books, 2000), among other books.

While Generation X was very attracted to the city, Generation Y will likely want to live in a very protective community that is neither urban nor suburban. Gen Y is more likely to adopt the idea of controlled access communities--centers or areas where people are screened for weapons. This is not unlike what they go through now when they go to school. But to accept the trade of civil liberties for safety will require society to accept the idea of an authority that will control things. As long as we can accept that, we'll be more comfortable. A lot of these kids don't even know they have civil liberties. In a way, you're taking away something they don't even know they have.

The image of American life, which makes America so hateful in the eyes of our enemies today, is one of celebrity culture gone rampant. Americans, especially younger generations, will say, You're right, that's not our finest side.' The less uplifting side of our culture will come under more scrutiny and will be seen as Less lacking in consequence. I expect to see a deflation of celebrity culture. I also expect to see an abrupt turning down of the culture wars as this youngest generation realizes that there are bigger things to worry about.

William Knoke, president of Los Angeles-based investment bank Harvard Capital Group. Author of Bold New World (Kodansha America, 1996).

The concept of "us" as Americans has been rekindled. The World Trade Center bombing was a very galvanizing event that all of a sudden made people realize what it means to be an American ... it created an us-versus-them framework. It's pressed the on button encoded in our DNA that says, 'I want to be part of a tribe. I feel threatened. I want to work together to attack the other tribe.' There's nothing that unites people like a common enemy.

Chris Ertel, demographer, Global Business Network, a futurism and scenario planning firm, Emeryville, Calif.

Americans will not look only to the government and police to protect us from various dangers, but will assume some level of personal responsibility as well. We'll have much better public education campaigns to educate people about the warning signs of possible dangerous people and situations. We'll see the creation of an appropriate infrastructure to support appropriate alerts and action, such as placing phones at every seat of every plane, enabling all passengers to communicate with each other and the ground in case of emergency.

Of course, such an approach would not solve all problems, but it could be a powerful addition to the normal security measures, and perhaps even a more effective means of combating an enemy that is hard to find.

Ryan Mathews, futurist, First Matter, a think tank in East Pointe, Mich.

In America, we're used to an enemy we can define. We're not used to an enemy we can't even name. We are not the British, the Irish, the Israelis, the Germans nor the Italians--we are not a people who can adjust to terrorism to being a part of our normal lives. Americans are innocents, and we've practiced denial, pretending that [terrorism] was not real.

The paradox is, at one extreme, we say, 'We want these guys punished.' But there will be a backlash, where we'll also say, 'but were not willing to sacrifice even one inch of our own personal freedoms to accomplish this.' We are very spoiled and indulged. We have total personal freedom without any responsibility. You can't have it both ways. We can't have a secure air traffic system where officials are allowed to take any measure to interdict terrorists, and have no delays. You literally can't have it

As for our willingness to go to war, I don't think we have the heart for war. Air wars yes, but a second Vietnam, fought somewhere in the mountains of Afghanistan, no. If we can run in someplace and lose a thousand men and win quickly, that would be OK. If we crawl in someplace, lose the same thousand soldiers over 18 to 22 months, and all we see are casualty reports and no progress, that wouldn't be OK. Another Desert Storm, OK, but a second Vietnam, where we go into the mountains and fight people with a cause in a guerrilla war-that would just get to be too much.


Nearly 6 in 10 Americans feared for their safety after
the attacks on September 11, 2001.
Apr. 21-23, 1995   42%
Apr. 9-10, 1996    35%
July 20-21, 1996   39%
Aug. 20, 1998      32%
Apr. 7-9, 2000     24%
Sept. 11, 2001     58%
Sept. 14-15, 2001  51%
Source: The Gallup Poll
Note: Table made from line graph


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