Fear sells: another doomsayer has his day

My colleague Andrew Donoghue at ZDNet Europe has been attending the Business Continuity Expo in London this week.Apparently, one presentation really shook Andrew's tree.

My colleague Andrew Donoghue at ZDNet Europe has been attending the Business Continuity Expo in London this week.

Apparently, one presentation really shook Andrew's tree. He quotes David Lacey, IT director of the U.K. postal service Royal Mail Group as saying: "An electronic Pearl Harbor-type event will happen in 2006 or 2007. I do stand by that. New technologies such as VoIP risk driving a horse and cart through the security in our networks."

While more tempered and IMHO, much more valid scenarios populate the rest of Andrew's piece, that's not the point I wish to raise here.

My real beef is the endemic tendency of many observers to postulate worst-case scenarios - a Y2K malfunction that throws us back to thequill pen and ledger stage,a mega-computer virus, amass-casualty WMD attack on U.S. soil.

By his tone, Mr. Lacey reminds me of then-U..S. Attorney General John Ashcroft's dire warnings in the weeks after 9/11.

Whenforecasted calamities do not occur - and they rarely do -- theprophets of doom and fearcancredittheir warnings for scaring the bad guys away. On the infrequent occasions when terrible things do occur, the alarmists can always say that well, "we warned you."

And when that happens, the alarmists can cash in with a newly enhanced reputation as a visionary. Speaker's bureaus and publishers come calling with six-figure checks for more of this gifted insight.

Sure, bad things happen - Pearl Harbor, Sept. 11, tsunamis. But they don't happen all that often. To quote Barclaycard business continuity manager Jamie Watters:

"I think lots of little incidents are potentially more damaging. That is what has happened in the past. A series of small things acting together is probably what is going to kill me in the long run rather than one big incident."