GRI Current Events Blog

GRI Director Stephen Flynn on Resilience After London Attack – News@Northeastern

GRI Research Assistant

Jun. 6, 2017

On June 6, Global Resilience Institute Director Stephen Flynn sat down with Jason Kornwitz of News@Northeastern to discuss the recent terror attacks in London. Given that Saturday’s attack marked the third such incident in the UK in the past ten weeks, Dr. Flynn discussed the importance of societal resilience in the face of such events. Below is an excerpt from the News@Northeastern Interview; the full story can be accessed here.

People attend a vigil for victims of Saturday’s attack on the London Bridge, at Potter’s Field Park in London, on Monday, June 5, 2017 (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)

Q1: Londoners took to social media to show that they would not be cowed by terrorism, tweeting messages like “Going to IKEA for meatballs and maybe a rug” and using hashtags like #keepcalmcarryon. Aside from proclaiming that they have moved on with their lives, what else can the average person in England do to show terrorists that their plots to intimidate and inspire fear will not work?”

“Flynn: While terrorists are motivated for a variety of reasons, one thing that makes terrorism attractive as a means of warfare is that an adversary often finds that a relatively small investment in an attack can cause the targeted society to respond in costly and self-destructive ways. Accordingly, an overreaction to terrorist attacks can end up motivating follow-on attacks much in the way that negotiating with hostage takers can fuel more hostage-taking. It follows that the kind of stoic response that both Londoners and Israelis are noted for provides a measure of deterrence—not from every self-radicalized lunatic, but importantly for non-state and state actors who might otherwise see value in sponsoring these kinds of attacks.

In terms of what the British people can do beyond declaring they will “keep calm and carry on,” they can do the kinds of things World War II Londoners did during the Blitz: They can volunteer to provide auxiliary support to first responders in dealing with the aftermath of attacks. This is not an act of fatalism. Beyond the tangible contribution that volunteers can make when bad things happen, the process of preparing for emergencies helps to strengthen the social capital of a community while making attacks much less frightening when they occur. The “panic” response always requires two elements: an awareness of a clear and present threat, and a feeling of powerlessness to deal with the threat. The more prepared we are for emergencies, the more empowered we feel and the less afraid we become.”


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The Global Resilience Institute is committed to informing and advancing societal resilience around the world. Individuals, communities, nations, and the systems they depend upon, can thrive only if they have the means to better withstand, recover from and adapt to the inevitable shocks and disruptive events of the 21st century. Our university-wide Institute is partnering with other leading academic research institutions, nonprofits and the public and private sectors to devise and apply practical, interdisciplinary innovations and solutions to resilience challenges.