130206FairchildFeb. 6, 2013

“Panic provides a rationale for action, sometimes overreaction or even manipulation. As such, it is the subject of heated accusation and denial that can create a swirl of confusion and frustration.

“Nonetheless, some lessons stand out in the long history of panic. There is no basis for imagining that the frenzied 19th century reactions to disease are a slumbering beast waiting to be roused. Too much government infrastructure and information stand between populations and unfettered panic….”

– From “A Brief History of Panic” by Amy L. Fairchild, David Merritt Johns and Kavita Sivara Makrishnan, public health researchers at Columbia University  (the New York Times, January 28, 2013)

“Frenzied…. reactions” to disease epidemics may have subsided since the 19th century, but they were crucial in animating the day-care ritual-abuse prosecutions of the 1980s and ’90s. And “government infrastructure” – that is, district attorneys’ offices – wasn’t a deterrent but an accelerant!