While frozen into paralysis and unable to tell the public the truth about the coming cataclysms, those in government, or their associates, often leak the truth inadvertently or deliberately. Whether deliberate or apparently by accident, the outcome is the same - the public sense some body of knowledge they are not being told about, some alarm, and begins to think for themselves and to look about. There are two main reasons for such leaks:
The first reaction by the government to a significant leak is to ignore
it. This works more often than not, surprisingly, as the public is
watching the broad band of information thrown at it in more ways than one.
Busy with their lives, and concerned about multiple problems, the average
person is flooded with more information than they can process. A type of
screening exists, where a buzz level is watched, and only those news item
that get a lot of buzz are actually listened to or absorbed. If a news
item is a curiosity, or of interest only to a few, then it gets little
buzz. If a news item is significant, it gets discussed repeatedly, with
experts making commentary, and is perhaps talked about by friends and
co-workers. So ignoring a leak, as the Planet X discovery announcement in
1983, often makes the issue go away. Where, as in the case of the Planet X
discovery, it does not go away, it is because follow-on leaks or
a persistent group determined to get the truth out hammers away at the
The second reaction is to counter the leak, most often by a set of counter arguments laid out by supposed experts holding information the public does not have at their disposal, and less often by discrediting the individual responsible for the leak. NASA is brought forth to proffer privileged Hubble images, bolstering their statements, while preventing the public access to the Hubble archieves where the truth indeed lies in bold color. Discrediting the individual, creating a rash of personal horrors supposedly committed by the individual, is more risky as this is most often a fabrication and thus at risk of being discovered as such. If the individual backs off quietly, the discrediting often succeeds. If they argue, or persist, matters can get brutal behind the scenes until a stalemate results, the dishonored one allowed to talk privately about the unfairness of the treatment, but the public remembering the lies and smears.
The third reaction is to dilute the impact of the leak, particularly if an inadvertent leak made by a person or group in agony. The agony of imposed silence is understood among those in the know, and thus some sympathy exists for inadvertent leaks. Such a leak was made by Bob Dole when he announced with fervor in 1996 that the Star Wars program must be re-activated by 2003 [Note: see 2003 Date explanation], or in 2000 when the Russian government lamented about a string of disasters anticipated to hit the country in 2003. These inadvertent leaks cause an embarrassed silence, hand over a red face, and then an attempt to dilute the impact by the same argument pointing to different time frames or years. Unless one is looking for the pattern, and noticing the intensity of distress in the first message that includes 2003, the pattern is unlikely to be noticed.