Blaming Active Volcanoes or Active Volcanic Blame? Volcanic Crisis Communication and Blame Management in the Cameroon
Editors: Fearnley,, C., Bird, D., Jolly, G., Haynes, K. and McGuire, B.
This chapter examines the key role of blame management and avoidance in crisis communication with particular reference to developing countries and areas that frequently experience volcanic episodes and disasters. In these contexts, the chapter explores a key paradox prevalent within crisis communication and blame management concepts that has been rarely tested in empirical terms (see De Vries 2004; Brändström 2016a). In particular, the chapter examines, what it calls, the ‘paradox of frequency’ where frequency of disasters leads to twin dispositions for crisis framed as either: (i) policy failure (active about volcanic blame on others), where issues of blame for internal incompetency takes centre stage, and blame management becomes a focus of disaster managers, and/or: (ii) as event failure (in this case, the blaming of lack of external capacity on active volcanoes and thereby the blame avoidance of disaster managers). Put simply, the authors investigate whether perceptions of frequency itself is a major determinant shaping the existence, operation, and even perceived success of crisis communication in developing regions, and countries experiencing regular disaster episodes. The authors argue frequency is important in shaping the behaviour of disaster managers and rather ironically as part of crisis communication can shape expectations of community resilience and (non)-compliance. In order to explore the implications of the ‘paradox of frequency’ further, the chapter examines the case of the Cameroon, where volcanic activity and events have been regular, paying particular attention to the major disasters in 1986 (Lake Nyos Disaster - LND) and 1999 (Mount Cameroon volcanic eruption - MCE).