[Ads-l] Origin and evolution of "crisis actor"

Bonnie Taylor-Blake b.taylorblake at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jun 17 15:57:29 EDT 2017

In a thread from early 2013 on uses of "staged," Jonathan Lighter picked up
on the use of "crisis actor."


That's an interesting one, I think. Am I missing a good review of how
"crisis actor" came to be?

Municipalities, county governments, and the like have long looked for and
used volunteers from the community to portray victims in mock disasters
(e.g., as victims in an airplane crash) to test response times and skills
of first-responders (paramedics, police, firefighters, etc.).  While the
concept of a volunteer, non-professional "actor" in these drills has long
existed, I can't find that there ever was or has been an accepted name for
this kind of drill participant.

"Crisis actor" would be a nice shorthand for such a volunteer, but at
present the term seems entirely negative and nefarious.

Current usage seems to be applied to persons involved in a tragedy who are,
as the conspiracy-theorists would tell us, only actors and not true victims
of said tragedies (not actual gunshot victims, not grieving parents, not
horrified witnesses, etc.); further, these actors are not participating in
a true tragedy, but instead are players in a conspiracy, usually organized
by the government, to fake a tragedy, the ultimate goal of which is, for
example, only known to the organizer (for example, to remove or limit the
citizenry's access to firearms).  See also Wikipedia's description,

The term seemed to blossom after the Sandy Hook Massacre, which took place
on 14 December 2012.

The earliest usage of "crisis actor" I've found in the mainstream press
comes from an article in the 25 December 2012 issue of The Washington [DC]


With thousands or even millions of people questioning the inconsistencies
of the event that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School, it appears
that nobody is looking at possible motives for the murder of Nancy Lanza.


Here is a partial list of interesting questions being raised all over the


[bullet point] Was the school part of the shooting spree an emergency
response exercise using paid crisis actors funded by a grant from our
federal government?

[From "The Only Plausible Motive: the Murder of Nancy Lanza," accessed via
Newsbank's America's News database.]


In January, 2013, the term really took off, in part because it was
popularized by James Tracy, then a professor at Florida Atlantic
University, who had apparently been using it for some time; presumably it
had also been in use on internet discussion boards and similar.


Moreover, James Tracy asserts in radio interviews and on his [
memoryholeblog.com] that trained "crisis actors" may have been employed by
the Obama administration in an effort to shape public opinion in favor of
the event's true purpose: gun control.

[From Mike Clary, "Prof. doubts Sandy Hook massacre," The South Florida Sun
Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale), 8 January 2013, p. A1.]


As far as I can tell, the term "crisis actor" derives from an effort
reported at, well, crisisactors.org (see
https://web.archive.org/web/20121223001335/http://crisisactors.org/; this
page was captured on 23 December 2012), a site registered on 17 August 2012
and last updated on 16 September 2016. (I also found this press release via
Newsbank's America's News database; it's presented in full far below.)
 @crisisactors first tweeted on 19 August 2012.

Notably, the press release mentions that "Crisis Actors is a project of the
Colorado Safety Task Force established by Colorado State Senator Steve
King," which perhaps was organized in response to the 20 July 2012 shooting
massacre in Aurora, Colorado.

I suspect, then, that "crisis actors" was coined during the development of
this project, later acquiring its more sinister meaning a few months later,
post-Sandy Hook. This link to an effort of the State of Colorado perhaps
explains a suspicion that the "crisis actor" is involved on behalf of the
government or even "funded by a grant from our federal government."

I'd be happy to hear from anyone else who has looked into the origin and
evolution of this term.  Anything before the Aurora shooting in July,
2012?  I should note the older usage of "crisis actor" within the
international-affairs/political-science communities to describe
participants (e.g., superpowers or countries) in international crises
(e.g., an escalation to war), but I find no evidence that this particular
usage led to today's more common and disturbing meaning.

-- Bonnie

Active Shooter Crisis Actors Target Mall Shootings via Visionbox
Market Wire (USA) - October 31, 2012

A new group of actors is now available nationwide for active shooter drills
and mall shooting full-scale exercises, announced Visionbox, Denver's
leading professional actors studio.

Visionbox Crisis Actors are trained in criminal and victim behavior, and
bring intense realism to simulated mass casualty incidents in public places.

The actors' stage acting experience, ranging from Shakespeare to
contemporary American theater, enables them to "stay in character"
throughout an exercise, and improvise scenes of extreme stress while
strictly following official exercise scenarios.

The actors regularly rehearse scenarios involving the Incident Command
System and crisis communications, and appear in interactive training films
produced in both 2D and stereoscopic 3D.

Producers Jennifer McCray-Rincon and John Simmons formed the group to
demonstrate emerging security technologies, help first responders visualize
life-saving procedures, and assist trainers in delivering superior hands-on
crisis response training.

For example, with a large shopping center, the producers review all
security camera views and design dramatic scenes specifically for existing
camera angles, robotic camera sweeps, and manually-controlled camera moves.

The producers then work with the trainers to create a "prompt book" for the
actors so that key scenario developments can be triggered throughout the
mall shooting simulation, and caught on tape.

The actors can play the part of the shooters, mall employees, shoppers in
the mall, shoppers who continue to arrive at the mall, media reporters and
others rushing to the mall, and persons in motor vehicles around the mall.

Visionbox Crisis Actors can also play the role of citizens calling 911 or
mall management, or posting comments on social media websites.

During the exercise, the producers use two-way radio to co-direct the
Crisis Actors team from the mall dispatch center and at actors' locations.

Within this framework, the exercise can test the mall's monitoring and
communications systems, the mall's safety plan including lockdown and
evacuation procedures, the ability of first responders and the mall to
coordinate an effective response, and their joint ability to respond to the
media and information posted on the Internet.

Security camera footage is edited for after-action reports and future

For more information visit www.Visionbox.org and www.CrisisActors.org.

Visionbox is a project of the Colorado Nonprofit Development Center.

Crisis Actors is a project of the Colorado Safety Task Force established by
Colorado State Senator Steve King.


Nathan Bock

Amanda Brown

(720) 810-1641

Email Contact

SOURCE: Visionbox


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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