The Real Reasons to be Scared this Halloween


Simon Erskine Locke, Founder & CEO of CommunicationsMatchTM 

Halloween’s origins are in the Celtic celebration of Samhain (pronounced `Soo-when’, `So-ween’ or `Saw-wen’) which marked the seasonal shift from the end of the harvest season to winter. It was a time when the dead could return to walk among the living.


The Real Reason to be Scared this Halloween


Today, plastic skeletons, carved pumpkins, horror films, and Squid Games costumes offer frightening fun, and a distraction from some truly scary things we really need to stay focused on as we look toward 2022. 

Here are five:  


The Big Lie matters. That we have so many political leaders willing to deny truth and perpetrate outright falsehoods is frightening. For followers in their partisan media bubbles, it is shocking but, at this point not a surprise, that the lies are received as facts.  

The political fundamentalism we are experiencing is cult-like in intensity and Orwellian in double-speak. The risk of violence is significant and ever-present. Radicalization on both sides is the inevitable consequence. With America’s uncivil war as a backdrop, the path to Congressional elections may well become the tinderbox for worse to come.                                          


We should be terrified that a Virginia coal baron has the power to hold ransom climate initiatives to reduce U.S. dependence on fossil fuels. Is it a coincidence that, in the run up to the COP26 UN Climate Conference in Scotland and focus on green energy, we are seeing spikes in fuel and natural gas prices? And, while logically this should drive investment in alternative energy technology, the “quiet” clamor is building for more oil production, the opening of new drilling sites, and the increased use of coal.

It is naïve to believe that this is simply about market forces at work. If the last two election cycles have taught us anything, it is that powerful vested interests are engaged in efforts to undermine global efforts to shift economies away from fossil fuels. Facebook is one battleground for information and disinformation. But there are armies of people behind this, including, communicators. The choices we make matter.             


The financial markets’ resilience through COVID-19 has been achieved by pumping extraordinary amounts of money into the financial system and to individuals. Low interest rates have driven up real estate prices, boosted the stock market and corporate returns. 

We need to start thinking about what happens when the punch bowl is taken away. Morgan Stanley CEO, James Gorman, recently called for the Fed to “prick this bubble,” and Goldman Sachs, among others, have increasingly been warning of a downturn. And, yet… many continue to fiddle a jaunty tune. We are overdue for a significant market correction. Having the right amount of fear of what may be coming is the best motivation to be ready for it.                           


China’s assertion of its economic, political, and military power in Asia and the world is deeply concerning. The squashing of democracy in Hong Kong, the suppression and reeducation of Uighurs, aggressive behavior toward Taiwan, and efforts to expand its maritime borders underscore the idea that all bets may be off when it comes to mutually constructive engagement with the West. This is an issue for the U.S., but an even greater concern in the Asia Pacific region (where I worked for 10 years). 


In January, when I wrote “Reasons to be Cheerful,” I highlighted progress on vaccinations as one source of optimism. That Halloween has not been cancelled is reason to believe we are moving beyond the pandemic. But, the continued politicization of vaccinations and mask mandates has resulted in tens of millions of Americans at risk to themselves and to others around them, and a country struggling to move forward. 

The pandemic of the unvaccinated is still claiming the lives of more than 1,000 Americans a day. The real horror is that the majority of these people did not have to die. We must ask ourselves a question we would not have thought about before COVID-19: What will we do when the next pandemic comes along? We should be under no illusions that what comes next may be worse or that we have learned from this experience.                                

As communicators, the five Cs outlined here are clear and present dangers to our businesses and clients. In fact, the least scary thing at this time may be Halloween itself.     

While we must not be driven by fear (even on All Hallows’ Eve), recognizing what we should fear is a basis for choices we make, the stands we take, and the advice we may give, offers a path to navigate through the potential for shocks ahead.             

As you chomp down the candy corn, just in case you need to be reminded, we are not out of the woods.        

Simon Erskine LockeAbout the Author: Simon Erskine Locke is Founder & CEO of communications agency and professional search and services platform, CommunicationsMatch™, which powers PRSA’s Find a Firm. He is a regular contributor to and vice president of the Foreign Press Association. Search for Agencies, Professionals & Service providersCreate a profile on CommunicationsMatch.