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Expecting the unexpected: Nonprofit media responses to anti-abortion terrorism
Unformatted Document Text:  Running head: RESPONSES TO ANTI-ABORTION TERRORISM Complexity theory acknowledges that small, unforeseen events can create crises. “The future is unknowable yet recognizable, the product of everyday micro interaction among people, entities, and the environment” (Gilpin & Murphy, 2008, p. 108). A complexity model emphasizes a naturalistic approach to crisis management, which emphasizes learning and emergent understanding. Gilpin and Murphy (2008) offered seven distinguishing features of complex systems, explained in Table 2. In the case of anti-abortion terrorism, political rhetoric and narratives of justified violence create “fractals,” or patterns that result in bifurcations of the system. According to O’Hair, Heath, and Becker (2005), “terrorist actions produce points of system bifurcation in which the system can no longer sustain without modifications based on the knowledge obtained by experiencing the act” (p. 415). Cosmology episodes, the fundamental questionings of prior beliefs (Weick, 1993), or acts of anti-abortion terrorism, instigate self- organization, whereby complex systems adapt and evolve through the crisis experience. This process occurs in the context of organizational history, societal history, and the personal history of agents and audiences, all of which combine to dictate emergence of unpredictable self- organization. Self-organization occurs within a system of permeable boundaries, including emerging social networks in the form of new media, to produce strange attractors, including peer and competitor organizations. _____________________________ Insert Table 2 about here _____________________________ As a result, it is essential to move beyond case studies of individual organizations to look at changes in multiple organizations over time. According to Adkins (2010), the impact of a crisis reverberates across organizational networks, creating shared threats that may be 12

Authors: Sundstrom, Beth., Briones, Rowena. and Janoske, Melissa.
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Complexity theory acknowledges that small, unforeseen events can create crises. “The 
future is unknowable yet recognizable, the product of everyday micro interaction among people, 
entities, and the environment” (Gilpin & Murphy, 2008, p. 108). A complexity model 
emphasizes a naturalistic approach to crisis management, which emphasizes learning and 
emergent understanding. Gilpin and Murphy (2008) offered seven distinguishing features of 
complex systems, explained in Table 2. In the case of anti-abortion terrorism, political rhetoric 
and narratives of justified violence create “fractals,” or patterns that result in bifurcations of the 
system. According to O’Hair, Heath, and Becker (2005), “terrorist actions produce points of 
system bifurcation in which the system can no longer sustain without modifications based on the 
knowledge obtained by experiencing the act” (p. 415). Cosmology episodes, the fundamental 
questionings of prior beliefs (Weick, 1993), or acts of anti-abortion terrorism, instigate self-
organization, whereby complex systems adapt and evolve through the crisis experience. This 
process occurs in the context of organizational history, societal history, and the personal history 
of agents and audiences, all of which combine to dictate emergence of unpredictable self-
organization. Self-organization occurs within a system of permeable boundaries, including 
emerging social networks in the form of new media, to produce strange attractors, including peer 
and competitor organizations.
Insert Table 2 about here
As a result, it is essential to move beyond case studies of individual organizations to look 
at changes in multiple organizations over time. According to Adkins (2010), the impact of a 
crisis reverberates across organizational networks, creating shared threats that may be 

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