View Full Version : NYT Freakonomics - "If you were a terrorist, how would you attack"

08-09-2007, 03:29 AM

Hearing about these rules got me thinking about what I would do to maximize terror if I were a terrorist with limited resources. I’d start by thinking about what really inspires fear. One thing that scares people is the thought that they could be a victim of an attack. With that in mind, I’d want to do something that everybody thinks might be directed at them, even if the individual probability of harm is very low. Humans tend to overestimate small probabilities, so the fear generated by an act of terrorism is greatly disproportionate to the actual risk.

500+ replies, 1/3 in the "you're a freaking idiot" camp. I don't believe the assumption that terrorists already know this so there's no harm in discussing it- they lack the cultural perspective on what would be effective in hitting our psyche - offering this consultation for free is foolhardy.

08-09-2007, 08:37 PM
It is a bizarre subject matter for a widely read newspaper but I think there are plenty of terrorists already among us for me to fret too much about them learning many new TTPs based on the media. Not to mention I am sure most of them have seen the various Insurgent sniper training powerpoints that are circulating on their sites. The PROVOS were doing this in Northern Ireland years ago and its being done overseas now. It doesn't take too much research to read up on the Sparrow Teams or to watch some Hollywood movies to come up with simple ideas that would have great impact.

08-09-2007, 10:25 PM
I am sure a fair number of them also read brave new war and johns blog and this site......

Dominique R. Poirier
08-10-2007, 06:42 AM
In my own opinion, this one added to the list of the funniest threads of the day; just before "Jobs in Virginia" was posted.

At this point, may I suggest an annual prize?

08-10-2007, 10:14 PM
Terrorism, Part II, By Steven D. Levitt, Freakonomics Blog, August 9, 2007 (http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/08/09/terrorism-part-ii/)

A lot of the angry responses make me wonder what everyday Americans think terrorists do all day. My guess is that they brainstorm ideas for terrorist plots. And you have to believe that terrorists are total idiots if it never occurred to them after the Washington, D.C., sniper shootings that maybe a sniper plot wasnít a bad idea. The point is this: there is a virtually infinite array of incredibly simple strategies available to terrorists. The fact that it has been six years since the last major terrorist attack in the United States suggests either that the terrorists are incompetent, or that perhaps their goal isnít really to generate terror. (A separate factor is the prevention efforts by law enforcement and the government; Iíll address that later.)

Ultimately, though, it strikes me that there are two possible interpretations of our current situation vis-ŗ-vis terrorism.

One view is the following: the main reason we arenít currently being decimated by terrorists is that the governmentís anti-terror efforts have been successful.

The alternative interpretation is that the terror risk just isnít that high and we are greatly overspending on fighting it, or at least appearing to fight it.

08-10-2007, 11:00 PM
It is a bizarre subject matter for a widely read newspaper but I think there are plenty of terrorists already among us for me to fret too much about them learning many new TTPs based on the media.
I still do not understand why our public discourse does not acknowledge AQ's connection to the West. (Political purposes?) The Hamburg cell, Ali Mohamed, KSM, Ramzi Yousef, and others unknown like them, all have lived and worked in the west. Westerners have joined and continue to join the ranks of AQ. Bin Laden often cites western scholarly publications and Zawahiri was here in the 90's. I believe they certainly have the cultural perspective, and know their enemy.