Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Nefarious Terrorists We Face

I'm not going to argue that terrorism isn't a problem or that we shouldn't at all be concerned about it. Because it is and we should. What I will say, though, is that it's a very minor problem and that we spend way too much time worrying about.

Take this newest "terrorism" case for example. This is the sort of people we're supposed to be quaking in our boots over?

Relatives said the defendants were down-on-their-luck men who worked at places like Wal-Mart, a landscaping company and a warehouse when they weren't behind bars. Payen's lawyer said he was "intellectually challenged" and on medication for schizophrenia. Marilyn Reader said he has "a very low borderline" IQ.


Payen, 27, did time for attempted assault -- in 2002, he and others fired a BB gun out an SUV window, hitting two people in the head. He snatched purses from two women later the same day, said state Division of Parole spokeswoman Heather Groll.

When this story about these four men in New York broke, a lot of people on the far right went nuts pointing out that this is why we have to continue to be vigilant about the terrorist threat, about how radical Muslims are in America, too, and all that jazz. It fits in with their narrative of always having some kind of foreign "other" to be organizing about (like those dastardly Commies during the Cold War).

But what we really seem to have here is some low-level crooks and people with mental disorders who got together and put together a plot out of a Three Stooges episode that they never could've actually pulled off.

So excuse me if I'm not terrified and demanding that we continue to throw huge sums of money at counterterrorism that's way out of proportion to how much of a threat terrorism actually is (which is somewhat less dangerous than dog bites).