Another heinous plot has been nipped in the bud. While I am glad that anyone planning harm has been apprehended and confined, the manner of it seems, as usual, completely out of proportion to the actual situation.
If I decide to flush a cherry bomb down the toilet with my goal being the destruction of the entire sewage system of Greater San Diego and massive pollution of the entire West Coast, what is the actual threat? My intentions? Or flushing a cherry bomb, which will actually cause no damage beyond my own house and the incidence of a hundred dollars or so in repair bills?
As an aside, for those who don’t know, a “cherry bomb” is a rather large firecracker: or was, as I believe they are no longer available. I actually did flush a few of them when I was a kid. The first ones merely caused rather spectacular geysers, but then one made it farther down the pipe resulting in the aforementioned repair bills. That got me into a whole heap of trouble and brought the flushing of cherry bombs to a screeching halt. Fortunately for me, the Department of Homeland Stupidity did not exist in those days.
So the current buzz is another terrorist plot that has been brewing for more than a year, created by a bunch of dimwits, simply planning an attack for which they had no capability whatever and which, even if they brought it off, would not produce the anywhere near as much damage as they thought it would. Worth investigating and stopping, but...
That’s the plotter’s part in this grandiosity game, and I can understand it. You really have to be a bit unbalanced to carry that much hatred around, and if you had very much smarts you probably wouldn’t be inviting FBI agents to participate in your plot.
The news media contributes to the grandiosity game by reporting not what the actual threat was (a kid flushing a cherry bomb), but what the plotter hoped to accomplish (destruction of the entire sewage system of Greater San Diego and massive pollution of the entire West Coast) and describing it as a “chilling threat.”
Well, I can understand that, too. It’s a lot more fun to write about dramatic things and chaos than it is to write about things that no one would give even a minor thought to. Some kid wants to cost his father a hundred bucks, who cares? Some kid is trying to destroy the West Coast, now that’s news. The fact that he has absolutely no chance of succeeding need not get in the way of it being a major headline.
As a further aside, a teenaged Jayhawk with cherry bombs, etc. was just a bit of a "chilling threat." But my Dad had his own little DHS thing going and the country survived those days quite handily. So did I, eventually.
What baffles me is the role of law enforcement in the grandiosity game.
What this plot calls for is for the agent to be having a cup of coffee with his news contact and comment in passing, “Oh by the way. We broke up a half-assed plot to blow up JFK the other day. The plot wouldn’t have worked, and we got enough on the guys to put them away, so it’s all over. I’m working on something else this week.”
But no, press conference and major announcements. "The devastation that would be caused had this plot succeeded is just unthinkable," Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Roslynn R. Mauskopf said at a news conference, calling it "one of the most chilling plots imaginable." (Never mind that, even if the plot had proceeded unhampered, it would not have done anything approaching her description.) Broken arms all around from patting themselves on the back, and they bask in the glow of their own accomplishments for as long as they can get away with it.
Saner heads eventually start “poking holes” in the threat and the whole thing sort of fades off into nothing. Until the next heinous plot is uncovered.
I would think that the media and law enforcement would become just a bit embarrassed at some point, and when the next plot is uncovered either law enforcement would make a more restrained announcement about it or the news media would be less enthusiastic about swallowing the bait.
But, as the “JFK plot” reveals, grandiosity abounds endlessly.
Update, June 4
Chris Floyd at Empire Burlesque today writes a bit about this plot in his inimitable style. In Scare Tactics: The Great American Freak-Out he says, in part,
...the latest "terror scare" from people who allegedly planned to do something at JFK Airport that was not technically feasible and had not actually gotten around to procuring any supplies or making any concrete plans for the technically unfeasible thing they had allegedly been talking about doing.
The more that I read about this "heinous plot" the more the U.S. Attorney looks utterly ridiculous standing on the courthouse steps braying about the "unthinkable devastation" it was going to cause.