[Couple of updates below.]
On a warm Saturday night, Times Square has got to be one of the most densely packed places on the planet. Sometimes the crowds are so thick that walking just one block is nearly impossible.
So, while last night’s car bomb didn’t hurt anyone, panicking people with the “t” word — terrorism — might have been very dangerous.
New Yorkers don’t panic easily, but the Times Square crowd last night no doubt contained a high percentage of tourists. This is partly because the natives have enough sense to not go near Times Square on a Saturday night unless they have a very specific reason to be there. If you’re just out for dinner and a stroll, several other parts of the city are less crowded and have a better choice of restaurants.
The other kind of panic the city doesn’t want is the kind of panic that causes people to vacation somewhere else. NYC needs those tourism dollars. Who else is going to see all those Walt Disney musicals that have been on Broadway forever and pay $25 for a pastrami and corned beef sandwich at Lindy’s?
So, there are all kinds of practical reasons why the city of New York is reluctant to attach the word “terrorism” to the car bomb, even though by most definitions of the “t” word a car bomb automatically qualifies. There’s always a chance the perpetrator did not actually intend to terrorize anyone but was just following the orders of the voices in his head. Clearly, the perp was not part of al Qaeda’s “A” team.
Of course, these obvious and practical reasons for keeping the rhetoric toned down do not occur to rightie bloggers, who are quivering with outrage that the “t” word isn’t being plastered all over today’s headlines. They suspect some kind of cover-up. For example, the predictably thick Darleen of Protein Wisdom wrote, “With NYPD already attempting to squash any terrorism link, how much can we trust them to be honest with the findings of their investigation?”
In other words, in Darleen’s world an honest and forthright NYPD would immediately have declared the bomb a possible act of Muslim jihadists, thereby pretty much destroying the city’s summer tourism season, before they’d had time to investigate anything.
Pam Geller (do you really want me to link to her?) wrote, “Finally get out and about — Saturday night in NY — and I have to bolt home to report this story. Can we count on Muslim bombs failing? And catching every jihadi before he gets one of his balls bombs off? Is that our strategy now?” Let’s not jump to any premature conclusions or anything.
Several accounts have said the SUV that contained the incendiary device (which, experts said, would never have exploded [update: click on link in second paragraph, above, for corroboration]) was parked near the theater running the “Lion King.” Maybe the perp was a disgruntled former Disney employee.
Seriously, other than picking a very crowded area for maximum injury, I don’t see an obvious connection between Times Square and anybody’s righteous cause. The perp might be Muslim, but not necessarily. (And if he is, all the Muslim cab drivers who make a living picking up fares in the theater district might be less than approving.) But if it turns out the perp is a right-wing loon trying to purify Manhattan for Jesus, can we all count on Geller to never admit she was wrong? Of course!
I have no doubt that Mayor Bloomberg is busting chops (that’s a New York expression) right now, pushing the investigation as hard and as fast as possible, because no one wants to prevent another such incident more than he does. One car bomb is a fluke; two is a rash of canceled hotel reservations.
Update: The SUV was indeed parked right next to the Viacom building, which means one possible reason someone might have for attempting to set off a bomb in Times Square is in retaliation for South Park’s portrayal of Mohammad. However, if that’s the case someone should explain it to the Pakistani Taliban, which is claiming credit for the attempt without linking it to South Park. I suspect the Pakistani Taliban is just grandstanding, though.
Update: Newshoggers notes that there also is a Bank of America next to where the SUV was parked. This is true, but the main Bank of America building is on 42nd Street near Bryant Park; the one on 45th and Broadway is a branch. So I doubt there’s a Bank of America connection.
Doug Hughes points out (and I should have thought of this) that it’s terribly difficult to park exactly where you want to in Manhattan. If someone were determined to park a car right next to the Viacom building he might have had to drive in circles for hours until a spot opened up. It’s more likely the perpetrator just parked as close to Times Square as he could get.