The “T” Word and Times Square

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Terrorism

[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.

Update: The average ten-year-old boy could have made a better bomb.

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28 Comments

  1. Chief  •  May 2, 2010 @10:06 am

    We have a ‘comfy’ life way out here in the hustings. Believe it or not, Mrs. Chief & I can go out to eat twice, for the $25 price of Pastrami at Lindys.

    Other than that, we don’t want to scare away those tourist dollars, do we ?

  2. JM  •  May 2, 2010 @10:46 am

    I love how Pam Geller’s take on the event started with HER night being so inconvenienced as to have to go home and blog about something, nevermind what could have happened.

  3. biggerbox  •  May 2, 2010 @10:52 am

    Based completely on my own inexpert speculation and the report in the New York Times, I wouldn’t rush to use the “t word”, certainly not in the sense of international al Qaeda-inspired movements. Sadly, I would expect them to be a bit more proficient in the construction of car bombs than what the NYPD encountered in this case. Perhaps the reason the very smart people at the NYPD have been resisting the “t word” is that they think the construction of this device has “crazy nut job” written all over it. It is obviously too soon to tell.

  4. maha  •  May 2, 2010 @11:04 am

    they think the construction of this device has “crazy nut job” written all over it.

    Yes. Along with overpriced food, New York also has its share of people who have heated arguments with lampposts.

  5. c u n d gulag  •  May 2, 2010 @11:35 am

    It’ always easy to look for the perpetrator that we want.
    I remember my first thought when the Oklahoma City bombing happened that it was Muslim terrorists. Then, the thought occured to me that they could find easier targets in areas where they wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb. And, yes, that would be NYC.
    We should be celebrating that the damn thing didn’t work, regardless of the individual or group behind it.
    This is a good story in that, an average citizen reported seeing something, the police responded quickly and appropriately, and no one was injured. Uhm, textbook law enforcement, not like the 24-like ticking timebomb torture secnario’s those on the right think are the only way to protect ourselves.
    I have no doubt that they’ll be able to trace the SUV and find the perp(s), just like they did with the first WTC bombing, which was caused by Muslim terrorists.
    But if it’s not some Islamo-terrorist group, I would like to see the right apologize. I just won’t hold my breath until that happens. Blue only looks good on Avatar’s…

  6. maha  •  May 2, 2010 @11:38 am

    Check it out, folks; after viewing last night’s incident through a political prism, Darleen is accusing me of viewing “everything through a political prism.”

    Just wondering — can IQs be in negative numbers?

    Seriously, if Darleen had read my post (unlikely, as she’s a rightie), she would have noticed I said the incident is terrorism by most conventional definitions of the word. I’m just saying there are serious, grown-up but not political reasons why authorities want to keep the rhetoric toned down.

    Mark Steyn notes that the SUV was parked near the Viacom building (how close I can’t say; I’m about to go somewhere and don’t have time to look at a map), and suggests maybe the attempt to set off an incendiary device was in retaliation for the depiction of the Prophet Mohammad on South Park. That’s certainly plausible, but lots of other things are also plausible, and I don’t see what purpose such speculation serves.

    But, you know, the babies do love to panic themselves so they can run around in circles shrieking.

  7. J2  •  May 2, 2010 @12:14 pm

    You failed to link to the experts who said the device would never have exploded. But you can add the link now

  8. freD  •  May 2, 2010 @1:49 pm

    I usually try not to be mean, but Darleen’s a wonderful play toy experiment in taking “a person convinced against their will is of the same opinion still” and hammering them with contrary opinions them just to watch them clench their precious opinions ever more tightly.

  9. maha  •  May 2, 2010 @3:17 pm

    You failed to link to the experts who said the device would never have exploded. But you can add the link now

    It’s in the New York Times story I linked to in the second paragraph above. So I don’t have to “add” the link, as it’s already there.

  10. J2  •  May 2, 2010 @4:20 pm

    Well, thanks for your response, Maha, but I read (twice) the NYT article you linked and I could find no reference to said ‘experts’ saying the device ‘never would have exploded’.

    So, you have failed to provide corroboration for your original claim, (nice try, tho, for those who won’t refer to the NYT story).

    Maha, please provide any and all quotes or references from the NYT’s article, linked in your OP second paragraph, which support your claim about the statements of ‘experts’.

    Reading comprehension test.

    Although, with your first-rate moderation ‘process’, I doubt you will be fair about it.

  11. biggerbox  •  May 2, 2010 @4:42 pm

    From the NYT article at the link above:

    Kevin B. Barry, a former supervisor in the New York Police Department bomb squad, said that if the device had functioned, “it would be more of an incendiary event” than an explosion.

    Do I get a prize? Maybe some chocolate?

    Perhaps the reason the Pakistani Taliban didn’t mention Viacom is that their real target was The Lion King. Or maybe Red Lobster. I have to admit, I’m pretty opposed to Red Lobster myself, though a bomb seems like an over-reaction.

    That’s the problem with setting off a bomb in midtown Manhattan; there’s too much stuff packed so close together that it’s too hard to send a clear message.

  12. maha  •  May 2, 2010 @4:55 pm

    I always suspect Red Lobster first. But the new New York Times building is right around the corner, too.

  13. biggerbox  •  May 2, 2010 @5:12 pm

    Hmm, perhaps we should suspect Anne Coulter.

    Just “joking”, of course.

  14. J2  •  May 2, 2010 @5:23 pm

    [Comment deleted for violating commenting rules. If you want to comment here, you have to say something substantive, not just drool on my website. -- maha

    Update: You were warned, dude. You have to actually say something here, not just hurl insults. -- maha]

  15. Bonnie  •  May 2, 2010 @7:39 pm

    “The SUV was indeed parked right next to the Viacom building”

    With that info I would guess it was someone who just got their most recent cable bill.

  16. Doug Hughes  •  May 2, 2010 @8:12 pm

    When I last stayed in NYC (quite a few years ago) I noticed parking was either expensive and reserved or it was a matter of hunting for a target spot that might be legal. If the bomb vehicle wasn’t illegally parked, then the location might have no significance. The only way I can think of to PLAN to park a bomb vehicle in a specific location is to use a second vehicle in advance to ‘reserve’ the target spot until the bomb is ready and then swap vehicles. Which makes the identity of the previous vehicle more significant than the one they planned to blow.

  17. maha  •  May 2, 2010 @8:15 pm

    Doug — good point. I hardly ever take my car into Manhattan for that very reason. I let Metro North worry about where they park their trains.

  18. erinyes  •  May 2, 2010 @8:35 pm

    Good one, Bonnie!

  19. Ordinary Jill  •  May 2, 2010 @9:10 pm

    I believe that the incendiary device they were referring to was the combination of propane tanks, gasoline cans and firecrackers. I think those statements were made before they knew much about the “gun locker” filled with a granular substance resembling fertilizer. It is possible that the incendiary device was meant to detonate a fertilizer bomb.

    It is still very possibly the work of a loan nut. The ingredients are readily available and require little sophistication to assemble. The fact that it set the car upholstery on fire before igniting the volatile compounds argues against expertise. The description of a “40-year-old white man” does not preclude an Islamist terrorist, but it really doesn’t point in that direction.

    For all we know, it was a South Park fan who was pissed at Viacom for censoring the controversial episodes.

  20. Doug Hughes  •  May 2, 2010 @10:24 pm

    More information is being released. The car was ‘stopped’ with the keys in and the engine running. It’s not EXACTLY clear but if the car was parked, it seems they would have turned it off and taken the keys. The ‘gun locker’ with fertilizer was not of a kind that would have exploded. The OKC bomb was a fertilizer bomb.

    Despite the lethal potential, the whole thing was a botched job. The wrong substance for a fertalizer bomb, leaving a vehicle in a manner certain to call attention to it. The good news is that perps that stupid probably left a trail as easy to follow as a pig in a bathtub. It will be intereting to see what their agenda was.

  21. uncledad  •  May 2, 2010 @10:32 pm

    CNN just spent 3 hours covering the story that they know absoulutley nothing about. Boy we sure love our fucking terrorist attacks in this country don’t we. You know in Chicago they made the decision twenty years or so ago to stop giving so much detailed coverage to gang shootings. In fact they hardly cover them at all, and when they do they never mention the gang names. The idea is that it only encourages the thugs to put their murder on the air. Isn’t that the only reason why some dimwit would plant a car bomb in Times Square, to get on the TeeVee? So what does it accomplish to provide endless coverage, coverage before anything is really even known. Whats the fucking point?

  22. Swami  •  May 2, 2010 @10:55 pm

    Maybe it was Colonel Mustard? Whoever the perp is they’ll have him in custody by the end of the week.

  23. maha  •  May 2, 2010 @11:12 pm

    Whoever the perp is they’ll have him in custody by the end of the week.

    I agree. If the guy left any forensic evidence at all, it’s just a matter of time.

  24. maha  •  May 2, 2010 @11:32 pm

    Well, thanks for your response, Maha, but I read (twice) the NYT article you linked and I could find no reference to said ‘experts’ saying the device ‘never would have exploded’.

    Someone else already called it out for you, but since I wrote the blog post this morning a whole lot more information has come out about the “bomb” that corroborates what I said and what the NYTimes article said. Here’s a rundown. The device might have caused a fire big enough to be dangerous, but not an explosion.

  25. justme277  •  May 3, 2010 @5:17 am

    When did we redefine terrorism to mean anything that makes a rightie piss their pants? I read a headline, from where I cannot recall because I read to much, that declared that a “town was terrorized ” by a group of what they believed to be youths with spray cans painting gang symbols on buildings ect….Really ? Terrorized??

    And let me say a word to whatever foot tapping rightie slithers in here.. Terrorism is a act that is meant to cause fear and panic in an otherwise rational group of human beings….THEY CAN THANK YOU FOR THEIR VICTORY!!!! Are you really to dense to see that? By giving them attention and your fear you give them a motive to carry on.You have become their monkey.I won’t give those mommy porkers a damn thing they want from me,,,they can kiss my tiny white ass. I don’t give a shit who these folks turn out to be I won’t dignify their petty actions by giving merit to them.
    For example I think the littleton school shooting was something the shooters hoped would make their names famous for decades…I won’t give them the satisfaction of remembering their names,,they and their act of terrorism have no power over me..I will remember a victim instead…Isaiah Schoels…RIP
    The folks who were responsible for OK city…they wanted their names and cause to be remembered,,,,BULLSHIT! They don’t get to decide. They are not worth remembering. Instead I will remember Carol Louise Bowers victim.RIP
    Terrorism will stop when YOU stop being terrorized. It’s a totally f’ed up world out there folks,,,all the shit that is going on in the world around you and a car bomb is what terrorizes you?? Well congrats! You are food for the terrorists soul.
    Rushing home leaving a trail of tinkle behind you to tell the world how effective the “terrorists” were at their job.Can’t you just fill out a comment card like everyone else? I am not going to live my life in fear of what could happen no matter where I go…even if I believe as righties say “That the terrorists want to come and cut off all of our heads in the middle of the night” what good would living in fear do to prevent that? If you are so afraid of everything I cannot imaging being in Times square where, frankly, anything can happen. On just my handful of visits there I have seen drugs, guns, whores ..I even saw a guy taking a piss..and while that seems like a harmless combo of folks it’s times square baby ! anything COULD happen….hell anything COULD happen here in oh- so- safe , nothing ever happens Iowa..No one is safe anyplace…GET OVER IT…Safe is a big fat lie..the tooth fairy is more real.

    And for a bunch of christians you sure are a frightened bunch.Don’t you trust God to protect you from these people who terrorize you and control your life with fear?For a bunch of folks who love God so much you sure are afraid of going to see him.I mean what is the worst thing this “terrorist” you imagine can do to you? Kill you? I am trying to understand what righties are so afraid of….it isn’t terrorists it is the actions they might take that will affect you and isn’t the bottom line of your fear death? I have only read the bible cover to cover once in my youth but I am pretty sure at some point God has made it clear you have nothing to fear. FAITH in God is suppose to rule your world not terrorism and fear.
    And to any two bit petty wanna be terrorist – The fact that Times square was FULL of people last night should put you on notice that you need to start looking for another line of work — MOST people are not crippled in fear of you or your actions.. everyday we know assholes like you are lurking but we go on about our lives anyhow without giving you the satisfaction of a second thought..YOU LOSE!
    If a terrorist falls in the forest and no one cares did the terrorist really fall?

    New York City is such a fine City. I know there is crime and danger there… it is part of a great big world full of crime and danger..That would never stop me from visiting .. and I don’t believe it will stop most rational people either no matter what the motive was.The kind of people who would let that type of fear control them would be hiding in their own basements from the youths terrorizing their town with spray cans and are afraid of their own town let alone big old New York City !

  26. s  •  May 3, 2010 @8:59 am

    I’ve heard a couple of times (radio and tv) they think it’s a middle aged white guy.
    It sounds like it is a home grown nut.

  27. maha  •  May 3, 2010 @11:12 am

    I’ve heard a couple of times (radio and tv) they think it’s a middle aged white guy.

    Let’s not speculate. I understand they’ve got surveillance video showing a middle-aged white guy running from the scene, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the perp. Maybe he was running to catch a bus.

  28. fshk  •  May 3, 2010 @12:10 pm

    Pam Geller notwithstanding, I think here’s also proof that people further removed from terrorism flip out about it more: I happened to be coming home from a trip out of town on Saturday night right when this was happening. I took a train into Penn Station, so I was, granted, not really near Times Square, but still, that’s only one stop away on the subway. I took the subway downtown, went to a party, and had no idea that anything had happened until several hours later when I got home to Brooklyn and my roommate said, “Huh, the Times is reporting that Times Square had to be evacuated because of a car bomb that didn’t go off.” And I thought, “Oh, that’s weird,” and then I went to bed. I mean, what do you even say to that? The bomb didn’t go off, the threat was apparently contained, some tourists who went to see a Broadway show have a good story now, so let’s move on. The NYPD did its job, yeah?

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