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Better terrorists

A very bad idea
  (+2, -4)
(+2, -4)
  [vote for,

Let's keep politics out of this and take a clean, surgical look at the effectiveness of terrorism. I don't think they do a very good job of it.

Flying an airplane into a building is, however impressive, not very effective otherwise. They could have done mych better. Fly a plane into the superbowl for instance, or into a bilderberg meeting.

Bigger bombs are possible but nothing new.

Cyberattacks have never amounted to much either.

So this is a new form of terrorism I propose not ever to be used:

In a major city of the enemy of the terrorists, say New York, it should be easy to hire a crackhead for 10 dollars and have him throw some nails on a busy road at rush hour. This can be done simultaniously on several strategic points and traffic grinds to a halt. This can be done in multiple cities, all at the same time, every day for a year or so.

People who do this can be natives who believe in the cause or just people who are greedy and don't care what they do for money. The people behind the scenes can remain safe to keep doing this over and over. Casualties would be minimised but there will be chaos and economic pressure throughout the land.

Same thing for cyberterrorism. It doesn't really pay to try to hack into large banks and destroy them, or the FBI, or the Defense department. They are to well protected. Instead, why not attack thousands of small businesses. Can be done remotely at low cost and causes uprising among the people.

In general this idea is for tiny acts of terrorism on such a scale that it becomes more than a nuisance.

Not ever to be baked. I just wonder why they all seem so stupid. They keep coming with their bombs and their planes when with a little creativeness, wait, the doorbell rings, someone in a black suit is here, I'll just go and see what they want, I'll be right back...

zeno, Jun 09 2011

Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" http://en.wikipedia...orlds_(radio_drama)
Arguably one of the most effective acts of terrorism ever. [DrBob, Jun 09 2011]


       The first fishbone is in and rightly so. By the way, I have similar ideas for countries. They just keep coming with their soldiers and guns, why not be creative? Or make peace of course. That would be best for all.
zeno, Jun 09 2011

       It has occured to me in the past that terrorists are either all completely stupid, not really trying, or (perish the thought) massively exaggerated in the media.   

       One should never make the mistake of underestimating one's opponent, so I would rule out the stupidity option.   

       The occasional massive event, such as aircraft / building collisons, illustrates that the ability exists, together with the will. So in at least some instances, they are really trying.   

       This leaves us with the possibility that terrorism occurs largely in the media.   

       If you want to be an effective terrorist, all you need to do is publish a lot of stories about bad things that might happen. More people are terrified by the possibility that it might happen to them than are directly affected by acts of random violence.
Twizz, Jun 09 2011

       baked: Micro$oft.
FlyingToaster, Jun 09 2011

       I've [+]'d the idea as it shows up the psychology of a terrorist. They're not interested in furthering their cause (who would be stupid enough to think that bombing Westerners would have a positive impact anywhere else?) they're not intersted in hurting Westerners (because as [zeno] rightly points out, there are much more effective and annoying ways of doing that) they're not very good at even terrorising anyone (ask yourself, exactly how terrified are you right now?)   

       So what does go on in the mind of a terrorist? Well the recorded phone conversations between the Mumbai attackers and their handlers, and the usual recorded video-blogs that get left behind (similar in many ways to the notes left behind by other mass-murderers who go on shooting-rampages in schools etc) both provide a common picture. What links all of these things is a need for acceptance, a desire for glory or fame, and a history or perception of being outside of the general system. It's basically teen-angst, writ large. And what kind of teenager wants to do the kind of mundane acts of annoyance outlined above? Too much like hard work. And the glory? Sure, if you were the one to strike a very public blow agaisnt the huge powerhouse of the West, and get idolised in private by degenerates in their bedsits, then there's a certain cult status (albeit a twisted one) in that - compare the status of a the same teenager who keyed all the cars down his road, and who threw drawing pins into the road and other acts of low-scale non-conformism. Maybe if you recorded yourself, wearing a headscarf shouting about how you were going to enact Mohamed's wrath by smashing all the windows in the local supermarket and put it on YouTube, you might get a few hits - maybe enough to become a little bit famous.   

       Which, if it is the desire for fame and to be noticed that is the driving force behind these crap terrorist actions - maybe we should do what we do best and commercialise it. If these terrorists are so desparate to get on TV, let's make a TV program for them to appear on in some kind of competition. At least it would get them off the streets.
zen_tom, Jun 09 2011

       //This leaves us with the possibility that terrorism occurs largely in the media.//

Well, that's a truism really, as terrorism, which is really just war on a small scale, would be largely ineffective without the magnifying force of media coverage.

Orson Welles did terrorism best, I think (linky).
DrBob, Jun 09 2011

       //ask yourself, exactly how terrified are you right now?//   

       I'm fairly terrified of what my government is going to do to *me* next, claiming they want to keep *me* safe from the terrorists.
lurch, Jun 09 2011

       Lurch has hit the nail squarely on the head.   

       Put yourself in the position of a government attempting to retain control of an increasingly mobile population with instant communications.   

       What you need to control them is a bogeyman. "We have to search you all, monitor your communications, track your vehicles etc. to protect you from the bogeyman."   

       It comes as no surprise that conspiracy theorists suggest that if the bogeyman that is terrorism did not exist, it would soon be created for the above purpose.
Twizz, Jun 09 2011

       //really just war on a small scale//   

       Actually, no.   

       I think it was Clausewitz who said that there are three ways to win a (conventional) war, which I paraphrase here: (1) destroy the enemy OR (2) destroy the supply systems needed to sustain the enemy in the field OR (3) destroy the will of the enemy to remain in the field. Doing any one of these completely will end the war.   

       Terrorism really only attempts number (3). Any physical destruction it may achieve is incidental to its psychological effect. Hence, it differs qualitatively from conventional war, not just quantitively. Any organisation making a serious attempt at outcomes (1) or (2) may be an insurgency, and/or may be nasty in all sorts of ways, but is not, in my definition, terrorist, because it doesn't rely exclusively on psychological effects.
pertinax, Jun 09 2011

       With 100,000 dollars a group could easily rent or steal some backhoes, rip out 50 power and data lines in 30 places, and cost the economy 20 billion dollars.
Voice, Jun 09 2011

       What [voice] said indeed. And above is established actually doing maxumum damage is not even the main target. That was very insightfull [zen-tom].
zeno, Jun 09 2011

       // Clausewitz //   

       But Sun Tzu wrote that the objective of all war is "to impose one's will upon one's enemy". If you can do that, you don't need to "destroy" anything, although destruction of something is normally the method adopted.   

       Terrorists are depressingly incompetent (which is perhaps fortunate) because they don't learn the lessons of history. If in need of an example, consider the actions of the FFI in 1944. With one catastrophic exception, they did not engage the enemy directly, but concentrated on sabotaging railways, bridges, roads and communications networks. The effect was out of all proportion to the numbers of individuals involved.   

       "Spectacular" attacks, such as those perpetrated by the PIRA, Al-Quaeda, ETA et al, generate publicity but have no significant impact on a modern representative democracy. However, such a society is critically vulnerable to carefully planned attacks on ifrastructure, which do not even need access to weapons or explosives. They rely instead on generating a high level of "embuggerance" (thankyou, Terry Pratchett) which quite soon has the law-abiding citizenry in an angry, upset and discontented state demanding that Something Should Be Done, and if the politicians can't deliver (which of course they can't) then the consequences are inevitable ...   

       Modern societies have thousands if not millions of kilometers of Hv power cables, gas pipes, water pipes, sewers, telephone lines, rail lines, bridges ... many are in rural areas. So, you're going to guard all 300 km of a railway line ? One man per kilometre, walking back and forth. Three shifts a day. 900 persons to be paid, uniformed, provided with radios, vehicles ... 365 days a year ... cover for holidays, maternity leave ... batteries for flashlights ...
8th of 7, Jun 09 2011

       And with those words a new era of effective revolutionarism is ushered in.   

       You've seen it first on halfbakery
zeno, Jun 09 2011

       And now a message from our sponsor:   

       "Freedom is irrelevant, self-determination is irrelevant. You must comply. We wish to improve ourselves. We will add your technological and biological distinctiveness to our own. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile".
8th of 7, Jun 09 2011

       //the usual recorded video-blogs that get left behind//   

       I presume, and sincerely hope, that there is a thriving industry which takes these video-blogs and edits them amusingly and childishly before releasing them to compete with the originals.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 09 2011

       What are the comparable statistics for "An inconvenient truth" ?
8th of 7, Jun 09 2011

       [pertinax]//I think it was Clausewitz who said that there are three ways to win a (conventional) war// If I recall correctly elsewhere in his opus, Clausewitz defined one single way of winning a war: to impose one's will on the enemy. Terrorism can have that goal; have you seen Pontevcorvo's _Battle of Algiers_ ?
mouseposture, Jun 09 2011

       <glares at [mp], drums fingers>   

       Besides, no-one ever, EVER 'wins' a war, since war is the definitive "negative sum game". The 'winner' is thus identified as being the participant that loses less badly…
8th of 7, Jun 10 2011

       Oops, sorry [8].
//war is the definitive "negative sum game// Has that been true in every historical period?
mouseposture, Jun 10 2011

       You have to differentiate between the macro economic outcome, and the consequential losses associated with individual military engagements (which may only last a few minutes, hours or days) which invariably involve a net non-recoverable expenditure of resources on both sides.
8th of 7, Jun 10 2011

       I have to assume that you believe no value was created by the British conquest of India, Australia, or North America, or at least none commesurate with the resources expended. I think that requires a broader definition of "value" than the merely economic.
mouseposture, Jun 10 2011

       Reading about the attempts to rebuild Iraq, it seems like exactly this sort of embuggerance is going on: pipes are built, they are blown up. Lines are strung, they are cut. I read about these things because they are offered as an explanation for why stuff still sucks so bad in Iraq.   

       I wonder if such efforts took place in the US if they would be interpreted as terror efforts or publicized as such. The group responsible would need to mark their acts in some way to make sure that the various bothersomenesses were recognized as similar, and the efforts of a group or movement.   

       If I were a bum and were offered $10 to throw nails I would accept, eat well with the $10, then turn the nails over to the cops and tell them what went on in hopes of being treated well by them later.
bungston, Jun 10 2011

       If you were a cop would you believe a bum with a handful of rusty nails that he's on a mission from Al-Quaeda?
rcarty, Jun 10 2011

       I think the point of things like crashing planes into skyscrapers is to express public disapproval rather than to achieve social change, so it needs to be spectacular rather than merely influential.
nineteenthly, Jun 10 2011

       Arn't terrorists like the villains in the morning cartoons I watched in the late 80's where saying "better" is an insult to them, but "worse" is a compliment. Title should be changed to "worse terrorists" to appease both terrorists and those with an unfavorable view of them.   

       An idea for better terrorists would be something like the Hells Angels childrens charity efforts.
rcarty, Jun 10 2011

       I think the word "terrorist" tends to suspend people's critical facilities and should probably be avoided. It's a bit like the word "bully" in that respect.
nineteenthly, Jun 10 2011

       //The group responsible would need to mark their acts in some way to make sure that the various bothersomenesses were recognized as similar, and the efforts of a group or movement//

Not necessarily, bung. If your intent was, for example, to ensure the downfall of one particular group/ideology without necessarily wanting to step up and offer yourself as the replacement, then recognition is not necessary. Just putting spanners continually in the works of the target is probably sufficient.

I think using 'terrorist' is OK because I think we are all clear about what we mean in this particular context, i.e. non-state entities who engage in acts of violence or subversion.

Also, I was a bit confused by pertinax's point about Clausewitz. Clausewitz offered three paths to achieving victory in war. Nowhere does he say you have to be trying for all three in order to qualify your efforts as a war, does he? The original meaning of the word from which 'war' developed was "to confuse, mix up". 'Terrorism' seems to qualify as war on that basis alone. Mind you, so does the annual tax return.
DrBob, Jun 10 2011

       //I was a bit confused by pertinax's point about Clausewitz//   

pertinax, Jun 10 2011

       All this nonsense should be settled the way they used to back in the old days. Just line everyone up, give them some blunt weaponry and tell them to sken the bastards. Army with the most men standing wins. WITH NO MORE DISCUSSION thank you very much.
theleopard, Jun 10 2011

       Baked - the street festivals in New York City are actually terrorist plots to grind traffic to a halt throughout the city.
phundug, Jun 10 2011

       // using 'terrorist' is OK because I think we are all clear about what we mean in this particular context, i.e. non-state entities who engage in acts of violence or subversion //   

       That's enough fuel right there for a massive row. There are people who talk about "state terrorism" for example. Also, subversion how? Street theatre?
nineteenthly, Jun 10 2011

       //An idea for better terrorists would be something like the Hells Angels childrens charity efforts.//   

       Erm, they do that in the UK, well not all of them are HA, just bikers and they collect for toys for kids. I got bored and wrote a short story of more inventive terrorism. Contained fictions's first death by irradiation from unravelling sticky tape in a vacuum. So there!
not_morrison_rm, Jun 12 2011

       "Asymmetric Warfare" is by no means a new development. It's been around just as long as conventional conficts.   

       You're back to the FFI, the Soviet and Yugoslav Partisans of WW2. They operated in ways coordinated with conventional forces to give force multiplication. Huge amounts of manpower can be tied up just guarding stuff, and a soldier guarding a water pipe, or engaged on yet another search of local woodland, is a soldier not in the front line actually fighting.   

       The FFI injected carborundum paste into the axle boxes of railway trucks, and disabled them, requiring slow and costly repair. They sawed through telegraph poles, bringing down phone lines; they threw caltrops on roads, puncturing the tyres of military vehicles.   

       They did not need to seek publicity for their actions.   

       Where the attackers are citizens of the State they are attacking, they become even harder to identify and stop, as long as they are disciplined and professional in their approach. Most" terrorists" are caught because they are amateurish and let theirr ideals and enthusiasm overrule the neeed for patience, stealth, and above all silence and good security. The ideal number of individuals in a conspiracy is one.   

       Note the disruption that can be caused in a city merely by cutting through one railway signalling cable. Even with modern forensic techniques, it is very difficult to identify the perpetrators, as long as they DON'T steal the cable but just cut it at two points some distance apart. A few dozen individuals acting in concert could effectively disrupt the UK rail network for months, with very little risk of being caught. Consider London intermittently losing the bulk of its rail services with, and this is the important thing, no warning- if there is an announced dispute, commuters can make other arrangements. The same with telephony and data.   

       We assert that the concept expressed in the idea is in fact thoroughly Baked and Widely Known To Exist.
8th of 7, Jun 12 2011

       I wonder if stealth would preclude a reply to that anno. Also, wasn't the acid bath murderer caught because he bragged about being undetectable?
nineteenthly, Jun 12 2011

       Yes, it would. Haigh ? Yes, it's posssible. He was convicted because a plastic handbag and some false teeth were not dissolved by the acid.
8th of 7, Jun 12 2011

       Convicted because they were found but i don't know if he raised suspicions by mouthing off about it. The point being that to be effective, it would probably help not to have an ego which needs bolstering.
nineteenthly, Jun 12 2011

       What an amazing coincidence. That's one of the personality traits that professional intelligence and Special Ops organisations screen out during the recruitment process.   

       During WW2, while being trained, potential recruits for SOE would be accosted in social situations and polite and gentle attempts made to get them to talk about who they were and what they did. Those who let on that they were engaged in "secret work" were booted off the course.
8th of 7, Jun 12 2011

       //Consider London intermittently losing the bulk of its rail services//   

       Erm, it does that anyway, one way or another...he said having had one train journey disrupted by someone driving into the gas mains next to the track and another one where some bugger stole the signal cable around Didcot. The problem is how to tell if it's terrorism...
not_morrison_rm, Jun 13 2011

       // Let's keep politics out of this and take a clean, surgical look at the effectiveness of terrorism. //   

       Seems to me that terrorism is politics by other means, just like war. Removing the mouthpiece from it for stealth reasons simply turns it into mass vandalism.
RayfordSteele, Jun 13 2011

       //mass vandalism// - very like a social friction, a drag, causing a difficulty to whatever's happening.   

       If Certain Powers are trying to push a society in a Certain Direction, 'stopping' can be pretty effective.   

       If you're society isn't headed toward any notable destination, 'stopping' is meaningless - other than as, like you say, //mass vandalism//.
lurch, Jun 13 2011

       What if "your society" is going to Hell in a handcart ?
8th of 7, Jun 13 2011

       The day the planes stood still, they took an ad-hoc measurement of the environmental effect of grounding the whole US fleet; turns out 911 was a good day for measureably cleaner air, unless you were in NY.
RayfordSteele, Jun 13 2011

       [ of ], the problem for someone pursuing an end in a more freelance situation would therefore be the absence of such a screening process, unless they were already like that.
nineteenthly, Jun 13 2011

       /If you were a cop would you believe a bum with a handful of rusty nails that he's on a mission from Al-Quaeda?/   

       Good point. I would show the cop the $10 to bolster my plausibility. _Then_ eat well, unless he took the $10.
bungston, Jun 13 2011


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