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NYTimes Blogger: Let's Play Terrorist!
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This blog post soliciting terrorism attack ideas by best-selling author/economist Steven Levitt at the NYTimes yesterday has caused quite a stir:


Inspired by an article about TSA restrictions, Levitt muses about terror plot possibilities: “Hearing about these rules got me thinking about what I would do to maximize terror if I were a terrorist with limited resources. I’d start by thinking about what really inspires fear. One thing that scares people is the thought that they could be a victim of an attack. With that in mind, I’d want to do something that everybody thinks might be directed at them, even if the individual probability of harm is very low. Humans tend to overestimate small probabilities, so the fear generated by an act of terrorism is greatly disproportionate to the actual risk…”

It goes on and on. You get the sense that conjuring up ways to kill Americans on American soil is really tickling Leavitt’s neurons. Gee, what a fun academic parlor exercise this is! Finally, he concludes: “My general view of the world is that simpler is better. My guess is that this thinking applies to terrorism as well. In that spirit, the best terrorist plan I have heard is one that my father thought up after the D.C. snipers created havoc in 2002. The basic idea is to arm 20 terrorists with rifles and cars, and arrange to have them begin shooting randomly at pre-set times all across the country. Big cities, little cities, suburbs, etc. Have them move around a lot. No one will know when and where the next attack will be.”

Putting on a public service posture, Levitt throws open a contest–he’s just being helpful, of course–to his commenters:

I’m sure many readers have far better ideas. I would love to hear them. Consider that posting them could be a form of public service: I presume that a lot more folks who oppose and fight terror read this blog than actual terrorists. So by getting these ideas out in the open, it gives terror fighters a chance to consider and plan for these scenarios before they occur.

The NYPost excoriates Leavitt in its lead editorial today:

Now, real terrorists probably don’t troll the Times for inspiration – though you never can tell. But, at the same time, America doesn’t lack for well-armed terrorist wannabes – to say nothing of plain old nut-cases looking to get their names in the Paper of Record.

Levitt probably is a smart guy – certainly “Freakonomics” is a smart book – but you couldn’t tell it from yesterday’s blogging.

That the Times indulged his pretentious nonsense is unconscionable.

I’m less concerned that terrorists will get ideas from the Freakonomics author’s blog than I am about the message Levitt’s flippancy sends.

We are at war. Leave counterterrorism planning and analysis to the experts who have dedicated their lives to preventing another jihadi mass murder.

This is not a freaking intellectual game.


If you are a survivor of a terrorist attack or relative, friend, or co-worker of someone injured or killed in a terrorist attack, how would you respond to Levitt? E-mail me ( or leave a comment.

Consider it a form of public service. Sensitivity training for the NYTimes.


Reader M.S.:

I respect your question, but frankly what difference will the answer make to the New York Times? Regardless of the consequences, they have chosen defeat in the war on terrorism and defeat in Iraq because, at least in their view, it gives some liberal Democrat a shot at the White House. I am not a relative of those lost in the 9/11 attacks, but I am personally, intimately, and permanently involved in the war. I returned from Iraq seven months ago after suffering injuries at the hands of those emboldened by American publications such as the New York Times.

A better question is: Why is it now taboo to question the patriotism and loyalty of our fellow citizens when their actions are an obvious boon to the enemy? Or: When do people like Mr. Levitt begin to grasp the consequences wrested from their 15 minutes of fame?

I will live, enjoy the comforts of family and life, but some of my friends and many, many Iraqis who have placed their futures and lives in our hands will not.

Your question to the friends and relatives of the deceased is, “How does this make you feel?” A better question is, “Why is this still happening?”


AllahPundit gives it to Levitt like only AllahPundit can:

You’re conducting a thought experiment, dude, mostly for sh*ts and giggles; it’s not a crime, but if you’re going to do it, own it. If he was that concerned about the public interest, he’d have asked readers to e-mail him their suggestions and forwarded the lot of them to DHS.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Ideology • Tags: New York Times