Random Stupidity in the Name of Terrorism

An air traveler in Canada is first told by an airline employee that it is “illegal” to say certain words, and then that if she raised a fuss she would be falsely accused:

When we boarded a little later, I asked for the ninny’s name. He refused and hissed, “If you make a scene, I’ll call the pilot and you won’t be flying tonight.”

More on the British war on photographers.

A British man is forced to give up his hobby of photographing buses due to harrassment.

The credit controller, from Gloucester, says he now suffers “appalling” abuse from the authorities and public who doubt his motives.

The bus-spotter, officially known as an omnibologist, said: “Since the 9/11 attacks there has been a crackdown.

“The past two years have absolutely been the worst. I have had the most appalling abuse from the public, drivers and police over-exercising their authority.

Mr McCaffery, who is married, added: “We just want to enjoy our hobby without harassment.

“I can deal with the fact someone might think I’m a terrorist, but when they start saying you’re a paedophile it really hurts.”

Is everything illegal and damaging now terrorism?

Israeli authorities are investigating why a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem rammed his bulldozer into several cars and buses Wednesday, killing three people before Israeli police shot him dead.

Israeli authorities are labeling it a terrorist attack, although they say there is no clear motive and the man—a construction worker—acted alone. It is not known if he had links to any terrorist organization.

New Jersey public school locked down after someone saw a ninja:

Turns out the ninja was actually a camp counselor dressed in black karate garb and carrying a plastic sword.

Police tell the Asbury Park Press the man was late to a costume-themed day at a nearby middle school.

And finally, not terrorism-related but a fine newspaper headline: “Giraffe helps camels, zebras escape from circus“:

Amsterdam police say 15 camels, two zebras and an undetermined number of llamas and potbellied swine briefly escaped from a traveling Dutch circus after a giraffe kicked a hole in their cage.

Are llamas really that hard to count?

EDITED TO ADD (7/2): Errors fixed.

Posted on July 3, 2008 at 12:57 PM77 Comments


Anonymous July 3, 2008 1:20 PM

@Bruce: “Are llamas really that hard to count?”

Perhaps some of them were pushmi-pullyus.

mgc July 3, 2008 1:46 PM

FYI, Christie Blatchford (the Globe writer in your first item) is a woman.

Separately, her commentary is interesting from her comments on the current terrorist trials here in Canada. Her comment where she and her fellow journalist “shared frustration with those who persist in believing that youthful goofiness or general haplessness are incompatible with terrorist aims and missions” was interesting.

Leo July 3, 2008 1:53 PM

True story – just happened two weeks ago as my family and I were traveling back from London. It was about 5:15 AM on a Sunday morning. By this time, Heathrow is very busy – people and luggage everywhere. We were standing in line for the security check, which was thankfully, not so busy, when we noticed a lady ahead of us crawling around on the floor. You could see the same expression on everyone’s face –

“What is she doing?”, “What did she lose?”, “I hope she hurries up so we can get through this fast”.

Then, as those thoughts were processing, and as we all looked around for more clues as to why she was crawling around, each of us saw what she had placed in one of the bins – her prosthetic leg. The security folk weren’t about to take any chances with an alleged leg so she was going to crawl through the screening device because she couldn’t walk! As absolutely shaken as all of us were, the lady doing the crawling looked unphased. Clearly she had done this before and was quite ready to crawl upon demand.

I am not at all sure what this was supposed to prevent – though I guess the artificial limb could’ve housed explosive devices…

mwb July 3, 2008 2:06 PM

“Boston public school…”

Um, no. While it is a Boston newspaper reporting that at the link, it is school in New Jersey they are talking about, if you actually read the link.

Beta July 3, 2008 2:07 PM

“Boston public school locked down after someone saw a ninja”

Oh great, this was probably a probing attack. Now the Nobutaka clan will be able to run riot all over Boston and the police will take no notice.

Nick Lancaster July 3, 2008 2:22 PM

Shouldn’t the fact that you SAW a ninja suggest that it’s NOT a ninja? (For that matter, unless the reporter is aware of an actual ninja ryu in the midst of Jersey, it should be ‘… someone saw an unidentified person dressed like a ninja.’)

Someone’s been watching too many bad martial arts films.

bob July 3, 2008 2:26 PM

Why, when there is a person about whom suspicions exist in the vicinity of a school, do they lock the potential victims in place to insure maximum carnage when he does run amok? It isn’t like the teachers are allowed to have guns to defend their students with.

Why does the UK administration have a camera covering every square inch of the country, yet get upset when the locals want to have them as well?

Colin Young July 3, 2008 2:30 PM

I believe the ninja incident was New Jersey, not Boston, although given the ridicule Boston has opened itself up for recently, I can see how you could make that mistake.

Matthew Carrick July 3, 2008 2:32 PM

Damn. Of all the people I might suppose would confront a “ninny” it would have been Christie Blatchford . . . well, and Rosie DiManno.

Petréa Mitchell July 3, 2008 2:36 PM

“Shouldn’t the fact that you SAW a ninja suggest that it’s NOT a ninja?”

For that matter, if you’re being stalked by a proper ninja, shouldn’t the lockdown be useless anyway?

Yonatan Zunger July 3, 2008 2:42 PM

Are llamas really that hard to count?

cf. Borges’ “Argumentum Ornithologicum,” from Dreamtigers:

“I close my eyes and see a flock of birds. The vision lasts a second or perhaps less; I am not sure how many birds I saw. Was the number of birds definite or indefinite? The problem involves the existence of God. If God exists, the number is definite, because God knows how many birds I saw. If God does not exist, the number is indefinite, because no one can have counted. In this case I saw fewer than ten birds (let us say) and more than one, but did not see nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three or two birds. I saw a number between ten and one, which was not nine , eight, seven, six, five, etc. That integer – not-nine, not-eight, not-seven, not-six, not-five, etc. – is inconceivable. Ergo, God exists.”

Potentially the same effect may affect llamas. Experiments may be needed.

sooth_sayer July 3, 2008 2:54 PM

@ “Are llamas really that hard to count?”

They had same color robes on

Carnadine July 3, 2008 3:05 PM

Re the Jerusalem bulldozer story:

Usually when someone tries to kill large amounts of people while shouting “God is great” (according to a Haaretz quote) people naturally assume that terrorism had something to do with it.

What’s truly disgusting about this incident is how the government is going after the man’s family – demanding that their house be demolished, that they be deported and their social benefits revoked.

Clive Robinson July 3, 2008 3:09 PM

@ Bruce,

You mentioned a silly news head line. Well how about,

“White man was racist towards white men”

(London METRO 3/7/08 page 9).

Apparantly a man “abused three security guards” by calling them “honky wannabe cops” when they tried to stop him stealing a bicycle from outside “The Oracle” shopping center in Reading England.

Now guess what he is being prosecuted for “attempted theaft of a bicycle” or “racially abusing” the security guards?

Yup racial abuse, what is this world comming to…

Cynical 1 July 3, 2008 3:12 PM

It isn’t like the teachers are allowed to have guns to defend their students with.

Now there’s an idea! Just like the pilots on planes, maybe the Bush administration can come up with a program that will allow teachers to gets guns to protect their classrooms! Ugh.

Tesla July 3, 2008 3:26 PM

It has always struck me as odd that the correct plural of “bus” is “buses.”

As I understand it, “busses” are kisses, smooches, snogs.

have u gone mad July 3, 2008 3:36 PM

Hi Bruce,
Dont you think you went overboard? grouping the killing with the civil-right cases doesnt sound very logical.

let me ask you all: what is a terrorist act? isnt an attack done by a person belonging to one ethnic group against people of another, in a charged situation that could deteriorate because of it, a terrorist act? is membership of a known terrorist group a requirement for your acts to be able to perform a terrorist attack?

I concede there is a possibility that he did it because his had a headache and he thought it would cure it. But do you really believe it was the motive?

I probably should add that I am from Israel and am probably biased. still I think my arguments stand (hopefully the language barrier didn’t cause what I tried to say to become unclear).

while I half the reason I read what you write is because of the civil rights posts I find this post at the very least distasteful.

p.s – I would appreciate a reply from you. I am really interested to hear what you will say.

p.s 2 – the Hamas takes care of the families of dead terrorists, even ones that didn’t belong to it in the first place and just acted on their own – a sort of life insurance. consider this as a motive to do one…

Have YOU gone mad? July 3, 2008 3:51 PM

@have u gone mad

If Hamas is taking care of the families of dead terrorists, and if that is the case here, what does demolishing the man’s house and taking away his family’s benefits gain? If they are receiving benefits from Hamas then they still will, if they are not then you just ruined a family for no good reason.

Why not just kill the family? That would send a message to people that might martyr themselves for their family’s benefit. If you’re going to persecute people for no fault of their own, but for simply being related to the wrong person, it’s not like this is a big logical leap. In fact, why not find everyone related to the perpetrator (well, limit it to 2 generations to be reasonable) and make them wear marks for the rest of their lives, prohibiting them from being a part of society. That’ll show ’em.

Sol July 3, 2008 4:12 PM

I don’t understand why photography enthusiasts don’t turn to concealed cameras.

TS July 3, 2008 4:15 PM

Didn’t we discuss “terroristic threats” before? At least in the US, laws have been on the books since the 70’s that define “terroristic” activities, possibly as a result of activities by the SLA and the Unibomber? Sure the SLA was a terrorist group, but Kaczynski worked alone.

have u gone mad July 3, 2008 4:24 PM

@Have YOU gone mad?
I can’t answer about the policy the Israeli government chooses employ. I merely added the last p.s. to my previous post as a possible motive example. while I disagree with the method my government chooses to employ I can still ask you: who should pay this family benefits? the state of Israel or the Hamas?

I don’t think your statements about the conduct of the state of Israel have anything to do with what I wrote about the inappropriateness of Bruce’s post on this subject.

I am still tempted to answer your last “that’ll show em” – why not just go ahead and use the military power that Israel HAS (planes, tanks, missiles, etc..) to wipe out the entire Palestinian population? that’ll really show them. I cant say how silly it sounds to me…

TS July 3, 2008 4:25 PM

It’s not that llamas are hard to count by themselves. But in this case, the llamas were pretending to be potbellied pigs and vice versa, which is why the authorities had difficulties counting them.

Cameraman July 3, 2008 4:54 PM

Why have you lumped the suicide bulldozer driver in with the war on photographers? Taking pictures of busses= not terrorism. Joking about bombs in an airport= not terrorism. Killing as many people as possible to make a poolitical point= the textbook definition of terrorism.

I think you need to retract this one.

matt July 3, 2008 5:02 PM

“I can still ask you: who should pay this family benefits? the state of Israel or the Hamas? ”

Yeah nice dodge of the main issue. They are knocking down the familiy home.

SumDumGuy July 3, 2008 5:08 PM

What part of, “although they say there is no clear motive” qualifies as terrorism?

And why do you call him “suicide bulldozer driver” – he was not killed by the bulldozer. In fact, it sounds like the perfect case for the use of a tazer since he was killed by the man who climbed into cockpit and presumably shot him in an attempt to subdue.

antaresting July 3, 2008 5:22 PM

profound disorder in the collective unconsciousness brought on by eight years of exposure to the Bush-Cheney microbe

SumDumGuy July 3, 2008 5:27 PM


What’s really ironic about her complaint is that her particular brand of fear mongering is the kind most directly responsible for the treatment she received.

She has reaped what she did sow but hasn’t quite got enough empathy to realize that encouraging people to flip out over poorly correlated events means that she could find herself the object of someone else flipping out over a different set of poorly correlated events.

Cameraman July 3, 2008 5:28 PM

@ sumdumguy:

Exactly how dum a guy do you have to be to not get the joke? Suicide bomber= suicide bulldozer driver.

Also, precisely how naive do you have to be to actually believe that there is no clear motive?

Davi Ottenheimer July 3, 2008 5:31 PM

Ok, where does the term omnibologist come from?

The “omni” and “ologist” are a plausible start but the “b” in between doesn’t make sense. Anyone know the etymology of this “official” word?

My guess is that it is actually just a pun based on the Omnibus name.


Makes me wonder what you would call someone who can count llamas. Llamologist?

What about the term for a ninja-spotter? Ninjologist?

Davi Ottenheimer July 3, 2008 5:40 PM

The bulldozer incident reminds me of the tragedy of US Army veteran Shawn Nelson.

Some may remember when he stole a tank and went on a rampage in San Diego in 1995


He reportedly said the Oklahoma bombing was “good stuff” the week before the incident, but as far as I can tell he was never called a terrorist.

SumDumGuy July 3, 2008 5:51 PM

Also, precisely how naive do you have to be to actually believe that there is no clear motive?

Precisely how naive do you have to be to see every event through terrorism-tinted glasses? Your rush to assumption says far more about your state of mind than it does about the state of mind of the bulldozer driver.

Josh O. July 3, 2008 5:56 PM

If the bulldozer guy wasn’t a terrorist, then it seems like he should have killed some non Jews. Did he? were there any around?

Even if it turn out he was a raving lunatic, that doesn’t rule out it being terrorism. Some times, ideas like hatred of another group people are just the thing to push an insane person over the edge.

Nick S. July 3, 2008 6:09 PM

I’m at JAX right now waiting for a flight out. There’s a sign in the security checkpoint that says making threats or jokes about bombs is grounds for criminal prosecution. Threats I understand, but jokes?

Pisses me off.

have u gone mad July 3, 2008 6:16 PM

what dodge? I declined to answer this because it has nothing to do with what I said. What am I? an official representative of the Israeli government? do you answer to questions about why the US government bombed a hospital in Afghanistan or a wedding there? (assuming you are a US citizen if not pick an atrocity done by your government and replace the last question). do you agree with all your government policies & actions? I don’t.
however, I’m sure that anyone that gave it a two seconds thought can realize what the idiots that made this policy where thinking.
Oh, wait, I have an idea! maybe you are trying to say it is legitimate to KILL people from a certain country because their government takes action that destroys PROPERTY of the people killing their citizens? go look for some parallels in your government’s actions, I’m sure that whatever government you have it did similar acts.
I would like to repeat that I personally disagree with the policy of destroying the family house. I am just trying to draw attention to the fact that you are the one dodging the main issue, Murder, to focus on Property loss.

Ed Hurst July 3, 2008 6:31 PM

The real tragedy is those folks don’t know what a bulldozer is: tracked vehicle with a fixed blade on arms which swivel just a bit. That thing, from photos, looked like an articulated front loader. 😉

Anonymous July 3, 2008 6:31 PM

If the bulldozer guy wasn’t a terrorist, then it seems like he should have killed some non Jews. Did he? were there any around?

He only killed 3 people. It seems very unlikely that he would even be able to tell the difference seated within a bulldozer. Its just about impossible to tell the difference by looking unless someone is wearing some sort of traditional clothing.

Even if it turn out he was a raving lunatic, that doesn’t rule out it being terrorism.

But it does not rule it in either. To make that assumption on the paucity of information we have so far nothing more than a display of bias.

SteveJ July 3, 2008 6:43 PM

@Josh O.

Being crazy doesn’t rule out terrorism, but killing Jews because he hated them (if that’s what he did – I have no way to know) doesn’t definitively constitute terrorism either.

Not all racist killers are terrorists: maybe just as bad as terrorists, but not quite the same thing. I think some information about his motives is needed in order to draw any conclusion — was he hoping by his actions to exacerbate the state of fear in the general populace? Maybe so, maybe he wasn’t – maybe he just wanted to kill and didn’t care about the consequences. We may never know.

Clive Robinson July 3, 2008 6:59 PM

@ have u gone mad,

“let me ask you all: what is a terrorist act? isnt an attack done by a person belonging to one ethnic group against people of another,”

No, ethnicity does not have to have anything to do with terrorist atacks. In the U.K. for many many years there was terrorist activity in the north of Ireland where it was Irish Catholics against Irish Protestants.

I would say a terorist is one who seeks to impose their political view or will on others by acts designed to cause fear and terror.

Often this is because they feel that there is no other way to obtain their political objective. Therefore it could be argued that terrorist acts are rational acts (as oposed to irational acts of say a “mad man”).

If you remove the excuse of being a member of a nations armed forces and the attendent “acting under orders” excuse then deliberate military action against civilians are also acts of terror and therefor terrorist acts mandated by those giving the orders.

From that it becomes easy to argue that there were and still are jews that have and contin to commit terorist acts against the decendants of those who were living in the middle east prior to the second world war.

Also that they commited terrorist acts against the troops of another nation (UK) sent into the area to do peace keeping activities after the end of formal hostilities.

Some of these “jewish terrorists” went on to become politicians in the artificialy created state of Israel.

Just because they acheived their political aims at the expense of the lives, lands and freedom of others does this somehow legitamise their actions so that they should no longer be called terrorists?

If not then the state of Israel born of terrorist activity created from the land of others and whos imported population and their decedants who continue to practice terrorist acts must make it a terrorist nation, yes or no?

Further it would be of interest to hear your views on the behaviour of the state of Israel that has made it clear in the past that the “ethenic clensing” of the Palestinian people is desirable but when the same logic is applied to them by the elected leader of another nation, Israel carry out “terror” activities and call them war games.

The real question is how does it feel to have your view point questioned in this way?

It needs to be remembered that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, likewise one man’s hero is another man’s criminal, it is simply a matter of view point and the language you chose to use to evoke emotions in others.

It may never be clear if the man driving the bulldozer was rational or irational or what his intentions where unless he left behind some message to make it clear. Even if a message was left, he may well have been behaving in the same way as people who take guns into schools / workplaces and kill for revenge or other personal reasons.

Does it make any difference to those who have lost loved ones if it was the act of a “terrorist” or a “mad man” is it going to make their loss any less?

The “eye for an eye” view point just gives rise to an escalating cycle of hate and revenge which only gives rise to more loss of loved ones. And the cycle is usuall only broken (as seen in N.I.) when all become so sickened by the senslessness of it all and a few brave souls dare to stand up and strip away the rethoric and say what it realy is and refuse to be shouted down by those with vested interests.

Davi Ottenheimer July 3, 2008 7:22 PM

“artificialy created state of Israel”

oh, as opposed to all those naturally created states?

which of the 195 states in the world (194, if you ask the US state department, 192 if you ask the UN) have not been created “artificially”?

“Some of these “jewish terrorists” went on to become politicians”

if your point is to be dramatic, me’thinks the fifty-six americans who signed the declaration of independence from britain are a better example.

clvrmnky July 3, 2008 7:29 PM

I have a hard time believing the details of Blatchford’s side of this particular story. She has a knack for getting up noses mostly because she has such a poor ability to write accurately about the things she sees around her. For example, notice how she can’t just bitch about arbitrary abuses of imaginary power; she has to take just one more unrelated dig at the CBC, for what reason we will never know.

She swings often and she swings wildly, and woe betide you if you ask her to stop flailing around for a moment.

In a nutshell, she’s a blowhard. I can imagine her sitting in the airport lounge, mobile pasted to her head as she loudly sounds off about things she barely takes the time to understand. Yeah, I’d be pissed, too.

It sucks that we have culture of fear but, honestly, I just want to get home, too. And situations like this always end up spiralling out of control. I’m picturing a bunch of polite Canadians edging away as her gesticulations get wilder and wilder.

I’ll never understand why the Globe hired her away from the Sun. Her opinion columns are embarrassing examples of smug Canadian snobbery dressed up as conservatism. Real conservatives see through the fakery in a second.

So, take anything this woman says with a grain of salt. She is the winner of the molehills-to-mountains award too many times to mention.

moo July 3, 2008 7:35 PM


Concealed cameras are not good for taking quality pictures. Photographers have real cameras, that take quality pictures, but need real (large) lenses and stuff to do it. Not very concealable.

The people who are going to use concealable cameras to take pictures of things are either criminals, terrorists (ha ha) or… ordinary citizens/tourists who are now afraid of getting hassled by would-be authority figures as they take a souvenir photo of the hotel they stayed in, or something. But if it wasn’t for this silly war on photographers, nobody would need to use concealable cameras except, well, spies and PIs and other bad guys!

Andrew July 3, 2008 7:56 PM

The reason schools do lockdowns is to keep the kids from running around in a panic because they realize what any adult knows already: the school administration does not have control of the situation and is biased towards keeping their charges in easy-to-kill classroom family packs instead of admitting it.

Every other institution I know except prisons uses a shelter in place, barricade or “hit the deck!” security emergency plan. But no, not schools. Order over safety, or are students the threat?

As for our Palestinian equipment madman, please recall that we have had several of these in the US (civilian and military.). It is not surprising when a crazy act is labeled terrorist in the effort to use the tragedy to make a political point.

As for targeting the families of terrorists, Israel’s on to something. Exile to South America was good enough for some of the Nazis …

bzelbob July 3, 2008 8:02 PM

“Is everything illegal and damaging now terrorism?”


Because terrorism is the stepping stone to control, and desperate, insecure people look for someone to exercise control to take away their fear.

All the more reason to ‘refuse to be terrorized’ by those who would use the fear of terrorism to their advantage.

Frances July 3, 2008 10:28 PM

@ Davi Ottenheimer – are you saying that the signers of the Declaration of Independence were terrorists? Rebels, certainly, and to the British, possibly traitors, but terrorists?

@clvrmnky – I don’t see anything about the CBC in that G&M story by Christie Blachford. And I read her stories all the time and have trouble recognizing her in your comments. Why do you have trouble believing the details, they seem straightforward enough to me.

off July 3, 2008 11:07 PM

People are still out there doing nice things for other people, which makes life easier. Like Sinatra said, you gotta love living because dying is a pain in the ass.

2True July 4, 2008 12:18 AM

The power of a leader to set the future is amazing. ‘You and the land are one.’
In 1999, perhaps not many would believe where we are today, and the power of bad laws coupled with insurgency mindsets.
Then again, all this is entirely predicatable with horrifying precision…
Good title, however, I think all this boils down to control. The frog is stuck in the pot now. Look up how to boil a frog, for those who do not know the saying.
Keep up the good blog Bruce, perhaps some nimrods will finally get it.
Then again, I think not. History requires good men to ACT and work the change elements during trying times.

Gabriel July 4, 2008 2:17 AM

I don’t understand why Bruce says the bulldozer incident is not a terror attack.

Is a terror attack only when you use a bomb? What if the guy was a little “original”, and used something unconventional, like a bulldozer, instead? Then it doesn’t count?

Nomen Publicus July 4, 2008 2:29 AM

@Gabriel: It’s probably because the media (and government) has ruined the meaning of terrorist by assuming certain motives. Being in a car with a bulldozer approaching will certainly cause a certain amount of terror for the person in the car, but the act is not necessarily “terrorism” – it may just be a criminal or insane act.

Motives count, but as the guy is now dead, we ay never know the motive.

The fact that others have “claimed” him to their cause is useless as to motive as this occurs every time some crazy act hits the headlines.

WarLord July 4, 2008 3:01 AM


The llamas suffering stockholm syndrom were attempting to conceal the terrorist criminal giraffe leading to the numeric confusion. Luckily the pot bellied pigs ratted out the giraffe before he could escape among the camels…

At least thats how it is [url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtlUuQw986Q]At The Zoo[/url]

Enjoy the journey


文鳥 July 4, 2008 3:15 AM

@考试中国: It’s nice to hear that you are for peace and against war, but shouldn’t you have said so in English?

Gabriel July 4, 2008 3:33 AM

The motive in the bulldozer attack is quite transparent, given the circumstances. His intention was obviously killing Jews at random. Israel has suffered countless previous suicide attacks of this sort.

There is no need to invoke him from the dead and ask him what his motive was.

The only difference now is that the guy was more “original”, and used a bulldozer, instead of a bomb or something more “standard”.

Hagbard_C July 4, 2008 3:35 AM

@Frances ‘are you saying that the signers of the Declaration of Independence were terrorists? Rebels, certainly, and to the British, possibly traitors, but terrorists?’

Why not? If you are fighting some upstart rebels in one of your colonies you use every word in the dictionary to make sure your troops know not to give quarter to the ‘evildoers’, wouldn’t you? Then again, I’m not entirely sure if the terrorist word was allready part of the language back then.

Oh and just to drop my ‘vote’ in, if the guy on the bulldozer was a terrorist he was a pretty lousy one. If you are going to terrorize people, you should at least take care that people know what they should be terrorized into doing. As this guy just started driving, we will never have a clue. Considering there is plenty of terrorism experience in that part of the world, I’ll go with the guess that the proper term here should be ‘suicide by cop’.

André July 4, 2008 3:55 AM

I may have written this before (and am quite aware, that due to the time delay between the posting of this article and me being able to read and comment it, there again will only be few readers to read it). But it seems still strange to me, that people with English as their mothertongue do still use the word “terrorism” to describe such happenings and by that implying some kind of (warfare-)strategy in these happenings.

Because as far as I understand this word, it just means “the being afraid of”, which then means, that of course everything can be terrorism if the “target” decides to be afraid of it. That is, if the “target” decides to be afraid of apples, then someone selling apples deliberately can be called a terrorist.

And if we stop being afraid of these things, then terrorists turn into what they really are: criminals or just mad or even ill people (or in the case above: fruit-sellers). And may I ask a question: What’s the difference between a mad guy taking a gun to work and shooting everyone in his way because he had been fired, a mad guy blowing himself up in a mall “for god” and a mad guy running amok in a bulldozer (not quite the weapon I think I would have chosen though)? Is one of them a “better” mad guy? I don’t think so: they are all mad guys harming others for some more or less strange reason (not necessarily of their own) and nothing else. No need to make more of them by calling them names.

And to the reaction of the israelian police: if they had the time to climb the bulldozer and shoot the driver from a few centimetres’ distance (as I saw it on BBC last night), why weren’t they able just to stop the vehicle and take him away to prison, for example with the help of tasers, as another commenter already supposed? Now we will NEVER know for sure, if there just had been an error with the machine and he had just all the time tried to make it stop, or if he really was the mad guy they are now selling us.

Greetings from Germany

Colossal Squid July 4, 2008 4:29 AM

@Frances ‘are you saying that the signers of the Declaration of Independence were terrorists? Rebels, certainly, and to the British, possibly traitors, but terrorists?’

From the Compact OED:
• noun a person who uses violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims. ”

So yes. One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s insurgent is another man’s terrorist.

Clive Robinson July 4, 2008 5:43 AM

@ Davi,

Hmm where the founding fathers terrorists?

Well if you look at the definition I used for a terrorist you will see that the cap does not fit well on their heads.

The events leading up to the Boston Tea Party and those subsiquent to it make for an interesting read. Note carefully the involvment of the French who where trying to establish another French outpost in the “Americas”.

It is a reoccuring theam in British History that was exploited by people on the ground at the time. For instance India and South Africa.

Untill recently the American Politicos have been smart enough to avoid Kipplings invitation to play “the white man’s game” and establish colonial domination around the world. However the current lot do not yet appear to have realised why it is such a bad idea…

All soldiers should (since WWII war crimes trials) ask themselves a simple question about what they have been ordered to do i.e. Is it a lawfull order. In order for the common man to judge the soldier should think “If I was not in uniform how would my actions be viewed” if it is criminal or worse terrorist then pleading “I was only following orders” is just not going to work.

D0R July 4, 2008 6:14 AM

This would make a nice Monty Python’s sketch.

Air Canada clerk: – Excuse me, you can’t say those words. Those words are illegal.
Traveller: – Which words?
Air Canada clerk: – “Suicide bombing”.
Traveller: – Aaaahh, you said “suicide bombing”!
Security comes and arrests Air Canada clerk.

Oh, wait a sec…. they did it already. It was in “Life of Brian”.

jim July 4, 2008 7:07 AM

Re harassment of photographers: I see it like this.

The UK papers have got it into their heads that they can sell more advertising if there’s some heinous crisis we’ve all got to be worrying about. Terrorists, paedophiles, binge drinkers, knives, it’s all the same, and the collateral damage it’s doing to public attitudes and official policy matters not a whit.

The police have got it into their heads that if people weren’t allowed to do anything at all, there would be no crime. They seem to take the view that anything they don’t want you to do is de facto illegal (none of this is exactly new, but it seems to be particularly blatant these days–witness the recent threat to shut down the licensing trade for an entire town because some people were planning a beach party).

The government have nothing in their heads except warm rice pudding, and therefore do whatever Rupert Murdoch/Sir Ian Blair tell them.

A blogger July 4, 2008 7:15 AM

noun: a person who uses violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.

With regards the airline staff behaviour, they are definately intimidating but do they have political aims?

Perhaps a camera that does not have any storage but uploads all it’s images wirelessly to a server (preferably outside of the country) is the solution to the photography issue hence there are no images to seize.

have u gone mad July 4, 2008 7:50 AM

@Clive Robinson
your way of writing tells me that I do not want to know or answer you. I find you distasteful and disgusting. while I am sourly tempted to begin an argument with you I will refrain and do my best to point several of your attempts to sway the opinions of those reading these posts so that people won’t think what you said has any base in reality.

1) you half quoted me, then defined terrorism and showed that the half quote did not fit your definition. the full quote did, this is an intentional attempt to discredit what I wrote by a disgusting writing tactic.

2) your ethnicity correction: great, so change the word ethnicity that I misused to any word describing people of different groups.

3) in the days Israel was ruled by the British the jewish underground orgs did take action against armed soldiers they did not attack British civilians (didn’t you Americans do the same?). check it out. records available, courtesy of her majesty the queen.

4) while Israel is a democracy that allows non jewish to vote and be elected. during and after the British mandate of this land a clear attempt to genocide the jewish people was done. also, the jewish were in Israel much longer than that. the first waves of immigration started at the 19th century.

5) about:

Further it would be of interest to hear your views on the behaviour of the state of Israel that has made it clear in the past that the “ethenic clensing” of the Palestinian people is desirable but when the same logic is applied to them by the elected leader of another nation, Israel carry out “terror” activities and call them war games.
Quote, Prove, Cite resources that support your claims, Show all the people that read what you wrote where was it said? by who? this is just a plain lie. If this was true, Israel has the power to do so and whats to stop us? On the contrary, Israel takes extra care to avoid harming civilians.

6) about:

The real question is how does it feel to have your view point questioned in this way?
I think you are a very good writer. What you wrote is a work of art and while it did not have any substance it could very well sway the hearts of many not aware of the details regarding this situation.

7) about:

Does it make any difference to those who have lost loved ones if it was the act of a “terrorist” or a “mad man” is it going to make their loss any less?
This is the one thing you wrote that has any real meaning in my opinion.

8) about your words about “eye of an eye”, etc… while there is some truth in this. didnt Israel make several such attempts with the very same people that bombed its civilian population for years? well, no point discussing failed attempts to make peace…

9) As for your words about armed forces being terrorists I can just say I pity your nation’s armed forces for having such an ingrate protected by them. I am an ex-soldier (as is almost every adult in Israel, by necessity). I was stationed and am doing my reserve duty in a fighting unit. Nobody in my unit shot a civilian.

10) making an attack at the jewish part of the city, hurting many (not all died, all I heard here was about the 3 dead), aiming for a crowded market at rush hour IS a terrorist act. The intentions of the guy that did it need not be stated explicitly to be clear under the circumenstances. Especially it being the start of a truce between Israel and the Hamas. while I will admit that I cannot prove these statements and he COULD be a madman, those of you that actually believe it are so naive I’m surprised you are adults (IF you are adults).

I will not post here again. such a discussion leads nowhere and I have better things to do. I am disappointed by the fact that Bruce didn’t answer me and by this justified my opinion that some screw went loose in his head. Goodbye.

Jim Lippard July 4, 2008 9:30 AM

How long until airports, like hotels afraid of a floor numbered 13, start removing gates named “C4”?

Recently in an airport I heard some people comparing gate numbers on their boarding passes after passing through security, and one of them said, “We’ve got C4.”

I thought, “that’s not a good thing to be saying out loud near a TSA checkpoint.”

Colossal Squid July 4, 2008 9:38 AM

“Perhaps a camera that does not have any storage but uploads all it’s images wirelessly to a server (preferably outside of the country) is the solution to the photography issue hence there are no images to seize.”
This would seem to be what you’re after:

clvrmnky July 4, 2008 9:45 AM

@Frances: re: the CBC. Check out her smarmy reference to “public broadcaster” in this very article. There is only one public broadcaster in Canada.

Horse for courses, I suppose. In my opinion she is one of the most annoying, inaccurate and polarizing “editorial” writers in Canada today. I cannot get through one of her screeds without wanting to throttle her; not because I do or do not agree with her (I might even agree, in principle, with many of the stands she has taken) but with the sloppy and cartoonish arguments she presents in the name of populism.

She represents the sort of dialogue I’m sick to death of, where the only argument one can make is pointing out an obvious contradiction without going any further. Typical populist rag screeds.

You may, of course, disagree.

Dom De Vitto July 4, 2008 11:40 AM

@ “Are llamas really that hard to count?”

It’s the number of hooves divided by 4.

You’re really asking:
“Are hooves hard to count?”
“Is the mean number of hooves, per llama, 4?”

What the llamas were wearing is irrelevant, unless some where wearing shoes that looked like (say) giraffes hooves.

Everyone should now understand why llama-counting isn’t as trivial as it sounds….
….that’s why they weight them.

2SpotAFacade July 4, 2008 12:39 PM

In response to Clive Robinson @ 6:59 PM, comment.
Rorschach inkblot test, with meaning and ideas twisted around, strong meaning. Tests your ability to impose meanings and see your being played with. How you handle it is also telling.
Spiritally lazy defence for me is just to call inkblot, and mention a few ideas.
Just war traditions and interpretations are a good promer to apply to such an inkblot, and help grok the big picture.

And to Andre @ 3:55, all mad people are not equal. Its who creates and controls them that matters on a risk scale. A few mad men, well that is going to happen. But a group that creates suicide people that are sophisticated is dangerous and hard to control and possibly track.

Keep up the good work Bruce, blogs help keep the ideas alive.

Anonymous July 4, 2008 8:43 PM

@ Davi Ottenheimer
“Makes me wonder what you would call someone who can count llamas.”

Not sure. But someone who can’t count llamas would be called a llamer.

Yosi July 6, 2008 12:53 AM

Bruce must be gone nuts when he wrote this crap.
The guy in bulldozer shouted “Allah Akhbar” while smashing nearby buses. I don’t know how it’s in US, but here in Israel we call it “terrorism”. This would count as “random lunatic” until “Allah Akhbar” got mentioned. After this point he was just shoot in place.

Yosi July 6, 2008 12:57 AM

And yes, his home gonna be demolished. That’s how we here in Israel deal with terror. Not-so-democratic you say? Well, building independent state is not-so-democratic either. Ask American Indians.

bulldozer July 6, 2008 4:57 AM

Important point about the bulldozer driver: he did not choose to kill his Arab co-workers in the construction site. He took the bulldozer out to Jerusalem’s most central street, the very symbol of the city, where he proceeded to ram a car with a mother and a six year old girl inside. Random killing, no terrorist motive? P-please.

Harry Johnston July 6, 2008 7:51 PM

Re the was-he-a-terrorist-or-not debate: it seems to me it’s just a matter of statistics. Almost everywhere in the world, terrorist attacks are significantly less frequent than non-terrorist mass murders, so in the absence of any specific evidence it makes sense to guess than a particular incident was a criminal act rather than a terrorist one.

In Israel, however, it’s the other way around; terrorist attacks are /more/ frequent than other mass murders.

Harry July 8, 2008 10:08 AM

I was once threatened with the captain on a flight. I said “go ahead” (the purser didn’t) and plan to do so any time I’m similiarly threatened. I don’t imagine that that the captain would be amused to be pulled from pre-flight routine because a flight attendant was being an ass. My prime defences are being calm and rational, and giving the ass enough rope to hang himself.

@Nick S: the problem with joking about terrorism, bombs, etc, is that security has to take the jokes seriously, and not just for CYA reasons. So making jokes ties up the resources needed to prevent actual danger, and makes the process lengthier and more expensive.

I think criminal prosecution is going too far. One could argue that tying up the TSA is a good thing – except that in the long run it leads to more TSA which is a bad thing.

Anonymous July 9, 2008 1:55 AM

The bulldozer attack does not belong in this list.

It does not matter whether the perpetrator used a bomb, a gun or a bulldozer, and whether he acted alone or “had links to any terrorist organization” (many of which proudly adopted him posthumously anyway).

As to his motive: is it a puzzle? This is not the first time when an Arab/Palestinian murderer deliberately targets Israeli/Jewish civilians. Rallying cries for such attacks are being made daily in pro-Islamist mass media, mosques and schoolbooks.

By any sensible definition, this was an act of terrorism.

André July 9, 2008 7:50 AM


OK, you are right in saying that “all mad people are not equal” (in fact there are no 2 people in this world alltogether that are equal). Nor are their means and motives. But to the killed-ones these differences aren’t of such an importance, I think. And in front of a judge they shouldn’t be either. That was what I was trying to explain.

And in the case of the “men behind it all”: 1) it’s not them, who are called “terrorists” by the media but the (mad) ones controlled by them. And still I don’t think there is any reason to do so either. Because in the end, I can’t see any legal (see above) difference between a “terrorist” group and any other group of organized crime (say the italian Mafia). These organisations and their ways to “perform” are already forbidden in most of the world – as in the case above nothing to do here, too, except enforcing the already existing laws.

I may (and will) repeat myself: no need to call them names! – Except maybe for some other hidden reason to impose an unnecessary fear onto the public. But lets hope that this trail of thought just belongs to the “tin-foil-hats” …


Jon Sowden July 9, 2008 8:00 PM

@ Dom De Vitto – “It’s the number of hooves divided by 4.”

You’re really asking:
“Are hooves hard to count?”
“Is the mean number of hooves, per llama, 4?”

Do llamas have hooves? I don’t think they do, but I’m differently-abled when it comes to matters llamish.

Steve July 22, 2008 10:26 AM

About the Israeli bulldozer rampage — why shouldn’t we call it terrorism? Though it seemed isolated when it happened, it was repeated almost identically today. Large scale, threatening public crimes such as this can’t be called anything else.

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