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What Is It With Terrorism And Shopping Malls?

November 12, 2007

I imagine that just about every American who watched the events of September 11, 2001 has, at some point, envisioned other nightmarish scenarios that could plausibly come to pass.  It would be natural to wonder what else the dark side of humanity is capable of after something like that.  Certainly the prospect of terrorists armed with WMD’s was beaten into our collective psyche in the run-up to the Iraq war, and I’m guessing that visions of catastrophe have run the span of imagination and beyond.

In light of the upcoming Holiday season, I wonder… So why in the heck does the attack at a shopping mall keep coming up?  If the active ingredient in terrorism is fear, is this scenario really that scary?   To highlight what I mean, consider the following:

-(CBS/AP) A Somali native living in Ohio has been charged with plotting with other al Qaeda operatives to blow up a Columbus-area shopping mall, according to an indictment unsealed Monday. (June 14, 2004)

-A Chicago-area man has been charged in an alleged plot to attack a local mall and government buildings. (Dec. 8, 2006)

-Jack (Bauer) goes undercover when the terrorists try to release a canister at the Sunrise Hills shopping mall, and Jack stops the attempt against the orders of the President. (Day 5)

-“The questions in this round will be premised on a fictional, but we think plausible scenario involving terrorism and the response to it. Here is the premise: Three shopping centers near major U.S. cities have been hit by suicide bombers. Hundreds are dead, thousands injured. A fourth attack has been averted when the attackers were captured off the Florida coast and taken to Guantanamo Bay, where they are being questioned. U.S. intelligence believes that another larger attack is planned and could come at any time.” (Brit Hume, May 15, 2007 Republican Presidential Debate in South Carolina)

-“To walk out of Iraq right now would plant a seed that ultimately would lead to destabilization there, hundreds of thousands of deaths, loss of our influence in the region, would create instability throughout the Middle East throughout East Asia, throughout Europe. And sooner or later it would come to our shores, to a shopping mall near you.” (Tony Snow July 12, 2007)

-“The FBI is warning that al Qaeda may be preparing a series of holiday attacks on U.S. shopping malls in Los Angeles and Chicago, according to an intelligence report distributed to law enforcement authorities across the country this morning.” (November 08, 2007

-“Tom Tancredo’s new ad, set to run in Iowa — if any stations will accept it, that is — is a true original. The ad depicts the dire consequences of our open borders through a dramatization of a fictitious terrorist attack in the middle of a shopping mall. Furthermore, it even ends with the sound of an explosion!” (Today, h/t TPM):

Tip of the iceberg, as they say, as that was just a few examples.  For a little perspective, however… U.S. Shopping Malls: Unlikely al Qaeda Targets

A terrorist attack against a shopping center in the United States has the potential to cause panic among the public and damage the economy at a time when retail stores expect large numbers of holiday shoppers. In terms of the number of victims, a truly devastating attack would require coordination at several locations. Even then, such an attack is unlikely to produce a high number of casualties, as previous attacks overseas have demonstrated. A suicide bombing in May at a mall in Ankara, Turkey, for instance, resulted in six deaths, while a car bomb outside a busy shopping center in Beirut, Lebanon, killed one person.

And yet, there appears to be no shortage of fear going around over it.  But why shopping malls, and not, say, a high school football game?  To disrupt the economy, especially during the holidays?  I’m going to propose that if this ever were to happen, the patriotic thing to do would be to run to your local mall and buy something. If the active ingredient in terrorism is fear, it’s easy to fight.  All you have to do is chose not to be afraid.

 mallgoers.jpg
Home of the Brave

And for the record, according to one source, the odds of dying as a result of a terrorist attack on U.S. soil is about 80,000 to one, which is about the same odds as dying as a result of being struck by lightning.  So be careful out there.

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6 comments

  1. I think that a big part of it is that malls are vulnerable, easy and full of innocent targets who are just trying to go about their daily lives. I mean, if you think about it, you have a high flow of people in and out, and you have people wearing coats, carrying bags and packages and for the most part, people are too busy with what they’re doing to pay attention to what others are doing. Can you imagine the devastation that could be caused by somebody who packed a couple of big Macy’s bags full of explosives and ball bearings (or nails or whatever) and walked into the foo dcourt at the amll of America during in the middle of the day and just let the bags detonate? The worst part is that this person could walk right in and would never be scrutinized.

    Now, is this something that I fear? No. Not at all. I will still go to the MOA and do my shopping this year. I don’t watch people any closer than usual. But in the back of my mind I know that going to such public places increases my chances of something like that happening – but I cna’t very well stay in my small town environment and feel safe forever. It’s unreasonable to think that way.

    The big problem is that many people cannot handle this sort of fear, and it is irresponsible of media outlets/politicians/whoever to play up this sort of thing. I mean, you’re more likely to be run down by a drunk driver while walking down the sidewalk, yet people still walk down sidewalks. But creating fear and then reporting on it is sexy. It gets people’s attention and keeps it.


  2. But creating fear and then reporting on it is sexy. It gets people’s attention and keeps it.

    It’s like snow storms. Hype it up even if it’s only going to be an inch or two. ALZ you’re right. It “sells” so they run with it.


  3. Heavens, I though you realized that the sky is falling?

    My search for good new blogs to read has not ended in vain, this site is rather amazing. You’re calling them on it all. Bookmarked, and will return.


  4. Hey thanks Lex! I’ll try to live up to the hype.


  5. This very valuable message

    By the way, what do you think about this icons site?


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