Airplanes and Terrorism.

Matthew Yglesias asks:

I've been feeling like I should say something about the failed terrorist attack this weekend in New York but can't come up with much beyond the observation that I don't quite get why this is prompting so much less freaking-out than the Christmas underpants bomber did. Both seem on a par to me -- amateurish failures that seem to indicate that whichever people might be inclined to kill American civilians don't have much in the way of capacity. Is the country learning? Maturing? Or is it just that airplane-related incidents have some special grasp on the public imagination?

Obviously not, since Joe Stack, the man who flew a plane into an IRS building in Texas killed more people in one day than Umar Abdulmutallab did in his entire life, and he still couldn't get reporters to call him a terrorist. We haven't matured, in the absence of a clear culprit the various political factions that drive hysterical public reactions to terrorism are keeping their powder dry. If it turns out that Muslim extremists were responsible, we can expect a shift in public discourse similar to the one that followed the failed underwear bombing on Christmas Day.

It's not that we've "matured"; it's that you can't get the Pavlovian response absent the proper trigger.

-- A. Serwer

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