Archive for the ‘Terrorism’ category Ever hear of the phenomenon called an “illusory correlation”? It explains why commentator Williams, who was recently fired from NPR, associates Muslims at airports with terrorists. I am going to be writing my next column for Slate about this issue. To whet your appetite, here’s a radio interview about illusory correlations and other biases [...] Joseph Stack, the Texas man who burned his house down and then recently flew a plane into an IRS building, killing one person, has some stark similarities to the the suicide bomber I write about in The Hidden Brain. Like Stack, Larry Layton was white and American — which apparently makes it difficult for [...] More reviews from Amazon readers … This one from H.F. Gibbard This has to be the most readable book about how the mind works that I have picked up in ages. There is not a dull chapter in the book, and the writing at times reaches a level worthy of a good novel. The [...]

There is a provocative article today about the use of new airport screening machines that can visualize with great detail what people look like under their clothes. The machines are being ushered into airports with urgency after the recently attempted terror attack on Christmas eve. The idea of machines that take naked pictures of airline [...]

Santa Claus Myths

January 1st, 2010

As children, we all like Santa Claus. But it would be odd if an adult were invested in the fantasy, went to great pains to prove the existence of Santa, and denied all questions about the burly man in the red suit. That would not be charming. It would be silly, even disturbing. David Brooks recently [...]

Every time there is a terrorist incident (or an attempted terrorist incident) in the United States, supporters and critics of more intrusive security measures engage in a form of intellectual dishonesty. Those who advocate greater security measures argue that they can carry out those measures without harming innocents. Those who criticize those measures argue that [...]

The Tunnel

December 27th, 2009

Early news reports suggest that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man who attemped to bring down a Northwest Airlines plane in Detroit, went in search of Al Qaeda masterminds in Yemen. If the reports are accurate, this would mean Abdulmutallab was following a pattern established by several other suicide terrorists and would-be suicide terrorists. Rather than [...]

The Club Model of Terrorism

December 13th, 2009

I wrote a column in the Washington Post some time ago exploring the work of Eli Berman and David Laitin, who argued that terrorist groups function much in the manner of exclusive country clubs. (OK, minus the wine and golf. Presumably.) Recent accounts about the five young men from Virginia who were apprehended in Pakistan [...]

The conventional model of terrorism suggests shadowy recruiters are spread around the world in search of young men and women who can be radicalized. In one of the chapters in my upcoming book, I discuss the problem in conceiving of terrorist masterminds as telemarketers who reach out to many people in the hopes that a [...]