Opinion » Note

Bombed Out


It's a natural inclination to look for some kind of lesson after disruptive events like the wave of bomb threats that swept through southwestern Idaho April 10-12.

In this particular case, where it was a teenager in Meridian who allegedly collaborated--in part via online gaming channels--with another teen in Australia to call in the phony bombs, it would be easy to demand restrictions and monitoring of both social networking and online gaming. Had these threats been delivered by mail or carrier pigeon, they would have been made nonetheless, and it would do us no good to enact postal censorship, random frisking or pigeon licensure.

According to the FBI's Bomb Threat Center, criminal bombers choose their targets based on basic motivations: revenge, extortion or intimidation. From there, the profiles continue predictably. Bombers (or threat-makers) are dedicated to a cause; they're overcompensating for some inadequacy; they are overly intelligent perfectionists, leading them to challenge law enforcement or other institutions; they are obsessed with destroying a particular target; they are nihilistic.

Regardless of the profile of the criminal, most bomb threats are exactly that: threats. And, as criminal profilers point out, threat-makers often don't act, and actors often don't threaten (it doesn't appear there was a warning before the fatal bombings at the Boston Marathon April 15). Every threat should be treated as credible, of course, but with so many hoaxes, hard data is tough to find. An April 11 article in the University of Texas' newspaper, The Daily Texan, hints at how commonplace threats have become, musing on the lackadaisical response of students in the face of a bomb threat on their campus.

"Another semester, another bomb threat," the headline read.

Though response to the local hoaxes was anything but lax, the statement "another day/week/month/semester/year, another (fill in the blank)" could sum up the prevailing mood toward a lot of things: mass shootings, environmental destruction, partisan obstructionism, civil rights violations, or whatever. We seem to accept they'll just keep happening.

And maybe that's the lesson: When people are as inured to disaster as we have become, they either shrug it off, engage in the kind of hand-wringing this column represents or start participating in it. We can tighten security, monitor communications, ban this or ban that, but unless we want the future held captive by the disaffected, it's time we found a more constructive way, because the kids (and adults) aren't alright.