“Stupid” Is The Least Of It
So this Dutch 14-year-old got herself arrested for tweeting a terrorist threat at American Airlines. Copycats inevitably followed, because the world is apparently full of people who think that the worst thing about such tweets is that they are “stupid jokes”.
Jezebel, for example, cautiously defended these Twitter “comedians”:
I get that people want to make a public display of defending the girl who was arrested, because she’s not a dastardly, evil criminal. She’s a stupid teenager just like all of us probably were at one point.
All this takes me back to a time shortly after 9/11, when some sixteen-year-old from Staten Island called multiple fake bomb threats, including several against NY Waterways, a ferry company. At that time, NYC’s other transportation infrastructure was on the fritz, and moreover, many people were still too afraid to take bridges or tunnels in or out of Manhattan. NY Waterways ran lots of extra boats, and for many commuters, it was the only mode of transportation for several months after the disaster. Every time that “stupid teenager”/not-a-dastardly-evil-criminal called a bomb threat — and he always made sure to do it on a weekday, between the hours of 5 and 7 pm — the entire NY Waterways operation was shut down. Every boat and every ferry terminal was evacuated and thoroughly searched for explosives by the police, the FBI and Homeland Security. Tens of thousands of people got stranded in Manhattan for hours, streets surrounding cordoned-off ferry terminals became clogged with desperate crowds, and the whole thing wasted millions of dollars of taxpayers’ and the ferry’s money. The aforementioned “stupid teenager” — who was not a dastardly, evil criminal! — did this every couple of days for about three weeks before getting arrested, because wreaking havoc on a major city that’s reeling from a recent massive terrorist attack is funny.
At that time, there were also people who defended this “boy” by claiming that what he did was “satire”, or some kind of an elaborate art project, or just a prank that had gotten out of hand — and that arresting and subjecting him to a criminal investigation was excessive and unfair. For my part, “stupid” isn’t the word that comes to mind with regard to those who delight in the suffering, inconveniences and understandable fears of countless people. The sixteen-year-old in question did it because he was a mean little shit, and while I would never demand to see his head on a spike, I sincerely hope the justice system put a hell of a dent in his future.
See, making terrorist threats isn’t just “stupid”. It demonstrates a meanness of spirit characteristic of people who, as adults, go on to punish political opponents by creating traffic gridlocks and undermining public safety. It’s fundamentally sociopathic behavior. It’s a form of bullying — one directed at the general public. The punchline of this “joke” is all the disruption it creates for travelers, transportation companies and law enforcement agencies. People who find this amusing don’t get my sympathy for being insufficiently crafty in their sociopathy.
No, I don’t think this is enough to send a minor to jail. However, I am firmly of the opinion that sociopaths must be curbed early on, by putting considerable obstacles in their path of attaining positions of power and influence later in life. So I won’t lose any sleep if this Dutch teenager or any of her copycats feel sad as a result of a police interrogation, or if a juvenile record damages their educational and career prospects.
But (someone might ask), what if the horror of a criminal investigation causes them to develop low self-esteem, and then they’ll get hooked on drugs and start knocking over convenience stores to support their habit? The deadly spiral of low self-esteem has been the bugbear of Sensitive People for decades. Putting aside the fact that this kind of scenario is very unlikely, if it does come to pass — I can live with that. After all, people who amuse themselves in this manner would do far less damage as common criminals than as lawmakers, corporate executives or stock brokers.