Fear is so easy to prey on

Yesterday, someone posted a message in every “forum”:http://recipezaar.com/bb/ on Recipezaar and the complaints we got exploded in minutes. The title of the post was “Communication” and the text of the message was in Arabic. So, of course, everyone _assumed_ it was a terrorist communication.

As with all hoaxes, there’s some questions you can ask to convince yourself it’s a hoax. For instance:

1. Why would the title be “Communication” in English if the terrorist was trying to hide it from authorities and not arouse suspicions? Wouldn’t they have written the title in Arabic too, or something innocuous? Wouldn’t the entire thing be made to look harmless?
2. Why would a terrorist post the text on a cooking site when it’s clear that terrorists have little trouble at all communicating today? Email is easily encrypted, email is an effective way for terrorists to communicate with each other. And they do know that. In fact, investigators discovered that the 9/11 hijackers used plain old Hotmail to communicate, i.e., no encryption whatsoever.
3. Why would a terrorist need to use a 3rd party web site? We can’t stop spam or gambling sites that make millions of dollars because they’re located in the Caribbean, we can’t stop kids from pirating music on college campuses, and we can’t catch the terrorist themselves, but we’ve totally shut down all the terrorist web sites?
4. Is the terrorist scared to put up a web site but uses an easily-traceable internet account of their own to post to other sites?
5. If they did have trouble communicating and needed to use other sites, how would they tell their buddies what site to find their message? They’d use email or a cell phone, and if they can do that, why not just communicate that way?
6. Is Arabic really a safe way to send clandestine messages? Can anti-terrorism authorities read Arabic? Of course they can — it’s not a secret language only evil people can learn. The message would better be written in English with the secret meanings, like “the fox is in the pen” the way they do on those old spy movies. As I mentioned, email is easily encrypted, Arabic is lousy encryption.

Given all of this, if it were written by a terrorist, it’s the dumbest terrorist ever, so that would be good because they’d be caught in no time. Even if you fear terrorism, dumb terrorists are not to be feared because in spite of what some would have you believe, you have to be smart to pull off a terrorist attack. Besides, as an American, you are thousands of times more likely to be murdered by an American than you are by a terrorist. 🙂

FWIW, the text was simply a copy & paste from an Arabic-speaking news site.

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