Is the title of a column by Scott Adams in the latest Dilbert Newsletter (not yet online but the archives are here).

I recently read an article by an economist who said that poverty
causes people to become terrorists. He used big words and was very convincing.

Then I watched TV coverage of a high school hazing ritual in an upscale suburban neighborhood. Dozens of well-to-do Induhviduals paid for the privilege of sitting in a field and having mud, paint, garbage, eggs, pig guts, and excrement shoved up their nostrils while being beaten with blunt objects.

I’m not an economist, but my theory is that you can convince a certain percentage of Induhviduals to do any dangerous thing, whether they happen to be poor or not. So let’s stop picking on poor people. If peer pressure can convince 20% of rich kids to start smoking cigarettes — and it does — it isn’t much of a leap to convince them to grow scraggly beards and drive exploding cars. It’s mostly a difference in timing.

Osama inherited half a billion dollars. So I rule out poverty as a cause of terror. I blame rich Induhviduals, and peer pressure.

Peer pressure is the most powerful force on the planet, and we need to use it to our advantage. For example, I recommend that the Western media and politicians stop using the menacing-yet-cool phrase “Al-Qaeda” and start referring to the group as the “frickin’ Induhviduals.”

Like the proverbial dog chasing a car, the Induhviduals haven’t considered what would happen if they caught one. For example, let’s say they (the Induhviduals, not the dogs) accomplish their stated goal of destroying the economies of the Western world. Is that really a good plan for people who live in a desert and import most of their food?

Just for the record, if I’m down to my last potato, I’m not sharing it with a guy who wants to kill me so he can get a better supply of virgins in paradise. That lesson is a little thing I call Economics 101, infidel style.

For the Induhviduals, it must look as if Americans are really dumb to have the most awesome arsenal in the history of the world and still be unable to stop terror attacks. They don’t realize that the way Americans look at it is that, so far, we’re “really mad,” but not yet “REALLY, REALLY mad.” Oh, there’s a difference. Americans understand that somewhere between “inconvenient air travel” and “complete breakdown of Western civilization,” the “REALLY, REALLY mad” part kicks in. I won’t give away what happens then, but remember you first heard the phrase “New Iowa” in the Dilbert Newsletter.

And let’s stop calling the terrorist supporters “fundamentalists,” because that sounds like it could be a good thing. I recommend a more descriptive label, such as “slow learners,” to keep things in perspective. Then let’s airdrop science and economics textbooks on their terrorist training camps with condescending notes, such as, “Maybe this will help. Call us if you have questions.”

This would be a small step, in the sense that reading books about economics is only slightly better than suicide. But you have to start somewhere.

That’s my plan. If you have a better one, be sure to include it in your next newsletter.


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Hermetic says:

    Funny, I was just about to forward that to Laurence or Bill Quick to make sure it got into the Blogosphere.