Patrick referred to “international terror klutzes” yesterday, but I think maybe Charlie Stross’s “murderous clowns” was more accurate. So far, we’ve had the recent exploding underpants, and Richard Reid’s exploding shoes, both classic bits of circus clown comedy. This implies that the TSA’s obsession with fluids and spray canisters is actually right on target for preventing a future seltzer bottle attack. Variants on the “suitcase gag” are also clearly anticipated and taken care of. A ban on pies and rubber chickens would seem to be in order.
If you examine the types of circus clowns, Reid and Abdulmutallab are clearly the auguste or “red clown” archetype — the hapless guy who’s the butt of the joke. Osama bin Laden himself would be a “whiteface”, like Moe Howard or Bud Abbott, the straight-man figure who orders the other clowns around.
Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mohamed Moumou, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, Saif al-Adel, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and the various other second- and third-bananas in al Qaeda’s hierarchy are “character clowns”. They aspire to the authority of the whiteface, but wind up like the auguste. (Note also how the face of the “hobo” clown — originally a sub-category of character clowns — resembles an abstraction of the full dark beard favored by so many of these men.)
The Dep’t of Homeland Security clearly needs to switch the focus of its efforts away from air travel, concentrating instead upon small, densely-packed automobiles.