Trickle Down Terrorism

NOTE: The following was originally written around 2004, performed on live radio on KSCO AM1080, and posted online (at a now defunct site) shortly thereafter. I just stumbled across it today. It’s astonishingly prescient, and as such makes me look smarter than I probably am. Unfortunately, we seem to have done it to ourselves, and brought the American Dream closer to its end than toppling two buildings and killing 3,000 people ever did.

On the upside, we may end up with that “stronger, more responsible society” I allude to, if we do the right thing moving forward.


Television has done a great service to the criminal population, by sharing secrets that you previously had to be sent to prison to learn.

I learned on CSI: Miami that burning a body to ash will destroy all DNA evidence, and that mixing drain cleaner with vanilla yogurt will create a topical poison impervious to metal detectors that will leave you with incredibly smooth skin. Spend an evening watching a little Law and Order and COPS, and you’ll learn everything you need to know about crossing the border, hiding your pot and building bombs that look like cell phones.

I feel compelled to extend this service to the terrorist population, by sharing a few insights that otherwise may not be taken into consideration, and to help get you focused not on dropping skyscrapers and bridges on innocent people but rather on lifting the wallets of American consumers so they can’t do what they love to do more than salute the flag: spend money on crap they don’t need and can’t afford.

It should be clear by now that flying airplanes into buildings or mailing anthrax to the editors of our tabloid press is not the most effective ways to undermine the United States. Oh sure, you’ll get lots of press and it’ll make you a martyr, get you a stable of virgins in the afterlife and a herd of goats. But it’s an extremely high-profile undertaking, it’s regionally localized, and it calls attention to your intentions, which might be satisfying in the short term because you can gather all your Mullahs around to see yourself on America’s Most Wanted, but is really counter-productive in the long run if you’re serious about undermining your enemy’s way of life. All it does is piss us off and force us to hold the Olympics where the building used to be. We sell t-shirts to commemorate the event, and record songs to raise funds for the families of victims, and small companies make millions selling cheap American flags that attach to the passenger windows of our SUV’s. In the long run, it’s a boon to the economy.

If you really want to cause real harm to a capitalist economy, you need to be much more subtle.

Driving airplanes into our buildings to destroy America is like burning the Flag to destroy America. It confuses the symbol for the thing, the sign for the signified. Buildings are symbols of our economy, but they are not our economy. Our economy is our economy: the flow of money, the free and liquid investment in new business and new technologies. It is the healthy personal portfolios of families with long and stable work histories, the promise of a comfortable retirement before 70, the ability to educate our children in a better way than we had for ourselves, and enough pocket money to buy new CD’s and DVD players and hamburgers and wicker toilet seats and other miscellaneous unnecessary crap that keeps the populace at large employed as fry cooks and cashiers and bagboys and truck drivers and middle-managers and cleaning crews and bank tellers and meter readers.

They say that the introduction of the Mediterranean fruit fly into California was a subtle act of agriterrorism, aimed at slowly undermining the agricultural industry and the nationwide distribution of food by destroying the ability of trees to pollinate over the course of decades.

This is what I call Trickle-Down-Terrorism, and frankly it’s where I’d like to see more terrorists focus their efforts.

Imagine finding a way to appeal to the base desire of the average investor to create not a long-term plan, but a short-term killing; to get millions and billions of dollars invested in absurd shell-games and ponzi schemes, to actually get those ponzi schemes publicly traded, to have Wall Street recommend millions of middle-American families and young professionals and retirees to invest their futures there, and then take it all away from them in a weekend.

Imagine finding a way to bring one of the oldest, largest, most highly visible international corporations and entry-level employers into its first quarter of fiscal failure. Feel the shudder in the foundation of fiscal stability, see the panic in the eyes of under-educated food service workers who support families on minimum wage pushing the buttons with the pictures of food on them as their hours are reduced, smell the fear on Wall Street as another Blue-Chip stock tumbles for the first time in history. Watch as the truck drivers who deliver the goods have fewer runs to make, the packaging factories have less to manufacture, the napkin and straw and cup wholesalers scale back their shifts and their workers go on aid to keep their children in overcoats and galoshes. Taste the impact as our faith in fundamental American Capitalist Icons is shaken to the core. And imagine the satisfaction of having created a climate in which this company consciously put itself into this situation by making the decision to sell more of its popular product for less than it pays for it, to satisfy a selfish and self-absorbed, short-sighted consumer public who insist on cheaper faster food with no conception of where the goods come from, how much they cost to purchase or package or ship or prepare.

The beauty of trickle-down terrorism is, it’s something we can handle.

They tell us that all we need to protect ourselves against high-profile terrorism is a roll of saran wrap and some duct tape. The good silver kind, not that cheap red stuff. (And just for the record, magic transparent tape won’t help you at all. It’ll make your wrapping job look great, and you can write on it [Dear terrorists, I’ve taped my front door shut. Please go away.] but it won’t keep the anthrax out.) All it takes to protect yourself is a bag of Doritos and a Gloria Estefan T-Shirt. I don’t know why, but they say that our enemies will not have this insight; and so we will win.

Defending myself against high-profile terrorism just makes me a boy in a bubble.

The way I figure it, if terrorists start focusing on trickle-down acts, maybe we’ll finally stop doing it to ourselves. It doesn’t take baling wire and zip-lock baggies to fight trickle-down terrorism. It takes forethought and maturity, it takes responsibility and social conscience. It takes being willing to pay fair prices for quality products, which employ American families in responsible companies that offer real health care. It takes a willingness to pay $1.49 for a hamburger instead of insisting on .99 cents, so that McDonalds can remain strong and continue to make entry-level jobs available to workers of limited resource.

I’m ready for trickle-down terrorism. I can benefit from trickle-down terrorism. I’ll be in a better, stronger, more responsible society if we need to rise to the challenge of trickle-down terrorism. Defending myself from trickle-down terrorism keeps me from investing in companies shilled by talking sock puppets.

And that can only be a good thing.

That’s it. That’s all I got.

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