Immediately after 9/11, it seemed as if the Western World had entered a bizarre and frightening new reality. From then on, or so it appeared that morning, everybody was going to live in a world like Terry Gilliam’s Brazil—a massive security state beset by unpredictable terrorist violence. Mushroom clouds would soon be erupting over American and European cities, citizens would be carrying gas masks everywhere, and nobody would ever know where the next devastating blow would fall.
That didn’t wind up happening. While people in positions of authority would certainly like for you to believe that vigorous police work and a fearless willingness to view every text you send—naked pictures or not—are largely responsible for preventing the would-be terrorist holocaust, the truth is that sometimes we’re just not up against that much.
You see, the skills every good terrorist needs—patience, a good work ethic, basic intelligence and foresight—tend to make people good enough at other things, like holding down a job, which has a way of sapping the urge to go into terrorism in the first place. Here, then, are three of the biggest screw-ups ever to try airing their grievances through violence.