Art Cashin, UBS:
Speculating On Terror – In the days after the 9/11 attacks, there was much speculation around the U.S. as to whether there would be another “event”. What shape would it take? When might it occur? One of the consequences was the “Halloween note” rumor.
A story swept the nation that a young lady had been dating a young man from Saudi Arabia. On the afternoon of 9/11, she reportedly returned to their apartment to find the young man, and his belongings gone. The only thing she found was a note.
Supposedly, the note expressed his love, said he could not explain what was going on and said they might not meet again. But, because he loved her, he begged that she not go out in public on Halloween. The story of the note went viral and swept the nation via email.
At the time, we pointed out the long history of such stories in fearful societies. By signaling out a specific date – Halloween – it removed the “randomness” of the potential threat. If you believed the story, you would be safe until Halloween. And, if you stayed home, you’d be safe – even then.
According to the buzz we’re hearing, a new speculation on terror may be evolving. We suspect that the seed may come from warnings from the authorities that a future attack might be “Mumbai style”. That reintroduces a sense of randomness. You’re not safe by staying out of airports or tall buildings. You’re not sure what will be safe.
Apparently, folks are trying to address the Mumbai style randomness by finding an anchor or a signal. The speculation has seized on the botched car bombing in Times Square. It has been merged into a new theory that car bombings or car fires will be used a diversion. They can attract large crowds – fire, police, press and the curious. The large crowds would be vulnerable targets.
A second version suggests the car bombs are to divert authorities and leave other targets vulnerable. They even have a Halloween aspect – but Halloween is too near. So, since the first was on 9/11 – how about 11/9. And you thought you had to go to school to study creative writing. Happy Halloween!