It could not have been scripted better for the demagogues and security hysterics. With the country still grieving in confusion in the aftermath of the Las Vegas slayings, inflicted by an individual who resisted the classification of terrorist at the hands of the Nevada authorities, in came Sayfullo Saipov. Saipov, who fit the fanatic’s bill, the ideologue’s cut, and popular lack of imagination.
He was a profiler’s cartoon inspired dream: menacing beard, smouldering eyes, determined and pious. He came from Uzbekistan, a place many Americans would struggle finding on a map (which “stan” might that be?), but that hardly mattered. He supplied the authorities exactly what they wanted: a speedy, even relieved confession, an expression of unswerving belief, and a sense that he had been planning his attack in New York City for some time.
That attack, it is said, manifested in a form that has become something of a murderous tradition. A space occupied by citizens becomes a death strip for a vehicle speeding and manoeuvring with lethal success. It has also become mandatory for such reports to suggest that things could always have been much worse.
That caveat is always necessary to suggest flaws, chinks in the plan or the means of attack. Saipov, in the aftermath of the Halloween assault, has been portrayed as a fanatic-in-preparation, carrying out trial runs with a rental truck in October, and wondering if he might have used Islamic State flags on the truck…