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The foreclosure crisis and Faisal Shahzad

I thought I said pretty explicitly that speculating about why a terrorist commits a terrorist act is a mug's game, but in case there's actual confusion (as opposed to a lazy preference for missing the point when it's politically inconvenient) over the message of this post, no, I do not believe that foreclosure leads to terrorism.

My point was a bit different. People who desire the murder of innocents qualify, I think, as pretty disturbed, and their particular brand of disturbance gets a lot of attention. But Faisal Shahzad's unlikely connection to the broader story of the foreclosure crisis is a reminder that there's this vast tragedy going on that's hurting a lot of people in a way that's faded from the headlines but not faded from their lives.

By Ezra Klein  |  May 5, 2010; 5:46 PM ET
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HIs foreclosure may not have caused his decision to become a terrorist, but I sincerely doubt it helped endear America to him.

Posted by: lcrider1 | May 5, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

I've seen some reporting that he left his job voluntarily and asked the bank to foreclose on his mortgage as he planned his trip to Pakistan for terror training. Not sure what to believe. We don't know the truth at this point, but it seems silly to conflate his foreclosure with his decision to commit terror.

Posted by: scarlota | May 5, 2010 6:05 PM | Report abuse

Well, Joe Stack may have rammed his plane into a building because he hated the IRS, but his failures as a businessman and in his personal life (and ensuing apparent desire to commit suicide) certainly played a factor. I think it's reductionist to suggest that people who commit acts of violent terror should be ascribed only a singular motive.

Posted by: adamiani | May 5, 2010 6:22 PM | Report abuse

Now you say you brought up his connection to the foreclosure crisis as a reminder of it. That is not what the original post implied. While you did not claim certainty, you suggested that the foreclosure could have "tipped" him into dangerous behavior. As more has come out about this man, his motivation seems more like what we have seen before. You were trying to use this case of terrorism to make a political point that would be helpful to the administration (while giving a shoutout to the girlfriend). It remains as sophomoric as it first was.

Posted by: truck1 | May 5, 2010 8:32 PM | Report abuse

It's amazing that you still got it wrong after saying something dumb the first time. Shahzad left his job, he and his family left home, and they basically let the house go. If you do that and there's no "foreclosure crisis" you STILL end up in foreclosure! It's like someone shot himself in the head during the DC sniper shootings and you said, look, it's just another victim of the sniper.

C'mon. It was terrible the first time round. Now I'm wondering about you. The beauty of the blog format is you can say something jaw-droppingly dumb off the cuff, then later say, shoot, sorry, I wasn't thinking. Try that.

Posted by: sanjay1 | May 5, 2010 8:51 PM | Report abuse You're worse at backpeddaling than you are at editorializing, Mr. Klein. Don't insult the readers by suggesting they "doesn't get your point." The point the readers are making (a point which clearly YOU don't get) is that your ideas about the plight of homeowners in foreclosure, and the antics of a terrorist who clearly had a political agenda that had nothing to do with his financial woes, had no place being in the same blog post. You sir, are an dangerous idiot.

Posted by: meeg1972 | May 5, 2010 10:20 PM | Report abuse

i rarely EVER agree with adamiani or scarlota but I've gotta agree.

Why go there Ezra?

What is gained from combining the two sets of facts? You can't prove a correlation at all.

You're certainly not saying we shouldn't forclose on people for fear they'd become terrorists so what's your reasoning for even bringing this up?

You're right, millions of people are losing or have lost their homes. Only one planted a make-shift bomb in NYC last weekend.

Posted by: visionbrkr | May 5, 2010 10:42 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Klein: Admit it. You screwed the pooch. Your first post clearly implied that his foreclosure could well explain Shahzad's terrorist act.

Actually another canine metaphor fits better here: The dog that didn't bark. Note that all the comments in the first post are negative. Your usual acolytes, you know, the ones who normally swoon at your genius, are strangely silent.

Posted by: ElmerStoup | May 5, 2010 11:08 PM | Report abuse

Do you really get paid for inane, shallow and biased commentary like this? We all know, don't we, that the guy that showed Shahzad his tenement stated that he heard Shahzad ranting about the idiocy of Bush's war in Iraq? We can all agree with that, but most of us would get back by cheering the movie, Death of a President. Only the really committed fanatics go back to Pakistan to get weapons and bomb training.

Posted by: Yossarian3 | May 5, 2010 11:21 PM | Report abuse

" We don't know the truth at this point, but it seems silly to conflate his foreclosure with his decision to commit terror."

i disagree with you.
it is right to suggest that the road to committing an act of violence is paved with many moments and circumstances of anger, despair, disappointment, that lead to a tipping point.
having worked for many years on a suicide and crisis hotline, it is not unusual to hear that a violent act against oneself or toward another person or persons,has been preceded by years of emotional, physical or economic suffering......and there is one final moment, or scenario that takes someone over the brink.
feeling marginalized, and losing things that are precious feeling stripped of self-esteem,feeling perpetually like an outsider, can result in acts of violence in angry, hurt and unstable people.
hurting people hurt people.
what is the final event that causes a person to act out at a particular moment?
if circumstances were calmer, if things were going better for a person in their lives, they generally would not be striking out.
what caused the horror at virginia tech?
just one unstable person who reached a tipping point.
thankfully, it doesnt happen to everyone, but a whole confluence of events can suddenly cause it to happen in one person.
until you are walking in the shoes of another person, you cannot say for sure that it wasnt the end of a love affair, the loss of a job or a house, years of feeling alone, that suddenly resulted in an irrational and horrific moment.
it is a lifetime of feelings and events, and one final moment, that leads someone to that place.

Posted by: jkaren | May 6, 2010 12:39 AM | Report abuse

After saying that we can't know the real reasons why Shahzad attempted to set off a car bomb, here's what Ezra said that people are finding so offensive:

"it's a reminder that foreclosures generate an enormous amount of misery and anxiety and depression that can tip people into all sorts of dangerous behaviors that don't make headlines but do ruin lives."

Everyone's latching onto the "tip people into...dangerous behaviors" phrase as meaning that Shahzad's actions were driven by his foreclosure. Nobody's looking at the "that don't make headlines but do ruin lives" part. Shahzad's actions, and likely anyone else who tries to blow up a car bomb in a major American city, made headlines for a week now and will continue to do so. That sentence is clearly not about explaining terrorism through a foreclosure, but highlighting that people can do crazy things when they're backed into a financial corner and we've sort of forgotten to check in on that.

Now, I *guess* I can see enough ambiguity in Ezra's original post to create some confusion, or at least that it's a touchy subject and making a somewhat complicated point, so people maybe aren't willing to be charitable in interpreting the post before they comment. On the other hand, the beauty of the tubes is that Ezra can follow up and clarify. If you thought Ezra was explaining Shahzad's actions through his foreclosure, well, he's just explicitly said that that's not what his post is trying to get at.

Posted by: MosBen | May 6, 2010 7:18 AM | Report abuse


The point is we don't know. We're just starting to know some of the reasons behind this and we may never know. Maybe its family history, maybe its mental illness, maybe its religious fanaticism, maybe its something else. But to combine a foreclosure with terrorism is just wrong (IMO). Ezra is better than that and I for one expect better than that from him because he is so good at what he does. The reason you have all the law enforcement people, the Mayor and everyone else answer questions after the event and they're all open ended is just because they don't know yet. They don't want to speculate and shouldn't.

Personally I'd love for Ezra to expound on what his feeling is the connection there because as you well know there are millions of people being foreclosed upon that haven't even considered an act of terror against a country.

not only that but this individual then hopped on a plane to go to Dubai and would have then traveled back to Pakistan to meet up with his family. Does that sound like someone concerned about money? Concerned about his foreclosure?

The point is Ezra's explanation up above works all the way until he states:

"But Faisal Shahzad's unlikely connection to the broader story of the foreclosure crisis is a reminder that there's this vast tragedy going on that's hurting a lot of people in a way that's faded from the headlines but not faded from their lives."

You can have a different story about foreclosure without mentioning terrorism because in the end when you combine the two in a blog post you'll inevitably end up with people conflating the two whether intended or not.

Posted by: visionbrkr | May 6, 2010 7:47 AM | Report abuse

There’s a lot of undue concern, confusion, and spin about what caused this latest (nth) unprecedented, and “totally unpredictable” shock and disaster in ( ____ fill in the blank _____).

Despite the standard media ‘stories’ about what caused it, and how “everyone in charge of the government and corporations/banks” is “working to insure that this will never happen again, and we can ‘move forward’ toward lovely economic growth and jobs for all”, the real CAUSE of these multiple and continuing "symptomatic" and constantly repeating disasters is already known, but is not being honestly shared with the public.

The answer to these continuing and increasing ‘big stories’, “unpredictable disasters”, and symptomatic problems like the “financial crisis” in the US, the “Greek Crisis”, the “Portugal crisis”, the coming “Euro Crisis”, the “Oil slick crisis”, the “Afghanistan crisis”, the “Supreme Court corporate-campaign-unlimited-cash crisis”, the ‘immigration crisis”, the “unemployment crisis”, and “jobs crisis”, and “foreclosure crisis”, the “debt crisis”, etc, etc?

The real CAUSE is already known --- and it is that they are ALL CAUSED by the very same thing; the unmentioned, and unreported cancer of Global EMPIRE hiding beneath the surface of ‘our’ country, our politics, BOTH our ‘Vichy’ parties, our media, our economics, our wars, our society, our environment, our world, and our future.

Alan MacDonald
Sanford, Maine

Let’s stop wasting time reporting and endlessly talking about all the ‘symptoms’ of an unmentioned global empire, and start focusing on the single ‘cause’ --- Empire itself.

Posted by: alanmd | May 6, 2010 8:09 AM | Report abuse

So, according to Ezra, the economy is so bad because terrorist have to make tough choices: spending all their money flying to and from terrorist training sites in Pakistan (14 times in 2 years, which costs in excess of $25,000) or pay his mortgage.

What does a terrorist do? Pay his bills or buy a truck on Craigslist and supplies to blow it up?

What next? Terrorist "outreach"? Financial counseling? Explosives training?

The guy who flew his plane into the IRS building was also foreclosed on and a registered democrat, but that was still blamed on the tea party.

There must be a way to blame the Times Square bombing on the Tea Party. Oh, and the wrong numbers of the doc fix.

Posted by: Cornell1984 | May 6, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Is it possible it has nothing to do with foreclosure but instead might be related to a religious motive against the US?

Posted by: Cornell1984 | May 6, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

The liberal moral compass has no magnetic north.

If it's a mugs game, why did you bring it up?

FAIL on two counts. The initial post and this even more ridiculous follow-up.

Posted by: etpietro | May 6, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

this is a really poor response to a colossal miscue. whoever is giving you advice on how to respond to your own mistake does have a high opinion of personal responsibility. find some counselors, ezra.

of course you meant to suggest in your original post that foreclosure was the problem. that was unambiguous. just admit it, apologize and move on.

momentary (or spontaneous) naivete is not a sin. just say your sorry and grow from it.

Posted by: lacey3 | May 6, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

I think that big government should pay all mortgages. That's about as sustainable as the rest of the ridiculous big government growth that's going on. Why not?

Posted by: smilek1 | May 7, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

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