A carbomb (VBIED) was found in New York's Times Square. Some details:
- The crude construction indicates a disconnected homegrown group or individual not able to leverage an existing terrorist network.
- The target was chosen due to the potential for global media coverage of the explosion.
- The bomb was quickly cleared with minimal disruption. Life returned to normal within ~12 hours.
The selection of Times Square was purely symbolic, it's perceptually the "center of the world." A large explosion there would generate vast media coverage. The assumption of the attacker being that vast media coverage of an attack is by definition a form of successful terrorist systems disruption.
It's not. This is the classic mistake of traditional terrorists. Vast media coverage, one of the earliest forms of network amplification (as in, the network converts a small event into something large), isn't useful as systems disruption unless it divides or shatters targeted social networks. As in: the disruption of a social network only occurs when trust breaks down and segments of network become non-cooperative (typically, by enticing them to act selfishly at the expense of other parts of the network).
Fortunately, the disruption of social networks through the media alone is very hard to do. Social systempunkts are very hard to discern (however, when they are found and successfully attacked, the results are very impressive*). That's why, the trend in terrorism and warfare in general is increasingly directed towards the disruption of physical infrastructure: the systempunkts of critical infrastructure are relatively easy to discern and the results are nearly always as expected (excellent ROIs due to network amplification and the potential for social network disruption since the results directly impact the populace).
* Two good examples of successful attacks against social systempunkts include 9/11 and the attack on Iraq's Golden Mosque. 9/11 launched the US on ten plus years of financially debilitating warfare. The attack on the Golden Mosque led to an Iraqi civil war (which, in a good demonstration of how tricky this is, backfired on the Sunni insurgency and led them to seek protection from the US military).