Non-Terrorist Embarrassment in Boston
The story is almost too funny to write about seriously. To advertise the Cartoon Network show "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," the network put up 38 blinking signs (kind of like Lite Brites) around the Boston area. The Boston police decided -- with absolutely no supporting evidence -- that these were bombs and shut down parts of the city.
Now the police look stupid, but they're trying really not hard not to act humiliated:
Governor Deval Patrick told the Associated Press: "It's a hoax -- and it's not funny."
Unfortunately, it is funny. What isn't funny is now the Boston government is trying to prosecute the artist and the network instead of owning up to their own stupidity. The police now claim that they were "hoax" explosive devices. I don't think you can claim they are hoax explosive devices unless they were intended to look like explosive devices, which merely a cursory look at any of them shows that they weren't.
But it's much easier to blame others than to admit that you were wrong:
"It is outrageous, in a post 9/11 world, that a company would use this type of marketing scheme," Mayor Thomas Menino said. "I am prepared to take any and all legal action against Turner Broadcasting and its affiliates for any and all expenses incurred."
Rep. Ed Markey, a Boston-area congressman, said, "Whoever thought this up needs to find another job."
"Scaring an entire region, tying up the T and major roadways, and forcing first responders to spend 12 hours chasing down trinkets instead of terrorists is marketing run amok," Markey, a Democrat, said in a written statement. "It would be hard to dream up a more appalling publicity stunt."
"It had a very sinister appearance," [Massachusetts Attorney General Martha] Coakley told reporters. "It had a battery behind it, and wires."
For heavens sake, don't let her inside a Radio Shack.
I like this comment:
They consisted of magnetic signs with blinking lights in the shape of a cartoon character.
And everyone knows that bombs have blinking lights on ‘em. Every single movie bomb you’ve ever seen has a blinking light.
Triumph for Homeland Security, guys.
And this one:
"It's almost too easy to be a terrorist these days," said Jennifer Mason, 26. "You stick a box on a corner and you can shut down a city."
And this one, by one of the artists who installed the signs:
"I find it kind of ridiculous that they're making these statements on TV that we must not be safe from terrorism, because they were up there for three weeks and no one noticed. It's pretty commonsensical to look at them and say this is a piece of art and installation," he said.
Right. If this wasn't a ridiculous overreaction to a non-existent threat, then how come the devices were in place for weeks without anyone noticing them? What does that say about the Boston police?
Maybe if the Boston police stopped wasting time and money searching bags on subways....
Of the 2,449 inspections between Oct. 10 and Dec. 31, the bags of 27 riders tested positive in the initial screening for explosives, prompting further searches, the Globe found in an analysis of daily inspection reports obtained under the state's Freedom of Information Act.
In the additional screening, 11 passengers had their bags checked by explosive-sniffing dogs, and 16 underwent a physical search. Nothing was found.
These blinking signs have been up for weeks in ten cities -- Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Austin, San Francisco, and Philadelphia -- and no one else has managed to panic so completely. Refuse to be terrorized, people!
EDITED TO ADD (2/2): Here's some good information about whether the stunt broke the law or not.
EDITED TO ADD (2/3): This is 100% right:
Let's get a few facts straight on the Aqua Teen Hunger Force sign fiasco:
1. Attorney General Martha Coakley needs to shut up and stop using the word "hoax." There was no hoax. Hoax implies Turner Networks and the ATHF people were trying to defraud or confuse people as to what they were doing. Hoax implies they were trying to make their signs look like bombs. They weren't. They made Lite-Brite signs of a cartoon character giving the finger.
2. It bears repeating again that Turner, and especially Berdovsky, did absolutely nothing illegal. The devices were not bombs. They did not look like bombs. They were all placed in public spaces and caused no obstruction to traffic or commerce. At most, Berdovsky is guilty of littering or illegal flyering.
3. The "devices" were placed in ten cities, and have been there for over two weeks. No other city managed to freak out and commit an entire platoon of police officers to scaring their own city claiming they might be bombs. No other mayor agreed to talk to Fox News with any statement beyond "no comment" when spending the day asking if this was a "terrorist dry run."
4. There is nothing, not a single thing, remotely suggesting that Turner or the guerilla marketing firm they hired intended to cause a public disturbance. Many have claimed the signs were "like saying 'fire' in a crowded theater." Wrong. This was like taping a picture of a fire to the wall of a theater and someone freaked out and called the fire department.
And this is also worth reading.
EDITED TO ADD (2/6): More info.
Posted on February 1, 2007 at 1:08 PM • 245 Comments