Thursday, February 01, 2007

Aqua Teen Ad Terrifies Boston

A life lived in terror? Mission Accomplished!

The wild and reckless overreaction in Boston yesterday to stray advertising signs for a cartoon alien from the show "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" was a jaw-dropping sign of incompetence. It was not an insidious act of terrorism - though it shows how easily some can be terrified these days.

Incompetent since no such similar overreaction occurred in any of the other major American cities where the ads have been up for nearly three weeks - New York, L.A., Philadelphia, Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta, Portland, San Francisco.

The hysteria was fueled by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.

I read about how highways, and at one point, even the St Charles River, was shut down because responders thought the small LiteBrite and some batteries might be a bomb, and I read about it online at around 2 p.m, after reports of the panic were mentioned on the MetaFilter web site - one of the most visited sites on the internet - by 12:41 p.m.. Other blogs had noted the events too, and already the information that these ads were just that - ads- was widely known and available.

Now move to around 4:15 pm when CNN went to a live press conference out of Boston with the Governor, Mayor Menino, and officials from police, ATF and Homeland Security are not dismissing the incident but stoking the fears.

Just as Mayor Menino's comments were ending - in which he referred to these objects as "bombs' half a dozen times - a reporter could be clearly heard asking the mayor about information that Turner Broadcasting had issued a statement these "devices" were just ads for a cartoon. The mayor shouted the reporter down and said "I'm not finished yet. Just for that your question comes last!!"

So by 4 p.m., the mayor and other officials knew what these "devices" were. But the pressure was on now, since untold amounts of money and vital resources had been wasted, to point the blame at someone outside the group of officials responsible for public safety. The mayor remains in a state of hysteria, telling the press:

It is outrageous, in a post-9/11 world, that a company would use this type of marketing scheme," Menino said. "I am prepared to take any and all legal action against Turner Broadcasting and its affiliates for any and all expenses incurred during the response to today's incidents."

Two people have been charged with felonies as of this morning, again, wasting efforts rather than allowing for cooler heads to control the situation.

And it appears for some, Post 9-11 Worldview deems anything and everything as a threat of terrorism.

It isn't just the mayor and governor who disconnected from the world on this. It shows how perhaps for all the claims that the internet is an object of surveillance it really isn't.

Within seconds of running an image search on the internet, officials would know this was a cartoon character, that a movie is about to be released for Aqua Teen, that's it's been on television for six years. And I'm supposed to believe no one in the hundreds and hundreds deployed yesterday knew what these "devices" were? None of them have kids? None of them watch TV or movies? No one in Boston's media knew what this was??

Or was it all just a chance to wind people a little tighter?

The Washington Post quotes former public relations consultant, now Homeland Security consultant, W. David Stephenson:

You just can't trivialize this. It's one of those moments where you just can't figure out what was going on in the brain of the advertising person."

That's one of the silliest things I've heard in an Era of Silly. I wonder, as do most Americans, what the heck an ad person was thinking about some ad campaign at least a dozen times a day.
Every nook and cranny imaginable has been free game for advertising for a long, long time. Remember how officials responded in L.A. to newspaper boxes that played the theme from "Mission: Impossible III" recently? A county bomb squad came out and blew them up. One way to write a review I guess.

And what happens when someone calls in and says "My God!! Cows are painting anti-hamburger slogans on billboards!!"

"A talking lizard is selling car insurance!!"

If someone calls into a store and asks "Do you have Prince Albert in a can?" is that an act of terrorism?

It is amusing to hear references to Meatwad and Frybox in news reports. And Mooninites. And Iningknot and Err are now potential terrorists. It should be funny, but it isn't. Some in America prefer to live in terror of the unknown and now they have the policies and the agencies to enforce it.


  1. Anonymous1:40 PM

    A funny coda to this teapot tempest is that when shown on most media, the Mooninite's dissing digit has been censored. We're afraid of a cartoon finger! *sigh*
    I'm waiting for a lawsuit to be brought against one of the other cities for not doing its anti-terrorism duties.
    On the other four-fingered cartoon hand - Black boxes with visible wires & batteries on bridges & overpasses? Not well thought out.

  2. Anonymous2:45 PM

    Maybe Bostonians don't get Cartoon Network. Also, Robert Heinlin referred to it as "The Silly Season".

  3. Anonymous7:31 PM

    For immediate release:

    Jeffrey Scott Holland


    As you may know, last year I left green Easter Eggs in various
    public and semi-public places in several American cities, as part
    of my PROJECT EGG public art installation. This April, it had been
    my intent to the expand the egg hunt to cover the entire nation,
    with eggs hidden in the major cities of each of the fifty states.

    However, in the wake of the ludicrous and Orwellian response of
    Boston city officials to the Aqua Teen Hunger Force ad campaign,
    I have been deeply morally appalled at behavior and statements
    of Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Assistant Attorney General
    John Grossman, claiming that lightboxes such as those used in
    the Aqua Teen Hunger Force ad campaign were no longer
    appropriate in a "post 9/11 world", and that the "hoax" perpetrators
    "clearly intended" the lightboxes to be mistaken for bombs.

    These so-called public officials are apparently blissfully ignorant of
    the simple fact that terrorist bombs logically do not call attention to
    themselves with flashing lights and cartoon characters.

    Given this chilling effect the powers-that-be in Boston have cast on
    free expression (not to mention common sense), I must withdraw my
    intent to give away Easter Eggs in the state of Massachusetts in
    April. I will not give these men further fuel in their drive to present
    themselves as intelligent and valiant fighters of "potential" terrorism
    in the name of national security, which is the real hoax being
    perpetrated here.

    To paraphrase Senator Jordan in the original Manchurian Candidate
    film, "these men could not be doing more harm to America than if
    they were paid Russian agents".

    Jeffrey Scott Holland

  4. And this my dear sweet Cuppa, we agree so completely I can't help but wonder if you, are indeed, my Wonder Triplet.

  5. Anonymous8:54 AM

    You know, this whole episode is very Err.

  6. Anonymous2:43 PM

    Pass the word:

    Peter Berdovsky Legal Defense Fund
    Law Office of Michael L. Rich
    74 Newport Street
    Arlington MA 02476

  7. um, yeah if Turner Broadcasting can't cover the costs, I'll kick in a buck.

  8. Even if Turner has to pay five million the value in advertising is sweet. Most likely everyone in the United States has been subject to this story and know now the Aqua Teen Hunger Force has a new show on the Cartoon Network. Heck they have perhaps started a new terror marketing scheme we will see more of, anyway ghost stories are fun for all ages.