If you don't have a television or a radio, you might have missed it: Mysterious, technological devices hidden across a densely-populated American city
. The city of Boston, thrown into chaos
, bridge, highways and train stops shut down. After a city-wide search and investigation, officials eventually determined that the whole thing was a terror hoax.
The two perpetrators were quickly arrested and held on $100,000 bond. Although thankfully no lives were lost, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino promised to make them pay dearly for plunging the city into a panic.
The events happened, but the description above is not true
. You wouldn't know it from most news coverage, but this was not a terror hoax, and these were not fake bombs planted through the city. Boston was not targeted, any more than New York, Philadelphia, and a number of other cities were. The "devices" had been around for weeks without causing any panic, threatening anyone's safety, or making it on the news.
The "devices" were not even "devices," at least not in the ominous tone of a newscaster. They were advertisements. With colorful lights on them. Lights that formed the outline of an Atari-style video game character giving you the finger.
They were ads for Cartoon Network's Aqua Teen Hunger Force
. The Atari guy flipping the bird is one of the Mooninites, either Ignignokt or Err.
Now I know that a lot of people are saying, "we have to take terrorism seriously." The two guys who put up the signs face charges of "placing a hoax device in a way that causes panic and disorderly conduct." Guess what? The overblown reaction and subsequent whining and finger-pointing is the opposite of taking terrorism seriously
Taking terrorism seriously would entail:
- Not panicking.
- Actually investigating things. Oh, and knowing things.
- Addressing real threats and security holes instead of imagined ones.
Question 1: How could Boston officials possibly have known what these cryptic figures were supposed to be? Well, according to Time Magazine
, ATHF and the rest of the Adult Swim line up have gotten better ratings than Jay Leno and David Letterman for men under the age of 35. Granted the Tonight Show has been on a little longer, but what would the reaction and news coverage look like if this stunt was pulled by NBC?
Does this mean the City of Boston (along with the TV stations and news networks covering the breaking story) have no male employees under the age of 35?
Question 2: How could they have possibly tell the difference between a terrorist plot and a guerrilla marketing plot? They could try Google, or YouTube. Do terrorists film their preparations, put them to a techno beat, then post the video to the most popular video site in America?
Now this whole thing might have been a big lame joke, except that some Bostonians and many Americans are so scared brainless about terrorism that they are probably going to try to put Peter Berdovsky and Sean Stevens in jail and sue the pants of Ted Turner.
This part is very serious
: do we really want to make anything that anyone thinks might be a bomb equal to an actual bomb in the eyes of the law? Do we want to make two guys who were mistaken for terrorists equivalent to actual terrorists?
Did you know that people carry around complex technological devices that could possibly, maybe, in some scenarios, be packed with ounces of explosives? Gasp. Confiscate all the iPods!
If you leave your backpack unattended at the airport, don't be surprised if they blow it. But if there's no threat, and no intent to create a hoax, you shouldn't expect to spend a night in jail either.
Adult Swim has issued a half-hearted lawyerly apology (see below), but I don't think they should have apologized at all.
Finally, I think it's important to educate the public about what the threat looks like: