Officials found 38 blinking electronic signs promoting the Cartoon Network TV show "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" on bridges and other high-profile spots across the city Wednesday, prompting the closing of a highway and the deployment of bomb squads. The surreal series is about a talking milkshake, a box of fries and a meatball....
The 1-foot tall signs, which were lit up at night, resembled a circuit board, with protruding wires and batteries. Most depicted a boxy, cartoon character giving passersby the finger — a more obvious sight when darkness fell.
The men did not speak or enter their own pleas, but they appeared amused and smiled as the prosecutor talked about the device found at Sullivan Station underneath Interstate 93, looking like it had C-4 explosive.
Smirking at the arraignment? You know you can't do that, post 9/11...
Guilty, of not realizing America doesn't understand jokes that play on the fear of bombs.
It reminds me of the case of the NYC artist Clinton Boisvert:
[In December 2002], with New Yorkers still very much on edge after the first anniversary of 9/11, Boisvert placed about three dozen Federal Express boxes in the heavily-trafficked Union Square subway station, during morning rush hour. Each was spray-painted black; each bore the single word "Fear."The linked article is by Julie Hilden who practiced First Amendment law at Williams & Connolly. In what should give us some insight into the new case, she concludes -- as First Amendment lawyers tend to do -- that Boisvert had a First Amendment right and should not have been prosecuted.
At first, no one took notice. But ultimately, the police were alerted; the bomb squad arrived; and the subway trains were stopped, leaving commuters worried, inconvenienced, and annoyed. A bomb-detecting robot was sent into the station--in vain, since the boxes were empty.
Apparently, the police feared that the boxes were part of an act of terrorism, and might contain weapons. That suspicion was hardly unreasonable, given that innocuous means of delivery--such as a shoe sole, in the case of the "Shoe Bomber," or an envelope, in the case of the anthrax letters--had previously proved very dangerous indeed.
Boisvert claims that he hadn't anticipated that such a reaction might occur, until his teacher at the School of Visual Arts raised the possibility during class, afterward. Nevertheless, Boisvert was criminally charged for putting the boxes in the station.
I'm wondering if the "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" folks are really sorry. They got massive publicity, and Berdovsky and Stevens will be, if not heroes, at least objects of sympathy, and the intended market for "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" will probably be the sort of people who will think the authorities are acting ridiculous. Berdovsky and Stevens will presumably have first-rate legal counsel, and their ordeal will reap more publicity for the surreal cartoon show.