February 1, 2007

"It is outrageous, in a post 9/11 world, that a company would use this type of marketing scheme."

Well, they certainly got your attention for "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," but now Peter Berdovsky, 27, and Sean Stevens, 28, have been arrested in Boston for placing a hoax device and disorderly conduct:
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."

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.
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.

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.

63 comments:

AllenS said...

Labels: art, crime, law, dirty hippy

Kirk Parker said...

"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."

Boisvert was either lying or (less likely) to dumb to be allowed to wander unsupervised.

corporate law drudge said...

Mayor "Mumbles" Menino and the newly minted Governor, Deval Patrick, should be asking their public safety subordinates some tough questions about how an uncritical examination of what were obviously Lite-Brite boards resulted in closing down the Hub of the Universe.

Max Power said...

Okay, this is just ridiculous.

First: Why is this being called a hoax? A hoax would be the planting of fake bombs for the sake of having them look like real bombs. These were crude-looking, lite-brite-like signs with 4 D-cell batteries exposed. If we are going to start calling 911 every time we see a copper-top, well we've just all lost our minds. I saw the pictures and can't for the life of me figure out how paranoid you would have to be to look at the these blinking lights and go "It's a bomb!"

Second: There are a couple dozen in place in 10 major cities, and they have been for two to three weeks. So, if they were bombs, it's good to know that our law enforcement will get around to finding them in their clearly visible position WITH FLASHING LIGHTS after about 2-3 weeks. Hopefully they will not have been detonated by then.

Third: Why is this worthy of 24-7 news coverage and major placement in major papers? The fact that Boston had to shut down is a testament to the abysmal communication skills of our law enforcement. Anyone who watches Adult Swim could testify to the fact that this sounds exactly like the type of advertising one of the shows would do. Furthermore, if you were not familiar with that fact, it should have taken a few minutes to notice that these were not bombs. Get the word out. Send the police back to their posts, and have one or two guys go around collecting these. Maybe maybe maybe you could send the bomb squad to the first one, but why did you have to shut down the other 15 roads/bridges/tunnels?

Whatever happened to that bill in the WI legislature that would allow bilboards to start using lights and moving parts? I hope it doesn't pass, or else our police are never going to get a break. Maybe we need to start adding Xanax in addition to the fluoride in our water supply.

I'm ashamed of the American people for falling victim to all the fear mongering.

If I was Osama in some cave somewhere and I heard about this, I would laugh my ass off for three days straight. Hell, as someone who used to watch Aqua Teen Hunger Force, I would be laughing right now if I wasn't so damn pissed at our society.

The Drill SGT said...

I'm sorry, I don't think it's the least bit funny. It's like sending folks letters with white powder in them. hahaha :(

I think that the advertising geniuses should spend a few days in jail and I think that the city should sue the network for costs. Somebody at the network approved campaign and it clearly as designed to look like bombs with box like electronic devices strapped to bridge girders. Here is n extract of the news report (see any pattern there):

The first device was found at an MBTA subway and bus station located under Interstate 93 on Wednesday morning. The device was detonated and determined to be harmless, but as a precaution the station and the interstate shut down temporarily.

Then, around 1 p.m., four calls came into Boston Police reporting suspicious devices at the Boston University Bridge and the Longfellow Bridge, which both span the Charles River, and the corner of Stuart and Columbus Streets and at the Tufts-New England Medical Center.

Another device was found in Somerville under the McGrath Highway Bridge. The latest package was found outside Fenway Park around 5:30 p.m.


I think in both cases, the artist or adversing agency "knew or should have known" that this would st off massive problems.

I think that 1st amend. lawyer has it wrong and that this one rises to disorderly conduct:

Finally, the catchall provision in the disorderly conduct statute is more general. It reaches instances in which the culprit "creat[es] a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose."

Pogo said...

Re:"...I would be laughing right now if I wasn't so damn pissed at our society."

"I'm sorry you were so stupid as to be frightened by my suspicious packages strapped to bridges and tunnels right where Al Qaeda likes to attack. Morons."

...because it's funny when people can't immediately tell a joke from a bomb, and don't know all the obscure habits of even obscurer minor cable cartoon TV shows. Right?

P.S. These guys knew this would be precisely the effect, but they just miscalculated a little on the "likelihood we'll get arrested" thingy.

R2K said...

I think the worst part is that the average american is so stupid, that they would look at a flashing cartoon - light and think it was a bomb. Why oh why would you make a bomb with flashing lights on it? The idea is to HIDE BOMBS UNTIL THEY ARE USED.

More than half of Americans do not know that the sun is a star.

SteveR said...

While I tend to agree with Max, I also don't think its funny and especially don't like it that these guys think its funny.

The police have a damn hard job and this stunt deserves some humbling. "Post No Bills" Dude!

hdhouse said...

I've been in advertising for 20 years. If they worked in my shop they would have been fired so fast their stupid head would spin.

This was utterly stupid and beyond that, if they prosecute them, let them. Just total assholes.

1. It was dumb in this day and age.
2. It may generate publicity but the wrong kind which is just as bad if not worse than none.
3. Throw their asses in jail.

amzbd said...

MaxPower,
I agree with everything you said.

And, that WI bill must have passed b/c there are two digital billboards in Milwaukee. I hate them b/c whoever designed the ads didn't take them to scale. The font is always too small and during the day the glare makes them hard to read...so they are way more distracting to a motorist than they should be. You have to really look hard at them to read them, and by then you've forgotten you're driving on the highway.

Todd and in Charge said...

How does a cartoon figure flashing a finger resemble a bomb?

This is hysteria, plain and simple, a gross overreaction by an idiot Mayor. There is absolutely no way the intent element could be proven in any rational or sane way.

Remember the same stunt was going on elsewhere in other cities, without incident. Guess they failed in those places....

Max Power said...

Sending white powder in an envelope is a poor analogy, and gets to my very point of why this should not be called a hoax.

White powder that is NOT anthrax but sent with the purpose of looking like it IS anthrax, is a hoax.

Maybe "the drill sgt" could explain how a flashing lite-brite board has the purpose of looking like a bomb?

Seriously, why would you send white powder in an envelope? I'm struggling for alternative purposes beyond an anthrax hoax. However, I can think of plenty of potential purposes of putting up the flashing image of a cartoon character before the thought 'bomb hoax' comes to mind.

johnstodder said...

A hoax would be the planting of fake bombs for the sake of having them look like real bombs.

This is hilarious. Max, what does a "real bomb" look like? A bowling ball with a fuse attached to it? A cigar-shaped thing with fins, and maybe Slim Pickens riding on it? Or maybe it has the words REAL BOMB painted on it.

I don't think these fellows should be prosecuted as criminals, but I do think the guerrilla marketing company and Cartoon Network should be forced to pay the costs incurred by the city.

Out here, LAX terminals are frequently closed because somebody left a suitcase behind. After it's discovered that the suitcase contained only underwear, it might seem ridiculous; but Osama would be laughing even more of his ass off if our public safety authorities declared arbitrarily that they would only respond to bomb threats that "look like real bombs."

I'm ashamed of the American people for falling victim to all the fear mongering.

Oh, please. Get over yourself.

dix said...

I think the worst part is that the average american is so stupid, that they would look at a flashing cartoon - light and think it was a bomb.

okay, I'll bite. What does a bomb look like?

MadisonMan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MadisonMan said...

What a nice opportunity for the Politicos to take umbrage and loudly proclaim how they're keeping us all safe!

I think the perps are beyond stupid for not considering how their actions may have been taken. It's easy to consider, however, that a flashing lite-brite board might not have been anticipated to look bomb-like.

Are there any pictures online of what the devices looked like?

Sigivald said...

I'm with Max. None of the pictures I've seen make the devices look particularly bomb-like, and given that real terrorist bombs are always hidden and/or disguised, the presumption that a visible battery means a bomb is ludicrous.

Especially given the lighted picture.

Pogo: If you're going to assert that people knew something, you should have some evidence. Do you?

Or do you assume merely that they Must Have Known, by evidence of the lack of such a reaction (panic, bomb scare) in every other market in which the ads were used?

(Irrelevant Thought Experiment: Would adding an LED count-down timer have made them hoax bombs? REAL bombs don't have such things, but bombs on TV shows and in movies do.

[Just like real terrorist bombs are hidden or disguised to avoid detection, not placed on sidewalks with lit signs on them.]

Is it now a crime to make anything that someone might mistake for a bomb somehow, regardless of how realistic or plausible the mistaken identity judgement is?

If I leave a broken VCR in front of my house for trash pickup, and it has exposed wires because the case was taken off, am I pretending to have a bomb in my yard?

Yes, context matters. But, no, it takes a big stretch and no sense at all to assume that these were bombs.)

Richard Dolan said...

While I mostly agree with Max Power's comment, this seemed a bit odd: "I'm ashamed of the American people for falling victim to all the fear mongering."

I don't think the "American people" fell for anything here. The "people" didn't have much to do with any aspect of this episode of marketing-gone-awry in Boston. And, for sure, the "American people" (and the public authorities) in NYC, Philly, Seattle and the other venues where the same attempt at marketing took place seem to have been able to ignore the whole thing with their accustomed shrug.

If the point of Max Power's comment was that terrorism is more fantasy than reality, and certainly nothing to be worried about -- well, think again. With the recent arrests in the UK, and all that has gone on before, it's quite obvious that the threat is real. To dismiss it as "fear mongering" -- if that's what Max Power's comment was intended to say -- suffers from the same blinkered approach to reality that is (I think justly) the object of the rest of Max Power's comment.

Reducing terrorism to a cartoon doesn't strike me as a great idea. But, for those who are inclined to blame the artists/marketing types for doing that, this story may merit another look. Of the three candidates for that (dis)honor -- the wayward artists/marketing guys, the public officials in Boston who look quite foolish in retrospect, or the ever-gleeful media types hyping it for all its worth (to them) -- the artists/marketing types strike me as the least blameworthy. Like max power, I'm very doubtful that the heavies in this little drama are the marketing types who dreamed up this cartoon-stunt.

Whatever others may think about that, here's one thing that ought to be troubling to all: With all the money spent on "first responders" since 9/11, one would have thought that they had developed a better sense for differentiating real threats from imagined ones. If they can't do that, then it's very hard to target resources in whatever direction may reduce real risks. Every time I have to take a plane, I'm struck at how much wasted, almost amateurish, effort goes in to public displays of "security," all of which strike me as ridiculously easy for a real terrorist to avoid. It seems that the same thing can be said about the Boston PD and other public authorities caught in the unflattering limelight here -- they have a long way to go in putting together a sensible and professional security force capable of dealing with any real terrorist threat.

Jeff Garzik said...

Normally I'm very supportive of anti-terrorisms efforts, as my blog demonstrates, but there is a large element of over-reaction here.

Data point one: Electronics are in every element of modern American society. We can't call the bomb squad every time we see a circuit board, wires, and batteries. Otherwise we will be blowing up a lot of cel phones and iPods.

Data point two: If we lose our sense of humor, the terrorists really have won.

Data point three: This is a far cry from sending someone white powder in an envelope, as 'the drill sgt' claims. You gotta be pretty paranoid if "BOMB!" is the first thing that pops to mind, when you look at these things, which do indeed look like lite brites.

Data point four: Anything can be a bomb. A device that looks like a cel phone could be a bomb. There has got to be a middle ground between "that's obviously a DVD player" and "that's obviously a bomb." That middle ground is called common sense. I see very little evidence of the Boston authorities exercising common sense.

CB said...

johnstodder (and others),

So wait--you are claiming that:
1. It is wrong to leave something that looks like a bomb in a public place
2. A bomb can look like anything.

This leads to absurd results--if I put a McDonald's bag in a garbage can , should the bomb squad be called, or are you going to claim that a bomb cannot be made to look like a McDonald's bag?

The authoritahs made jackasses of themselves here and are lashing out in order to cover their asses.

bearbee said...

Are there any pictures online of what the devices looked like?

Video

Kirk Parker said...

amzbd,

Surely you don't really want to spend your time looking at billboards, do you? I'd call the unreadably small font a feature, not a bug: it tells you that you can safely ignore the message...

dix,

"okay, I'll bite. What does a bomb look like?"

Well, for one Palestinian terrorist, it looked exactly like a cell phone. His very own cell phone.

Sigivald,

"given that real terrorist bombs are always hidden and/or disguised"

Oh, duh! I forgot: making a non-hidden/non-disguised bomb gets you thrown out of the Terrorist Bombmakers Union, doesn't it? Plus your work is disqualified for the Blast of the Year competition, too, I hear.

Pogo said...

Sigivald said... "Pogo: If you're going to assert that people knew something, you should have some evidence. Do you?"

Feh. It's called guerrilla marketing for a reason, Sigivald. They can't have it both ways; either they were trying to be outrageous and risk misinterpretation ("Gee, what's that thing on the bridge doing there?"), or they are mentally ill and need thorazine. I suspect the former. It's an educated guess, man, I'll admit, but they knew.

An over-reaction? Maybe. Easy for you to say. But when your ass is on the line and someone calls the cops about a suspicous package, you act. In my view, this suggests that it is going to be harder for real bombers to operate with any stealth, as people are freked out by bad ads as it is.

Anyway, we here in the US haven't gotten all comfortable yet with random bombings like in France and Spain and England. Sorry we're still so paranoid about bombs, instead of all cool like the French are, what with the cars on fire every day.

johnstodder said...

From Boston.com

...yesterday, a subway worker less attuned to the latest in underground marketing techniques called the police after spotting one of the "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" cartoon characters on an overpass in Charlestown. The terrorism scare that followed touched off a massive response from police. When it was discovered that the electronic boards were only ads for a cartoon, serious condemnation flowed from Washington and Boston.

So, some of you are saying that a subway working seeing a mysterious thing attached to a bridge should be "ashamed" for believing it's suspicious? Or that his bosses should have somehow known this was a cool viral marketing sign that every pothead Adult Swim couch potato would instantly recognize, so, like, "don't worry, man?"

Later in the same article:

Turner Broadcasting System Inc., which broadcasts "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" on its Cartoon Network, could have saved itself the controversy by warning local authorities this was a marketing campaign...

You think?

EB said...

In another life I was involved in a lot of network guerrilla marketing campaigns that included simultaneously letting loose 15 sets of Morticias, Gomezes and Lurches across Manhatten with coffins etc. But that was before 9/11.

I wonder what stunts we pulled back then would now be unacceptable. And I wonder if we would have realized it before we made such a mistake.

It seems like a dumb stunt but it also seems like the city overreacted.

I don't understand why CNN could be reporting this story for so long and people within their own organization didn't catch on.

Finally, the 2 guys arrested were most likely following the orders of their boss. And I'm fairly sure that they understandably assumed that what they were told to do was legal. I'm 99.9999999999999999% absolutely positive that they network gave the approval for the stunt. No company would dare do anything without our approval and I don't think it was any different here.

bearbee said...

Press interview with the 2 "performance artists ."

Punishment? Shave and haircuts!

The Drill SGT said...

I frankly don't care (and I bet the bomb squad doesn't either) what cute cartoon symbols are shown on a device. If somebody straps a box/suitcase/bag with active electronic circuitry to a bridge or highway structural girder, the police and the highway department need to assume it is a bomb until proven otherwise. that means closingthe highway and calling the bombsquad.

The best bombs/boobytraps are designed to appear to be innocent objects. However, the laws of physics determine that you need either a large unformed explosive, a smaller shaped charge aimed at the girder, or wrapping a girder in det cord. so no, you cant wire a cell phone to the side of a bridge and frighten me. strap a large box to a bridge and I have concerns regardless of whether it has a smiley face on it or not.

johnstodder said...

johnstodder (and others),

So wait--you are claiming that:
1. It is wrong to leave something that looks like a bomb in a public place
2. A bomb can look like anything.

This leads to absurd results--if I put a McDonald's bag in a garbage can , should the bomb squad be called...


Cops are trained to look for things that are out of place. A mysterious plastic/electric device attached to a bridge underpass does not belong there. A bridge is obviously a sensitive location from a public safety standpoint. To me, that's a logical basis for alarm.

A McDonald's bag in a trash can would not be a logical basis for alarm -- even though such bag could hypothetically conceal a bomb, too. No system is perfect. But it galls me that some of you guys would go all John Kerry about what a dumb country we live in merely because a public employee did his job.

Todd and in Charge said...

There's blame all around on this one, but be real -- judgments are made on garbage and left over items all the time. In my office building, in the days immediately after 9-11, we were forced to evacuate the entire building every couple days for at least three straight weeks. This was due to "suspicious" packages found by security around the building.

Since then we have not had to evacuate once -- for five straight years. Was it overreaction then, or underreaction now?

Peter Palladas said...

As it is near impossible now to dash off an instant yet pertinent and incisive comment on this blog, please assume and insert whichever of the following words or phrases seems apposite to any subject:

"As the late Duke of Devonshire would say - having carefully considered the pros and cons of any innovation - 'On the whole, much better not.'"

"Kraftwerk do it in absentia.

"Bakunin or Kropotkin - I never could decide."

"By and large this would never happen in The Wolds."

"Prof Althouse's vlogs are just so sexy."

"Don't vote it only encourages them."

"I know it's essentially tragic, but somehow you just gotta laugh."

"You do realise that I once nearly met Neal Cassidy's brother."

"Mani in the Pelopponese."

"Hillary - oh please!"

"...river run past Eve and Adams, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodious vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and environs."

"the..."

...one or more of the above should suffice for most occasions.

MadisonMan said...

bearbee, thanks for the youtube link.

I don't know what I'd think if I saw that stuff during the day. At night, it's pretty clearly some kinda juvenile marketing thing. At least that's how I'd interpret it if I saw it.

notraybradley said...

If Boston can be shut down over Lite Brites, how on Earth can Columbus prepare for the upcoming Chutes and Ladders invasion, or Portland withstand the onslaught of My Little Pony?

Boston is loaded with colleges. Surely somebody could have asked a local college kid "What is that thing?" before giving into panic.

Please, people - this is hilarious. The police, local government and this society that has created a culture of fear should all be ashamed.

Theo Boehm said...

My wife and son had to go to Cambridge yesterday morning and somehow missed all the fun. AND she got a parking place near Harvard Square. (Give us a little kiss.) My commute wasn't a problem, either. So, why should I care?

Well, I'm not interested in legal abstractions or critiques of the War on Terror, but I am interested in Boston traffic. All it takes is a flat tire or a piece of wood fallen off a truck in the wrong spot, and all vehicle movement in and around Boston can grind to a three-hour, teeth-gnashing halt.

I've talked to plenty of pissed-off people since this, and all I can say is, there but for the grace of God go I (and my wife, too). My view is that any moron who causes any more traffic problems in Boston should be declared an Enemy Combatant and sent to Guantánamo.

That's my charitable take. Talk to me after I've actually been stuck on 128 for two hours.

Peter Palladas said...

I omitted to include -

Virtually any lyric by Leonard Cohen (and/or mention of his lengthy sojourn in a Zen monastery), though preferably this:

"Ah you hate to see another tired man lay down his hand / like he was giving up the holy game of poker.

And while he talks his dreams to sleep / you notice there's a highway that is curling up like smoke above his shoulder.

It is curling just like smoke above his shoulder. "

Steven said...

The sun is a star?

Madison Guy said...

All your Boston are belong to us! Boston paralyzed by an alien Mooninite invasion and briefly capitulates, before authorities stage a valiant counterrattack and destroy the insidious alien devices -- except for those being auctioned on eBay, of course. (They were up for so long -- even in Boston -- and so visible, it really is hard to see how the authorities could possibly mistake them for bombs.)

HaloJonesFan said...

"This is hilarious. Max, what does a "real bomb" look like? A bowling ball with a fuse attached to it? A cigar-shaped thing with fins?"

"Doc, where'd you get the plutonium?"
"From a group of Libyan nationalists! They wanted me to build them a bomb. So I took their plutonium and in return gave them a shiny bomb casing full of used pinball-machine parts!"

I'm also reminded of a Woody Woodpecker cartoon, where he puts together a makeshift land mine and paints the word MINE on it. He hands it to the bad guy chasing him. Bad Guy: "Mine?" Woody: "Yours." BOOM

Alan said...

I don't think this incident could've unfolded any differently if it were done as a skit in a Monty Python movie.

Drew W said...

When you've got public safety to consider, as the Boston authorities do, the most cautious approach is probably the best, even if you makes you look a little silly in retrospect. I don't know what the jeering commenters on this thread do for a living, but I sincerely hope it doesn't involve safeguarding the lives of anyone but themselves. If the safety of the public -- or, say, a member of your family -- might be in jeopardy, there are no do-overs if you screw up.

And here's one point that seems to have been largely overlooked. As one who's tried to watch "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" a couple times, I can only say that in order for that show to be remotely funny and/or entertaining, you'd have to ingest so much drugs that you will have OD'ed before the first commercial.

PS: Blogger, on the other hand, is driving me to drink. This is my third attempt to post on this thread. I've got a slogan for you: New Blogger, New Danger.

bearbee said...

Here are photos showing the gidget at various angles.

Cedarford said...

New Google Blogger Sucks!

I am struck by the snickering little Lefties that have a message of "dumb Americans - how silly to be concerned about artists using their freedoms to affix mysterious boxes all over the place and shutdown a city".

As someone that has sat in gridlock in LA for 5 hours because some Lefty assholes protesting the war did freeway sitdowns then caused accidents and stalled cars that blocked the road further - I hope one day fed up citizens swarm such a group with baseball bats or in the case of the snickering "artists" in Boston - that some good citizens deck the twerps in the next few days - returning fear with fear.

This sort of crap isn't 1st Amendment anymore than the Anthrax letters were "protected free speech" because the envelopes contained political statements and the miscalculation of the mailer was to warn, scare - but not kill - but didn't realize the spores would "leak" from the envelopes.

We need laws modified so that anyone that shuts down infrastructure can count on even the ACLU shaking their heads and saying "we can't save you from jail and lawsuits".

And the "stupid American crowd" best realize that when civilians see a mysterious box with electronics and batteries strapped to them or lying where they don't belong they will contact authorities if they have any doubts. We cannot expect every citizen to be a bomb expert.

That said, I agree with Dolan who says that Boston police went into full panic mode and overreacted. I'm ex-military and don't have explosives training - but even to me, looking at the the pictures Bearbe posted at 4:47PM - I'd be 99.9% confident walking up to one it was no bomb. I see nothing that could be confused with a main charge, no shrapnel, and devices not placed on key structural failure parts of the structure they were affixed to.

It is clear that the Boston cops lacked knowledge and went into the "Full Drill" just to CYA their asses, and any lawsuit should address the overreaction and lack of competency of the cops.

Whatever others may think about that, here's one thing that ought to be troubling to all: With all the money spent on "first responders" since 9/11, one would have thought that they had developed a better sense for differentiating real threats from imagined ones. If they can't do that, then it's very hard to target resources in whatever direction may reduce real risks. Every time I have to take a plane, I'm struck at how much wasted, almost amateurish, effort goes in to public displays of "security," all of which strike me as ridiculously easy for a real terrorist to avoid. It seems that the same thing can be said about the Boston PD and other public authorities caught in the unflattering limelight here -- they have a long way to go in putting together a sensible and professional security force capable of dealing with any real terrorist threat.

Well said, Dolan.

I don't blame Lefties for my missing flights and being stuck in Charlotte for a fucking day on my own dime because the airport was shutdown for 3 hours because some lousy metal detector in another terminal malfunctioned and an estimated 10 people walked through and couldn't be accounted for. I blame "America's 1st Responder and TSA heroes" for that piece of overrective idiocy. Why the whole airport, not the affected terminal. Why not accept the slight risk that a terrorist was in the 10 when a malfunction that the 10 had a one in 600,000 chance of happening to as they passed?

Part of the answer, I fear, is Bush has spent 400 billion of our childrens money on symbolic security like useless new "hero" jobs, vast piles of pork and free gear for the "1st Responder Heroes", and fighter jets costing 11,000 per hour of flight time cutting donuts over US cities for 3 years.

PS - New Google Blogger Sucks!

Pissed Off Hillbilly said...

Doesn't intent (or lack thereof) factor into this somewhere?

Peter Palladas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sonicfrog said...

It's the Orson Wells / Mercury Theater "War Of The Worlds" all over again, except we have light-brites instead of radios, the invaders were "mooninites", and, AFAIK, no one has died. The South Park guys are gonna have a field day with this one.

I don't think the artists should be held accountable. They were doing their job, had the boss's approval, and obviously had no intention of scaring people or causing anything but a humorous distraction from everyday life. I DO think Turner Broadcasting will learn an expensive lesson from this incident, as they should have contacted the city and let them in on the gag.

Gerald said...

"I don't know what I'd think if I saw that stuff during the day. At night, it's pretty clearly some kinda juvenile marketing thing. At least that's how I'd interpret it if I saw it."

Right. Also, it depends on where you see them at. From watching the video and looking at the pictures, if it is at roughly eye level by a sign on a building it looks more like advertising. But if you see it on a bridge during the day suddenly the wires and batteries can take on a whole new meaning.

Being a cop -- anything to do with security -- is right up there with being a doctor or a teacher as jobs that just aren't worth doing to me. Damned if you do and damned if you don't.

Eventually there will be another real bomb go off somewhere and all these "LOL - cops are stupid!" commenters will be pointing fingers and blaming them for not being psychic and stopping the bombing.

I'm guessing there would be a lot fewer comments about how we should be ashamed about the culture of fear if the authorities hadn't been so successful in stopping bomb plots. I'm not gonna fault them for the occasional boner like this. The blame goes to the "guerrilla marketing" people who are strapping electronic devices where they shouldn't be.

It's freaking Time Warner people. They could have made arrangements with the city and averted all of this by acting responsibly.

Peter Palladas said...

As someone that has sat in gridlock in LA for 5 hours because some Lefty assholes protesting the war did freeway sitdowns then caused accidents and stalled cars that blocked the road further

...Don't act out 'Falling Down' on me. This Righty asshole has protested this insane, dumb War from the moment of its inception. I protest State-sponsored insanity as much as the next anarchist.

Use your downtime on the 'freeway' to question how the f*ck we/you ever got mired in this total, unwinnable mess.

Honk for hope that generations to come don't hate us for the poisoned legacy we/you leave.

[...Hate typos. It's an emotionally constipated Englishman thing.]


...7th time of trying to post. must be love ann!

hdhouse said...

Well the evening news on all three networks gave the story about 2 minutes. It has had play on cable constantly and probably you couldn't have paid for the advertising and name mentions with 10 million bucks...

so let them pay a fine. i'm sure they will gladly. the half mil that boston wants or 3/4 mil - whatever - is cheap at 10 times the price.

Harkonnendog said...

These guys are assholes.

Yeah, the cops overreacted- cops always do. Drop a bag of flour in the middle of the freeway and they'll close it down for six hours.

And yeah, it wasn't obvious that this would happen. But now that it did happen these "artists" should be extremely apologetic, and sincere. Their were partly responsible for inconveniencing tens of thousands of people. The cops have an excuse- they were trying to protect people- the "artists" are promoting a friggin' cartoon show for money.

mcg said...

Max, make up your mind. You can't in one sentence say, "We can't go around mistaking every copper-top for a bomb", and in the next ridicule people for not noticing them for 2-3 weeks. Pick a position and stick to it, Max. I know it's tough, but I have confidence in you.

Look, the fact that they've not caused concern until know indicates that they apparently don't look suspicously dangerous under most circumstances. But it only takes one placement that is perhaps more obscure, in an area where this or that employee or passerby has a clear mental picture of the way things ought to look, to strike a sense of alarm.

And I flat reject as absurd your suggestion that some random Adult Swim fan ought to have been able to stop the city shutdown with a well-placed call to the Boston PD chain of command. For one, I frankly think it reflects quite well on our society that this kind of pop knowledge isn't ubuquitous, thanks, that some random officer on the scene recognizes it. And how do you really expect someone off scene to figure it all out and get word to the chain of command?

But since you're so confident that it ought to only take a few minutes to notice that something isn't a bomb, why not sign up for the bomb squad? Your brazen confidence should work really well there. "Oh, please, this isn't a bomb, don't be----" Oops.

So get over yourself already. We don't go around overreacting to every suspicious object we see. Someone did this time---and yet that judgement comes only at the benefit of hindsight. There is nothing to be ashamed of here.

LoafingOaf said...

The Boston police commissioner has only been on the job for a month. He was probably jumpy.

Also, one of the stories Drudge links to says they found two fake pipe bombs - unrelated - in Boston the same day. Seems to have contibuted to the jumpiness.

What concerns me is how easy it is for someone to attach devices to bridges, hospitals, Fenway Park, and other sensitive Boston sites, without anyone knowing it. They'll shut the city down in over-reaction when they see devices that are extremely unlikely to be bombs, yet anyone can attach anything to sensitive sites in Boston without anyone noticing.

Boston officials come off as wanting to make a big display of how they are protecting the public(overreacting to these devices that no other city overreacted to), when in fact they are not protecting the public (anyone can attach anything to bridges, hospitals, etc, without being noticed).

Anyway, I don't feel too upset that Boston looks stupid and Turner Broadcasting is getting sued.

The Drill SGT said...

Cedarford said...I'd be 99.9% confident walking up to one it was no bomb. I see nothing that could be confused with a main charge, no shrapnel, and devices not placed on key structural failure parts of the structure they were affixed to.

OK, I've now seen pictures and the things dont have either the volume or shape to take down a girder, but I absolutely disagree that these could not be bombs.

No main charge, no shrapnel?

How about a sheet of plastic and a layer of ball bearings? back up to a building? those things could have had both.

basic claymore boobytrap?

Cedarford said...

What concerns me is how easy it is for someone to attach devices to bridges, hospitals, Fenway Park, and other sensitive Boston sites, without anyone knowing it.

America supposedly has 600,000 potential terrorist targets from bridges to dams to shopping malls to schools to subways to power stations. Places with multiple entrances open to the public, many at all hours of the day would require 100s of "First Reponder Heroes That Keep Us All Perfectly Safe" to watch and verify. And infrastructure? - to verify that at 2AM no one is underneath one of the 4,192 bridges, overpasses, transformer yards, schools placing bombs? You will need tens of thousands of "Hero Government employees", a quadrupling of taxes and a Police state to "fully protect us all from the evildoer terrorist with his eye on county overpass #313 at the mile 40 mark of state road 132.

It can't be done.

America cannot be statitically defended to 850 billion a year can hire 15 million new "Heroes paid by taxpayers" to be guarding evey possible target.

The idea is to go after the Islamoids before they assemble to hit us here, and treat the ACLU and other enemy-rights lovers and GITMO pen pals as every bit the enemy that actual murderous Islamoids on JIhad are.

**************************

Drill SGT - Apparantly these "Acqua" cartoon boxes were in several other cities and were looked at by cops and ignored, or the marketers were contacted to remove them or just put them at least 10 feet above ground. Hundreds are still up, with no stir..

If you look at the pics you see they were 4 D-cell batteries with a small circuit with obvious thin wire going to obvious jacketed lightbulbs. The board is plywood that is 3/8ths of an inch thick. Standard Lite-Brite boards.

Take another look at the pictures, Drill SGT. Anyone with a lick of sense would have looked at one and concluded that it was no bomb, and called the cops to send someone with explosives training to make sure.

And most police departments acquitted themselves well. Just not Bostons, where on top of their justifiable anger at the asshole artists are even angrier that they look like stupid CYA jerks when Philly, NYC, LA, Atlanta, Denver knew about the promo signs and didn't shut down the city.

We have spent 100s of billions of US taxpayer dollars on 1st responders, instead of other urgent needs like public health, especially in cities like Boston well-hooked up with Federal pork. We should expect better from our donut munchers than a pack of chicken littles reacting hysterically. Does Boston even have a bomb squad?

Read Dolan's post.

Of course the irony is the signs are being pulled everywhere now by people putting them up on e-Bay for 600 to 4,000 bucks. There are 9 listed since this morning.

gj said...

I might be more sympathetic if this had been done by an artist. But it wasn't. This was a commercial, at the public's expense.

Doesn't the fact that this was quite specifically commercial speech put to rest any question of first amendment protection?

hdhouse said...

get a grip you bumpkins. you find similar "devices" all over town. they are planted in high traffic areas (advertising 101),...what the f do you expect the police to do? just curious. get back to them after lunch break? wait for the next shift..they can deal with it?

they did what they should have done. but your carping about it is silly and provincal. the problem is the Turner advertising agency or internal department that could have ever thought that this was a good idea.

and yes this google blog sucks the big wind.

Robert said...

If you can track down the "press conference" the ad duo held after the hearing today, it is well worth the effort. All about the 1970s and hair...and nothing else! Clearly for them, the act has not yet come to an end.

California Dog said...

this is the country you people gave us. Hope you're proud.

and if you think that think on your desk is a bomb, don't call the police. It's just your computer.

Christopher M. Jones said...

People need to reread Max Power's comments above, they are dead on. This was not a hoax, it was not a play on a fear of bombs or anything like that. It was, essentially, a couple lite-brites which had been sitting around in a few major cities FOR WEEKS. Not to mention the fact that real bombs typically are not festooned with lights which say, effectively "here I am, notice me!"

The true story here is how overly suspicious attitudes managed to infect the police and fire departments of the city of Boston. They should be smarter than that. If these two guys had shot up some mall in downtown Boston the authorities would be falling all over themselves telling us that it wasn't "terrorism". But because the entire city of Boston lost its wits and overreacted this needs to be someone else's fault.

Meanwhile, if you plant actual fake pipe bombs in Boston you can expect to evade charges.

monkeyboy said...

I was just wondering if anyone who really beleives that these devices couldn't be IEDs has ever actually seen any?

I'll my brother the SWAT cop about them, he's seen a few.

Nataraj said...

FEAR. You must fear. You can't be adaquately controlled if you're not living in fear. A dozen cities are home to this media blitz, and Boston overreacts. Now the city (and Feds no doubt) are in it with egg on their faces and WILL NOT BACK DOWN. That would mean admitting they overreacted. Ponder Orwell's "1984":

"Nevertheless Winston did not speak for another moment or two. A feeling of weariness had overwhelmed him. The faint, mad gleam of enthusiasm had come back into O'Brien's face. He knew in advance what O'Brien would say. That the Party did not seek power for its own ends, but only for the good of the majority. That it sought power because men in the mass were frail cowardly creatures who could not endure liberty or face the truth, and must be ruled over and systematically deceived by others who were stronger than themselves. That the choice for mankind lay between freedom and happiness, and that, for the great bulk of mankind, happiness was better. That the party was the eternal guardian of the weak, a dedicated sect doing evil that good might come, sacrificing its own happiness to that of others."

Think of the implications: If I see ANYthing suspicious and call the police thinking it may be, could be, might be a [whisper] b-o-m-b, then the city can be shut down "just in case" with no reasonablness applied. Reminds me of a Dennis Miller rant where he goes off about emergency stop cords on trains. He refuses to ride any conveyance where a major accident can be initiated because 'Gus thought he saw a woodchuck'.

This Boston cluster**** is exactly what terrorism hopes to accomplish.

Live in fear.

notraybradley said...

For Drew W,

I, as one of the "jeering commenters" you mentioned, work in the Pentagon, and we're laughing at Boston.

That kind of overreaction makes the country look stupid AND gives yet another example of local authorities crying "Wolf!" - neither of which are beneficial to any of us.

Fen said...

CNN Live: "300 people now dead from Sarin...and you say you watched the terrorists plant the bomb and did nothing?"

Fen: "Yah, they seemed suspicious - and the Capitol Police are always telling us to be on the lookout for that kind of thing...but then I thought it must just be a PR stunt, like the ones those guys did in Boston a few months back... so I went back to lunch..."

downtownlad said...

Oh geez. This does so NOT look like a bomb.

People need to get a life.

The head of the Boston police force should be fired.

Tim said...

Sadly, I read the "post 911 hype" on this board and simply feel sad.

Blinking lights of cartoon characters look like bombs? Only in the minds of paranoid Boston police and officials.

They look like blinking light cartoons to me.

We just just consider this a kind of social ink-blot test. Some people see cartoons and blinking lights; some people see the end of the world and bombs.

I am very glad I see cartoons and blinking lights!