February 3, 2007

The Boston non-bombs.

Apologies have been made and reimbursement proffered. Isn't that enough? I mean, look at those things. It was some delightful performance art that should have puzzled and then amused people. I'm not saying people who got alarmed were ridiculous, but they need to move on. Free Sean Stevens and Peter Berdovsky. Or do they irritate you?

They're being yippies! [NSFW.]


Unknown said...

The police do have a point.

We all remember the horrific "Light Bright" bombings of the early 1970's that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of children in San Antonio.


Sissy Willis said...

"Some delightful performance art" is surely in the eye of the beholder. I'm pretty sure more than one person died because they weren't able to get to the hospital in time due to the artists' "delightful performance." In my view, it was all about them, and the rest of us are mere props in what I called in my own post about it all -- The artist as a young thug -- "their monomaniacal marshmallow-fluff fantasies." To support my case, here's an eye-witness report from the front:

I work and live in this neighborhood. Over the past few months we've seen two bomb threats, a fatal laboratory explosion, as well as a number of false and real fire alarms. (Won't even get into the threats we get from certain groups to ourselves/building due to what our line of work is.) As a result, we tend to be a bit jumpy.

The day this particular incident went down, my boss was trying to make it back to Charlestown (a 15 minute drive on a good day) to get to a(n albeit minor, outpatient) surgery appointment. She ended up stuck in traffic for 1 1/2 hours. The next available date she could get was mid-March. Neither she nor any of us around here is looking at this with amusement.

As I said in my post:

Maybe a little time in the slammer will knock some sense into the two aging adolescents.

Ann Althouse said...

Sissy: If they realized the situation would be treated like that and went ahead, I would agree with you. And they were stupid and selfish to think it was okay. I just forgive them.

I'm Full of Soup said...

HOw come there was no panic and uproar here in Philly? The things were planted here too.

I agree with you Ann - it's a prank gone awry.

P_J said...

You had me until you brought in the yippies and that TV clip.

"Thanks for inviting me on your show. Let me tear up your notes, take over the studio, and scorn you for not smoking pot and cursing on TV. Welcome to the new society."

I've never understood 60s notalgia.

Ann Althouse said...

Pastor Jeff: Don't assume I liked the Yippies. I'm just saying I see Yippie style in what those two guys were doing. I feel some degree of recognition and understanding.

But in fact, I'm not nostalgic for Yippies. I just remember them, and the fact is, I didn't even like them at the time.

Sissy Willis said...

Ann -- I'm not sure it's up to you to forgive them. Here is my take:

"We tend to be a bit jumpy"

P_J said...

I didn't mean to ascribe 60s nostalgia to you, although I can see how my comment came across that way. I meant that for me the "It was just an artistic prank" argument was undercut by being reminded of some of the more unsavory aspects of 60s counter-culture.

That's what I get for being pithy!

Brian O'Connell said...

I'm a little put off by the almost constant references in this story to art and artists. Maybe the LED signs are art, but it's more relevant that they are advertisements for (ultimately) one of the largest conglomerates on the planet.

Why is Time Warner sticking electronic devices on public infrastructure without payment or permission? Isn't there enough advertising out there already? Even if the big scare hadn't happened, I wouldn't mind seeing a couple of CEOs under arrest for authorizing this guerrilla crap. (Harrumph.)

Ann Althouse said...

Jeff, Brian: We are not that far apart. I think the guys were foolish, and they weren't pure artists. They were partly in it for the money and partly just young fools. After their arrest, they are just riding the crest of a wave, hoping to win, taking a risk. I don't think it was just a prank. I think it was a commercial enterprise and an attempt by artistic guys to make it within the standards of counterculture. These two aspects of self-interest ended up hurting the interests of a lot of real people, and it was bad of them not to anticipate that. They were wrong. I'm just saying I forgive them.

Adam said...

I think there is plenty of blame to go around.

I honestly don't see one actor in this whole stupid drama that isn't worthy of scorn and derision to some extent.

The two guys do exemplify the most loathsome hippie nihilism. Uhh, you just caused huge disruptions and a massive bomb scare, even if unintentionally. Just because your lawyer says you shouldn't comment doesn't mean you should act like it's all a big joke.

The police and politicians overblew the story and contributed to the panic. Saying that the ads were "consistent with an improvised explosive device" did not add clarity to what was obviously not a real threat. The media also share some blame in over-hyping this nonsense.

Overall, this kind of crap leads people to be less credulous of government's claims when they actually do disrupt terrorist cells. I know that was one of the first things I thought: on other occasions when there have been "foiled plots," has it all just been a big load of crap like this?

It's a feel-bad story all around.

Dave said...

It seems that, yes, we can all agree these "artists" are nihilistic, Yippie-like, and impetuous (ah, youth!)

But the more interesting aspect of the story seems to be the intransigence of the various government officials: were they to admit they overreacted to something that posed no danger, they would be cutting their own authority out from under themselves. They would, essentially, be shooting themselves in the foot.

No government official hounded by lawyers would ever admit to having made a mistake. We, of course, saw the same sort of attitude amongst government officials when the London cops wantonly murdered a Brazilian worker on the Tube in 2005. Racial activists would say the same thing about Amadou Diallo (though I tend to disagree with their assessment).

But the pattern of government officials overreacting, and then refusing to acknowledge such overreaction is a pattern that manifests itself in all manner of places, and in all manner of situations. Stimson's resignation can be seen in the same light.

As to the question of forgiving the artists--well, there would be nothing about which to forgive them were the government officials not guilty of over-reaction.

vbspurs said...

As to the question of forgiving the artists--well, there would be nothing about which to forgive them were the government officials not guilty of over-reaction.

This is a neat argument, often offered during such "over-reaction" moments.

But when the shite hits the fan, for real, the people who cried 'over-reaction' are demanding apologies from officials, about why nothing was done, or was hopelessly, utterly botched.

Sorry people.

The time when you could go into an airplane waving your hands around like a madman and not be tazered or worse; or taking toothpaste willy-nilly inside your bags and not inside plastic, see-thru bags; or performing a little stunt regarding fake-bombs in public places, is over.

This is the 21st century, and the liberties we had before in our open society, were abused by evil people for their own ends.

Don't pine for the freewheeling 16th century, where there was no sniffing of Parliament buildings for gun powder, because that trust is GONE forever.


Brian O'Connell said...

Ann, I'm not sure if the two "artists" ought to do time. They were just hired guns- they didn't come up with the concept. They're just glorified billboard-posters.

If anyone should do time, perhaps the CEO of Interference, Inc ought to. There's a story floating around that he bade the "artists" to keep quiet when they realized that the terror threat and the guerrilla marketing campaign were one and the same.

Charlie Eklund said...

I don't know about performance art, but it seemes to me that these two knuckleheads are a lot more Dippy than they are Yippie.

I'm Full of Soup said...

Victoria said:

"But when the shite hits the fan, for real....".

Typo? or intentional, that is some damn good writing.

And Ann- this word / password verification software sucks big time. It works about 1 out of 4 attempts.

vbspurs said...

Typo? or intentional, that is some damn good writing.

Thanks. AJ!

It's real enough. A regionalism we use for the real thing. Since I am not usually coarse, I tend to think it sounds funnier and "softer". :)

And Ann- this word / password verification software sucks big time. It works about 1 out of 4 attempts.

I don't think she can do anything about it, but let me add my voice to the chorus of replies about this (thanks Gerry, Ruth Anne and others).

My wv now is evyfwr. Let's see if it works.


vbspurs said...

Nope. Amagit...nope. Balbgvvrg. Sigh.

Christy said...

I am not amused. This serves, as well as anything else, as a dry run for a real attack. The rest of the country laughs at Boston. If I were out to cause harm, I'd use a similar performance art approach as cover. Sure some police departments may investigate, but I can be confident that those that didn't this time, won't the next time either.

LoafingOaf said...

sissy willis: I'm pretty sure more than one person died because they weren't able to get to the hospital....

Haven't heard of any deaths. If there were any, the blame falls on Boston's idiotic officials for: (1) Reacting in a ridiculous manner, in contrast to all 9 of the other cities these devices appeared in; (2) Keeping the panic going even after they must've known what the devices were (at some point they mustv'e looked at the first device they got to and seen what it was).

I clicked over to your blog post and you sound hysterical. In addition to bringing up some crap about "cultural marxism," and obviously being intolerant to the two guys simply because of how they wear their hair, you said:

Who cares if these clueless punks' "devices" weren't explosives? These young "artists" -- they sound more like a couple of adolescents suffering from arrested development -- are terrorists, plain and simple.

They're "terrorists" pain and simple????? Are you one of those bloggers who likes going way over the top to get attention? Or do you wanna call everyone you dislike a "terrorist" so you can crack down on them?

They deserve whatever punishment the rule of law may mete out. They need to learn a lesson, and their fellows out there snickering with delight need to learn a lesson as well. Give 'em the chair! Well, at least give them some time in the Big House....

I'm sorry you were slightly inconvenienced from your busy day in Boston when this went down, but you frighten me. After reading you blog I hope something like this happens again in Boston just so you go completely off the deep end. No offense.

I dunno. I think of prisons as places that should be for rapists and murderers, not people Sissy thinks have bad hairstyles and thus are "cultural marxists." I'm glad you calmed down from wanting to give them the chair, but the worst they could possibly be guilty of is negligence, and even that is debatable since I'm not sure Boston's laughable reaction was foreseeable.

Whatever the case, you should lighten up.

Anonymous said...

MADISON (UPI)-Ann Althouse, the Robert W. & Irma M. Arthur-Bascom Professor of Law at the University of Wisconsin School of Law, announced late yesterday that she "just forgives" Peter Berdovsky, 27, and Sean Stevens, 28, the two men charged with placing battery-powered cartoon characters throughout Boston that touched off fears of bombs and terrorism.

Professor Althouse made the announcement Saturday on her popular blog, "Althouse," in the course of a discussion of the incident.  She wrote, "It was some delightful performance art that should have puzzled and then amused people....I just forgive them."

"I think because Ann went to art school she feels strongly about artistic freedom," said Fred Burkle, 34, of Madison, a longtime follower of Professor Althouse's blog, who sometimes contributes comments as well.  "She has a lot of readers who regard her as a diva, because she is so broadminded and logical, yet passionate about the the things she cares about," said Burkle.

Michael L. Rich, the attorney for the pair, said he was "pleased that someone of Professor Althouse's stature would forgive my clients.  I'm sure, with her background in art, Professor Althouse can easily discern the true intentions of my clients, which were never to cause any harm.  In fact, I would welcome it if she would be willing to serve as an expert witness on the artistic and First Ammendment issues in this case. Professor Althouse obviously knows art when she sees it."  It remained unclear today, however, whether further legal action would be necessary in the light of Professor Althouse's statement.  Officials at the Charlestown Municipal Court were unavailable for comment late this afternoon.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino made it clear through a spokesperson this evening that he had no intention of letting legal proceedings drop.  "Professor Althouse can forgive anyone she wants.  I'm not forgiving these morons," the mayor was quoted as saying.

Interviewed at Stevens' Charlestown appartment, the pair remained upbeat. "You know we can't talk about the case—Judge's orders," Stevens said, "but we're optimistic that everyone will come to their senses pretty soon."  Berdovsky, originally from Belarus, said, "We can talk about hair. No legal stuff.  Just hair.  You know, that Professor Althouse has some of the straightest hair on the planet.  I've got some of the curliest, like dreds and an Afro and all.  We should meet.  It would be dueling hair styles.  She can't use a brush on that hair.  She's got to use an ironing board.  Anyway, it's cool some really old people want to help."

Boston-area reaction to Althouse's statement was mixed.  Interviewed on Harvard Ave., Annalisa Allston, 26, of Brookline said, "I don't know what the big deal is.  I mean, everybody knows about Aqua Teen Hunger Force, don't they?  It's good a law professor forgave those guys, though, especially the cute one with the short hair."

Taking the opposite view was Theobald Boehm, 56, of Concord.  "As a long-suffering Boston commuter, I think it's up to God to forgive everyone involved.  I know I certainly won't."

Shane said...

I think some real questions should be asked of the city officials, because I personally think the blame should fall squarely on them.

Why is it that this scare only happened in Boston, out of the 10 cities where this marketing campaign was occurring?

Why did it take two to three weeks (different reporters are saying different things) for anyone to notice allegedly suspicious devices that blink in high traffic areas?

The governor has said that this scare has cost $750,000. How much is being spent prosecuting these guys who posted the ads, when it is unlikely that the charges will stick? (the law requires intent, which is clearly not there)

Why were these two arrested and charged, when someone else also in Boston who planted two fake pipe bombs, designed specifically to look like pipe bombs, has been identified but not yet charged or arrested?

All this crying wolf can't be good for our preparedness when the real attack comes. Besides, who would make blinking bombs, anyway? Wouldn't trash cans or something less noticeable be a better choice?

Sissy Willis said...

Hey, LoafingOaf . . . I find it fascinating that you and another angry Samson type in the comments at my own blog keep bringing up this hair thing. I myself never mentioned it, as it speaks for itself. As I told the fellow at my blog, thou dost protest too much. Have a nice day! :-)

Maisie said...

Shane et al.:

I think you're being a bit hasty in condemning official Boston's reaction to those boxes. I was struck by this in an AP report:

[Boston] Officials found 38 blinking electronic signs on bridges, a subway station, a hospital, Fenway Park, and other high-profile spots in and around the city. By contrast, in New York City, officers went to the various locations amid the hysteria in Boston and found only two of the devices — both attached to a highway overpass. Police said it did not appear any were placed on the subway or landmarks such as Empire State Building or Brooklyn Bridge.


Smilin' Jack said...

This wasn't art, it was advertising...a stupid ad for a stupid TV show. These guys with their moronic signs are just analog spammers. I hope they do time just because I hate spammers of all kinds.

jaed said...

HOw come there was no panic and uproar here in Philly? The things were planted here too.

It may have been because of the choice of placement. Were any of the signs in Philadelphia placed on overpass supports, bridge structural members, or at subway entrances? (Not a rhetorical question - I don't know - but if the placement was different it might account for the differing reactions. An unaccounted-for box with electronics in it is more alarming on a bridge than stuck on the side of a random building.)

Someone on a mailing list I'm on said something interesting about the reaction to the reaction. He's British and said that during the period when the IRA was amusing itself by murdering London civilians, it could happen that, for instance, a backpack left on a park bench could be the occasion for total evacuation of a 2-block radius, and then be discovered to be just some student's backpack they'd forgotten. When this happened, though, no one blamed police or shouted "Overreaction!" Instead, they were relieved that it had been a false alarm. I can hardly imagine what the London cops, not to mention ordinary people, would have done to someone leaving backpacks on benches as an advertising stunt.

It could be that we'll all be very, very sorry the next time the police don't "overreact" for fear of bad publicity and complaints.