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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Editorial

Editorial

On the morning of January 31st, Boston grew anxious once again following a potential terrorist attack. I-93 was backed up for miles, and you couldn’t get anywhere. The Longfellow Bridge was closed off. Bomb squads on Washington Street. The whole city seemed to be in lockdown.

Yes, yes, we’re talking about the Mooninites. It’s sad, isn’t it, that this gripping scenario arose in response to an advertising ploy dreamed up by the Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim” program, a series of shows designed with twenty-something insomniacs in mind. The show features “Aqua Teen Hunger Force”, which stars our Mooninites, the cartoonish contrivances-cum-Doomsday devices that were planted on LED boards in select locations throughout our city and a dozen other cities nationwide. So hundreds of thousands of dollars were wasted in response to a few cartoon characters mistaken for bombs. It was like an updated Ambrose Bierce sketch; the credulity, the misplaced indignation, it was all there.

Fortunately, no one was hurt, though a few egos may have been bruised as the late-night talk show wags sank their teeth into the story. Turner Broadcasting, the Cartoon Network’s corporate parent, magnanimously responded by dropping the city a $2 million check in response to the hubbub. That’s nice. Maybe we should do it again some time!

We don’t question the city’s initial response–it’s something that had to be done, even if the “terrorist threat” was a hoax. Only a very special brand of blockhead decides to engineer a guerilla marketing campaign that involves semiconductors with wires sticking out of them, without city permission. 9/11 wasn’t all that long ago, and people are still thinking about terrorist attacks. Knowing this, why didn’t the Cartoon Network nix the idea?

Because all publicity is good publicity. Obviously the network didn’t anticipate events to turn in exactly this fashion, but they knew it would cause a stir somehow or else they wouldn’t have done it. While it’s doubtful that they foresaw or intended the reaction that came, they also knew that their ploy would stir up the public, and furthermore they did so without the blessing of the local authorities. Not everything has to be passed through City Hall, of course, but if you’re planning a campaign that you know has the potential to cause a civil disturbance, you should prepare for that most immediate of variables: the tendency of elected officials to flip out over nothing. There was a perfectly good reason to call out the bomb squad and slow down the city that morning. There was not an equally valid reason to slow the city down for the whole day to search out every single LED board after the first two had been found and judged to be harmless. Right then they should have called off the dogs and gone about collecting the rest in earnest.

Most importantly, our Mayor got to get his picture taken over and over and over. Great, Tom, thanks. Our city faces numerous serious matters that need to be addressed and this, at best, should have been a non-issue. Less than a non-issue; an issue that grants all other issues magnified importance due solely to its utter lack of importance. But, it captured the front pages for longer than it should have. And here we are covering it. Why? San Francisco didn’t freak out when they were hit by this campaign, and neither did New York. But what do we have that they don’t?

Namely, a mayor-for-life who has never met a photographer he didn’t like or an overreaction he couldn’t blast out of orbit. As the situation settles down, though, the blame falls mostly on us, the public. We’re the ones that keep electing these mokes, and we keep these stupid programs in business by watching them and patronizing their advertisers. We have to stop enabling them! Until we as a society cleanse ourselves of bacterium dummkopfensis there will be one, two, a thousand Mooninite invasions.

And in case you haven’t noticed, there’s still a war or two going on. We’ll cover that next week.