Thursday, February 01, 2007

BREAKING NEWS: Hick Town Flips Lid!

There is no crime more vigorously prosecuted by the state than making public officials look like moronic horses' asses. Ergo, the two chaps who put up electronic billboards the city of Boston mistook for terrorist bombs are in a heap of trouble this morning.

Their bad. Had the two simply committed another of the city's ever-increasing homicides, relatively few people would've given a damn. But give Tom Menino a chance to show off his cement head, by God, you're going to pay.

We will stipulate for the record Turner Broadcasting's (the TV division of AOL-Time Warner) campaign of little Lite Brite portraits of "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" characters hung in various public places was stupid and thoughtless, for the simple reason not enough people are familiar with the show to make the pitch effective. And, as we've seen, if someone was prone to panic and wasn't looking too carefully, they MIGHT think the billboard was a terrorist device.

So we'll spot the city and commonwealth's their reaction to the discovery of the first device as commendable prudence. By the time we get to number 17 or so, however, stupidity is clearly the driving force. The most noteworthy fact about our area goverment's reaction to the devices was this: they continued to treat each one as a potential bomb even after they knew it was a hoax.

That's not prudence, it's ass-covering. Public officials tried to make the hoax the largest possible disruption of normal civic life in the hope local citizens would get angry at the hoaxers instead of noticing how dumb they'd been. They were aided in this effort by local TV news and national cable news, institutions enthralled by the idea of another deadly attack on American soil, as long as it's done by evil furriners. American on American killing? That's not news.

The following facts should be remembered about the Aqua Teen panic.

1. The little billboards had been up for awhile, and noted without reaction by citizens.

2. According to Turner Broadcasting, the devices are spread around in at least 10 other American cities. Only in Boston did they create a replay of "War of the Worlds."

3. All parents know if one of you tells your children something, the other must back it up, even if you disagree. Public officials are no different. In public, governor Patrick and attorney general Coakley HAD to stand by Menino and local law enforcement. I'd love to know what they think in private.

4. As a rule, large corporations keep large numbers of attornies on retainer.

Fact four is what interests me. If the promotional scheme, which Turner now says was subcontracted out to a third party, wasn't vetted by the legal staff, well, idiocy is every bit as common in the private as the public sector. Turner should pay the costs, and the rest of us should sell our AOL stock ASAP.

But if somewhere in their files Turner has the copy of a note informing someone, anyone, in state or local government about the campaign and the little billboards, well, Governor Patrick would be proven wrong. The hoax WOULD be funny.


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