[the palaverist]

Friday, February 02, 2007

[the terrible power of blinkies]

So have you heard about the bizarre panic over a guerrilla marketing campaign for Cartoon Network's Aqua Teen Hunger Force (ATHF)? Looks like they hired a couple of guys to scatter around Boston blinkies depicting one of the Mooninites flipping the bird, and this led to a major bomb scare.

After the two artists were arraigned, they gave a hilarious press conference at which, on national television, they insisted on talking about hairstyles from the seventies.

I do recognize that these ads were genuinely scary to a lot of people and that the city of Boston spent a lot of money making sure they weren't bombs (Ted Turner has promised to cover the expense). How do we know that terrorists won't use some goofy design as cover for their deadly devices?

On the other hand, this incident points out the absurdity of living in constant fear of terrorist attacks that happen only rarely, and typically in ways that are meant to elude detection until it's too late. While Boston's finest spent the day cleaning up glorified Lite-Brites that were intended to sell a TV show, how many containers came through our ports without any oversight at all? How many illegal guns crossed state lines?

And more importantly, how many terrorist attacks have actually been thwarted by people reporting the glaringly obvious? I know that if I see something, I'm supposed to say something, but is that helping? The only case I can think of is that of Richard Reed, who tried to light his foot on fire in an airplane full of people.

In the meantime, this is probably a good moment for my friends who make blinkies and throwies to lay low. Of course, knowing these particular folks, they're probably already working out schemes to send New York into utter panic over little flashing doohickeys.

And it should be noted that the Boston response is not the only one possible. In Seattle, the incident failed to cause panic. From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
"To us, they're so obviously not suspicious," said King County sheriff's spokesman John Urquhart. "They're not suspicious devices or packages. We don't consider them dangerous."

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Anonymous Phaedra Lari said...

I think Seattle is more used to weird public art than Boston. But yeah, applying some simple risk/benefit analysis to decide which anti-terrorism measures the government takes would be a nice change.

12:49 PM  
Blogger [the palaverist] said...

Indeed. In general, rational responses to reality would be appreciated, but that has never been the Dubya way.

12:52 PM  

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