For the last couple of days, major North American media outlets have been all over a Boston bomb scare caused by what turned out to be a marketing stunt for Adult Swim cartoon Aqua Teen Hunger Force. It turns out that the bombs in question were little more than homebrew Lite-Brites depicting a cartoon character "shooting the bird," but their discovery provoked road and waterway closures, paralyzing the city. The two men responsible for putting up the light boards were arrested and charged with placing hoax devices, but as Boston's Daily Dig blog points out, the term hoax doesn't really apply.
Next, let’s all get out our dictionary and look up “hoax”, shall we? Because while “War of the Worlds” was a hoax, this was not. There was no subterfuge involved, and no effort made to convince people that these devices were bombs. If I see a scary looking tree out my bedroom window, think it’s a monster, and then discover upon closer inspection that it isn’t, it doesn’t mean the tree has perpetrated a hoax against me. What it means is that for a moment I took leave of my senses. And just because I’m embarrassed about it doesn’t give me the right to go cut down the tree.What must be even more embarrassing is the fact that the light boards were reportedly in place for weeks, along with similar devices in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Austin, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. Now, the City of Boston is calling for Turner Broadcasting, the parent company of the Cartoon Network on which Aqua Teen Hunger Force airs, to pay for costs associated with the so-called hoax.
Did this marketing stunt go too far, or was it the City of Boston's reaction that was unreasonable? What does it say about the society in which we live if innocuous devices in place for weeks can suddenly provoke mass paranoia?
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