The big news in Boston today is the tasteless, thoughtless, and potentially dangerous ad campaign waged by the folks over at Ted Turner’s channel. Now, to put a bit of context to this (because isn’t context always important? Doesn’t it matter who is speaking, what their experience and investment in a given topic? I think so . . . ), Boston, as many of you will recall was involved with 9/11 in that two of the planes, American Airline flight 11, carrying Mohamed Atta, and United Airways flight 175, flew from Boston’s Logan Airport. Nationwide scrutiny turned to our airport, our commonwealth (as well it should), and we’ve really not recovered since. No state (or commonwealth) wants to be the one with the bad management, lax security, or other failings that allow such heinous acts to occur. New York was a victim, Massachusetts . . . well, we had something to do with it, however, indirectly. And I can tell you that Massachusetts has not recovered from that, and we are always vigilant, always conscious of our security and safety.
That understood, let’s look at what Adult Swim (on a Ted Turner channel) thought would be a good idea in this post-9/11 world and in THIS post-9/11 city . . . they hired a couple of guys to plant electronic devices all over Boston and in high traffic areas (of course, it’s an ad campaign). The trouble with this plan is that no one bothered to notify the city’s terror units or even the city police forces of this, so city and state police were mobilized to defuse what they believed to be dangerous explosive devices and to cope with the possible repercussions should one of these things “go off.” Of course, if it did “go off” all it would do is show a cartoon character flipping the bird. Nice.
As can be predicted, even from my narration of events, there are two camps, two distinct ways of thinking about this incident: On the one hand, Boston (its police and officials from the shiny new governor to the chief of police) over-reacted and made fools of themselves and our city; on the other hand, Boston took the measures they were trained to take in the event of suspicious and therefore potentially dangerous electronic devices being reported around town.
I fall on the latter side of better to be safe than sorry; just as soon as someone shrugged off the devices, one of them would blow up (and again, these were at high traffic, heavily populated locations or in “key” places like under bridges and overpasses) and kill hundreds perhaps thousands of people or perhaps cut off first responders by destroying key roads. The pic above is of one of the devices spotted under the I-93 overpass. I wouldn’t want to be THAT shoulder shrugger, that’s for sure. Just as I wouldn’t have wanted to be running Logan Airport on 9/11 (what ever happened to that woman? Does anyone know? She just quietly faded away after being battered in the press for incompetence . . . ). But then, I wouldn’t want to be a city on high alert over a blinking sign with a cartoon shooting a bird, either. Hmmmm.
Frankly, it’s a pretty big deal around here, and I doubt it ends there. Or here. The guys they hired, I feel rather sorry for because they’re clearly not the sharpest knives in the drawer and were arrested yesterday, in court and released today; they’re currently enjoying their fifteen minutes of fame waving wildly into cameras, smiling broadly, and mumbling inanities about their hair (and quickly being cut off by their attorney). But Governor Deval Patrick and Mayor Menino don’t quite see the humor or the insignificance of the acts and are vowing to prosecute those responsible and seek restitution. I just heard a young woman say that this just goes to show that there is a generation gap, and that the whole thing happened because “old” people didn’t get the joke (this was on NECN as I’m typing this, so I don’t have the link to a vid or story, you’ll just have to take my word for it). I have no comment on that; it speaks for itself.
Now these same signs were placed in a total of ten cities, and Boston is the only one that went into high alert, so I do rather wonder if we weren’t a bit . . . um, over-reactive and excitable. Even New York City, which obviously has stronger reason to be highly sensitive to threats, more so than Boston–except, and it’s a BIG “except,” in the sense that NYC could not have stopped the 9/11 attacks and Boston could have (two of the four planes anyway), but in the case of the strategically placed blinking boxes, NYC didn’t panic. Indeed, the ad campaign was dreamed up by some firm in NYC.
I’m torn on this one; I think it was irresponsible, but I also think that it’s gone a bit too far. It’s illustrative, though, of that line we walk post-9/11 between terror and freedom.