Friday, February 02, 2007

Who says Americans live in a culture of fear?

Since I don't watch the news, this lovely bit of mass hysteria didn't catch up with me until today. A few weeks ago two artists were hired to make and distribute advertisements for the upcoming Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie. For those of you who don't obsessively watch Teletoon at 10:00 every night, Aqua Teen Hunger Force is a 15 minute cartoon show created by the wonderfully subversive minds at Adult Swim. The cartoon consist of human-sized fast-food creatures: a milk shake, a round ball of ground meat (which is something that probably hasn't existed in a fast food place since the 40s, since all fast food hamburgers arrive already shaped and frozen), and an order of fries that sports a goatee and shoots lazers out of his eyes. The show follows these three as they hang around thier run-down house, torment their white-trash neighbour, Carl, and ocassionally get pestered themselves by a litany of strange side-characters.

The advertisements took the form of throwies (think Light Brite) of the Mooninites, a pair of popular side characters. The throwies were magnetic and were displayed around the cities of Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Austin, San Francisco, and Philadelphia for weeks, apparently without much notice. Almost made it a bust as an advertising campaing, until Thursday morning when a woman on a bus noticed one of the throwies on a bridge in boston and called the police to report a "suspicious deivce".

"An army of emergency vehicles responded to the scene with lights flashing, including police cruisers, fire trucks, ambulances, and the Boston Police Department bomb squad.

Police inspected the package using a truck-mounted work platform. Transit police officer Joseph Mathews from the explosive detection unit donned the thick green armor of the bomb squad an approached the object.

Matthews attached cables to the device and officials later fired the small water explosive to render the object safe. " - Boston Globe

Shortly after this made the news, Turner Broadcasting, parent company to Adult Swim, called the Boston police to assure them that they were responsible, that it was an advertising campaign and nothing threatening. They even gave them the exact locations of the other throwies. The police didn't beleive them and only treated it as "a possible lead".

After all the dust settled the police and government of Boston were very angry. Not because anything had done wrong, but because they were very embarrassed and embarassment often turns to anger: anger and the search for a scapegoat. The two artists were arrested on charges of placing a hoax device to incite panic, a felony charge that carries a five year maximum sentence, and one count of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor. Even the judge seemed sceptical and the two were released on bail. They will be faced with a judicial hearing at a time that hasn't been disclosed. Turner Broadcasting has offered to pay for the inconvenience caused by the campaign, which has been estimated may cost a third of a million dollars.

The obvious question, of course, is: What the fuck? How bad has Bush got these poor people that small (no more than a foot square) magnetic Light Brites can cause such panic? The fact that this has been taken so seriously is both mind-boggling and a source of tremendous amusement to me. And many others. Here is Stephen Colbert's report, YouTube-based comedy group Zebro favoured us with their take on the situation. I'm still looking for others: there's rumour that Jimmy Kimmel did a skit and Penn Jillette discussed it on his radio show, but I'm still trying to find the links.

The final word: chill the fuck out, America!


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