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Thursday, February 01, 2007

ATHF is the bomb!

so the media is all up in arms about the Aqua Teen Hunger Force viral ad campaign in Boston. at first it bothered me simply because the campaign was so blatantly a rip-off of earlier projects by Graffiti Research Lab (though, later i saw that, in the video of them making the ATHF lightboxes, they openly admit to being "inspired" by the work of GRL)

the two guys who physically placed the boxes in Boston, Peter Berdovsky and Sean Stevens, were arrested on charges of "placing a hoax device and disorderly conduct". apparently, half of the city of Boston was shut down all day, including major modes of transportation, as police and bomb squad specialists removed the incendiary devices. this cost the city over one million dollars (?) and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino is demanding that Turner Broadcasting be sued, Berdovsky, Stevens and anyone else involved be criminally prosecuted, and the FCC pull Cartoon Network's license. that right there is where this story crossed the line for me. i was perfectly happy to accept that a marketing campaign for this beloved, albeit ridiculous and crass, adult cartoon was misinterpreted by a few bostonian dunderheads and their concerns forced the Boston police to intercept and examine the devices, but the unwitting pawns are not criminals and there's absolutely no base in demanding the network's license be pulled! i couldn't really care much less about sueing a major corporation.

this is bull. i'm outraged for a variety of personal, moral, and artistic reasons, but most interestingly, i'm bothered because of the charge of "placing a hoax device", the only real claim against the guys. according to Massachussets State Law:

For the purposes of this section, the term “hoax device” shall mean any device that would cause a person reasonably to believe that such device is an infernal machine. For the purposes of this section, the term “infernal machine” shall mean any device for endangering life or doing unusual damage to property, or both, by fire or explosion, whether or not contrived to ignite or explode automatically. For the purposes of this section, the words “hoax substance” shall mean any substance that would cause a person reasonably to believe that such substance is a harmful chemical or biological agent, a poison, a harmful radioactive substance or any other substance for causing serious bodily injury, endangering life or doing unusual damage to property, or both.

these little-more-than-lite-brite devices in no way endangered the lives of anyone, and as far as causing a person to reasonably believe they might, there are multiple witness accounts to these boxes being in TEN major US cities for over two weeks, and NOBODY complained about them until yesterday. i believe that, for all intents and purposes, the vast majority of people in New York City, Seattle, Atlanta, and yes, the vast majority of Bostonians, as well as six other major cities, did NOT view these as being harmful or dangerous, merely decorative and promotional. maybe i just believe that people are too good?

Zach Natheson offers a differet direction of finger pointing:
The problem with this is that it was the paranoia of the police department that created the crisis, not Aqua Teen's creators down at Williams Street in Atlanta. A similar false alarm occurred a couple of years ago when a talking newspaper vending machine caused a bomb scare.

I am not blaming the Boston police for the problems caused today, but rather the city government and media’s spinning of the story to create a sense of paranoia... Many of the Fox News interviews were with citizens who were "distraught" over the Aqua Teen advertisements... What most newscasters should have at least commented on is that this investigation was a result of pure paranoia. If you ask any teenager or young adult I am sure that most would be able to identify Ignignokt as a cartoon character at the very least. Sadly no one thought to do so, and at least one of the poor little guys was blown to smithereens by overzealous police.

The government's handling of this situation has proven incompetent at best... Boston mayor Thomas Menino threatened to take legal action against Turner Broadcasting for a crisis he himself was largely responsible for. The long time to discover the billboards' true nature is by far the most disturbing part of this story, and I hope that in the future we can be more prudent about declaring bomb alerts.

August J. Pollak raises a few interesting points in his analysis of these events and claims. the one that most satisfies me is "5. The FCC can't pull a private cable network's license, Mayor Hyperbole McFuckwit."

adult swim apologized on air last night for the incident, which is frankly more than i expected from them. and yet, i'm still dissappointed because they apologized for something that wasn't inherently wrong and merely seemed to freak out a couple of people (and in the end, isn't that the point of adult swim's advertising altogether)

when the boys were released on bail (posted by their friends, not Turner Broadcasting) they held this press conference in which they refused to answer questions about the case but chose only to discuss hairstyles of the 1970's

the fact that there's all this hubbub over representations of the Mooninites characters is what makes this all particularly fun for fans of ATHF, though, as we are given free reign to use quotes like "i hope you can see this, because i'm doing it as hard as i can," "if you have a problem with that maybe you should take that up with Mr. Laser," "everyone, bow your heads and pretend to be serious," and possibly the most terrifying of all, "you with all the great plans: you shall not see the next decade. you shall never know that turtlenecks will come back... in a big way."

there's already Mooninite (Err) "ATHF is the bomb" t-shirt

and i know its not that big a deal, but it still bothers me that, amongst all this, Mayor Menino said "This is outrageous activity to get publicity for a failing show," considering that Aqua Teen Hunger Force has been on the air for over five years, has seen huge sales of their DVDs, is continuously one of the highest rated shows on the Adult Swim programming block (considered at least partially responsible for the sudden rise in Family Guy's popularity and ensuing comeback), and has a feature-length film coming out in the less than two months

2:39 PM
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