Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Boston: Our Headlines Are America's Punchlines, Part XXXVII

These Lite-Brite toys appeared in 10 American cities over the past two weeks: Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Ore., Austin, Texas, San Francisco and Philadelphia.

Only one city had a government clueless and/or panic-stricken enough to shut down bridges, roads, subways and, yes, even a river because of these toys.

Way to go, Boston!

Having been caught ridiculously over-reacting to a device that my seven-year-old could have identified for them, city and state officials have now decided the only way to save face is to over-react even further. It was the police/city/state government that screwed up on Wednesday, inconveniencing thousands of people without a single scrap of evidence--NONE--that there was any danger of any kind.

So now they're shooting the marketer. They've put one of the artists involved in this guerrilla marketing campaign in jail, and they're threatening civil and possibly criminal prosecution of the Turner Company, which owns the cable cartoon show the Lite-Brites were promoting.

There is plenty for us to debate about this story--and we certainly will on my radio show--but one fact is beyond debate: MA Attorney General Martha Coakley is lying when she says that we are the victim of a "hoax." Like the idiotic AP headline "Fake Bombs Found in Seattle," this is sheer nonsense.

A Lite-Brite is NOT a fake bomb. It doesn't look like a bomb. It's no more bomb-like than a toaster or a radio. If a dozen battery-operated radios designed to turn on every night to a local music show had been mounted above walkways and businesses, would the perpetrators be accused of a terrorist hoax? Of course not.

To be a hoax, there has to be some attempt to trick somebody. An empty shoebox with two paper towel tubes painted to look like dynamite is a hoax. The Lite-Brites were being used as Lite-Brites. No trickery, no bomb-like attributes. Just a toy with some batteries. Where's the hoax?

I challenge anyone with an IQ higher than a Boston City Councilor to look at the image of the "fake bomb" or "hoax device" at the top of this post and tell me that it looks ANYTHING like a bomb.

Yes, it's possible to take a bomb and make it look like a toaster, or radio, or Lite-Brite. That would be a hoax or a trick. But that is not the case here. This was a Lite-Brite, ingeniously disguised to look like...a Lite-Brite!

I understand why the police had to investigate the Lite-Brites. That's a smart thing to do, particularly post-9/11. And if the city wants to prosecute the clever people who did this for trespassing or public nuisance or some such, they certainly have the right to be jerks.

But it is a complete and utter CYA move by Patrick, Menino, et. al. to charge anyone under the "hoax" statute being used in this case. That decision borders on Nifong-like prosecutorial misconduct. It is an abuse of power, and it's only being done to distract the thousands of Bostonians who were stuck at their T stops because our government over-reacted.

Attorney General Martha Coakley told reporters Wednesday night that she's going to continue investigating to find out "who and what were responsible for the panic that hit Boston." All she had to do was look around her press conference. Most of the perps were on stage with her at the time.