To Act, Or Over React
That is--or rather, should be--the question facing the citizens of Boston today. As the echoes of laughter from every other major urban center in America slowly begin to fade, we'd like to believe they're laughing with us. They're not.
And so, having been humilated in public, needlessly spending $1 million to fight of the terrorist scourge of children's toys in public places, Boston's leaders are reacting with anger in their attempt to cover up their embarrassment. The Boston media--who also look pretty foolish in their crazed, over-the-top coverage--are happily stoking that anger by forwarding Mayor Menino's argument that the ONLY city that handled the Lite Brite Invasion correctly was his own.
The mayor and the media make their defenses in many different ways, but the argument is essentially the one offered by Paul Martinek in the Boston Herald today: "I'm not sure there is such a thing as overreacting in this day and age."
In other words, the only appropriate reaction is OVER reaction.
According to Police Commissioner Ed Davis, appearing on FOX25 this morning, people like myself who are critical of the city's reaction wanted the cops to do nothing. He and the Mayor live in a binary universe where either a) “we’re not going to show up at these calls," as Commissioner Davis put it; or b) we're going to shut down the Charles River over an unattended D cell battery.
This is nonsense. There was clearly another option, one chosen by the other nine cities where these "devices" were on display.
You investigate them. You check them out. You discover that they are completely and utterly harmless. You DON'T shut down entire interstate highways over a device the size of a family portrait picture frame. You DON'T hold panicky press conferences hours after you've blown one of the "devices" up.
And, having realized that you've stuck your foot right in it, you don't become the only city affected to throw people in jail.
Somewhere between no reaction and idiotic over-reaction is the normal person's reaction. It was on display in Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles and even terror-stricken New York City.
If you think Boston reacted the right way, then obviously you think these other cities got it wrong, that their leaders screwed up. If you lived in Austin, TX or San Francisco, you'd be outraged today that the terrorist hoaxters in your city weren't in jail, dammit!
And yet, they're not. The cops in Chicago talked to the local "guerrilla marketers" and let them go. In at least three cities, the cops haven't even bothered to track the "devices" down.
So, do you think the people in New York and LA are really bummed out that THEY didn't spend an hour stuck in traffic or trapped on a stopped subway train? Do you think the taxpayers in Portland and Seattle wish they had blown a million bucks chasing Lite Brites on Wednesday?
Or do you think they're thinking their lucky stars that their mayor isn't named Menino?
UPDATE: Check out Jack Bauer vs. The Lite Brites.