The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

31 January 2007

Turner Broadcasting, Cartoon Terrorism, Adult Swim, Boston


Suspicious Devices Alarm Boston, News-Talk Buzzes

*** Update: suspects make fools of themselves during press conference ***

Suspicious- looking electronic devices planted at key intersections in the Boston area had residents extremely worried and turning to news- talk radio station for updates and advice today.

After major road closures causing traffic nightmares, transit systems shut down, emergency officials tied up for the entire day and residents cancelling medical and other appointments, it emerged just moments ago that the entire incident was part of a promotional stunt for one of Turner Broadcasting's "Adult Swim" cartoons, Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

ABC has more here, Bloomberg has a different version here.

In addition, according to CNN, even the Pentagon was monitoring the situation:

A Turner Broadcasting source said the devices were a component of a third-party advertising campaign conducted by the New York advertising firm Interference Inc. That company had no comment on the incident.

The discovery of nine of the devices around metro Boston led state, local and federal authorities to close the Boston University and Longfellow Bridges, and block boat traffic from the Charles River to Boston Harbor.

In addition, the Pentagon said U.S. Northern Command was monitoring the situation from its headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado, but said none of its units were sent to assist.

Elsewhere, the Gothamist believes New Yorkers would respond to such a stunt far more harshly. Will Bostonians force heads to roll at Turner? Right now, people are furious.

The network itself has since confirmed earlier speculation as to the cause, though oddly, it calls the devices "billboards":

Turner Broadcasting statement

Wednesday, January 31, 2007 - Updated: 05:02 PM EST

The‘packages‘ in question are magnetic lights that pose no danger.

They are part of an outdoor marketing campaign in 10 cities in support of Adult Swim’s animated television show Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

They have been in place for two to three weeks in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Austin, San Francisco, and Philadelphia.

Parent company Turner Broadcasting is in contact with local and federal law enforcement on the exact locations of the billboards.

We regret that they were mistakenly thought to pose any danger.

Public reaction, including by local and state officials, has already been one of intense anger over what we might call "cartoon terrorism".

Struggling through a press conference, Mayor Tom "Mumbles" Menino repeatedly suggested the devices were part of a "bomb" hoax.

All day long, area news-talk stations were flooded with calls from angry residents, with some calling in observations from the scenes of these discoveries.

Some callers pointed out just how easily it would have been for terrorists to have planted real bombs in these locations.

One woman who phoned the Howie Carr Show and identified herself as an American soldier called the stunt "network- sponsored terrorism". Another said her husband lost income because he was unable to complete his delivery route.

Elsewhere, authorities in Seattle are now looking for the devices in their city. Orbusmax is tracking developments from the Northwest.

UPDATE: Reuters claims Turner Broadcasting has apologized:

BOSTON, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Turner Broadcasting apologized on Wednesday for a marketing campaign that sparked Boston's biggest security scare since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks -- closing bridges, shutting major roads and putting hundreds of police on alert.

The day-long scare began when a suspicious package was found on a steel beam under a bridge in the morning. Police stopped traffic on a major interstate highway north of Boston, cordoned off the area, deployed a bomb squad and blew it up.

By afternoon, at least eight other similar suspicious packages were discovered, each triggering a security alert involving emergency crews, federal agents, bomb squads, police and the U.S. Coast Guard.

"The 'packages' in question are magnetic lights that pose no danger," Turner Broadcasting System Inc., a unit of Time Warner Inc., said in statement.

How do you feel Boston radio stations handled coverage of the situation? See SaveWRKO.

FURTHER UPDATES: Arlington artist Peter Berdovsky has been arrested for his role in this stunt/ prank/ hoax, according to the Boston Globe. But will he prove to be a mere low- level fall guy, while the real criminals work for Turner Broadcasting?

Also: mayor, governor threaten lawsuits. From the Boston Herald: competing ad agencies work overtime to distance themselves from this promotional stunt. From the Globe: bloggers had the story first.

San Franciscans have "calmer" reaction, rip Boston counterparts.

The Boston Globe now weighs in with this new editorial:

Turner tricksters should pay

January 31, 2007

Executives at Turner Broadcasting displayed an astounding lack of judgment by planting devices that could be mistaken for explosive devices as a means to publicize an animated television show. Through a sequence of events that Turner could have anticipated, the birdbrain scheme briefly paralyzed a city — and blew up in the face of its creators.

It is not uncommon for radio shock jocks to create elaborate on-air hoaxes. Usually, they result in the humiliation of a few innocent people. But Turner's ad gimmick, undertaken in 10 cities from coast to coast, affected tens of thousands of people in the Greater Boston area. Businesses lost customers. Commuters lost time. Even more serious, first responders from local, state, and federal public safety agencies were called away from their legitimate duties.

One wouldn't expect the promoters of the TV program ‘‘Aqua Teen Hunger Force'' to score high on a maturity index. But anyone older than 8 or 9 should be able to understand the dangers of staging such a stunt in the post-Sept. 11 world. Homeland Security experts will need to review the response of local law enforcement. Public safety personnel may have overreacted; local bloggers apparently identified the guerrilla advertising campaign early on. But it's hardly surprising if others who weren't in on the gag were suspicious. As a rule, first responders are left little choice but to assume they are facing a legitimate threat.

Perpetrators of terror hoaxes can anticipate prison sentences of up to five years if apprehended. But potential criminal prosecution is only one consideration. The tricksters at Turner, a unit of Time Warner, Inc., should pay the bill for the consequences of its lame marketing gimmick.

Meanwhile, at a press conference earlier today, the two arrested suspects make complete asses of themselves:

They aren't doing themselves any favors here, are they?

Your Amazon orders that begin with clicks here, regardless of what you ultimately purchase, greatly help to support this site's efforts. Thanks again!

Technorati tags:

Images: WBZ, CNN, Boston traffic snarl resulting from bomb scare: Matt Stone, Boston Herald


  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger TJ, at 31 January, 2007 18:12  

  • Wow...

    The terrorists have already won a victory.

    We're scared of our own shadows.

    Welcome to the modern "War of the Worlds" panic...

    Unfortunately, this may demonstrate a need for a little (oh, hopefully not much) bigger and/or intrusive government -the Office of "Don't Scare the Crap Out of Everybody", aka ODSCOE

    Actually, ODSCOE would be in complete & direct conflict with the desire of the Bush Administration to keep Americans in fear...

    Nevermind...ODSCOE won't happen...silly me...

    By Blogger TJ, at 31 January, 2007 18:20  

  • Ah, the "Aqua Teen Hunger Force"!!

    THAT must be who Osama bin Laden is hiding with....

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 31 January, 2007 19:01  

  • Believe me when I say this, Cartoon Network, when my cable system got it, IS NOT THE SAME ONE FROM TEN YEARS AGO! Brief story, around 1996 or so Cablevision upgraded its service, included was CN. I would watch that channel almost religiously because they carried the greatest stars around in animation.

    These days, it's a carbon copy of Nickelodeon's moronic, sophomoric, well to but bluntly--CRAP! Thank goodness I can see the greats of cartoons on DVD! SCREW YOU CARTOON NETWORK FOR TRYING TO BE LIKE ORSEN WELLS! You know, Hanna and Barbera must be rolling over in their graves.

    And to the Einstein who came up with this plan, he or she will soon be seen saying "you want fries with that?"

    Aqua Teen Hunger Force--GREAT CAESAR'S GHOST!

    By Blogger The Real Bob Anthony, at 31 January, 2007 19:12  

  • A Quote from an interview with the Guy that owns the marketing firm:
    "While guerilla marketing is mostly done in bigger and busier cities, it can be even more effective in smaller markets where there is the novelty element involved .......You can still make a very big splash in New York or San Francisco but, the campaign needs to be bigger and louder."

    By Blogger stiknstein, at 31 January, 2007 21:40  

  • At about 12:30 pm WBZ announced
    a second person has been arrested,
    a 28 yr old from Charlestown named
    Sean Stevens.

    WRKO's Howie Carr devoted his whole show to this, and when it went to
    basketball (yes, Celts lost), WBZ
    picked up the ball talk-wise with
    Paul Sullivan and Steve Leveille
    leading the discussion.

    WTKK was all syndie from 7 to
    midnight, at which time they went to a totally irrelevant Mike Barnicle
    show that was about 15 hours old.

    By Blogger raccoonradio, at 01 February, 2007 03:36  

  • oops that should say 12:30 _AM_

    By Blogger raccoonradio, at 01 February, 2007 03:36  

  • cartoon terrorism? are you kidding me? i somehow doubt that al-qaeda is going to be disguising explosive devices as blinking cartoon characters. seriously, everyone should take a valium.

    By Blogger archnemesis, at 01 February, 2007 08:51  

  • it was one thing when you were bashing the liberals constantly, but i will not let you speak unkind words about Aqua Teen. that's the line, buddy.

    seriously though, anyone who has seen that show could have easily identified the character and known that it wasn't a bomb. i don't think al-qaeda gets Adult Swim in their caves.

    i think the entire IQ of Boston just dropped 20 points

    By Blogger liberal outlaw, at 01 February, 2007 08:58  

  • I was watching Futurama on Adult Swim last night, and they had apologies up before the start of each episode.

    They know they messed up, and took responsibility, unlike what liberals would do.

    By Blogger William Teach, at 01 February, 2007 11:13  

  • oh yeah, because the Bush administration has admitted so many mistakes about Iraq, Afghanistan, WMD's, Iran, North Korea....should I continue, or would you just like to go ahead and stfu?

    By Blogger hardcore conservative genious, at 01 February, 2007 12:48  

  • hardcore, just repeat the propaganda over and over. It will soon sound like truth. But you never cared about truth to begin with.

    By Blogger PCD, at 01 February, 2007 13:34  

  • "Elsewhere, the Gothamist believes New Yorkers would respond to such a stunt far more harshly."

    There were 41 of those things hung up in NYC, and NYPD did not receive one single call about them.

    Now, an unattended backpack--or brown bag lunch sack--found on a train or station platform might get our hackles up, but LiteBrite boards flipping the bird at the world?

    Puh-leeze! We'd have to lock up too many cabbies. The Gothamist is staffed by wussies.

    By Blogger TC, at 01 February, 2007 15:24  

  • you hear the manager of the cartoon network stepped down? bummer for him. you might like this poster though...

    By Blogger Kedron, at 17 February, 2007 22:17  

  • Cartoon Network and Adult Swim and the garbage and harassment and irreverence need to go now. This stuff is rotting our minds and a crime against God.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 04 February, 2008 13:05  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Page Rank Checker

Powered by Blogger