Sssshhhhhhhh!!!! Listen! Can you hear it? That guttural chortle echoing across the land? That there is the corpulent ghost of Orson Welles enjoying a hearty belly laugh at the expense of the city of Boston. No doubt, Welles is looking down at the Hub from his billowing thundercloud made of fish sticks with a knowing smile, reflecting on how little human nature has changed in the seven decades since his “War of the Worlds” broadcast. Once again, a bunch of 20-something artists has triggered the nerves of a paranoid culture. The key difference is that Welles did it on purpose.
I am writing this from the living room of my boarding house in Taupo, New Zealand, about as far away as from my home city as I could geographically be. Recently, I have been updating all of you on my adventures in the Land of the Long White Cloud. The recent uproar and apparent near-pandemonium back home grabbed my attention and amusement. I felt the need to comment.
I caught wind of The Great Aqua Teen Hunger Force Scare of 2007 a few days ago on Yahoo.com and later on a rebroadcast of ABC News. To see marble-mouthed Mayor Tom Menino and newly minted Governor Deval Patrick throwing hissy fits over a marketing campaign for a movie version of a stupid cartoon was hilarious and dumbfounding. They both resembled a pair of junior high school vice-principals enraged over a cherry bomb being unleashed in the school’s toilet system. Come to think of it, a cherry bomb is a hell of a lot more destructive than the strategically placed Lite-Brites that unintentionally set of Mass Hysteria (get it?).
Was it unfortunate that Boston’s safety workers had to be deployed and that apparently the entire city came to a stand still costing the city a huge amount of money over a false alarm? Of course. It is also unfortunate that in a city with an enormous student population no one thought to ask a college student or recent graduate what they thought these fiendish-looking black boxes with crazy little light bulbs and (OH SHIT!!!) D sized Duracell batteries might be instead of hitting the panic button. For a city that nourishes the brains of many of the smartest people in America, Boston looks pretty retarded right now, especially considering that the same covert ads (oooooooohhh, how shadowy!) were placed in several other cities with no notice. Pity poor Deval Patrick. We all had such hope for him, and a bunch of bird-flipping cartoon characters have made him look like a jittery ass on national television.
I remember my first encounters with Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Some of my friends in LA tried to turn me on to its surreal charms, without success. I tried to find the laughs, I truly did. No luck. I wrote it off as one of those goofy pieces of entertainment that can only be fully enjoyed in a dorm room choked with bong smoke, just like “The Wizard of Oz” with “Darkside of the Moon” playing and every Phish album ever recorded. I certainly never imagined that those talking French fries, meatball and milkshake would one day strike terror in the hearts of my homeland’s elected officials. I fear someday soon that all major cities will be evacuated due to a promotion for the new Simpson’s movie. Sideshow Bob would be approve.
Okay, okay, it probably wasn’t a smart thing to put mechanical boxes on bridges and other important buildings. I know that we are living in dangerous times (have there ever been safe times?) and I have little doubt that the military and other government agencies have foiled and continue to foil horrific plots against American citizens that we will never know about, but c’mon! I seriously doubt that any serious advertising agency would intentionally design a campaign for any product to purposely be perceived as a terrorist threat. The two guys who were arrested for putting those boxes in place are obviously a couple of starving artists who meant no harm whatsoever. They didn’t make any bombs, and it probably never crossed their or their boss’ minds that people might think they were bombs. They are NOT terrorists or criminals, and any time they spend in jail is pointless and unjustified. That being said, I have a hunch that those who designed the campaign back at the agency will be enjoying promotions and hefty bonuses. Millions of people who had never heard of Aqua Teen Huger Force now have some knowledge of its existence, and there will be some curiosity factor. You can’t buy that kind of publicity, but you can give credit for it.
So, my fair Boston… Beantown, Cradle of Liberty, Hub of the Universe, sleep soundly tonight. You are, for the moment, safe from The Terrorists. But for your own good, please elect and hire some young hotshots from the enormous local talent pool into public service and safety positions. Having a few young hipster whippersnappers on staff could have saved you tons of money and anxiety. And let those two dudes out jail. One or both of them could go on to make the next “Citizen Kane." Oh yeah, and watch more cartoons.
P.S. I don’t get the Daily Show around here. I am sure that Jon Stewart and Co. had a blast with this story. If anyone has a link, please send it this way! Thanks!