Aqua Teen Hunger Force Promotion Terrorizes Boston
A marketing ploy for the “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” cartoon was mistaken for a terrorist plot and shut down Boston for several hours.
Ten blinking electronic devices planted at bridges and other spots in Boston threw a scare into the city Wednesday in what turned out to be a publicity campaign for a late-night cable cartoon. At least one of the devices depicts a character giving the finger. Highways, bridges and a section of the Charles River were shut down and bomb squads were sent in before authorities declared the devices were harmless.
“It’s a hoax — and it’s not funny,” said Gov. Deval Patrick.
Turner Broadcasting, a division of Time Warner Inc. and parent of Cartoon Network, said the devices were part of a promotion for the TV show “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” a surreal series about a talking milkshake, a box of fries and a meatball. “The packages in question are magnetic lights that pose no danger,” Turner said in a statement. It said the devices have been in place for two to three weeks in 10 cities: Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Ore., Austin, Texas, San Francisco and Philadelphia. “We regret that they were mistakenly thought to pose any danger,” the company said.
The marketing company responsible for the campaign, Interference Inc., had no immediate comment. A woman who answered the phone at the New York-based firm’s offices on Wednesday afternoon said the firm’s CEO was out of town and would not be able to comment until Thursday.
Police said only that they were investigating where the device came from, but an angry Mayor Thomas Menino said a stiff penalty will be pursued against whoever was responsible for the devices. “It’s about keeping a city on edge. It’s about public safety,” he said.
You’d think Interference Inc. would have trouble getting work again after this but, then again, they achieved their goal: publicity for their client. One wonders what the fallout will be for “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” a show of which I’d never heard. Will all the free publicity help? Or will this negative association kill the show?
On the terrorism/homeland security front, if some marketing firm can plant blinking devices all around the infrastructure of our major cities, mostly without detection, certainly well-funded terrorist groups could do the same with more lethal variants. Indeed, hiding a bomb in an “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” container might be an effective bit of tradecraft.
UPDATE: An arrest has been made.
Boston police said Wednesday night that one person had been arrested, and authorities scheduled a news conference to provide details
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said he’ll seek to punish those responsible, and indicated that the penalty could be two to five years in prison per count. After Turner made its announcement, Menino said he was “prepared to take any and all legal action” against the company and its affiliates “for any and all expenses incurred during the response to today’s incidents.”
Homeland Security Department spokesman Russ Knocke praised Boston authorities for sharing their knowledge quickly with Washington officials and the public. “Hoaxes are a tremendous burden on local law enforcement and counter-terrorism resources and there’s absolutely no place for them in a post-9/11 world,” Knocke said.
It’s not clear what crime has been committed. Did the company call in a bomb threat?