Dear City of Boston
In regards to yesterday’s ‘bomb scare’ and the subsequent revelation that the suspicious devices were merely an ad campaign for Adult Swim:
It’s barely been 24 hours since this all began but already this situation is completely out of hand. The news channels scared us, the police scared us, even you scared us. And now folks are angry because they were fooled into being scared. I’m writing to ask that you not act out of this kind of anger and instead keep a level head.
I’ve been watching cable news and reading some Internet discussions on the issue and most people fall into two camps. One side says that the stunt was incredibly stupid, totally unforgivable, and everyone involved should either go to jail, pay millions in restitution, or both. The other side says that the City of Boston completely overreacted, that our culture of fear caused this ridiculous overreactions, and questions the intelligence of people who decided that blinking LEDs in the shape of an alien = bomb, especially since the things have been up for weeks and no other major city lost its mind over them.
While it’s not my usual tack to take the middle ground, here I see valid points on both sides. Mysterious, random electronic boards placed in prominent areas of a major city should always be checked out, just in case. While we assume that most bombs are designed to be inconspicuous, that may not always be the case. Terrorists can be clever (as they’ve already proven) and ‘hiding in plain sight’ is not a difficult concept to grasp. On the other hand, the gaudy nature of the devices should have been the first clue that perhaps you weren’t dealing with something intended to harm. And since the lights formed an obvious pattern, it would have been prudent to release pictures of it. If you had, about a million Adult Swim watchers would have called in right away to say, “Dude, that’s a Mooninite, not a bomb.”
There’s also some validity in pointing out that, yes, the things were up for weeks. That even New York City, my city, did not throw a freak out party over them. That most everyone involved didn’t use common sense, but allowed fear to drive them.
I understand completely why many people are angry. The more you ratchet up the fear, the more anger there will be when that fear is found to be, well, unfounded. And I’m sure that government officials feel embarrassed that they went through all of that over nothing. It’s natural to feel that way. But I particularly implore you to not take out your anger and embarrassment on the two people you arrested for putting up the devices. I am also asking that you modify your language and encourage the news outlets to do so as well. This incident was not a ‘hoax’ because no one ever intended to make people think they were bombs. It is not right, fair, or just to blame and punish others because of your mistakes.
Right now, everyone’s emotions are running high. So I’m asking you, as government officials, to step back, take a breath, and think with a clear head. Admit your own mistakes. Fine Turner or the marketing company. Set clear rules about guerilla marketing (that don’t take the crotchety old man approach). Release the two people you arrested because they were not, in any way, perpetrating a hoax.
We already live with so much valid fear and uncertainty there’s no need to add to it. You overreacted. Be the bigger person (as it were), admit mistakes, and use this incident to learn instead of giving the fear mongers more ammunition.
The Angry Black Woman