Mooninites and Responsibility

Boston was shut down on Wednesday following the discovery of a “suspicious object” at a T station. Police found several more of the objects, each of which included a circuit board, batteries, and a blockish cartoon figure in LEDs giving the finger. The ensuing bomb scare shut down highways and subways. (There is some indication that another, garden-variety bomb scare also took place Wednesday, and the police conflated the two, leading to terrifying intimations of a massive coordinated something-or-other.)

It then transpired that the figure was a Mooninite, from the Cartoon Network show Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and that the devices had been placed as part of a guerrilla marketing campaign for the forthcoming ATHF movie. The show, which stars a milkshake, fries, and ball of meat, is surrealist and frequently plotless; how they’ve stretched it to movie length is beyond me. Given the show’s cult status, the marketing campaign was deliberately oddball, and the Mooninites were to be placed in “areas frequented by students into alternative arts.” The campaign took place in cities nationwide, several weeks ago. Boston is, to date, the only city to wig out.

Police were able to locate the two young men, Peter Berdovsky and Sean Stevens, who installed the Boston Mooninites. They were to be paid $300 each by Interference Inc., which was organizing the promotion on behalf of Turner Broadcasting, the owner of the Cartoon Network. They were arraigned on charges of “possession of a hoax device” and “disorderly conduct.” After the arraignment, the two scapegoats gave a brief press conference in which they treated the situation with appropriately absurdist humor.

I don’t think the two are actually in that much trouble. The hoax device law requires the “intent to cause anxiety, unrest, fear or personal discomfort,” which they almost certainly didn’t have, They just wanted to market a movie. That was the point. I don’t know for certain, but “disorderly conduct” in the Bay State seems to be charged under Chapter 272, Section 53 of the Massachusetts General Laws, the relevant prong of which would be “disturbers of the peace.” That offense carries a maximum of six months in jail and a $200 fine, making it strictly misdemeanor territory. “Disturbers of the peace” would also seem to give these two fellows a reasonably good vagueness or lenity objection, at least as applied to them, though I haven’t researched Massachusetts caselaw on point.

But leave the precise and lawyerly details aside. The powers that be in Boston, up through and including the mayor and the governor, are ticked off, from being made to look like the fools they are. Panicking at Mooninites is not exactly a sign of wise and sober governance. As at the airport security line, those in authority, being humorless and joyless themselves, fear and hate humor and joy. (Thus, Stevens and Berdovsky’s performance at the press conference, while brilliantly funny, was not the wisest of moves.) I have the sense that cooler heads are unlikely to prevail in the corridors of Bostonian power, and that the orders will be coming down from on high to punish these young men for the stupidity of their elders. (That the Boston press continues to call them “hoaxsters” is a sign of the misdirected anger still boiling in Beantown. There was no “hoax;” no one was ever supposed to think that anything remotely terrifying was taking place.)

Which brings me to my point.

If Turner Broadcasting, on whose behalf all of this was done, has any conscience, then it will fund the legal defense of its two hapless Mooninite Men. Turner and Interference were the entities here that could see the whole picture, and that should have been aware of the possibilities that some humorless dolts might take things the wrong way. I approve of randomness and whimsy in day-to-day-life, and I don’t think that Turner and Interference did anything seriously wrong. But given the risks attendant on this sort of marketing, if someone has to take the fall—or to pay the legal fees to avoid taking the fall—it should not be Stevens and Berdovsky, who did a silly job well and have since handled themselves with panache. Dealing with prosecutions from those who don’t get the joke is a marketing cost, and it should be treated that way, just as IBM paid to clean up its Peace, Love, Linux stencils on the streets of San Francisco. If it were an executive in the dock, you know that the corporate checkbook would be open already.

If, on the other hand, Turner has no conscience and does not look after its own … well, then, it will be incumbent on the rest of us to boycott the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie. The show’s appeal is cult; the movie’s is, too. The entire marketing campaign was designed to appeal to people with a taste for the surreal. Turner, you were reaching out to us with this Mooninite marketing. We recognize ourselves in Sean and Peter. If you are not with our brothers, we will not be with you. If you turn your back on them now, we will know that you see us just as a narrowcast demographic, and not people with whom one might share a joke. If you shirk your responsibility, then you had best start preparing for empty seats when the movie opens, because you will have just irrevocably alienated the very group to whom you were trying to hype it.

The ball is in your court, Turner. You know what’s the right thing to do.

I am a sometimes overly serious and excessively intellectual guy who is (as you know well) old enough to be your father. (Not blond enough, but old enough.) I am not prone to whimsy, although I do like to think I have a good sense of humor (tending toward irony and wordplay). But your reaction to this story is exactly the same as mine, James. What a bunch of fools! I also thought that the perps’ press conference was brilliant.

Brill post. I wondered why they didn’t go after Turner, rather than the artists. Hey James! Your blog was linked from a comment over at Talk Left. But it was difficult to read it clearly, because of the background and the white text (I had to adjust the angle of my lap top screen.) Glad I’ve discovered (and now boomarked) your blog! Cheers, Jay

As I watched press conference with two guys who were paid to distribute these advertisements, I took a bit of perverse pleasure in watching the crowd of journalists be snubbed and humiliated by the refusal of these freaks to respond as expected, as they were pelted with questions.

The frustration and anger of the reporters asking the questions started to become obvious when we started hearing questions like,

How are you taking it seriously, by causing “widespread panic and destruction.” (reporter question at news conference with Sean Stevens and Peter Berdovsky)

Now I’m not aware of any destruction caused by the placement of these light Brite advertisements, and if anyone was responsible for panic, it was the media, specifically CNN who apparently had the entire country on edge as they milked this story for all it was worth.

Perhaps CNN and the other bloodsuckers in the media should cough up the money to pay for this debacle, instead of Ted Turner.

Let’s try looking a little bit closer at what happened, something that the major media providers will not do because it isn’t in their best interests, they are eager to put this episode behind them since it has become a serious embarrassment for them. Another added to the long list of embarrassments and abject failures we’ve seen since 9/11.

Unless I’m mistaken, because I missed most of the coverage on the day of the event, no one bothered to look into who reported these LED signs, the modern equivalent of neon signs, and why they described them as having the appearance of suspicious devices possibly bombs.

Who were these unnamed people, and what were their motivations?

For anyone unfamiliar with America and US society, we have a population filled with petty small minded manipulators. An ocean of embittered passive aggressive conformists, stifled control freaks who constantly search for ways to get their way in every aspect of their sad excuses for lives.

All across the United States, hundreds of thousands if not millions of people saw the signs, if only for a moment in a passing glance. Most of them didn’t give them a second thought. But then there are those who go through their lives constantly searching for ways to enlist others in their their causes by any means necessary.

Apparently one such person, or several persons, perhaps acting in collusion, saw the signs and were offended by the sight of Ignignot or Err flipping them the bird. Every day on their way to work they were forced to endure this insult, they tried not to look, but I couldn’t help themselves because once they knew that Moonite was there and couldn’t help but look, compounding their disturbance daily. They wanted those signs removed so that peace and tranquility could return to their pathetic excuses for lives, but how to achieve this goal, that was the question.

These are not the kind of go getters who would start climbing onto overpasses or on top of bridges to get their way, that would be far to proactive for their ilk. No they had to find a way to enlist others in their cause, but how to do it, that was the question. If they called the police and told him that they were offended, no doubt a report would be filed but the police have better things to do than try to appease the hyper anal.

So they formulated a plan, a plan that would insure the removal of these little Moonite demons that invaded their delicate peace of mind as they toiled away their lives on the job, and haunted their dreams as they slept. Those signs weren’t just offensive, they were dangerous, the work of terrorists, maybe even Al Qaeda. They’d been placed there to drive Americans crazy little by little, and then explode when least expected. Yes that’s what they were, it was obvious to anyone with eyes that this was a plot to destroy America.

Now all they had to do is convince the authorities. And that was simple, all it took a phone call to the Boston police, with a few well-chosen words and some false concern for the safety of Bostonians. Once the cops heard the words bomb and suspicious device, it was on baby. Once those words had been logged by law enforcement recording devices, it became a liability matter, that any right minded, police sergeant, chief of police or mayor would be insane to ignore in this day and age.

Imagine the glee of these little manipulators as they watch the entire country placed on high terror alert, just for the sake of their personal peace of mind. What a feeling of power they must’ve had as they watch CNN munching grapes and calling their relatives to boast and brag about how they saved the land from Al Qaeda.

Aside from their coworkers, friends and relatives, no one will know their names, but their place in history is assured. No doubt they are quite pleased with themselves feeling that they have finally accomplish something worthwhile.

Of course in another time and place they would be the ones who found themselves in handcuffs instead of Sean and Peter, or the authorities would have looked into their allegations and dismissed them as they ravings of cranks. But this is the age of George W. Bush and his all-encompassing war on terror, the age of hyper paranoia in America where no doubt millions now believe that those long-haired dreadlocks wearing tree hugging gold bricking slackers responsible for posting these advertisements should be drawn and quartered in the town square, prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and executed with extreme prejudice for scaring us all so. Sean and Pete fit perfectly into their conception of what’s wrong with America.

No doubt many conservative minded Americans believe that the individuals who reported this “threat” be commended, perhaps even sanctified as modern-day heroes and receive a special presidential medal to be pinned upon their chest on the South lawn by the president himself, and be honored on the floor of the Senate and House for their contribution in the war on terror. Thankfully I do not count myself among them.

No doubt the creators of Aqua Teen Hunger Force have been laughing themselves silly and are overjoyed at the free publicity generated by this little stunt. Perhaps they’ve already sent thank you notes to those who reported the mayhem of the Moonites and provided them tickets for the opening of the movie along with some coupons for free refreshments.

As I pointed out in earlier message, and was also pointed out by someone on TalkLeft this site can not be easily read on Internet explore, as the text comes out white on an almost white background. Perhaps you should address this issue since the majority of people still use Internet Explorer.

I’ll look into the IE issue; thanks for pointing it out.

Hmm, I’m not having any trouble reading the Lab with IE: I get black letters on a white background with a blue border.