Litebob Squarefinger. Boston was sent over the edge this week by the sudden, scattered appearance of strange electronic devices with these obscene little emoticons:
click for Globe article
In this, the "Week of the Super Bowl" and it's advertizing "blitz", what could be appropriate than a terror attack from the Cartoon Network? The reaction of the blogosphere, and of many of my friends and assoicates, has sent me into Frank Grimes-like spasms of disbelief: Ahg! Aiwt! Emg! Ufpk!
Recall: Frank Grimes was a character from a Simpsons episode that went nuts cause everyone around him actually was nuts. Exposed to the insanity of Homer's careless and lazy behavior at the nuclear power plant, and compounded by the acceptance of this behavior by all others at the plant, he snaps. So follow me thru this, and see if I snap -- the blogosphere seems to think this whole thing hilariously funny. It seems to think that the folks in Boston over-reacted, sending in the Bomb Squad to explode some cartoon ad made of Lite Brites.
Boston got punkd. Boston got pwned. Boston got its panties all twisted. Boston is clueless. Laugh at Boston:
"And, uh, the real fake bombs?" on Blue Mass Group
"Attack of the Killer Cartoons ..." on Democratic Underground
Let's put this in context. If you work for some branch of emergency services, your Wednesday morning included a fake pipe bomb at a big hospital in central Boston and mysterious packages found on two busy bridges over the Charles; concurrent with a series of puzzling reports of electronic devices attached to bridge abutments and under highway overpasses. Connect these with other reports of security alerts in other cities (in Britain and Washington DC), and there is no way anyone should think that the reposnse professionals in Boston over-reacted. They responded just as they should.
By contrast consider that the two "performance artsits" were told by their advertising employers that they should keep quiet while chaos reigned around them. After their court appearance, they launched into a non-sequitor about 70s hair styles while claiming their seriousness and sincerity. Tell me you don't feel the pangs of Frank Grimes. Aiwt! Ufpk!
But almost worse than all this is the sense that a huge number of the "informed public" (Olbermann!) has gotten this completely wrong. In fact, they seem to be encouraging the perpetrators to not only continue dumping on Boston, but ot rub Boston's collective nose in it. That there is some "reason filter" that is not set quite right, or some "logic mechanism" is just not switching on.
There are other examples in recent headlines: the lady who wanted to win a Nintendo and drank so much water she died. The mental giants running the radio show explained to callers warning of the danger, "They signed releases so we're not responsible, okay?". So even after these mooks were told of the danger, they did not tell the contestants, or even consider having some medical consultant available for them. And still the comments to the news posts include many responses that basically blamed the dead woman for drinking the water. She was punkd. She was pwned. She was clueless.
Yes, and rape victims wear short skirts. I guess in a world where people eat bugs on TV to win money, this seem like acceptable behavior. If you're a rube, you deserve it.
Similarly, our national conscience is fixed to "American Idol" not just for the winners, but for the losers: we love those early episodes and the delusional wailers who think they have a shot. We even take some of the"best losers" and push them into the spot light, like William Hung. We've taken schadenfreude to a whole other level.
Further consider how lucky, really, the folks in Boston were that there was not some other "big thing": a big apartment building on fire, or even some ambulance headed to MGH stuck at Charles Circle with a life-threatening situation. What are the consequences of installing home-made, enigmatic, electronic ads in a City famous for its congestion? And for what? Ads? Contests? It's funny, huh? Ahg! Emg!
Finally, folks pay for billboards for a reason: you can't just paint big ads on the sides of skyscrapers. It's not your property. There are places for ads. "Artists" who spray paint graffitti on trains and buildings know they are committing a crime; defacing property is a crime. Over the summer, other city administrators in Philly were all upset over a Sony PSP ad campaign that paid graffitti artists to deface buildings with prescribed images -- but Sony actually paid for the wall spaces.
Or if ad tag lines are your language, let's use the one from Apple: Think Different. It seems that folks no longer have the ability to distinguish between "different" thinking and no thinking at all.
There are good places for ads and there are bad places; responsible behavior and irresponsible. There are art installations and there are crimes. When (when!?) did it become "okay" to attach a homemade electronic device to a column holding up a highway? I don't care what reason you have for doing it -- advertising, mooniniting, 70s hair styling, whatever -- when did that become a acceptable thing to do?
This accepance would reduce our basic economic relationships down to a giant network of confidence games: tricksters and marks. Anything goes as long as you're "in the know", and if you're not, it's your own fault for being a dope. The answers were right there on the internet, just search Google for "zebbler", d-uh. You were the idiot for not looking. Sucker.
Oxymorons: jumbo shrimp, reality-TV, marketing-genius.
Here's the litmus test -- ask yourself: what if the "artists" had not been hired by Turner? What if they had come up with a conceptual piece unrelated to cartoons, involving Lite Brites in public places? Would it be funny? Would they be prosecuted?
My inner Frank Grimes is especially appalled by those comments congratulating Turner and the advertisers on a "brilliant" move and for psyching the City into giving them a ton of free exposure. If we expect our style of democracy to work, then the market-place of ideas should not fail in this manner. It kinda makes me wonder if everyone shouldn't have to pass a test to vote. My trust is broken.
At least I still have the Simpsons.