a city under siege: boston and the lite-brite invasion

So yesterday afternoon folks around Boston had a bit of a scare, with reports of police working to clear some suspicious, bomb-like packages on many of the major bridges and thoroughfares going into the city. Traffic was snarled and nerves were frayed.

As you've likely heard, the suspicious packages were actually some "guerrilla marketing" for a Cartoon Network show/movie "Aqua Teen Hunger Force". Here's a video (with great music!) showing these "bomblike devices" being deployed:


Seeing the video, I have to say, these things were pretty cool. I wish I had seen one. (I wonder how they're staying attached to the structures...)

Listening to Mayor "Mumbles" Manino on the local newstalk station, I started to get kind of angry, he's talking about suspending the parent company Turner's broadcast license (including CNN... awesome), huge fines, jailtime, and is generally on a moral highhorse about a mile tall. And constantly calling them "hoax devices", as if the whole thing was a deliberate bomb scare.

I'm angry too, but more at the over-reaction of the city. OK, the figure looks a little "angry" and was in suspicious, vulnerable locations. But the damn things are flat. How much explosive did they expect to be packed in these things, especially after the first one was "detonated"? And the blatant sense of whimsy... even if they didn't recognize the character, who the hell did they think was "attacking" us? The Joker or some other Batman villain bothering to make elaborate props? The comedy wing of Al Qaeda? The same guys from "Fight Club" who blew up a building with a Have A Nice Day face? Seriously.

At first I was concerned, even as I heard the packages (still not fully described in the media) were harmless, I thought it could be terrorists sizing up our response times and reactions, like some of the question marks around that LA Subway mercury spill. But now I'm more concerned for our nation's backbone, and lack of common sense. People: an attack is going to happen someday, somewhere, somehow. Hopefully it will be contained and localized, but people will die. Chances are it won't be you, or even someone you love. We need to have appropriate levels of concern and purposefully work to have responses commiserate with the scares we face in the meanwhile.

"Then the terrorists will have won" was the overused gagline from 5 years ago, but it still holds true. Taking our new grimmer reality in stride and learning to prosper and relax even in that (along with doing everything appropriate to prevent future attacks) will be the real victory in the War Against Terror. Turning some electronic graffiti into a citywide clampdown ("the war against liquids" to be joined by "the war against lite-brites") won't be.