For purposes of comparison, Here’s what happened when Mooninites got put up in Seattle. Manhattan and Brooklyn also failed to be panicked by Mooninites—and we really, really do not want to be hearing from Boston about how we ought to be more serious about security.
By this time, it’s clear to everyone that Boston officials overreacted to the Mooninite Lite-Brites, let themselves be suckered by irresponsible journalism at Fox News, and threw judgement and common sense to the winds. They might still have gotten a certain amount of sympathy if they weren’t now playing the bully.
August J. Pollak lays out the case in Thomas Menino is an incompetent coward:
I have never lived in Boston, and I have never supported a Republican for any elected office. But I would send money to a Republican opponent against Boston Mayor Tom Menino just to get him out of office if he actually dares to do something as cowardly and abusive-of-power as this.That pretty much nails it down.A furious Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino vowed yesterday to throw the book at the masterminds behind a guerrilla marketing campaign gone amok that plunged the city into bomb-scare pandemonium and blew nearly $1 million in police overtime and other costs.Menino is going on TV and insisting he’s going to send a 27-year old artist to jail for not breaking any law, because his police department overreacted and wasted a million dollars feeding a media frenzy and terrorizing the population of his own city. That’s a cowardly act of self-preservation, and were he not threatening the life of an innocent young man it would be laughable.
As city and state attorneys laid groundwork for criminal charges and lawsuits, cops seized 27-year-old Arlington multimedia artist Peter Berdovsky, who posted film on his Web site boasting that he and friends planted the battery-wired devices, and Sean Stevens, 28, of Charlestown. Both were jailed overnight on charges of placing a hoax device and disorderly conduct.
“This is outrageous activity to get publicity for a failing show,” said Menino, referring to the battery-operated light-up ads for the Cartoon Network’s “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” which sparked at least nine bomb scares in Boston, Cambridge and Somerville.
Menino promised to sue Turner Broadcasting Co., the Cartoon Network’s parent company, and criminally prosecute Berdovsky and anyone else responsible for the devices, and to petition the FCC to pull the network’s license.
Attorney General Martha Coakley was put in charge of the case and said the companies behind the promotion would be investigated. She said the felony charge of planting a hoax device could be broad enough to allow prosecution even if the stunt’s sponsors did not intend a panic.
Let’s get a few facts straight on the Aqua Teen Hunger Force sign fiasco:
1. Attorney General Martha Coakley needs to shut up and stop using the word “hoax.” There was no hoax. Hoax implies Turner Networks and the ATHF people were trying to defraud or confuse people as to what they were doing. Hoax implies they were trying to make their signs look like bombs. They weren’t. They made Lite-Brite signs of a cartoon character giving the finger.
2. It bears repeating again that Turner, and especially Berdovsky, did absolutely nothing illegal. The devices were not bombs. They did not look like bombs. They were all placed in public spaces and caused no obstruction to traffic or commerce. At most, Berdovsky is guilty of littering or illegal flyering.
3. The “devices” were placed in ten cities, and have been there for over two weeks. No other city managed to freak out and commit an entire platoon of police officers to scaring their own city claiming they might be bombs. No other mayor agreed to talk to Fox News with any statement beyond “no comment” when spending the day asking if this was a “terrorist dry run.”
4. There is nothing, not a single thing, remotely suggesting that Turner or the guerilla marketing firm they hired intended to cause a public disturbance. Many have claimed the signs were “like saying ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.” Wrong. This was like taping a picture of a fire to the wall of a theater and someone freaked out and called the fire department.
Believe it or not, this story actually gets more appalling, because this is not the first time this has happened. The Boston city government has zero credibility on this issue. The Boston Police Department already pulled the “anything with wires sticking out must be a bomb” stunt. They did it to a nonviolent protester, Joe Previtera, in May 2006. Here’s the photo: a kid standing on a milk crate outside an Armed Forces Recruitment Center, with a black hood over his head and speaker wires dangling from his wrists, in imitation of the famous photo of a tortured prisoner at Abu Ghraib.
[Previtera later said] “We picked the location because we wanted to make people think about what they might be called or forced to do if they enlist in the military.”Which is bullshit. What are they going to do, stop every guy in Boston who has a beer gut, or loose ties hanging off the bottom of his windbreaker? It’s on a level with telling them to watch out for guys carrying black bowling balls with fuses sticking out of them. I contacted a knowledgeable person of my acquaintance and asked whether bombers tend to have wires dangling off them. He said:
But the demonstration didn’t go as planned. Previtera—along with four friends who’d come out to shoot photos and protect the blinded activist in case, as fellow BC student Nick Fuller-Googins put it, “some hyper-nationalist character came up and punched him in the stomach”—figured the cops would warn him before they tossed him in the clink. But they didn’t. First, Previtera’s friends say, someone came out of the recruitment office and told him to get down; when Previtera didn’t, the person went inside. (No one from the Armed Forces Recruitment Center could be reached for comment.) Soon after, the cops appeared and watched the spectacle from their cruisers; shortly thereafter, the Boston Police bomb squad rolled up. Less than 90 minutes after the protest began, the police began taping off the area around him, and when Previtera stepped down, they took him into custody for “disturbing the peace.” But Previtera had remained silent the entire time. “I was really trying to play the role as accurately as possible,” he says. “So I was not speaking with anyone, just trying to stay there as still as possible.” Any disturbance came from the crowd of gawking spectators that, witnesses say, assembled once the policeman showed.
At the precinct, Previtera discovered that in addition to the initial misdemeanor, he’d been charged with two felonies: “false report of location of explosives” and a “hoax device.”
“This was supposed to be more symbolic than anything,” says Previtera, who never imagined they’d nab him for a false bomb threat. “I never wanted to scare anyone into thinking I had a bomb. I just wanted to make people think about international affairs.” He adds, “I never uttered the word bomb or explosive.”
…[T]he same day of Previtera’s protest, a report in the Boston Globe warning of possible terrorist threats read: “Officials were urged to take note of people dressed in bulky jackets in warm weather … or trailing electrical wires.”
What kind of bombers?Then he sent me links to photos of actual detonators, some older designs, and the complete text of the Improvised Munitions Handbook. I hereby recommend the lot of them to the Boston Police Department.
Doing what? How?
Your basic suicide bomber has a pull-type detonator attached to his explosive belt, that he can access through his clothing.
Your basic demolition guy has a heck of a long wire going from his charge back to him and his hellbox.
Other needs, other configurations.
But wires sticking out of your clothes? I rather doubt it.
The pull-type detonators I used to use were just metal tubes, painted green, with a pull-ring on one end.It’s nice to be able to consult someone with non-theoretical knowledge. Meanwhile, back to the story about Joe Previtera:
You put your fuze wire in the opposite, open end, then crimped it in place.
You kept the whole thing dry by putting it in a condom: easy to pull the ring without even breaking the seal.
So if Previtera didn’t mention a bomb, what exactly constitutes a bomb threat? “It can be implied, with fingers and wires—especially in a heightened state of alert, as we are,” says Officer Michael McCarthy, Boston Police Department spokesman. And McCarthy thinks this is common knowledge, even if the wires are accessories to a costume. “Mr. Previtera should know better. He’s a young adult educated at Boston College from a wealthy suburb. I’m sure he knows wires attached to his fingers, running to a milk crate, would arouse suspicion outside a military recruiters’ office [when he’s] dressed in prisoner’s garb. If he has any questions as to why people think he may’ve had a bomb, then he needs to maybe go back to Boston College to brush up on his public policy.”Standing outside a recruiting office in an Abu Ghraib prisoner’s costume, and studying public policy at Boston College, have nothing to do with whether you’re making a bomb threat, and everything to do with the police being irritated at Provitera’s political views. Which are none of their business. You can tell they didn’t think there was a bomb threat; they didn’t clear the area when they taped it off and called the bomb squad.
Here’s a second account of what followed:
“One of the police officers called me a sissy because I was putting my arms down, and he said if I was like the guy in the real picture I should keep my arms out,” Previtera says.No wonder these guys got suckered by Fox News. They’re already in the habit of it.
Then one of Previtera’s fellow protesters warned him that the police were beginning to get aggressive.
“I stepped down from the milk crate and took my hood off,” Previtera says. “There were four policemen right in front of me. I tried to walk away. They said, ‘You can’t go anywhere.’ They said I had to wait because the bomb squad was coming.”
To say the least, Previtera was not expecting this.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he says. “I just stood there in shock.”
The police proceeded to arrest him.
“I asked them for what. And they said they would tell me down at the precinct,” he says. “It was surreal.”
Down at the precinct station, “eventually, they fingerprinted me and booked me,” he says. “I was booked on disturbing the peace and making a false report of a location of explosives. And when I was in my cell I found out they added a third charge about a hoax device.”
The police alleged that the stereo wires dangling from his fingers constituted a bomb threat.
“The Boston Police Department made a judgment that he was committing certain crimes and arrested him for disturbing the peace, making a false bomb threat, and possession of a hoax device,” says David Procopio, press secretary for the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office.
Previtera was held overnight.
“The police woke me in the middle of the night and showed me pictures of U.S. soldiers with smiling Iraqi children,” says Previtera. “The officers told me these were pictures that I’d never see in the media, and that the Boston Globe and The New York Times were communist papers.”
The next day, the district attorney asked for $10,000 cash bail, Previtera says. But after the protesters showed the DA pictures of the action, he reduced his request to $1,000. The judge had Previtera see a court psychiatrist and then released him on his own recognizance. …The Boston Police Department clearly needs remedial education in what a real bomb looks like. Here’s a hint: it’s not just a thing that has wires hanging off it when you feel pissed-off and want to arrest someone.
On June 8, the District Attorney’s office essentially dropped the charges against Previtera. “We began a review of the facts to determine if any of the charges were warranted,” said [David Procopio, press secretary for the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office]. “We spoke to police officers and witnesses, and after several days of our investigation, we determined that none of the charges were appropriate, and we basically terminated the prosecution.”
Finally: An irresistible dialogue on the technology gap between newscasters and newswatchers, found via Lyorn
(See also: Boston menaced by cartoon promo; traffic grinds to a halt, 31 January 2007.)