Friday, February 2

The Boston Hoax and what it's really about.

By now most of us have heard about the Boston Hoax and how a silly cartoon character guerrilla marketing "botched joke" (ahem) fooled the city of Boston into believing bombs were being attached to bridges around the city.

The "controversy" is also being protrayed as a generational battle, between those bloggers who instantly recognized the Aqua Teen Hunger Force character and the totally out-of-it fuddy duddies who got scared by a guerrila marketing campaign. Dude, you are so out of it.

What is not being discussed to my satisfaction is this entire culture's divine right to be marketed to. The trend I hate most is the total acceptance on the part of people in our society that marketing everywhere is okay. It isn't. It's called mental pollution. Not to mention that these marketers left electric items unattended on the street. That's just plain old street pollution. I hope I don't sound like Cheney by asking if someone on the West Bank or Baghdad would have considered this marketing ploy a good idea.

I knew I'd reached total saturation when I saw that the paper on which my son's school menu is printed was provided by cartoon advertisers. It's folded so that the ads are on the outside you open to see more ads, then open again to find out what the public school cafeteria is serving for lunch. On topic, The Center for Commercial-Free Public Education exists to fight this mumbo-jumbo.

It's ironic that the same dudes who think Boston overreacted also think the War on Christmas is cool. Somehow Exxon/Mobil and Wal-Mart are bad corporations, but Cartoon Network? There's no way I could be pwned by a cartoon, man:

Cartoon Network? This is mutherfukkin TIME WARNER we're talking about, people. Corporate Media ownership. And you're blogging for them? Pwned indeed.

I've shown it before but I think today would also be a good day to have Cake's Comfort Eagle playing in your head. I like that this particular version uses video game/cartoon style characters to make the point.

And there's more at

Before you think I'm a total hypocrite, I know, I know. I'm getting ready to accept limited advertising here at BG. I joined Liberal Prose because I know them, and because I have complete control over which ads appear here. And I haven't accepted one yet. It'll be a cold day in hell before there's a "you have won a free laptop" pop-up over here, that much I can promise.



  1. I've said this before and I'll say it again: we are in late capitalism.

    There is no distinction between art and advertising these days. I blame Andy Warhol, but mostly our own capitalist fervor.

    Today, I was at the doctors' office and had to flip through AN ENTIRE MAGAZINE of ads to get to the 20 pages or so of actual written text. And now even academic journals have ads in them! Not many, but some, and that is truly frightening.

  2. Yeah, but here's the thing. I may not be fond of Warhol, but advertising can be art, and art can be advertising.

    And now that we're being hit by something like 20 times the number of adverts we were a generation ago, I feel fine appreciating a good ad. I do sort of work in marketing, after all -- not this sort, but I do read about it on a daily basis.

    Besides, the dadas were pointing out that there isn't a clear line between art and commerce 80 or 90 years ago.

  3. Random old fart comments that would get me shouted down somewhere else... and maybe here, too:

    - I hate advertising, period.

    - I've seen the show that these "ads" were for: it's stupid.

    - The two dopes that pulled this stunt in Boston acted less mature than most sixth graders I know, and probably should have been spanked when they were kids. I hope they get a serious fine and get their toys taken away for at least a month. Shouldn't they be out writing computer viruses or something?

    - These "ads" were not funny. Planting things that look like bombs, or that might be taken for bombs, or might make people think they might be bombs, is not funny. Doing something dumb that results in massive traffic jams and a misallocation of police and fire fighting resources is not funny: it's criminal.

    So I'm an old fart. So what?

  4. I usually agree with the things that you write, Blue Gal, but you have totally missed the point in this case.

    Local authorities and Homeland Security have had a hissy fit about some silly cartoon characters. The media has merely fueled the fire by drawing so much attention to it. This is like that Twilight Zone episode, "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street."

    The heart of this story is not about corporate advertising. This story is about America jumping at shadows and acting like scared children.

    When people discuss this story as a viable reaction to a perceived threat, then I would assume that they have also purchased large quantities of plastic sheeting and duct tape because congress told them to.

    When did we become a nation of wimps? The Republicans have us cowering in our combat boots like we are living on our last deferment. Don't fall for the propaganda.

    The downside of corporate advertising is a legitimate concern. This story is not the place for it. the real concerns that this story raises are far greater.

  5. Anonymous3:13 AM

    (Forgive me if this goes through 2x and please delete one.)

    It doesn't have anything with Republican/Democrat stuff. I think Blue Gal hit it right on. It's annoying, period. You know this "terrorist scare" made it into the news over here in France? And you know we've got our own share of issues. But a similarly idiotic publicity stunt under the bridges of Paris would have had a much more robust response from the CRS, believe you me. And the guys who did it on behalf of Time Warner would (a) not have taken the fall for the company if the company had some idea of what they were doing, and/or (b) not have had the chance to repeat their idiocies at a press conference in front of their embarrassed lawyer. Sigh. I was impressed and depressed by the last photo you put up... is that a real ad? (it sure looks like it) - in which case, it goes without comment but with some rolled eyes.

  6. It's called mental pollution.

    Somehow Exxon/Mobil and Wal-Mart are bad corporations, but Cartoon Network? There's no way I could be pwned by a cartoon, man.

    Blue Gal you nailed it on both counts. All these dudes (with the exception of Tom Tomorrow) railing on about this are the prime contributors to it.

    Though I agree with "dr. zaius" above that the city of Boston and the media have gone totally off the bend. On all sides, this episode is thoroughly ridiculous, and I'm sure the rest of the world is laughing, as we all should be.

    P.S. Found your site through Agitprop; you've got a great voice!

  7. When did we become a nation of wimps? I'm not sure we are, but I think September 11, 2001 at around 8:30 eastern, we became a nation that sees "electronic objects abandoned at strategic places like major metropolitan bridges" as a credible threat. Did Boston overreact? Yup. Are the perps jerks? Yup.

    And as I said at Qwerty's place, as much as I hate to diverge from the dominant blogosphere paradigm, I just can't help feeling that big bad Time Warner has convinced young
    America that "cool" is a television. show. marketing. campaign.

  8. Alethea the McD's ad smells of Adbusters to me, but Gewisha (across the top) is a real European ad agency, so if it is fake, and I suspect it is, it's a good fake.

  9. "The rest of the world is laughing" at us?

    Really? They're laughing in Madrid? In London?

    Not laughing here, either.

  10. Are the perps jerks? yes. But it is valid to say that the authorities don't have to actually like a defendant to find him innocent. As a matter of fact, for this to be called a "hoax," as many in the media are calling it, intent to deceive would have to be proven in some way. You can call the defendant irresponsible. Graffiti is irresponsible.

    But in a nutshell, the argument being put forward is that Time Warner and their scruffy public relations team are somehow to blame for Homeland Security being unable to distinguish between a cartoon character and Al Queda.

    Police also found two devices that looked like home-made pipe bombs, and yet they have hardly been mentioned. To believe this story, you must believe that pipe bombs are less threatening than cartoon characters. Certainly the pipe bombs have not received the same focus in the media. The fact is that no bombs were actually found at all, only stories about the police not finding bombs.

    Is this fear mongering? The Boston police commissioner is quoted as saying: "He also noted that Boston was the starting point for the September eleventh hijackers who used planes to attack the World Trade Center."

    ...The new Golden Rule, invoke 9-11 and win the press conference! All other arguments will be silenced.

    I would think that a well crafted argument against corporate advertising would logically start with things like drug manufacturers are changing the face of medicine. General practitioners are assaulted on a daily basis with demands from their patients for drugs that they saw on television. Medicine used to involve doctors diagnosing a patient themselves. Advertisements for sexual enhancement drugs play on television during prime time television while children are watching. Things like that would be what I would find foremost in an argument this sort.

    There may be many problems with ad campaigns for TV shows directed at America's teenagers, but their importance pales to near insignificance when compared to what big pharmaceutical companies are doing.

    I refuse to feel threatened by Mooninites, despite the rush of attempted persuasion created by the media and the authorities. A year from now this event will be used to push some other argument or agenda, probably with more significance to our civil liberties. I still remember whe Free Speech Zones were considered ridiculous.


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