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Boston Bomb Scare
Status: Marketing campaign
Blinking boxes placed around Boston caused major disruption after worried passers-by called in bomb scares to the local authorities.

Boxes variously described as having blinking lights, looking like circuit boards, and having wires hanging from them, were positioned in ten locations throughout Boston. When the authorities investigated them, they discovered that the devices were a marketing ploy for the adult cartoon Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

A few hours after the reports began about the devices, Turner Broadcasting, a division of Time Warner Inc. and parent of Cartoon Network, sent out a statement to clear up the situation.

The packages, which were magnetic light boxes depicting a cartoon character flipping the bird, had been placed around ten different cities: Boston; New York; Los Angeles; Chicago; Atlanta; Seattle; Portland, Ore.; Austin, Texas; San Francisco; and Philadelphia as a guerilla marketing campaign.

The two men, Peter Berdovsky and Sean Stevens, who were employed to plant the devices around Boston have been charged with placing hoax devices, and have been released on bail. They contend that they had no intent to cause a panic, and can therefore not, by law, be charged with the offence.

Turner Broadcasting have agreed to pay $2 million to settle claims and to release themselves from any legal liability.

Several of the devices were being sold on ebay, as of Thursday.

There is a thread regarding this topic in the forum.

Thanks to all who sent us information.
Categories: Advertising
Posted by Flora on Tue Feb 06, 2007
Comments (17)
More from the Hoax Museum Archives:
In Atlanta, they actually hung one on the police station attached to one of the two City Hall buildings.
Posted by Evan  in  Atlanta, GA  on  Tue Feb 06, 2007  at  06:12 PM
That's stupid that they would arrest the poor art students who were just working for Turner to make a few dollars and didn't think they were doing anything wrong.
Posted by Razela  in  Chicago, IL  on  Tue Feb 06, 2007  at  10:16 PM
Also see the hylarious pressconference of the two dudes who did it:
http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=pressconference+hairstyles
Posted by Unfairly Balanced  in  Earth  on  Wed Feb 07, 2007  at  03:26 AM
This is not a hoax, it is an advertising campaign. Although some advertisers actually use hoaxes to promote their product, the Boston fiasco was not one of those. These light boards were not made to look like a bomb, not give any indication they were anything more than an led sign. To be a hoax the creators would need the intent to mislead the public about the nature of the device. In this case anybody who knew the program understood the nature of the sign. Ignorance on the part of city officials, while their actions may be warrented in the times we now live, does not mean this rises to the status of hoax.
Posted by Jim  in  Southeast US  on  Wed Feb 07, 2007  at  08:53 PM
The debate about this has raged over at Fark since it started. Most people there agree that this is the equivalent of a bunch of Lite-Brites (tm) and anyone who thought it was a bomb doesn't even deserve to keep his/her job.
Posted by Zoom  in  good time  on  Wed Feb 07, 2007  at  09:19 PM
I doubt it qualifies as a hoax, but I don't fault the Boston authorities for doing their job. Not everyone watches Aqua Teen Hunger Force and not everyone is going to automatically assume that just because an electrical object has a cartoon character on it that it must be benign.

So while the two artists in question aren't probably guilty of more than disturbing the peace, they are pretty damn stupid for hanging it up without requesting permission or notifying anyone and I think pretty moronic to use the opportunity for shameless self-promotion. I'd feel a bit more sympathetic to them if they showed some bit of concern about the near panic they caused rather than hair humor. At the very least they could have come up with funnier material.
Posted by Tim  in  Massachusetts  on  Thu Feb 08, 2007  at  12:27 AM
" I'd feel a bit more sympathetic to them if they showed some bit of concern about the near panic they caused rather than hair humor."

Considering they'd just been arrested and charged, their concerns were probably elsewhere.
Posted by Vincent  on  Thu Feb 08, 2007  at  12:55 AM
Considering how many totally innocent looking objects in the city could be bombs in disguise, it's silly to think that a terrorist would leave some circuit boards out in the open for all to see.
This is paranoia; only Dr. Drakken would make a Doomsday Device that even remotedly resembled one!
Posted by eovti  in  Sandefjord, Norway  on  Thu Feb 08, 2007  at  10:17 AM
While it doesn't technically qualify as a hoax, it's close enough for us to find it interesting and therefore discussable.

As for the near panic, they only panic because of the mass paranoia that has developed in this country, mainly fed by the politicians trying to get elected and the media trying to make a buck off it. Scream 9/11 and everyone starts getting manic. It's great for business.

If people can't put harmless, and harmless looking, objects on display then we're pretty f*'ed up. Terrorism is designed to instill fear and hysteria in a populace, and it's working damn well when people scream 'bomb' first and bother investigating later.

There was nothing to panic over, and if people had bothered to stop and think about it for a minute they would have realized that. Instead it was blown completely out of proportion and panicky leaders were encouraged to run around flailing their arms in wild abandon dredging up 9/11 every time a camera turned on them. I guess the terrorists are winning this 'war'.
Posted by Charybdis  in  Hell  on  Thu Feb 08, 2007  at  10:49 AM
Perhaps I should mention that these devices were placed in other cities without the panic. Israel has had bombs placed in public places for decades, they would have handled this a damn sight better. Maybe Cartoon Network needs a new cartoon, Panicky Police Guy?
Posted by Christopher Cole  in  Tucson, AZ  on  Thu Feb 08, 2007  at  12:17 PM
As someone who lives in the Boston area who actually saw one of the LED characters (as did thousands of others) before our fearful leaders proclaimed them potentially harmful I disagree that this not a hoax. But the hoax is by the police and political leaders on the public.

There is absolutely no way anyone could have ever thought they were a serious danger. None. Zero. On close inspection they were lights, circuit boards and a D-battery. It is sad that anyone could be so irresponsible of their public duty to hoax the public like that. It is even sadder that the public (like Tim above) think there is something even remotely helpful about the completely irresponsible fearmongering.

One of the greatest logical fallacies of our time is the notion that it is better to be "safe than sorry." This is very wrong and very dangerous. Every time we respond irrationally and fearfully about non-real threats it INCREASES the chance that a real threat will both happen and be ignored. It is the police's and the politician's duty to lead the public in times of risk not make up completely unreal fears out of a few blinking LEDs.

Boston is sadly the world's laughing-stock.
Posted by Floormaster Squeeze  in  Spring Hill, MA  on  Thu Feb 08, 2007  at  02:09 PM
Everything is a big joke to the 2 young braying jackasses,until they were held accountable. If I lived in Boston, I would be pissed about the hassle that day. In Hawaii we take preceived threats (volcanoes, earth quakes, tidal waves) seriously and don't mock the authorities.
Posted by Older & Wiser  in  Hilo, Hawaii  on  Thu Feb 08, 2007  at  03:31 PM
Well, if I lived in Boston, Older & Wiser, I would be p'ed about the hassle, too, but the hassle was caused by the authorities' insane reaction, not by the people putting up the light boards.

I don't see how charges of "placing hoax devices" or making a bomb threat or anything similar will ever stick. The guys who put up the boxes clearly weren't trying to make people think they were bombs or something else dangerous, they were just trying to advertise a cartoon. And, as many have stated, the devices didn't especially look like bombs or have the word "bomb" painted on them or anything similar.
Posted by Big Gary  in  Marathon, Texas  on  Fri Feb 09, 2007  at  08:11 AM
Besides, it wasn't their responsibility to notify anyone about what they were putting up. They were hired by Turner Broadcasting, so even assuming the things looked like bombs, it would be the responsibility of Turner to alert the Boston Security.
Posted by Razela  in  Chicago, IL  on  Fri Feb 09, 2007  at  05:17 PM
Some people are taking this seriously:
http://money.cnn.com/2007/02/09/news/newsmakers/cartoon_network/index.htm?cnn=yes
http://news.google.com/news?q=cartoon network CEO&btnG=Google+Search&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wn
Posted by Splarka  on  Sat Feb 10, 2007  at  06:03 AM
Fear is the enemy.
Posted by Michael  on  Sun Feb 11, 2007  at  04:53 PM
Hahaha You guys have never directly dealt with Turner Broadcasting for a job as a person or small business owner working on a project for Turner have you?! Turner is the WORST company I have ever seen to use their size as a weapon against small businesses. "Yes, we would like to use you for X project, but before we hire you our legal department has a few comments on your contract, please take a quick look and then sign. Its only boiler plate changes, nothing major". As you read through it and realize that have rewritten everything, including making the small business agree to defend and protect Turner in the event legal issues arise from the job they are doing for Turner. I guarantee those two guys were hung out to dry by Turner for sure, Turner got the publicity they were looking for, did they not? I had never heard of the cartoon until the "bomb" scare... though does not mean I would ever watch it after knowing Turner produced it...
Posted by Steven Birch  in  Somewhere, USA  on  Fri Mar 30, 2007  at  12:12 PM
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