by user Chriseckel
Did you hear the one about the cartoon characters that shut down a city? A viral marketing campaign for the television show Aqua Teen Hunger Force, consisting of blinking circuit boards with depictions of two lesser characters from the show in highly visible spots, was recently conducted in ten American cities, including Boston. Somebody panicked, wrongly assuming the devices were explosives, and the Boston civil and legal authorities quickly moved in and shut down parts of the city last Wednesday to investigate the advertisements.
However, even though no one in the other cities that were targeted by the advertisers panicked, what happened in Boston should not be interpreted as simply the miscalculation of several public officials. Instead, it is endemic of a larger problem in the United States. A rational, open-minded individual that observed a blinking circuit board that resembled a Lite-Brite would generally assume it was a harmless toy. However, in a post 9/11 world, politicians and others have succeeded in frightening Americans about the world around them, and that fear has manifested itself in several ways, such as a widespread irrational distrust of foreigners, a pervasive willingness to allow the federal government to strip us of our civil rights, and the overreaction to this stunt. We have become a country so petrified of the unfamiliar that cartoon characters have us rushing to call 911 and find the nearest bomb shelter.
The employees of Turner Media simply wished to create some buzz for an upcoming movie, and Boston officials were merely acting in the most prudent manner possible. However, both of them contributed to this culture of fear, and as such, even though this was a false alarm for an act of terrorism, this incident must be chalked up as a minor victory for terrorists everywhere. The ultimate goal of terrorism is not to damage property or to murder people, but rather, to destabilize society. Acts of terrorism are not directed at those who live or work at the site of an attack -- those people are collateral damage – the terror is directed at those who survive. A successful terrorism campaign aims to alter the daily patterns of individuals and institutions. Patterns were certainly altered in Boston the other day; bomb squads were summoned to duty and numerous highways and bridges were shut down, causing many to have to be rerouted. Although it was not their intent, all those who contributed to the panic of January 31st may have done more to further the mission of terrorists than they did to enable the citizens of this country to live their lives free from trepidation, and as such, the way a culture of fear has taken over this country must be addressed so that the events of last week will not be repeated.