Commentary: City reaction to ad over the top

Last Wednesday, Boston witnessed a display of stupidity unmatched by anything I can remember. As we all know by now, there was never any real threat posed by the blinky little Mooninite LED panels, and yet the city of Boston managed to spend nearly $1 million trying to “save” the city from this terrorist threat.

You would think that after they discovered – excuse me, detonated – one of the panels, they would have realized it was not what they assumed it was, and that it posed no threat. You would think that after this threat was dispelled, city officials would step back and think twice before inciting panic and mayhem across the city.

But they didn’t. Instead they blew up several more of the LEDs and launched a citywide hunt for the remaining “hoax devices.” This decision led to city-wide traffic jams throughout the Boston area and crippled the public transportation system for hours.

Mayor Thomas Menino realized this was going to come down on his head if he didn’t act fast and find a scapegoat. So he started spouting off references to September 11 and had two suspects arrested, vowing “No Mercy!” Nicely done Moon-ino, bravo. You just compared September 11 to Mooninites.

I guess it never occurred to anyone that this guerilla marketing tactic had already been in place for weeks in major cities across the country, including New York City. Of all places, shouldn’t New York City be the place to flip out and start blowing up LED panels? But that isn’t really the point of this letter. The point is that local Boston authorities overreacted to a harmless marketing campaign, then tried to blame their own mistakes on two innocent men.

The blame for all of this mayhem – and there is blame to place – should fall on the shoulders of Turner Broadcasting and the local authorities, which is finally starting to happen now that Sean Stevens and Peter Berdovsky have been released on bail and we have a week of hindsight.

I understand the need for safety in a country conditioned to fear anything not dressed in red, white and blue, but this was beyond precaution. The reaction of the Boston authorities was laughable, and a blatant scramble to find an excuse for their front-page stupidity.

Let’s just hope this backlash scares the last bit of creativity out of American companies. I don’t know about you, but I was getting pretty tired of advertising that actually employs thought and art to convey its message.

-Eric Baumann is a sophomore journalism major and a member of the News staff.

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