Boneheaded in Boston

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So Cartoon Network parent company Turner Broadcasting has agreed to "to pay $2 million compensation and apologize for their advertising campaign that caused a widespread terrorism scare" in Boston.

As part of the settlement, $1 million will be used to reimburse the agencies and $1 million will be used to fund homeland security and other programs. Turner Broadcasting, a division of Time Warner Inc., and Interference Inc. also will issue a public statement accepting full responsibility and apologizing for the incident.

"Last week's events caused a major disruption in the greater Boston area on many levels—crippling public transportation, causing serious traffic problems, negatively affecting local businesses and perhaps most significantly, costing Boston and surrounding communities thousands of dollars," [Attorney General Martha] Coakley said.

Whatever else this story is about, this much seems clear: Boston can no longer be taken seriously as a city. It alone–out of a total of 10 cities subjected to the same ad campaign–spazzed out like this.

Full details on the shakedown here.

David Weigel on "the Boston Two" here.

NEXT: Freedom on the March!

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  1. From a PR standpoint, TBS did the right smart thing.

    Notice I said “smart”, not “right”, and qualified it with “from a PR standpoint.”

  2. I’m not even sure they did that. To paraphrase Michael Corleone, if the city of Boston says they spent $750,000.00, Why would they ever consider paying more than that? I don’t like the precedent that they’ve set by doing so.

  3. Does anyone still think that Boston is the navel of the universe (as Holmes, sr. thought of it back in the 19th century)?

  4. “Boston can no longer be taken seriously as a city.”

    When did you take it seriously?

  5. I don’t know thoreau, I think their hair-obsessed representatives had it right. Treat the whole situation like the frick’n joke that it is. TBS just pissed away any street-cred they had going for them. And now that Boston has whined its way to a biscuit, expect it (and all those other cities) to start looking for excuses to throw a spazz.

  6. Spineless.
    Corporate.
    Weasels.

  7. An important fact that gets left out of the story is that, just after the Boston Police started to respond to these thingies, two dummy pipe bombs were found in a parking garage. None of the other 9 cities’ police forces had that to take into account as they were decided what to do.

  8. The good news is that this is one step closer to making “viral marketing” a hanging offense, and that’s worth a noble goal in and of itself.

    Oh, and terrorists? Next time you plant a bomb, paint “GOLDENPALACE.COM” in big letters on it. Everybody will think it’s just another wacky promotion until it explodes. Hell, you might get people gathering around to look at it.

  9. So, who is right here? thoreau or Jesse Walker?

  10. Sometimes, Jesse, spineless is smart, at least in the short term.

    So we can both be right.

  11. i don’t know if they did the smart thing either.

    this will be a good pr case study for the future, however.

  12. dhex,

    At the very least there a quite a lot of variables to consider before one can come to a decision or not.

  13. I recall something similar, perhaps on a smaller scale, happened in the Union Square subway station in NYC a couple of years ago. I recall the same stern lecture from the mustaches, but don’t recall this kind of publicity.

  14. The cost of a 30 second superbowl ad was $2.6 million, or at least that was the figure I heard. TBS was able to get everyone talking about their movie for a week, and more than compensated the city of Boston for the money they spent. TBS received excellent publicity, and no one can claim that they did not take responsibility.

    They got a deal.

  15. THERE WAS A “REAL” PIPE BOMB HOAX THAT MORNING!!!!! If I was Turner I wouldn’t pay shit. As reported in the Boston Herald someone left a fake pipe bomb in an office at a hospital and they apparently found one attached to an overpass. It was only AFTER (joe) they went on alert for those that they found the ad signs and went ape shit. The ads didn’t start the alert. I have yet to see this fact reported on the news.

    http://news.bostonherald.com/localRegional/view.bg?articleid=180349

  16. Well the article says it happened at the same time but I bet some investigation would show the ads were found after the fake pipe bombs.

  17. Goddammit! Can just one public figure in this country refuse to apologize for every trumped up claim of offense!

    (Put your hand down, Bush. Yes, we know you never apologize for anything. We want to hear from some of the other kids.)

  18. “Oh, and terrorists? Next time you plant a bomb, paint “GOLDENPALACE.COM” in big letters on it. Everybody will think it’s just another wacky promotion until it explodes. Hell, you might get people gathering around to look at it.”

    You know what, those terrorists ought to go one better. They should pack a car with explosives & park it there, and then all those jokers who see garages full of cars, and don’t see that each one of them is a potential terror threat, will see what happens when you don’t take homeland security seriously.

    I don’t see how anyone could have lived through the first WTC bombing & Oklahoma City and still leave Ryder trucks sitting all over the place without shutting down the entire city to investigate.

    /sarc

  19. “shakedown” Hey, isn’t that what governments do? I mean, isn’t it?

  20. “Whatever else this story is about, this much seems clear: Boston can no longer be taken seriously as a city. It alone–out of a total of 10 cities subjected to the same ad campaign–spazzed out like this.”

    Three words, dipshit, regarding 9/11: Logan International Airport

    PS nothing makes a black girl laugh harder than seeing a fat white-boy in dreds.

  21. Sometimes, Jesse, spineless is smart, at least in the short term.

    Like when it was hard to really oppose the Iraq War in 2003 to 2005.

  22. I’m a former metro Bostonian (not to be confused with metrosexual). I’ve done a 720 degree spin on this one. First, as I watched this unfold on the two ridiculously biased (it’s ridiculous that they claim to be fair and balanced on the on, and objective on the other) cable news networks (i.e. CNN and FOX), my initial feeling was ok, there is no bomb in these packages or devices, so whoever put up this hoax should get the maximum sentence for this and that they were totally irresponsible, with no telling who might have been unable to get to a hospital or some such due to a closed bridge.

    Then I did a 360 when I learned that Boston’s “authorities” freaked out over what were effectively neon ads. I also had no trouble believing Mayor Menino was a total dunce, loser, pinhead blowhard. That was the mayor-for-life I remembered from half a dozen years ago.

    I also was giving serious consideration to trying to find this cartoon on my quasi-900+ cable channel lineup and giving it a look just to do my part to compensate the real victim of all this. I also was probably going to try to buy a t-shirt with that character with his “you’re number one” universal sign language on it.

    But I just recently did another 360 degrees now that those Spineless. Corporate. Weasels. paid of that coercive scumbag Menino. Now there is no way in Hell I’ll dream of watching that show or getting the t-shirt.

    In my opinion everyone involved just plain sucks except for the Boston Two. Those guys are my heroes for appropriately acting inappropriately at their press conference after their legal hearing.

  23. Three words, dipshit, regarding 9/11: Logan International Airport

    Yeah, that’s why I thought it was acceptable when NYC issued a general evacuation order after they discovered the signage.

  24. Two million dollars, huh. So the City of Boston is more than reimbursed for any money that might have come out of its coffers. So when can the good taxpayers of Boston expect their tax rebate checks?

  25. An important fact that gets left out of the story is that, just after the Boston Police started to respond to these thingies, two dummy pipe bombs were found in a parking garage.

    I’ve seen no solid confirmation of the timeline. I have seen reports that the four calls to BPD regarding suspicious devices were all in relation to the actual suspicious devices. Beyond the initial notice of suspicion regarding the ATHF signage (from a subway commuter?), I’ve seen no other evidence that the general public was calling in threat reports about the ATHF signage.

  26. THIS will make those slimy terrorists think twice. Sure, they can raise enough money to plant the bombs. But can they afford the $2 Million fine the city will slap them with afterword. Can they!??!

  27. Boston’s shining moment came two centuries ago. It was a brief moment. The Tea Party and the Libety Bell stories…

    Now it’s as relevant as Iceland’s third largest city… (can’t remember the name)

  28. happyjuggler0,
    I agree with you, but you’re spinning too fast. When you reverse your position on something, you are doing a 180. A 360 is just a pirouette and leaves you looking the same way you started.

  29. Of course, my understanding is that the fake pipe bombs were planted by a “disgruntled employee”, who has neither been arrested, or had his existence publicized.

    That apologists for the gang called the “Government of the City of Boston” and their godfather “Mumbles Menino” think this is a point in their favor gives me a chuckle.

    Arresting the installers for Adult Swim is kind of like invading Iraq because you can’t catch Osama Bin Laden.

  30. In defense of Boston’s emergency agencies, there were two things in operation that were not in place elsewhere:

    1) The devices were placed on bridge abutments and other transportation-sensitive locations.
    2) The devices had been placed later in Boston than elsewhere, so they were still new in that city. (It is true that they were nationwide elsewhere.)

    In light of those two things, it’s harder (but not impossible) to say that the police overreacted, especially considering the aforementioned REAL hoax bomb threat.

  31. Fatmouth is a teh troll, isn’t he?

  32. Warren,

    You are correct of course. I just got dizzy I guess.

  33. Hormone Cow said everything that needed to be said here.

  34. Hafnarfj?r?ur is the third most populous town in Iceland, after Reykjav?k and K?pavogur, with a population of 23674.
    (Bear in mind that Iceland’s population only reached 300,000 last year, 2/3 of whom live in the capital).

  35. Now everyone will kindly secure a sizeable bond just in case you accidentally leave your lunch bag on the bus one day. And this is my fave:

    “…$1 million will be used to fund homeland security and other programs.”

    So this shakedown will potentially fund more off-the-wall stupidity? And did I gather correctly that a Coast Guard cutter was dispatched to combat the litebrite invasion?

  36. Hah, Here’s an amusing analysis of what really happened. N.B. Lots of swearing.

  37. smartass sob:

    According to this story, Boston knows what’s best to do with the money:

    “It is our hope that these funds will cover not only the expenses incurred by the many agencies who participated in the response and investigation of the devices discovered in the Boston area last Wednesday, but they will also enable our communities to enhance homeland security, or to pursue other important community initiatives.”

    What exactly does the phrase “pursue other important community initiatives” mean?

    At least I have an episode of Rome to look forward to tonight…

  38. As a New Yorker, I have to make sure to pick up a Mooninite t-shirt before the first Yanks-Red Sox game of the year.

  39. If TBS has agreed that they’re responsible and are willing to pay the compensation to Boston, what’s the problem?

  40. taktix,
    I totally got into Rome the first season. I love how all the ancient Romans speak modern British. Gives it that PBS costume drama feel. Octavian is the only character I have any interest in anymore. Last week sucked because he wasn’t in it. I look forward to his return and subsequent vanquishing.

    I’m sure we’ll still have Titus and Lucius kicking around. I found them to be a fine devise in the first season, but they’ve grown tiresome and unsympathetic.

  41. “An important fact that gets left out of the story is that, just after the Boston Police started to respond to these thingies, two dummy pipe bombs were found in a parking garage.”

    Joe, I assume that these dummy bombs also had large, brightly-lit blinky-lights in the shape of Ignignokt and Err?

    They were, no doubt, placed somewhere conspicuous.

  42. “””1) The devices were placed on bridge abutments and other transportation-sensitive locations.”””

    Those are common places for ads.

    2) The devices had been placed later in Boston than elsewhere, so they were still new in that city. “””

    I believe they were up for three weeks, no?

  43. @Jesse Walker

    Spineless.
    Corporate.
    Weasels.

    Well, yes. I used to work for them a number of years ago – when they had offices in Chicago and they were still Time Inc. (pre-Warner), we happy serfs used to refer to the Time-Life building there as the “Cocksucker Plaza”.

    As painful as it might be to see anyone knuckle under to Boston, if anyone deserves their clock cleaned, Time Inc. does.

    It was pretty typical of most large companies run by liberals – they made a big production out of their concern for humanity in the aggregate, while treating the individual members of that species like dog-meat.

    Look at the bright side – this was one of those situations where no matter which of the combatants got shafted, you could still cheer.

  44. Does anyone still think that Boston is the navel of the universe

    Bostonians? My own personal opinion, based on having attended scores of baseball games in Anaheim and Chicago when the Red Sox were the visiting team, there is no lower form of life than a Red Sox fan seeing his/her team play on the road. They define the term “belligerent asshole”, and trust me, it’s tough to stand out acting like as such at a White Sox game.

    I believe they were up for three weeks, no?

    I think the facts are sketchy, and I could be completely wrong, but my understanding is that they had been up for a while, but the one that caused the panic had been placed fairly recently.

    Still, the fact that the whole thing probably could have been averted if someone had just asked a random 17-23 year old what the blinky thing was is pretty good evidence that they overreacted. And quite frankly, the overreaction by law enforcement was somewhat forgivable. It’s the enormous overreaction by the local and state government, born purely from embarrassment, that’s really pathetic.

    I’m disappointed to learn that Turner caved, but maybe they felt the publicity was well worth the $2MM. It’s their money.

  45. 01-31-07 NEVER FORGET!!!!

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  47. $1 million will be used to reimburse the agencies and $1 million will be used to fund homeland security and other programs.

    OMFG!11!!

    Great, so now an inept, ham-fisted organization gets more money as its reward for being inept and ham-fisted. The horror…the horror…

  48. “An important fact that gets left out of the story is that, just after the Boston Police started to respond to these thingies, two dummy pipe bombs were found in a parking garage.”

    And there was a shooting, several assaults, four car accidents, a rape, and a convenience store robbery around that time as well. Come to think of it, they should have called in the national guard and instituted martial law. Clearly, the good citizens of Boston were under siege.

  49. TTGIRL

    Three words, dipshit, regarding 9/11: Logan International Airport

    So…doesn’t that make Boston officials look like even bigger idiots? Hordes of angry, Arab males with terrorist backgrounds are storming onto airplanes while the entire Boston “crime” fighting apparatus is standing behind a bomb-proof shield, detonating a cardboard cartoon character with two d-cells and lights around it?

  50. 1. Was there any indication whatsoever on the devices that it was an ad? Like a sticker saying “for any questions, call…..” and providing contact information. If not, irresponsible.

    2. Why didn’t the ad people contact the administration beforehand and let them know what they were doing?

    3. Obviously none of you have lived in densely packed cities that have lived through terrorist attacks. I have–Tokyo and London. I’d rather the authorities “overreact” rather than the other way around.

  51. Turner deserves it. Boston is the kind of city his politics envision.

  52. grumpy realist:

    True, perhaps there should have been some contact info. Given that the ad campaign was, technically, littering, I suppose that would explain why they didn’t have any contact info on the ads. As for “why didn’t they contact the administration beforehand”, I suspect it’s partly a) because it was technically illegal, and b) nobody expected the authorities to be quite that dumb. And, as we saw, 9 out of 10 weren’t that dumb. I see crap by the side of the road all the time, yes, including by bridges. Do you contact the authorities every time you throw something out?

    And don’t play the “if you’d seen what I’ve seen” card with us. It’s both ignorant and rude of you to assert that obviously no one is capable of taking this seriously except you. I was half a mile away from the WTC. My girlfriend was working next door to the WTC. (She was fine, fortunately.) But you know what? The authorities were fuck-all use. They couldn’t prevent the attacks in NYC, London, or Tokyo. (I notice that they did manage to trample on the 4th Amendment and execute an innocent man, though.) And freaking out over some LiteBrites is not going to prevent the next attack, either.

  53. Big fucking deal. $2 million is chimp change to Turner Broadcasting, especially since they will make that back when the Aqua Teen movie comes out later this year.

    Like I said, brilliant advertising.

  54. So when do we get an apology from the city fathers of Beantown for acting like a bunch of power-mad buffoons?

  55. I can only imagine the thought processees of Bostonians:

    Oh look, blinky lights.
    Blinky lights?
    BLINKY LIGHTS! EVERYBODY PANIC!
    EVACUATE THE CITY, CALL THE BOMB SQUAD: WE. HAVE. BLINKY. LIGHTS!

    This should go down in history, immediately after the Battle of Bunker Hill as the Battle of the Blinky Lights.

    The shame. The damn shame.

  56. If Turner Broadcasting accepted “full responsibility,” does that get the two street artists off the hook?

    Frankly, as idiotic as the cable news networks were, they cannot compare to the thundering blowhards in the DA’s office, who happen to have the actual authority to destroy people’s lives.

    As for TTGirl’s “Logan International Airport, dipshit,” I’ll counter with “World Trade Center, dipshit.” New York City, for all that it had, perhaps, greater cause to remember 9/11 than Boston, managed to get through the Mooninite crisis without shutting down any major transportation arteries.

    This is about the city officials covering embarassment with aggression. Nothing more.

  57. For crying out loud people. There were 2 REAL “fake pipe bombs” found that day. Then they saw these and freaked out.

  58. Then maybe they should spend their resources going after the people who planted the fake pipe bombs instead of making asses out of themselves by thundering against lite-brites.

  59. A few months ago here where I live (Koblenz, Germany) they found a real bomb in a large backpack on a train that stopped in our main train station. It failed to go off because the detonator had not worked correctly. They shut down the train station and removed the bomb, checked the other trains on the line, and then resumed service. Strangely, when other backpacks were seen around the city the authorities failed to panic and shut the city down.

    The reaction in Boston, compared to the reaction here, was completely overwrought.

    On the other hand, also a few months ago in another part of Germany someone found some colored jello left over from a wedding that had been thrown out on the side of the road and called out the hazardous disposal team. So it’s not limited to Boston.

    The biggest problems I have with the Boston authorities are:

    1. They didn’t actually make sure the things were dangerous before causing massive disruptions and headaches. However, I can understand the “better safe than sorry argument” so I won’t belabor that point too much.

    2. They held Turner et al liable for their overreaction. This part really bothers me because there was clearly no intent on the part of Turner et al to cause a panic, nor was it reasonable to assume that “lite-brite” style advertisements hung up at various points was going to cause a bomb scare. To me, this is the same level of foobar as someone climbing over your fence, walking across your perfectly flat lawn, falling down and breaking his leg, and then suing you damages. The Boston authorities went after Turner simply because they could, because they wanted to deflect attention away from their own incompetence and powerlessness* and because they knew they could get away with it and shake money out of the company.

    Sure, it was smart for Turner in this one instance and for them to settle for what is to them a small amount, but it is bad for the rest of us that they did this.

    * They would have been shown to be incompetent and powerless even if they had been bombs, because the things had been up for a while and would surely have already detonated before ever being noticed.

  60. Paul, who wouldn’t possibly err on the side of caution when he doesn’t know if there is a campaign of diversions going on as part of a terrorist attack, writes: “And there was a shooting, several assaults, four car accidents, a rape, and a convenience store robbery around that time as well.”

    Exactly none of which have anything to do with simulated explosive devices. Unlike two phoney pipe bombs, which actually are simulted explosive devices.

  61. Exactly none of which have anything to do with simulated explosive devices.

    Just like Lite Brites.

  62. Exactly none of which have anything to do with simulated explosive devices.

    If there was a shooting, the shooting would have to occur with a real explosive device (a gun), not a simulated one.

  63. Obviously none of you have lived in densely packed cities that have lived through terrorist attacks. I have–Tokyo and London. I’d rather the authorities “overreact” rather than the other way around.

    Maybe you should change that handle to “grumpy sheep”.

  64. Von Ribb,

    Cops look for escalating patterns. First, silly blinky signs. Then fake pipe bombs. The cops didn’t know that they weren’t connected.

    I still think they overreacted, and can’t believe nobody realized they were a marketing campaign, but the presence of the real fake bombs makes Boston’s reaction a bit less outlandish, and explains at least some of the difference between their response and the other 9 cities.

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