By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Of Mooninites and pipe bombs

There’s a good Peter Gelzinis column in today’s Herald that places the stunt-gone-bad in the context of those two fake pipe bombs. Gelzinis interviewed Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis and writes:

Until those guerrilla marketeers at Turner Broadcasting finally owned up to their Mooninite shenanigans late Wednesday afternoon, Davis said that the chorus of law enforcement agencies had no choice but to assume that gag devices had been systematically planted all over town as a distraction for “real” ones that had also been placed.

In other words, the police weren’t quite as punk’d as all those “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” hipsters out there in the blogosphere would lead you to believe. It wasn’t those LEDs tacked onto all those circuit boards that police worried about, as much that guy with no light on upstairs, running away from what looked a helluva lot like a pipe bomb.

“Had we simply found these cartoon characters stuck here and there,” Davis said yesterday, “I can assure you this thing would have been tamped down in pretty short order.”

“But what troubled us was the discovery of those other two devices that looked very real indeed. And it wasn’t until the people from Turner took responsibility for what they had done, that we could think about the coincidence of what had taken place.”

Is Davis putting two and two together after the fact in order to make himself look good? Maybe. But his comments strike me as sensible and credible.

Over at the Globe, Steve Bailey has some very smart things to say, and Brian McGrory, well, doesn’t. And Seth Gitell makes a few good points in defense of Mayor Tom Menino, his former employer.

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  1. Anonymous

    I just don’t believe the cops.Menino on the sorry state of the Boston Police is almost as bad as Bush on Iraq. This thought may be a stretch, but it’s not far from the truth.Take a flimsy story and tell it to a sympathetic listener and you’ve got a plausible excuse.

  2. Anonymous

    I guess I was mostly on the side of “the city overreacted somewhat” until I (belatedly) read the Herald piece about the two potential, and apparently unrelated, pipe bombs discovered at NE Medical Center and the Longfellow Bridge. That’d cause anyone sane in public safety to think seriously about the whole picture and not take chances.But here’s what I haven’t seen explained: The “disgruntled” ex-employee who placed a fake pipe bomb at NEMC “has been identified but not charged,” in the Herald’s phrase. Why’s that? There’s the person who DID perpetrate a true hoax with the intent of causing fear, if the Herald’s correct.And as for the thing on the Longfellow, what it actually was and who might’ve placed it is still a mystery to us mere media consumers (maybe the police know but ain’t sayin’, or maybe reporters haven’t asked). This makes me wonder: What else is sitting out there that, but for an unexpected search sparked by something unrelated, lies undiscovered? Jeez. More reporting, please.chiavelli

  3. Anonymous

    I’m sorry, I don’t buy it. The phony pipe bombs most likely looked like bombs. The mooninites or whatever they’re called didn’t. They have reportedly been up on bridges and other high profile places for weeks. Does it take us that long to notice bomb-like objects around us, or did they simply not really look like bombs?

  4. Anonymous

    Apart from the bizarreness of it all, it reminds me of something John McLaughlin said on the McLaughlin Group a year or two ago. It was one of those little pieces he puts together at the end sometimes, almost a little essay. This one was about his concern about the militarization of society, and the slippery slope that inevitably comes along with it. Watching the insanity of the past few days of Boston being shut down and, no lie, the first 15 minutes of each broadcast devoted to it last night (blech!), I couldn’t help thinking this fits in with what John said back whenever. It’s this reflexive overreaction to everything, and the second someone says “hey, guys, don’t you think you were just a little over the top there?” the robotic chorus of “Sept. 11, Sept. 11, Sept. 11, we were attacked, we were attacked, post-Sept. 11 world, post-Sept. 11 world, etc.” just stomps out any reasonable debate. It’s the militarization of society, and it could lead to some very dangerous consequences–I would argue it already has. In some ways, I think this is the real lasting effect of 9/11, not Bush’s cliched defense of every Constitution-stomping act he’s played out. Watching puffy bomb squad guys backing up traffic for miles to get a Lite Brite off a wall all day long and watching two goofy artsy-types get put in the gallows for it must have had the “terr’rists” hi-fiving in some far off land.

  5. Anonymous

    If you look at the police log from that day, the first LED display was found 5 hours BEFORE the pipe bomb was reported. So I don’t know if Davis’s reasoning holds water.

  6. Larry Lopez

    Dan, why aren’t you pointing out the obvious: the Boston (and national) media have all buried the lede for two days running.It isn’t viral marketing or massive inconvenience or what the police should have after they found the devices.The REAL scandal is that these things were up for three weeks before anyone in the police and MBTA noticed. Huh? We are spending millions of dollars to give cops all the toys and overtime they want and they can’t even spot something that’s LIT UP and hanging from a bridge? Wait: lit up AND blinking. I mean, these things weren’t exactly hidden the way a real bomb might be. They were ads INTENDED to attract attention from causal passers by.Are law enforcement agencies just too busy making us take off out shoes at the airport and open our bags on the subway to actually patrol the obvious hotspots for THREE WEEKS?Heads should be rolling in the BPD, MBTA, MSP, USCG and whoever else is supposed to be patrolling these area. Their incompetence scares me a lot more than the inconvenience of a false scare.Why aren’t you and the rest of the media making this the focus?–Who is responsible for searching each of the areas where a device was found?–How does the head of each of those agencies explain their failure?–What do the mayor, governor and others plan to do to reform those agencies?–And, if the media can’t find the answers and the governor/mayor won’t, why don’t Gerry Leone or Martha Coakley use their grand juries to get to the bottom of it instead of over-charing the two idiots?Here’s how badly the media have buried the lede: the Globe had one reference, inside its third or fourth 1st-day sidebar, and only because it was quoting one of the alleged perps in his own defense. No reporter thought to ask anyone in charge. That was better than WBUR’s Here and Now, a show that aims at a national audience and that covered the issue with half a sentence. The Herald’s treatment was similarly casual.I understand why the mayor and governor and law enforcement all want the media to focus on the guys who did it, but how stupid are the media to fall for it? Are they all just cop-beat stenographers?Me, I don’t care that much whether the cops over-reacted or not after the fact — that’s a sidebar. What those of us who live in and around Boston really need to know is if we are being protect well — not perfectly, but well — by the people who are sucking up our money and our liberties.Larry Lopez

  7. Scape7

    Davis’ reasoning absolutely doesn’t hold water, but anonymous’ reasoning does (meaning the comments of both previous anonymous posters). The Mooninite panic was just that — sheer hysteria and nothing more — and a disgrace to our law enforcement officials, politicians and media, which is why they’re all so angry.I expect that eventually some bomb squad personnel will come forward, shrugging, and explain that they told their higher-ups the Mooninite LCDs weren’t bombs — I mean, come on, what were these things? The width of a picture frame with four Duracell batteries, no transmitter and no explosives? — and were ignored, just as all voices of reason seem to be ignored by those officials now.This wasn’t a hoax; there was no criminal intent on the part of Turner or the guerilla marketers; and it was our trusted power structure that caused any panic. They didn’t do it by acting responsibly until they determined there was a threat, but by acting irresponsibly by overreacting to an easily discerned nonthreat. Gelzinis is participating in the same post hoc reasoning as Davis. And so, unfortunately, are you.Actually, it’s cum hoc reasoning. And if you think a panic that’s really about a couple of fake pipe bombs, and subsequent anger, are justified because of some Mooninite prank, here’s another one for you: Notice how global warming is getting so much worse as the number of blogs rises?

  8. Anonymous

    If you haven’t seen it, you MUST read this piece by Chris Kelly:

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