A huge brouhaha has begun to rage in the media, and also around Left Blogistan, over the perceived terrorist threat in Boston yesterday that turned out to be no more than a "guerrilla marketing" campaign for some bizarre cartoon show I've never even heard of and far less likely to ever watch. Nearly 40 of the devices were recovered from under bridges, affixed to the sides of buildings, and one was found near Fenway Park. The devices were small, but featured circuit boards and protruding wires. The man who installed the devices around Boston claims they are works of art. The Boston authorities beg to differ, and I come down on their side.
For all the howling I've heard about freedom of expression and the First Amendment, I have to say that I think this must have been one of the most ill-conceived and ill-timed stunts in the history of, well, everything. Yes, in retrospect, the authorities in Boston over-reacted to a harmless marketing ploy. But they had no way of knowing it was a marketing ploy when the first calls started coming in!
Moreover, I'd be willing to bet that many of the same people who are now scoffing at Boston mayor Thomas Menino's promise to throw the book at those responsible for tying up one of America's larger cities for most of the day yesterday would have been howling for his head if, as they suggest should have happened yesterday, the police had just ignored the devices and one or more of them turned out to be actual bombs. Americans are probably overly sensitive (thank you, G. W. Bush, et aliae) to the threat of terror attacks on our home soil. But no one in her right mind decides to challenge that sensitivity by planting things that look like they could be explosive devices in the middle of a major city. Not at this time, not in this place. That's just plain stupid.