A year from now, what will we think of the Mooninite fiasco? Given that we now live in a world afflicted by the trauma of 9/11, it may survive as Boston legend. But it is more likely that, aside from die-hard animation fans, few will remember Mooninites and Aqua Teen Hunger Force, part of the Adult Swim line-up on Turner Broadcasting’s Cartoon Network, a cable outfit owned by one of the world’s most powerful communication companies, Time Warner. Still, for now, our memories are of what? A bad scare? That’s for sure. As memories fade, here are number of things worth keeping in mind.
1) This was not a “hoax.” It was a carefully planned corporate marketing campaign, executed by two underemployed, non-mainstream guys of artistic temperament.
2) The same campaign was conducted in nine other cities without incident.
3) Safety officials acted with admirable dispatch when they thought the public was at risk.
4) The problem is that the misperceived threat had been in place for about two weeks before it was “discovered.”
5) Once it was determined that the threat from the Mooninite devices was not real, the public state of anxiety was maintained for many hours longer than it appears was necessary.
6) Whatever, if anything, you make of that anxiety gap, there is a clear and unmistakable comprehension gap between the “square” and “cool” communities.
7) That’s probably not a good thing for a supposedly sophisticated city.
8) Cartoon art, street art, and performance art were once the province of talents such as R. Crumb, Keith Haring, John Kricfalusi, and Eric Bogosian, not marketers subcontracted by corporate behemoths.
9) Given the fact that a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl cost $2.6 million, the $2 million that Turner Broadcasting agreed to pay as penalty and restitution to Boston looks like a bargain.
10) Attorney General Martha Coakley, who “negotiated” the reparation, says that sum is probably as much as the government entities involved could have hoped to secure.
This was a very bizarre incident; drawing any sort of broad conclusion from it is going to be difficult. Some, however, will try. In the meantime, the tabloid press and the talk-show bizarros will try to maintain a sense of frenzy by painting the classically stoner-style guys who executed the marketing plan for their corporate paymasters as subversive threats to the public order.
These guys, their artistic aspirations aside, were corporate minions, corporate water boys, corporate toadies. Let’s not make them corporate fall guys and government scapegoats; unlike Turner Broadcasting, they can’t dig into their company’s coffers.
Iraq: a strange alliance
If you think Boston’s Mooninite moment was strange, consider this: the left-wingers of the Democratic Party are the only ones in Washington in sync with the 72 percent of Americans who want the US to get out of Iraq. This week, Senate Republicans managed to block a symbolic vote that would have further blackened President Bush’s already politically black-and-blue face by expressing no confidence in Bush’s escalation of the war, which the mainstream media insist on calling a “surge.”