Sunday, February 04, 2007

Call the Cops! There's Moonite Tonight!

“We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.”

With these few words FDR showed just how well he knew the American people. Those descendants of tough, self-reliant folk who had set off into the unknown and ‘busted open’ a continent, were capable of some truly ridiculous stuff when they were ‘skeered’. The same big-hearted people who would look out for a neighbour, could turn, on the drop of a hat, and string him up from the nearest tree when ‘riled’. Roosevelt’s words, spoken in the depths of the Dirty Thirties, could use some iteration again, to-day.

There is no fear of economic catastrophe facing us to-day, but there is the “war on terror”- equally amorphous and seemingly as without remedy. And equally capable of causing some similar psychotic reactions.

Take for instance last weeks ‘terror toon’ attack in Boston.

Some illuminated signs placed alongside roads, to ‘drum up' interest in a new adult cartoon series , had something akin to a neon ‘sponge bob’ flashing his middle digit at passing motorists.

These ‘mooninite’ graphic displays had been set-up at numerous sites in Boston, and other cities, as long as three weeks before they were discovered. They automatically illuminated in the dark, but it was the daytime appearance that caused the ‘panic’. Somebody thought they were bombs, and reacting authorities treated them as such, detonating at least two of them. When news of these incidents got out, including the report that the initial ‘concerned citizen’ call was part of the ruse as well, the network involved, the ad company and others contacted authorities with information on the scheme.

Result - a million bucks spent, destruction of all ‘moonite’ signs, charges and jail for the art student who came up with the idea, and threatened lawsuits to recover costs for emergency personnel activities. Why? Because somebody did a 'chicken-little' about a non-story and everybody else ‘lost it’.

How embarrassing! The authorities don’t want to have people thinking about how much they have to fear from a bunch of panicked security people running around their city - certainly a lot more than what those 'signs' represented. They’re embarrassed now, and somebody’s going to pay for that, 'cause there ain't nothing funny about it!

This doesn’t look good on National Security - doubtless they’ve prevented a lot of catastrophes we’ll never know about - but the ones they have prevented in public, have turned out to be pretty lame. Their intolerance of the least bit of levity, and their inability to 'laugh at themselves' could pass as symptoms of mental illness in an individual.

It does look good for the network - unless they do some public-spirit stuff and 'pull' the series. But I'd bet not. It is America - home of the adage about 'bad publicity is better than no publicity'. All America will be tuning-in. A million bucks, fine and costs? No problem!

Somebody should go over to learn from the Brits. How many ‘real’ scares have they coped with? The latest being a threat to bring the worst of Baghdad to jolly England, with some kidnappings and religiously-inspired beheadings. And how? Quiet, efficient work, and news paper headlines after the ‘perps’ are safely jailed and court dates set.

The bored 'Brits' must be wishing they had some Keystone Kops' comedy hi-jinks over there - I’m sure there are some who could be spared.

Thank God! It wasn’t our Mounties.

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