Another Reminder, They've Won

For hours, Boston became another ground zero of sorts, with half the city being shut down while first responders responded en masse to threats all over the city. The threats? The Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
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January 31, 2007, was another reminder of how Osama Bin Laden and his cronies have truly won the war on terror while we still figure out how to fight it and who to actually fight. For hours, the city of Boston, MA, became another ground zero of sorts, with half the city being shut down while first responders responded en masse to threats all over the city. The threats? The Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Yes, this Adult Swim show, which has a full-length feature coming, got a whole lot of press, just not the type its parent Turner Broadcasting, wanted.

In this high tech age, kamikaze marketing has changed. Instead of lots of billboards or bumper stickers appearing all over in strange places for a movie, now, electronic billboards, little brite-lite-esque promotional illuminated boxes can be stuck here or there with this or that message. Well, they were, all over Boston and several other cities. One of the Hunger force, flipping people off. OMG, a small illuminated figure flipping people off, must be the work of terrorists, stand back, it's gonna blow! At least that's what a subway worker thought. Bet he's over 40. Because any teenager or kid under 25 would have known in a minute that it was a member of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force. But the generational divide showed and the old person panicked. Yes, panicked. That's what the entire day was about, panic. And now, everybody is fuming mad and the sad part is they won't admit they're angry at themselves for falling for it. Oh no, they're mad at Turner Broadcasting, they're mad at the kamikazi marketer who put up the signs. They should, of course, be angry at themselves for buying in to the culture of terror and panic.

Pre 9/11 someone would have walked up to this little illuminated box, looked at it, seen what it was, laughed and moved on. Now, it's a terrorist plot. Shut the city down. Close the causeways. Shut down the bridges. Be afraid, be very afraid, until we find out exactly what it is.

Now I realize it really could have been something. You know what, no, actually, I won't concede that. You see, I realize that statistically we all have a better chance of dying in a car crash or being hit by lightening than we do being struck by a terrorist act. In fact, according to risk analysis websites here's your chances for all kinds of things: car stolen, one in 100; house catch fire, one in 200; die from heart disease, one in 280; die from cancer, one in 500; die in a car crash, one in 6000; death by homicide, one in 10,000; death from AIDS, one in 11,000; death from Tuberculosis, one in 200,000; winning the lottery, one in one million; killed by lightning, one in 1.4 million; killed by flood or tornado, one in two million; killed by hurricane, one in six million; and death in a commercial plane crash, one in one-to-10 million (depending on airline). Notice what's missing? Death by terrorist.

Do you exercise daily? Probably not. Do you do everything in your car to make sure you don't have a wreck (no cell phone usage, never adjust the radio, don't eat, etc.)? Probably not. The fact is, a lot of things may kill you or I but we don't do much about them. But, find a glowing circuit board, and shut down the entire city.

Let's face it, we're terrified and our first responders are bored. Bored because terrorists got lucky once, and now, our intelligence agencies are doing their jobs and finding them before they strike. I know they constantly want praise for this, since their efforts are always in the news. And I appreciate it, I do. But I'm not going to fall down and wet my pants over the fact that the CIA, FBI or other agencies actually work.

The fact is a city was paralyzed for no reason whatsoever except fear and no one has reported that. Everyone has said what a great job everybody did. How smoothly it all went. Hell, there's even been an arrest, to make everybody feel better. Arrest? For what? Putting up a lite-brite on crack? Come on, this person is arrested for embarrassing a city and a nation, for showing just how ridiculous it all has become. The only crime committed here is reminding us how terrified we all can become in a blink of an eye.

Do you want to live this way? I don't. A little caution is fine, but the hysteria over little billboards was ludicrous. And what's worse, in some land, some region of the world, some damned extremist saw what went on today and laughed. Laughed at what they made the infidels do today, laughed at the fear and chaos over nothing.

What would you have us do, Karel? Not respond at all? No, of course not, but respond like rational human beings that haven't been sold a stupid bill of goods that a devastating terror attack is awaiting them each and every morning. Take a look at what the thing is, and when you see it's a little cartoon character flipping you off, send in the bomb squad and when they find that it's nothing, simply remove any others like this that you find without closing down a thing. Better yet, have people on your team that are versed in pop culture. That might help.

Or here's a novel idea. How about err on the side of probability. The probability is it won't be a bomb, it won't be an attack disguised as a movie promotion. I know it's dangerous at times to err on the side of probability, but work like you're in Vegas. Go with the odds. And no matter what those in power will have you or I believe, the odds are, it's not terror.

And, Americans, we have to realize that one day people are going to die in another attack. Maybe even me. And that's the price we pay for living in a free America. January 31 st was not a free America. That day was a frightened America and there's a difference. Ever since the Bush Whitehouse decided it was easier to manipulate the population using fear (and they're not the first) we do not live in the land of the Free, we live in the land of the Fear. We hand up the Constitution every time we let the airport people have us take off our shoes (because there was ONE shoe plot, ONE, that was foiled...millions of people flying each week, ONE person, ONE time...) or get patted down or have our bags searched. We hand up or protection from unreasonable search every time we leave our cologne home because it's more than three ounces, or every time we put our personal liquids in a clear bag so someone can go through it before we get to the gate.

In order to not live in the land of the afraid, we have to realize that something bad may happen to some of us, just as we balance the risk of driving, flying, or eating for that matter. We don't shut down a road because someone is driving on their spare tire (very dangerous) on the freeway. We don't outlaw fried chicken because each day someone dies from eating too much of it And we don't' live with fireproof furniture or, for that matter, have fire sprinklers in our home, when you have a one in 200th chance of burning down the house.

The fact is we need to chill out, from our media to our first responders. We need to be vigilant, we need to be observant, we need to be good citizens And then, we need to remember we're Americans, and we're free. We have a way of life that others envy. It's one thing to talk about it, another to live it. It's easy to say we're free, but then very hard to practice that freedom.

Some young adults put up a flashing poster for a dumb cartoon in places where people would see them. They put them up with masking tape, some wire, batteries. Yes, all things that could be in a bomb, or a lite-brite. And we failed yet again in our response. I know others will say, no, we did exactly as we should. We failed. That's why everyone is so mad in the aftermath. We acted like chicken littles. The sky was falling when it wasn't. Let's hope it doesn't jade people of the city so if there is a real threat they disregard it based on the outcome of this one. That's the only real danger here.

I hate to break it to most of you, but most of you are not going to die in a terror attack. Oh, and Al Quada doesn't watch Adult Swim. I picture them a more 24 kind of group. Let these guys you've arrested go and leave Turner Broadcasting alone. You overreacted Boston. Learn from it. Deal with it. Even laugh at it. But call it what it was, an overreaction in an era of fear not freedom.

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