You know, the trouble with me blogging is that 1) I’m lazy, and 2) I’m not that hip. Granted, I am a news junkie, and rapidly developing into a blog junky, but I didn’t even hear about the [tag]Aqua Teen Hunger Force[/tag] guerrilla marketing campaign until just before the Boston authorities did. In spite of the ensuing hilarity (and yes, it was hilarity, despite what the [tag]Boston[/tag] authorities would have us believe), it didn’t occur to me to blog about it, because it had already been blogged ad nauseum within a matter of hours after the Boston authorities crying wolf. Furthermore, there were bloggers hip to the LED [tag]Mooninites[/tag] weeks before.
I thought at first hat there wasn’t much I could add to the discussion besides the usual snarkiness; weren’t too many jokes left that Boston wasn’t already the butt of. But after catching up on a few of my favorite blogs this afternoon, after work and before my Japanese class, I feel the need to come to the defense of my brethren in the Fourth Estate. Everybody loves to bitch about the [tag]media[/tag], myself included, and it seems that everyone who thinks that the Boston authorities overreacted and are acting silly also seem to want to point the collective finger of self righteousness at the media.
I first noticed it on Wil Wheaton’s blog. Now don’t get me wrong; I love [tag]Wil Wheaton[/tag] as only a closet Trekkie can love him (yes, I know, the hardcore among us prefer Trekker; whatever – I refer them to the Vulcan’s belief in IDIC). Wil is a geek’s geek and a nerd’s nerd, and I’ve been a fan of his work since Stand By Me (DISCLAIMER: re: Star Trek: TNG, ’tis true, I was a Wesley hater in the earlier years, and we were legion, but his story arcs in the later seasons were pretty cool, I thought). And I’ve also found his blog entertaining for years; it was, in point of fact, the first weblog I came across, back in the Baudsoslowic Period of the Internet. To be honest, I felt a little embarrassed at first; I remember a girlfriend at the time giving me grief about how she “can’t believe you read the online diary of that Wesley Crusher dude. I thought you hated him.”
Anyway, he had a post today about how the more he thought about the Boston snafu, the more he got angry for the mainstream media at its portrayal of the joint Mooninite-Al Qaeda Teen Hunger Force strike on Boston. He specifically blamed the media for labeling it a “terrorist hoax.” Another of my favorite blogs that I was catching up on tonight, [tag]Boing Boing[/tag], has been particularly critical of the media coverage, citing posts from other well-known blogs from all over the blogosphere. My favorite is this post, along with the self-righteous person in the photo, proudly proclaiming that bloggers were on top of this story well before the mainstream media (which is certainly true), that the mainstream media is totally clueless/misinformed, etc., etc., etc.
All I have to say is, why are you shooting the messenger? The media didn’t make the Boston civic authorities overreact. The media didn’t charge the two guys that were actually hired to post the LED signs around Boston with a crime, labeling them as perpetrators as a bomb hoax. A lot of public officials have done this, but the media didn’t tell them too. True, there are many self-righteous pundits saying these types of things (mostly on Fox) in the media, but then they are just the flip-side of the self-righteous blogosphere. And in a time when Google makes gazillions of dollars and Rupert Murdoch owns Myspace.com, in a time when bloggers routinely break big stories, can we really disassociate the blogosphere from the [tag]mainstream media[/tag]? Perhaps “traditional media” would be more accurate. But I digress.
All of the actual reporting (which is totally separate from punditry and commentary) that I’ve seen about 1-31 (I wish I could claim the first spoof of a 9-11 reference, but alas, no) in the traditional media has been fairly impartial; while they have had plenty of quotes from officials using the terms “hoax” and “bomb scare,” but most of the stories I’ve read seem to get to the heart of the matter right away: that this was some clever marketing that had been conducted in nine other cities as well without incident, and Boston got its civic panties in a bunch over an otherwise harmless stunt. Granted I have seen some poorly worded headlines in the mainstream press, but then headline writing has always been problematic (that’s another blog post for another time; suffice it to say, writing a good headline is one of the most challenging things to do in media, particularly when you’ve got a single column, two deck space to work with. … but again, I digress). The best example was a great story from the Associated Press that I saw on CNN (which hasn’t been worth a damn since Ted Turner bowed out) quoting officials from the other cities targeted by the Mooninites. I quote:
However, only in Boston did the light boards create such a furor. In Seattle and several suburbs, the signs were removed without fuss, according to The Associated Press.”We haven’t had any calls to 911 regarding this,” Seattle police spokesman Sean Whitcomb told AP on Wednesday.
Police in Philadelphia told AP that authorities had confiscated 56 of the devices. In New York, a street was shut down for 45 minutes after two of the devices were found on an overpass, the New York Post reported. In all, 41 of the devices were found in the city, according to the newspaper.
In Portland, police Sgt. Brian Schmautz said officers had no plans to remove any of the signs, so long as they weren’t on municipal property. Nor had officers been dispatched in any kind of bomb scare related to the devices.
“At this point we wouldn’t even begin an investigation, because there’s no reason to believe a crime has occurred,” Schmautz said.
That really put the whole issue in perspective. But most of what I have read in blogs about the subject has been whiny pablum courtesy of pontificating twatwaffles claiming that the media blew it all out of proportion ([tag]twatwaffle[/tag], incidentally is my new word du jour, courtesy of one of my author favs, Poppy Z. Brite, who in turn got it from the Customers Suck blog). That is not to say Wil Wheaton or any of the posters on Boing Boing are pontificating twatwaffles; let me reiterate: Wil rules, and I <3 Boing Boing – I rarely let a day go buy without perusing it, reading it top to bottom. And I would do that even if I didn't have lust in my heart for Xeni (she's a tech geek and a journalism nerd ... *longing sigh*). But I really think most of the criticism of the media and others in this instance is misguided, if not misinformed. After all, until Boston got bent out of shape about it, the Aqua Teen Hunger Force marketing campaign wasn't worth reporting on for the mainstream media. And when Boston did freak out, the mainstream media was actually pretty quick to cop to the fact -- thanks in part to independent bloggers, to be sure -- that this was a marketing gimmick, and that Boston really freaked out for no reason. Of course, in defense of blogging, the funniest satire I've seen of the whole business has been on Gizmodo, a blog not necessarily known for its social commentary, at least outside of the realm of consumer high technology. In a word, it was brilliant; the 2001: A Space Odyssey analogy effing funny. And I would also point out that the writers at Gizmodo realized that it was not the media that was to be blamed and consequently raked over satirical coals, but the Boston civic authorities.
And lest anyone get the wrong impression, I think the Internet and blogs are the best thing to happen in the media world since, oh, the Sumerians started making little triangles and whatnot on clay tablets. A free press makes the world a better place, and now we have one like never before, at least in most parts of the world, thanks to what the Internet has made possible. Viva la revolucion. But remember:
Yes, on the moon nerds get their pants pulled down and they are spanked with moon rocks!— Err (a Mooninite, for those of you that don’t watch ATHF).