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Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

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photo by lindsay beyerstein


Idiocy in action

Our friend August J. Pollack has an interesting take on this nonsense

Thomas Menino is an incompetent coward

I have never lived in Boston, and I have never supported a Republican for any elected office. But I would send money to a Republican opponent against Boston Mayor Tom Menino just to get him out of office if he actually dares to do something as cowardly and abusive-of-power as this.

A furious Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino vowed yesterday to throw the book at the masterminds behind a guerrilla marketing campaign gone amok that plunged the city into bomb-scare pandemonium and blew nearly $1 million in police overtime and other costs.

As city and state attorneys laid groundwork for criminal charges and lawsuits, cops seized 27-year-old Arlington multimedia artist Peter Berdovsky, who posted film on his Web site boasting that he and friends planted the battery-wired devices, and Sean Stevens, 28, of Charlestown. Both were jailed overnight on charges of placing a hoax device and disorderly conduct.

"This is outrageous activity to get publicity for a failing show," said Menino, referring to the battery-operated light-up ads for the Cartoon Network's "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," which sparked at least nine bomb scares in Boston, Cambridge and Somerville.

Menino promised to sue Turner Broadcasting Co., the Cartoon Network's parent company, and criminally prosecute Berdovsky and anyone else responsible for the devices, and to petition the FCC to pull the network's license.

Attorney General Martha Coakley was put in charge of the case and said the companies behind the promotion would be investigated. She said the felony charge of planting a hoax device could be broad enough to allow prosecution even if the stunt's sponsors did not intend a panic.

Menino is going on TV and insisting he's going to send a 27-year old artist to jail for not breaking any law, because his police department overreacted and wasted a million dollars feeding a media frenzy and terrorizing the population of his own city. That's a cowardly act of self-preservation, and were he not threatening the life of an innocent young man it would be laughable.

Let's get a few facts straight on the Aqua Teen Hunger Force sign fiasco:

1. Attorney General Martha Coakley needs to shut up and stop using the word "hoax." There was no hoax. Hoax implies Turner Networks and the ATHF people were trying to defraud or confuse people as to what they were doing. Hoax implies they were trying to make their signs look like bombs. They weren't. They made Lite-Brite signs of a cartoon character giving the finger.

2. It bears repeating again that Turner, and especially Berdovsky, did absolutely nothing illegal. The devices were not bombs. They did not look like bombs. They were all placed in public spaces and caused no obstruction to traffic or commerce. At most, Berdovsky is guilty of littering or illegal flyering.

3. The "devices" were placed in ten cities, and have been there for over two weeks. No other city managed to freak out and commit an entire platoon of police officers to scaring their own city claiming they might be bombs. No other mayor agreed to talk to Fox News with any statement beyond "no comment" when spending the day asking if this was a "terrorist dry run."

4. There is nothing, not a single thing, remotely suggesting that Turner or the guerilla marketing firm they hired intended to cause a public disturbance. Many have claimed the signs were "like saying 'fire' in a crowded theater." Wrong. This was like taping a picture of a fire to the wall of a theater and someone freaked out and called the fire department.

5. The FCC can't pull a private cable network's license, Mayor Hyperbole McFuckwit.

Zach Nathanson from ToonZone wrote a great editorial summing up who is really to blame for all this (emphasis mine):

...Massachusetts Representative Ed Markey placed the blame on Adult Swim. "Scaring an entire region, tying up the T and major roadways, and forcing first responders to spend 12 hours chasing down trinkets instead of terrorists is marketing run amok," Markey, a Democrat, said in a written statement. "It would be hard to dream up a more appalling publicity stunt." The problem with this is that it was the paranoia of the police department that created the crisis, not Aqua Teen's creators down at Williams Street in Atlanta.

I am not blaming the Boston police for the problems caused today, but rather the city government and media's spinning of the story to create a sense of paranoia. The comments of Shepard Smith and his co-workers at News Corp provide a prime example of the media's hand in this story. Many of the Fox News interviews were with citizens who were "distraught" over the Aqua Teen advertisements. Smith explained the plot of the show, portraying it as something appalling. Now I understand that the media has the right to their opinions on a show like Aqua Teen, but I think that Fox's comments in particular only aggravated the situation. What most newscasters should have at least commented on is that this investigation was a result of pure paranoia. If you ask any teenager or young adult I am sure that most would be able to identify Ignignokt as a cartoon character at the very least. Sadly no one thought to do so, and at least one of the poor little guys was blown to smithereens by overzealous police.

The government's handling of this situation has proven incompetent at best. In the end the artist who created the ads was arrested, and Boston mayor Thomas Menino threatened to take legal action against Turner Broadcasting for a crisis he himself was largely responsible for. The long time to discover the billboards' true nature is by far the most disturbing part of this story, and I hope that in the future we can be more prudent about declaring bomb alerts. I am not saying by any means that we shouldn't investigate these incidents, but levelheaded thinking and careful research could save us all a lot of headaches.

The fact that Turner Networks is a big corporation doesn't mean I'm supposed to side against them just because they have a lot of "big rich suits" over there. They issued an apology and offered to help the clearly humorless police, and that's fine. But if they are really faced with fines or the ludicrous notion of FCC penalties, they should fight every single one of them and I'll be right on their side to defend them.

There is no excuse for blaming Turner Networks, Adult Swim, and especially a single 27-year-old, for the overzealousness of Boston's government and the news media. And if the mayor of Boston continues to use an innocent man as his scapegoat, it's evidence of a level of incompetence that makes him unfit for office

The FCC has no control over this, as Menino will find out. Now, the folks in Boston tend to take thing too seriously, and Menino is an idiot. In fact, if Boston sues Turner, they may be the ones paying the legal fees. They have no grounds to sue because no laws were broken, as AG Coxley will find out in federal court.

The Boston PD has been spooked since 9/11, but since nothing has happened more than gang shootings, they treated this like a terrorist event.

I nearly pissed myself when the idiot cop said "they might have been IED's". Was he on Haifa Street? Jesus. Some people are about to be laughing stocks.

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