This morning, artist Peter Berdovsky and his partner Sean Stevens were arrested for placing magnetic light boards of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force characters the “Mooninites” [shown in the adjacent image, flipping the bird] around Boston, as part of a guerrilla marketing campaign for the Cartoon Network. As you may have heard on the news, the lights were mistaken for bombs—a gaffe that led to the closure of several major roads and the deployment of an anti-terrorism squad.
Turner Broadcasting, the parent company of the Cartoon Network and a division of TimeWarner (which just sold PopSci), has claimed responsibility for the marketing campaign. Humorless Boston mayor Thomas Menino has likewise vowed to “take any and all legal action” against Turner.
OK, so let’s step back for a second. The New York Times reported that similar light boards have been in placed in 10 cities (including New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Austin and Philadelphia) for two weeks, and none of the other cities called out bomb squads. What was it about the Boston incident that set off alarms? The boxes were placed in the Boston subway and on a bridge, which was kind of an idiotic idea. But it’s a shame that Berdovsky has become the scapegoat for this stunt. He’s an artist! He did installations (view a video of the ATHF “mission” here), which is what he was hired to do, and it’s perfectly understandable that he wouldn’t think of his art as a potential terrorist threat. Turner Broadcasting certainly should have considered that possibility when it approved the marketing plan—a fact the company has implicitly admitted.
The CEO of the marketing company who came up with the idea, Interference, seems to have skipped town. That firm is probably basically out of business now but protected from most of the lawsuits by virtue of not being the entity in this case with the deepest pockets. (Good job on the name, there, by the way, Interference.)
So right now, people are protesting outside a Massachusetts court while Berdovsky waits to be arraigned. And good for them, because this guy should not be spanked for making neat-o hackerish LED sculptures. Don’t shoot the messenger, folks. In support of the artist, we’re thinking it might be fun to make some light boards of our own. Anybody have plans? Tell us about it in the comments section. Just don’t, you know, hang them up on any bridges. —Megan Miller