Agents of a guerrilla marketing campaign for the movie placed 38 illuminated signs of the ATHF character Ignignokt presenting his middle finger in public places scattered around Boston. Homeland security officials in Boston concluded that these signs were bombs and major thoroughfares throughout Boston were shut down as bomb squads examined and then destroyed the signs.
The marketers (two of whom have been arrested) video recorded their plan in action. After they made bail, they gave a press conference consisting entirely of discussing the history of American hairstyles, thereby showing how they so completely misunderstood how serious the situation has become for their futures. Jokes that land you in prison aren't funny.
In order to assess their actions, we must ask the following questions:
1. Were they aware that their Ignignokt signs would be seen as bombs? If so, then they should be prosecuted.
2. If not, was it reasonable for homeland security officers in Boston to interpret the signs as bombs? If no, then the marketers should not be prosecuted.
Despite their misbehavior at a press conference, I have not seen any indication that the marketers intended to create a public panic.
To the second question, it is hard to say. Any ATHF fan would have immediately known that these were merely signs, not bombs or any other threatening behavior. But is not reasonable to assume that homeland security officials would be aware of what was up until last week a fairly obscure cartoon (despite ATHF's involvement in the United Methodist Church).
Nevertheless, Boston's response was unique. The signs had been up in various spots around the city for two weeks before city officials noticed and summoned bomb squads, and similar signs placed in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, Austin, Washington and Philadelphia did not provoke such reactions from their homeland security officials.
Turner Broadcasting has apologized for their misunderstanding and financially compensated the city for the cost of the alert. This seems more than enough given what happened: Boston officials misunderstood the signs, panicked, and are now covering up their foolishness with feigned outrage.
Hey, I want the people in charge of homeland security to have an easy trigger finger on the Red Alert button. A false alarm is better than one that never sounds. But they shouldn't prosecute these men (despite their obnoxious behavior) because homeland security misunderstood the signs.
Either the Boston officials panicked and overreacted, or the officials in the ten other cities were asleep on the job and negligent in their duties. Which conclusion do you make?