Sean Stevens



The 2007 Boston Mooninite panic occurred on Wednesday, January 31st, 2007, after the Boston Police Department and the Boston Fire Department mistakenly identified battery-powered LED placards resembling two Mooninite characters from the Adult Swim animated television series Aqua Teen Hunger Force as improvised explosive devices. Placed throughout Boston, Massachusetts, and the surrounding cities of Cambridge and Somerville, these devices were part of a guerrilla marketing advertising campaign for Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters, a film based on Aqua Teen Hunger Force.The incident led to controversy and criticism from a number of media sources, including The Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, Fox News, The San Francisco Chronicle, New York Times, CNN and The Boston Herald, some of which ridiculed the citys response to the devices as disproportionate and indicative of a generation gap between city officials and the younger residents of Boston, at whom the ads were targeted. Several sources noted that the hundreds of officers in the Boston police department or city emergency planning office on scene were unable to identify the figure depicted for several hours until a younger staffer at Mayor Thomas Meninos office saw the media coverage and recognized the figures as cartoon characters from the TV show.After the devices were removed, the Boston Police Department stated in their defense that the ad devices shared some characteristics with improvised explosive devices, which they said included an identifiable power source, a circuit board with exposed wiring, and electrical tape. Investigators were not mollified by the discovery that the devices were not explosive in nature, stating they still intended to determine if this event was a hoax or something else entirely. Although city prosecutors eventually concluded there was no ill intent involved in the placing of the ads, the city continues to refer to the event as a bomb hoax (implying intent) rather than a bomb scare.Reflecting back on the incident years later, various academics and media sources have characterized the reaction to the marketing campaign as a form of social panic. Author Gregory Bergman wrote in his 2008 book BizzWords that the devices were basically a self-made form of the childrens toy Lite-Brite. Computer security expert Bruce Schneier wrote in his 2009 book Schneier on Security that Boston officials were ridiculed for their overreaction to the incident. In his 2009 book Secret Agents, historian and communication professor Jeremy Packer discussed a phenomenon in culture called the panic discourse and described the incident as a spectacular instance of this panic. In a 2012 article The Boston Phoenix called the incident the Great Mooninite Panic of 2007. A 2013 publication by WGBH News wrote that the majority of Boston youth thought that arresting two men who placed devices, Peter Zebbler Berdovsky and Sean Stevens, was not warranted.

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