Joe Alterio's blog on illustration, comix, design, animation, and other bouts of total awesomeness.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Game Over

I don't usually comment on current affairs- I leave that to more capable hosts - but something, or maybe everything, has gotten to me about this Boston-ATHF-bombscare-thing. I promise this will be brief, and I'll get back to comics soon.

Firstly, in the spirit of full disclosure, I am from Boston, or near enough, and I admit that the thought of The Greatest City On Earth being vaporized off the map gave me more than a few palpitations. And so it was with baited breath that I read of the anxious, world-shaking reports about Boston Being Bombed!...Well, there's Bombs In Boston!...Well, OK, there's Things That Look Like Bombs In Boston!...Alright, Fine, there's Things That Actually Don't Really Look Bombs, But They're Definitely There To Cause Terror In Boston!...and finally, OK, You Got Us, There's Some Guerilla Marketing In Boston!

There's several odious elements about this whole messy affair, the most obvious of which is the disgusting salivating the mainstream media did in their breathless reports about the Next Big Scare. Nowadays, with his approval ratings lower than Urkel's, it's popular to slam The Decider in the media, and cluck our tongues at the silly yes-man puppeteering most of the media did after 9/11. Don't get me wrong, I still mourn what happened that day, but I think we can all agree the media dropped the ball after that calamity, and they Just Haven't Felt Good About Themselves Since, which is why we have a furrow-browed Anderson Cooper meekly questioning the war now. But this little incident has shown we're still stuck in the same garbage: cautious rationality doesn't play well with the 18-24 demo.

This blog is about media and art, and I can't actually think of better scenario to let play out when talking about both. Art is about, and please excuse my lack of formal training here, puncturing the mask of daily existence. And media, in the end, is just the commodification of that trend: it's a realization that, somewhere the line, you could actually sell that insight to the family next door. Everything from street craft fairs to Disney TV is based on this secnario.

As any good lawyer will tell you, the meaning changes with intent. Did Interference Inc. mean to cause that response?

Let's take both sides, to see how it plays out in each scenario as "art". I'll break with some my more mainstream compatriots, and say that, if they did mean to provoke an emergency response, that's not just media, that's art, and actually a pretty interesting statement. And this is coming from a guy that HATES "happenings". Was it wrong? Yup. Was it irresponsible? Oh, yeah. Should they be punished? Probably. BUT: did it make us look introspectively at ourselves and our collective actions? I'd say that's a big 'Yes'.

But here's where it gets tricky, and where I actually think the truth lies: that it really was just a marketing scheme gone awry. If it is just a instance of hysteria, I think that makes the statement even greater. Now, we live in a country where anything with wires can be left out on the street, and can be the focus of a nationwide Freak Out. And it wasn't even ON PURPOSE. Like the monster under the bed, we wanted to see it, so it was there. Woe be the next man that leaves his broken blender in the trash.

I love art and guerilla media. I also love my country. I want us to be safe for a 1000 years. But when we run around willy-nilly, accusing people, shutting down cities, and putting on our most sober faces to discredit some lite-brites on a freeway overpass...

...folks, The Terrorists have won.


Kevin O said...

dude, you should write about current events (as they relate to art or drawing or whatever you like) more often. You do it well, in this case definitely providing a perspective that I haven't heard elsewhere.

Just my opinion.

Matt said...

I second KO's emotion. I should caution you against writing "the terrorists have won" too many times on the blog, because Google can see that stuff, and the terrorists probably have some laptops by now, and you're obviously giving them comfort, you traitor.

Seriously, the post makes me begin to wonder why we don't consider 9/11 to be a huge marketing stunt (the morbid among us might call it a "launch") by Al Qaeda, proffering a new way forward for people who love to watch Americans die. If we do, can't we also consider our government, with its ham-handed foreign policy and disregard for the lives of Iraqi civilians, to be blindly complicit in the campaign?