Let's be clear. A hoax is something deliberately designed to deceive. For this admittedly ill-conceived publicity stunt to have been a "hoax," those responsible for placing these Ignignokt (yes, it is Ignignokt, not Irr) devices would have had to have intended to deceive the public into believing that the devices were bombs. There is incontrovertible evidence that this was not the case; it was clearly a marketing campaign by Turner Broadcasting. Was scattering weird looking electronic devices around when we live in a basket-case society that's afraid of its own shadow a stupid idea? Perhaps. Was it a hoax? NO!
With all the sanctimonious talk about bad publicity stunts, local officials pulled a few outrageous publicity stunts of their own. The arrest of Peter Berdovsky, the art student who coordinated Cartoon Network's effort in Boston, is beyond ridiculous. Mass. Attorney General Martha Coakley seems to have been the first person to have used the word "hoax" to describe what happened today when she announced that they had arrested Berdovsky at a press conference earlier today. Berdovsky was charged under Chapter 26 Section 102A 1/2 and one count of disorderly conduct.
Chapter 266, Section 102A 1/2 applies to "whoever possesses, transports, uses or places or causes another to knowingly or unknowingly possess, transport, use or place any hoax device or hoax substance with the intent to cause anxiety, unrest, fear or personal discomfort to any person or group of persons..."
If Coakley actually believes that Turner Broadcasting and Berdovsky intended to cause the pandemonium in Boston today, I have to question her sanity. She knows full well that this was a marketing scheme gone awry and she knows that this particular Cartoon Network campaign was publicly revealed on the internet weeks ago.
Interestingly, in her press conference, Coakley, citing Chapter 266, Section 102A 1/2, said that the law Berdovsky is charged under deals with placing a "hoax" device (and I quote verbatim) "in order...in a way that results in panic or discomfort, etc."
Did you catch that? I think she was about to state what the law actually says: in order to be culpable someone has to place the device in order to (i.e. intending to) cause panic, discomfort, etc. She then corrected herself to say what she wishes the law says--that one has to place a device that merely "results in" panic or discomfort. Listen to the press conference again.
Now I understand that people are angry because of the gridlock, chaos and fear this obnoxious ad campaign caused. But that anger is no excuse to create scapegoats out of struggling art students and to stretch laws to their breaking point so you can appease public fury and look like you're doing something decisive. We have enough of that foolishness on the federal level.