Who knew they were cartoons, and when did they know it?

Earlier today, I griped about how we didn’t learn that all those “suspicious devices” pictured a little dude flipping the bird until it was way, way too late. I still believe that’s the truly confounding part of this story, and I’m still trying to figure out whether the press or law enforcement deserves blame.

Today’s front-page Globe story suggests a technical explanation. Here it is:
For much of the day, police treated the signs, which measure about 1 by 1 1/2 feet and feature protruding wires on one side, as potentially dangerous. But their investigation shifted when they happened to move one of the signs into a darker area. The sudden lack of sunlight prompted the lights forming the character’s image to brighten into color. Sometime between 2 and 3 p.m., according to a public safety official, a Boston police analyst recognized the image as a cartoon character, and police concluded it was likely a publicity stunt. [Emphasis added]
Eureka! But wait: the photo accompanying the story shows a state policeman taking a Mooninite off a McGrath Highway column. The Mooninite seems to be well-lit. And you can still see it’s a Mooninite.

Then we have today’s Herald’s write-up (posted at 2:10 p.m. on of Peter Berdovsky and Sean Stevens’ court appearance today. Reading what assistant AG John Grossman had to say in court today, it’s hard not to wonder if the Globe’s explanation was peddled by somebody looking to save face. Consider:
“Prosecutor Grossman explained the reason Boston reacted as it did is because bomb cops are trained to examine foreign objects for a power source and a circuit board and both were present in the Sullivan Square Mooninite, as well as duct tape attached to a red wire.
“They believed it was very possibly a bomb,” Grossman said, adding that an obscene cartoon leering back at them did little to throw them off.

“Someone with a nefarious intent would do that on top of a bomb,
” he said. “There’s a big difference between putting one on a rolled-down gate at Newbury Comics and putting one under the Longfellow Bridge.” [Emphasis added]
Well? Which is it?

BTW, I’ll buy the idea that Mooninite No. 1, a/k/a the Sullivan Square Mooninite, could have been fuckin’ terrifying even if you saw the Mooninite plain as day--especially somewhere that seems like a natural terrorist target. That’s why this was a dumb-ass ad campaign. But No. 1 was discovered at 8 a.m. and pulverized by a water cannon at 10. By noon, when a slew of “suspicious devices” were reportedly discovered around the city, the cartoon imagery should have seemed less like a devious twist by a criminal mastermind and more like a sign that these things weren’t actually bombs.

Anyway, the bottom line is this: at 4 p.m. Wednesday, WBUR’s Dolores Handy was still talking about “suspicious devices” during her top-of-the-hour news break. And 4:10 Thursday afternoon--one to two hours after a “Boston police analyst recognized the image as a cartoon character,” according to today’s Globe--a story at still quoted a law-enforcement source alluding vaguely to a “commonality” between several of the mysterious objects, which were described as “electronic circuits with LED lights attached.”

Right. In the shape of a little guy. Who was giving us the finger.

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