So when, and how, did the cops figure out that one man's IED is another man's marketing campaign? The answer appears to be: from a comic-book shop, around 1 p.m. on Wednesday.
Erin Scott, a store manager for the New England Comics chain, says the police told her that a tip she placed to the Boston Police's non-emergency line was used to help investigators (who were scouring the internet) corroborate the fact that the city was not under attack by terrorists, but instead was being heinously marketed to by performance artists armed with lite-brite boards. On Wednesday, Scott was minding her own business at the Harvard Square shop, when a co-worker's boyfriend called and told them to turn on the news. "We saw what was going on -- the picture of Err [the Mooninite in question] -- and I was like, 'Oh, that's the thing that's outisde my [Allston] store." After briefly debating whether or not to alert the cops to their mistake ("Sometimes," Scott sighs, "I try to be helpful"), she called the Boston police non-emergency number. She was transferred to "big investigations," then to media relations, then to a third person, who listened to Scott tell them that they were chasing a cartoon called Aqua Teen Hunger Force. "And I suggested that this was some sort of art-student project gone awry. They later called back and they told me that they then went on the internet and used my information to confirm that it was a cartoon, a 'hoax' and not a bomb threat. But I don’t know if they were just saying that to make me feel nice." Scott says she called the police between 1 and 2 pm, and the cops showed up within the hour. "They took [the Mooninite] down with a trashbag," she says. "By that time they’d figured out it was just a Lite Brite."
Scott first saw the Mooninite on her store a few days before the bomb scare, and her first instinct was to be annoyed. "I thought it was a sticker, and I was pissed because I was going to have to scratch the sticker off the front of my store -- it was flipping someone off, which I can’t have next to my store sign. But the next day I saw it had lightbulbs on it, so I thought I’d leave it up so I could see it at night." Her second instinct was to collect it: she remembers wondering if she could get the Moonie down without breaking it -- a good instinct, since the going prices for recovered Mooninites are now hovering around $2000. Alas, "then I forgot about it," she says. "Then [the next day] I saw it on the news."
While Scott is peeved that the blame for the scare came down on the artists, instead of on the culture of fear perpetuated in Washington, she had no criticism of the police. "They had to do what they had to do," she says. As regards the Mooninite campaign -- "like an Obey sort of thing where people see them and they get people to talk about it and collect it" -- she has some advice for Boston's viral marketers: "They should stick with stickers."