THE BLOG
02/02/2007 02:49 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Wicked and Artful Men

"Secret and systematic means have been adopted and pursued, with zeal and activity, by wicked and artful men." Jedidiah Morse, A Sermon Preached at Charlestown, Massachusetts, November 29, 1789.

"It had a very sinister appearance. It had a battery behind it, and wires." Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, February 2, 2007.

The important thing to remember about Boston is that it was founded by hysterics.

That's what the wicked and artful men at the Cartoon Network forgot, with their ad campaign of terror, and the blood curdling signs - with batteries and wires -- that paralyzed a city of 600,000. They thought people in Boston would respond like the people in the nine other cities where the ads were installed: "Oh, look, some corporation defaced that bridge. I wish they wouldn't do that." You know, mild annoyance, a vague feeling of not-getting-the-joke, followed by acceptance. Which is how the ads went over in New York, L.A., Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Philadelphia and Austin. They didn't understand that strange things don't intrigue Boston. Strange things freak them out. And they like freaking out.

It's their heritage.

Freaking out about nothing is what Boston has instead of theatre or regional cuisine.

Boston has been neutralizing non-existent threats since they wiped out the Wampanoags. There were 28 major riots in Boston between 1700 and 1764. 28. Forget tea and the Stamp Act. They rioted over impressments. They rioted over the price of rye. They rioted over Queen Anne's War. A war so minor I may have just made it up. Sometimes they rioted just because they found their old Indian disguises in the attic, tried them on, and were proud that they still fit.

"Well, as long as I've got this headdress on, might as well go downtown and riot. Martha, don't wait up."

Everything is a crisis in Boston. Quick: How many people died in the Boston "Massacre"? Five. As crowd control goes, that would be a pretty quiet twenty-minutes in Iraq.

When the victims were buried, 10,000 people marched, from a city of 16,000. And Jane Fonda spoke. No she didn't.

And there was another riot when the soldiers were acquitted.

Violently overreacting is what people in Boston do. That's why they loved Roger Clemens.

We keep hearing the phrase, "post 9/11 world," like that explains everything. Why they panicked. Why they called out everyone from the FBI to the Coast Guard and spent maybe half a million dollars to take down some signs. But this wasn't about the war on terror. That's not really what happened here. (Or it would have happened in New York and L.A. and Chicago and San Francisco and Portland, a town so minor I may have just made it up.) What happened was Boston.

It's a fundamental misunderstanding to think that Boston went crazy because they thought the devices planted around their city were bombs. Of course they weren't bombs. They went crazy because the devices were weird.

(Why would terrorists plant bombs that lit up? To make them easier to find? Who are we fighting - Al Qaeda or the Joker?)

Mysteries frighten and enrage Boston. They don't like them, and they're always a threat. When they weren't scared of the Pequot they were scared of witches. When it wasn't the redcoats it was the illuminati. When it wasn't the Masons it was the Catholics. (In 1834 a mob of thousands, some dressed as, yes, Indians, burnt down a Catholic girls' school in Charlestown, in search of its dungeon.) When they weren't screaming about bussing they were banning Candide.

(Okay, they also banned Lillian Hellman's awful "The Children's Hour." Have you seen it lately? Oh my god. But all that proves is that even a stopped clock - disguised as an Indian --is still right twice a day.)

Boston, you see, is the last safe home of virtue, a city on a hill eternally vigilant against mysterious forces, ever mutating, relentless and legion, and inexplicably obsessed with its destruction. If Boston was a TV show, it would be Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

Why would you a put up a mysterious flashing sign in a town like that? Why not just crank call them one by one? They like things boring and predictable and always the same. That's why they had Arthur Fiedler.