I'm fresh from a half hour watching NECN, during which a Mooninite with raised finger was the most prominent graphic feature of the backdrop.
While we're portioning out blame for yesterday's panic*, let's not forget our crack news media. Channel 7, for example, has never met a scare story it didn't like. I came onto their coverage rather late, but they made clear they had been on it like a rash from the first whisper. I was sitting there when they finally accepted that there were no bombs and (reluctantly) no hoaxes. They immediately broke for commercials, and the story had dropped about five levels in their presentation by the time they came back. The rest were no better: you could almost see the skid marks as they changed direction.
What persisted, and what has made me chuckle ever since, was the obsession with calling a raised finger "an obscene gesture." Give me a break: is this 1913? Tom Wolfe used to write stunningly about the hypocritical public morality of the broadcast media. It has seldom been so obviously on display.
* My apportionment of responsibility so far:
The several municipal governments and their law enforcement, for three weeks of failed observation and eight hours of hysterical overreaction, 30 percent.
Turner Broadcasting et al., for failing to realise that unauthorised boards with wires were probably going to offend somebody
sooner or later, 25 percent.
A witless broadcast media that has surrendered all pretence that it possesses a critical faculty, 25 percent.
A dense, sheep-like populace that has tacitly agreed to be scared on cue, 18 percent.
The actual perpetrators, two percent. Unfortunately, these poor sods are likely to take the hit while the biggest idiots get no penalty at all.