'Aqua Teen Hunger Force' Incident Calls To Mind Bad 'M:i:III' Marketing Idea Of Last Year

While all the latest buzz around ill-advised marketing campaigns hysterically misconstrued as acts of terrorism is currently clustered around yesterday's freakout over some harmless, flashing, bird-flipping Aqua Teen Hunger Force devices placed around Boston, a story in today's LAT reminds us of the similar events of last April, when Paramount's planting of suspicious, wire-sprouting music-boxes inside the Times' newspaper vending machines to promote Mission: Impossible III exacerbated many L.A. residents' quiet fears that Tom Cruise is bent on world domination. The LAT reports that federal officials are mulling the idea of suing both the studio and the paper over the stunt:

Several newspaper buyers thought the music players were bombs and reported them to law enforcement. The Los Angeles County sheriff's arson squad blew up one Times news rack near the intersection of Sand Canyon and Soledad Canyon roads in Santa Clarita as a precaution.

In West Los Angeles, federal police at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center called the sheriff's bomb squad after a newspaper buyer spied the 6-inch-long, 2 1/2 -inch-wide red plastic box and its wires. Hospital administrators ordered the building at 11301 Wilshire Blvd. evacuated.


After receiving reports of the bomb calls, Times security manager Mike LaPerruque notified law enforcement agencies around Los Angeles that the musical devices were not dangerous.

"With the wires leading to the micro-switch on the news rack doors, I can easily see how someone might have misconstrued it as an improvised explosive device," said LaPerruque, a retired Los Angeles sheriff's sergeant.

Said Kontos: "The companies' imprudence was particularly egregious because the device was placed in a VA hospital, a building in which various medical procedures are regularly performed and care for war veterans — many of whom suffer from psychological disorders — is provided."

Maybe litigation can be avoided if the Times and Paramount undertake a show of good faith to demonstrate their regret over unnecessarily disturbing those veterans, perhaps by dispatching Tom Cruise to personally—personally—apologize to any VA patients affected by the promotion, reassuring them that while he doesn't agree with the pseudoscience their government-provided brain-erasers are using to treat their disorders, he and his colleagues would never try and destroy their hospital.