Turner Broadcasting:"Stunt Gone Wrong"

Garrett Wollman wollman@csail.mit.edu
Thu Feb 1 01:41:44 EST 2007

<<On Wed, 31 Jan 2007 21:27:41 -0800 (PST), Sean Smyth <sean.smyth@yahoo.com> said:

> Of course, we now know it's a hoax.

No, we don't know it's a hoax; indeed, we know that it is/was not a
hoax.  (That's one of the things that has infuriated me about the
coverage I've seen so far -- that and the constant references to
"Turner Broadcasting", a company that exists in name only, rather than
the actual Time Warner.)  Our friends at m-w.com (sorry, no access to
the OED from my undisclosed location) give two definitions for "hoax"
as a noun:

(1) an act intended to trick or dupe: imposture
(2) something accepted or established by fraud or fabrication

Today's stunt does not fit either definition: it was not intended to
trick or dupe, nor was it "established by fraud".  However, the
Massachusetts General Laws give a different definition, which states:

	For the purposes of this section, the term hoax device shall
	mean any device that would cause a person reasonably to
	believe that such device is an infernal machine. For the
	purposes of this section, the term infernal machine shall mean
	any device for endangering life or doing unusual damage to
	property, or both, by fire or explosion, whether or not
	contrived to ignite or explode automatically.
	(M.G.L. chap. 266, sec. 102a1/2(b))

So it probably does fit under the Massachsetts legalese term "hoax
device".  I would still argue that broadcasters are being
irresponsible to describe it as a "hoax", since journalists should use
standard language and not legalese.  For what it's worth, I think the
Commonwealth would have a tough time proving the "intent to cause
anxiety, unrest, fear or personal discomfort to any person or group of
persons" required by paragraph (a) to make it criminal.

(I would not be surprised if the ultimate result is that the guy they
arrested today ends up pleading down to a misdemeanor
public-disturbance charge, probably paying a fine equal to the money
he received from the marketing firm, and appearing as a witness in a
civil suit against the marketing firm and Time Warner.  I hope he can
get a good lawyer.)


More information about the Boston-Radio-Interest mailing list