WASHINGTON - The day after lighted displays for the cartoon Aqua Teen Hunger Force triggered a massive terror panic in Boston, a series of Etch-a-Sketches left throughout Washington led to a Code Red terror alert and the bombing of northern France.
The Etch-a-Sketch depicted William the Conqueror, the famed Norman who conquered England in the eleventh century, with a note, “The Stormin’ Normans are coming to kick your ass, 2/1/07.” One of the red knobbed devices was left on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House.
Bush Administration officials, working with Homeland Security and the CIA, immediately interpreted the message as a threat of a preemptive military strike by France, possibly in collaboration with Al Qaeda. President Bush then ordered an air strike of the Normandy region of France and for the military to prepare an amphibious assault of the country.
However, an intern recognized the image from a poster for The Stormin’ Normans, a sketch comedy troupe based in Washington. After two phone calls and a quick Google search, Homeland Security officials quickly revised their hypothesis that the Etch-a-Sketches foretold a Franco-Qaeda attack. But the discovery was made too late to prevent the Normandy coast from being hammered by bombs and cruise missiles.
Furthermore, the threat was leaked to the press, causing panicked residents to take matters into their own hands. Armed roaming mobs torched every Au Bon Pain bakery in the Northern Virginia and Maryland area, as well as several Panera eateries, which locals thought “sounded French.”
Upon realizing the error, the White House issued a statement, saying, “We’re pretty sorry about bombing you, even though you probably deserved it.”
After the French government declared the apology “as insufficiently empty as man's fate in the universe,” the Bush Administration suggested they were not the ones most at fault. “As anyone who watches 24 knows, we have, at most, 15 minutes to decide if a terrorist threat is credible,” said White House Press Secretary Tony Snow. “In this case, the President acted on the intelligence he had available at the time. Therefore, we are holding the guys who drew this responsible for the bombing of France.”
When reached for comment, Norman Krystofsky, founder of The Stormin’ Normans, said, “Mother of God, it was an Etch-a-Sketch! A [expletive] Etch-a-Sketch! How could they attack a country....” Before he could finish, Mr. Krystofsky was pushed into an unmarked white van by Secret Service agents.
While a resolution with France has not been reached, a high ranking government official said that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has offered to let the French bomb Massachusetts as compensation.
Deadliest promotions in American history
While today’s episode marks the first time marketing has led to direct military action, many covert promotional tactics have prompted jittery government officials and American citizens to react in extreme manners:
--In 1919, a mysterious series of gasoline cans left behind prominent Chicago buildings convinced Attorney General A. Mitchell Brown that Bolsheviks were planning to burn down the city, leading to the first Red Scare. The cans were actually promoting the comic strip Gasoline Alley.
--A 1939 promotional package for the Little Rascals containing Limburger cheese led New York police to believe Nazi Germany had initiated a chemical attack. City officials ordered officers to shoot anyone in Tyrolean hats or Lederhosen. Seven patrons at a schnitzel bar were killed.
--In 1956, a movie trailer for Invasion of the Body Snatchers, presented as an authentic news reel, caused a nationwide epidemic of insomnia and the pitch-forking deaths of dozens of green bean farmers.
--Several trained Orangutans employed at traffic intersections to promote the film Every Which Way But Loose triggered the Right Turn Clyde Panic of 1978.
--During the late 1990s, several actors were assaulted and one killed while entering a limo, sorority house, the Marine Corps base at Camp Pendleton, and the offices of Death Row Records. The actors were filming commercials for Mentos.
--In 2000, with the help of professional magician David Blaine, actor Kirk Cameron “disappeared” during a television interview about his role the apocaltyptic movie Left Behind. Thinking that the Tribulation had begun, tens of thousands of evangelical Christians fled their jobs and homes in order to sever ties with mistresses, burn porn stashes, and destroy their meth labs before the Savior’s arrival. Property damage was estimated at $25-45 million dollars, depending on the street value of the meth.
--During the 2004 election, the improvisational comedy group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth inadvertently helped President Bush win reelection by promoting their satirical look at John Kerry’s military service as truthful.