Think of the children!

I posted about Fort Meade’s Facebook page and their Justin Bieber prank, shortly after it happened. They officially announced and then minutes later, officially cancelled a fake 15-minute event featuring Justin Bieber, Mila Kunis, and Barry Manilow. The target of the prank was actually the base commander, as he had been photoshopped into a Saturday Night Fever poster.

Click to embiggen:

Fort Meade actually posted this prank on facebook

Despite the obvious fake event, extreme short notice, and the cancellation, some people showed up. That’s surely a testament to the growing integration of social media into our culture. I highly doubt they thought anybody would show up – or even could show up on such short notice. A few people expressed outrage at Fort Meade for tricking and ‘devastating’ the children. The vast majority thought it was funny and good for morale.

I understand what the handful of critics are saying, but I think they’re taking it way out of context. I am glad that commenter Jesse is engaging me on the blog, and hope he continues to do so. I’m not ‘attacking’ him, or the others that expressed concern. I’m expanding on my response, for clarity.

I’m sure the children are fine now. I’m sure they were not ‘devastated’ by some experience that will haunt them forever.

It’s kind of a military tradition, too. When I was deployed on the Kuwait/Iraq border, I stopped over in Camp Buehring. There were hundreds of flyers all over for upcoming ‘Camel Races in Zone 1′. Camel racing does exist, and I’m sure these flyers kinda forced everyone to google it. Something — anything — to break up the monotony of a deployment can be a soldier’s equivalent to a tween’s Justin Bieber meeting.

The flyers were all over the place for weeks, complete with a “BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!!!” Lots of people showed up, but no camels. Some of the people apparently still weren’t sure if Camel Racing was real. I was actually thinking of going, but was busy with a mission. I heard that a colonel showed up (this is very high rank).

For weeks, we all laughed like a bastard about it. We vowed to pull the same prank at other camps and bases, but I never got around to it.

soldier attempting to ride a camel lol

It’s essentially like sending a private out to get ‘chem-light batteries‘, or telling a private to check the HUM-V’s ‘blinker fluid’, or to bring you a ‘box of grid squares’ for your map. Army brats grow up with ‘chem-light battery chase’ humor. Many civilians can probably recount fond memories of similar ‘snipe hunts’. Except in this case, Fort Meade’s fifteen minute event was much easier to detect as fake, and it was announced right before it was supposed to happen. Describing what happened as ‘hurt children’ at the hands of ‘deceptive co-workers’ is quite an exaggeration.


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  • Who Cares

    It’s even better when you can follow up a snipe hunt with something that does exist but sounds unconvincing.

    Happened to me.

    First I needed to get a long weight from the store on the other side of the factory terrain. To make a long story short I received a long wait at every storage location of the factory that day.

    Next day short weights. Which someone else brought in after I said I wasn’t going to fall for the same joke twice. Happened to be a specific type of weight for another component.

    • I saw a girl named Airman Brownstein (who really HATED being called ‘Brownstain’) fall for “Gullible isn’t in the dictionary.” She replied, “REALLY?!” Awkward silence. Then you could see it on her face that now she realized it was a joke. So the same guy said “You’re right, it’s in the dictionary. But it’s spelled wrong.”

      Her reaction was yet again, “REALLY?!!?!”

      We all laughed, and she hit the guy, then joined us in the laughter.

  • nomennescio

    I’ve never been in the service, but my first week in the kitchen my Chef told me to go bring him a quart of steam.

    Which I actually did. Filled up a quart container with hot water from the coffee machine, shook it real hard and brought it to him. The look on his face was priceless.

    The next day I came into work to find my knives set in a terrine of gelled fish blood, garnished with chicken feet. That’s what I got for being a smartass.

  • embraceyourinnercrone

    My husband and I were both in the Navy and here are just a few I remember (things you would send the newbies/boots for. Yeah its a bit mean but Westpacs can be hella boring.:

    Relative bearing grease

    A set of BT punches (ow !)

    i d ten t forms (write 10 as a numeral and remove the spaces)

    A bucket of steam

    Some double-ended fallopian tubes

    The there are things that sound fake but are real, for instance, there were(maybe still are) pneumatic tubes running from the Radio shack to the bridges for sending message traffic to the Captain or OOD we all called them Bunny tubes. (don’t ask what happens when a bored AC&R person ups the air pressure in the tubes…….)

  • thebookofdave

    Hope you all had a good laugh. It took me all day to figure out that flight line wasn’t issued by the yard. I did find your box of safetywire holes, though.

  • nohellbelowus

    I was taken on a snipe hunt one evening in the Boy Scouts. Fruitless. When we broke camp the next morning, and I shouldered my backpack, I found that someone had put two large rocks in it.

    I’m not sure I’ve ever recovered from that traumatic episode. This Justin Bieber prank sends chills up my spine.

    Okay, I’m kidding.

  • F [nucular nyandrothol]

    Justin, I don’t know why you continue to explain or be an apologist for something which is pretty damn self-evident and a part of normal human interaction. If someone doesn’t get it now, and feels offended, I doubt anything will change that. And they are the minority with the personal problem.

    Love the other pranks and jokes mentioned. I’m sure they can be particularly effective in a military environment where someone may move to fulfill an order without fully processing what was said first.

    I worked with a woman on whom my boss played a light prank, telling her I was way older than I was when she asked. After she perceived the gag, she said, “Don’t tell me things like that, I’m gullible.” I told her, “OK, but the first rule is to never tell people that you’re gullible.”

    He had another worker, who liked to click their pen repeatedly, convinced that there were “only so many clicks” in the pen. Also, that if you kinked an electrical cord, it would behave like a kinked hose.

    Cruel and unusual, I know. I should be ashamed. Also, for playing like Santa Claus is real. Damn me thrice.

  • thebookofdave

    A fellow was once sent out for a bottle of K-9P. He figured it out right away, and returned shortly with a bottle of artisan quality (traditionally brewed, in small batch) bottled yellowish liquid, which he assured his workmate was the real McCoy. You could tell it was fresh-pressed; the contents were still warm from processing.

    This prank is not to be tried at home. Think of the kids!

  • Jesse M.

    My father is a retired chief petty officer last stationed aboard USS Kittyhawk. He retired shortly after I was born in Hawaii, where USS Kittyhawk returned home after being repaired in the Phillipines for damages received in a collision with a Russian nuclear submarine off the coast of Japan.

    The family scrapbook has photos of him in some in some pranks and other antics, such as his initiation ceremony for becoming chief petty officer. He had to dress up as a blonde in lingerie in front of his fellow crew members, consume large amounts of alcohol, and refrain from vomiting while eating a balut (an egg with a half-formed chicken inside which is buried for a week and then soft-boiled). Needless to say, the pictures don’t show anything pretty.

    I spell these things out to make it clear that I understand the stresses and risks that service members face, the importance of pranks and antics in relieving that stress, and why such things can be humorous and build comradery. If service members want to put shaving cream in peoples’ hands while they sleep and then tickle their noses, or poke fun at their superiors for dressing up as a woman in lingerie, then I have no objection to that (provided they are not part of a pattern of bullying that is escalating toward violence).

    The problem with the concert prank is that it went beyond service members and other adults. When I look at the family scrapbook and see the pranks and antics my father was part of, I can be proud of my father in those moments, despite his hideousness in a garter belt. But what about these kids? This kind of prank does not go down in scrapbooks, but suppose it did. When they look at those pictures, would they feel proud of their parents in the moment thus pictured? No, because it shows their parent being duped into hurting them. They can be proud of their parent in every other moment pictured in the scrapbook, but not that one.

    The prank lessened the parent in the eyes of their children, which makes the nature of this prank fundamentally different from the others being discussed here. That difference is what makes it so objectionable. This was not “haha, you had long waits for long weights”, or “haha, you woke up and rubbed shaving cream all over your face”, or “haha, you are the ugliest blonde I have ever seen, sir”. This was more along the lines of “haha, you are an idiot who was duped into hurting your kids, and although hurting your kids and lessening you in their eyes was not intended, it does not negate the humor, so hahaha, idiot.”

    I know the person behind the prank did not intend to hurt the kids and lessen the parents in the eyes of their kids, but that makes the prankster less culpable, not exempt from criticism. The slightest forethought would have alerted the prankster to the fact that using Justin Beiber as bait would almost certainly ensnare children. Proceeding with this prank was pure foolishness on their part and I think they should be punished. Temporarily relieving them of duty or docking their pay would be too extreme, but cleaning toilets with a toothbrush seems fitting.

  • On Canadian P-3’s we have something called a MAD boom (magnetic anomaly detector) sticking out from the back of the aircraft. It’s used to detect big chunks of metal (i.e. submarines) under water by their effect on the earth’s magnetic field. We used to have the new crew members run back and forth beneath the boom with the crash axe in hand to “test” it. It was even more fun if we told them we were testing the acoustic system too so they have to yell. The American techs looking out the hangar door in Keflavik were a bit perplexed (and perhaps frightened) to see a young Canadian running back and forth and yelling as he held an axe above his head.

  • schweinhundt

    The best example of this sort of prank that I’ve heard of comes from the Navy. In order to affect a purported maintenance fix, a young sailor was sent off to get permission to “blow the CHOPS.” After being bounced numerous times from section to section, the sailor eventually found himself in front of the Chief of Operations (AKA the “CHOPS”). The CHOPS very loudly denied the sailor permission to blow him.