Sick of “Balloon Boy”

Perhaps I’m just waaaay too cynical, but my first thought on watching this ridiculous drama unfold on cable news yesterday afternoon was: “Wanna bet they’re going to be on The Today Show tomorrow morning?” And, sure enough:

It was an unexpected bonus however that the ultimately flightless – yet ironically named – Falcon Henne vomited on live TV into a piece of Tupperware that was readily on hand. That was quite a nice touch.

Meanwhile… 20,000 or more children per day are still dying around the (“Third”) world of easily preventable diseases. Maybe if sub-Saharan African nations started lofting them into unguided dirigibles people might take notice. Just a thought…

What a shame that The Daily Show is on hiatus next week.

Update: When self-serving publicity stunts go horribly wrong…


32 Replies to “Sick of “Balloon Boy””

  1. Yes, non-balloon boy is the most over-blown non news story . . . this week ;).

    I can’t wait until focus returns to the real news of the day . . . the ongoing saga I call “The Gosselin Torture.”

  2. Oh, good lord, is that tawdry saga still dragging on?

    I can feel the life draining out of me just thinking about the news, let alone watching it. I only happened to tune in yesterday while eating lunch, but otherwise have been studiously avoiding it.

    Crazy-making, I tells ya.

  3. Little Falcon Henne has just offered one of the most eloquent critiques of post-modern American media I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing. By puking in response to yet more vapid “coverage” of a contentless non-issue, he delivers a rebuke more stinging than anything Guy Debord or Baudrillard managed to write.

  4. This is a truly touching human drama. The Henne family is only providing the platform by which the media can vie for ratings.

    They alone truly understand that it is only vapid and superficial sound bites that drives our viewing choices and the depth by which American media can spoon off the scum. It need not be real. It only needs to be immediate, easy to cover, easy to digest, and photogenic.

    Even better, they get extended coverage, because it was a hoax.

    Nike doesn’t make billions of dollars because they make the best running shoes in the world. Real money is only made through iconic imagery.

  5. Totally off topic but much more intriguing is the article from Democracy Corp on the worldview of the American right wing (which often seeps into Canada too).

    The Very Separate World of Conservative Republicans

    What it says about the media is fascinating…

    The other dominant lesson that emerged from our focus groups and provides critical insight into the thinking of today’s partisan Republican voters is their clear sense of shared identity. In our focus group discussions, we quickly noted how they routinely used plural first-person pronouns to describe a group of individuals (including all those in the room but extending far beyond those walls) who share a set of beliefs, knowledge, and commitment to oppose Obama that sets them apart from the majority of the country. Democrats may joke that Republicans seem to live on a different planet sometimes, but in some important ways, these Republicans would happily agree.

    An Oppressed, Mocked Minority

    Conservative Republicans passionately believe that they represent a group of people who have been targeted by a popular culture and set of liberal elites – embodied in the liberal mainstream media – that mock their values and are actively working to advance the downfall of the things that matter most to them in their lives – their faith, their families, their country, and their freedom.

    A central part of the collective identity built by conservative Republicans in the current political environment is their belief that they possess knowledge and insight that the majority of Americans – whether too lazy or too misguided to find it for themselves – do not possess. A combination of conservative media outlets are the means by which they have gained this knowledge, led by FOX News (“the truth tellers“), and to a lesser degree conservative talk radio. Their antipathy and distrust toward the mainstream media could not be stronger, and they fiercely defend FOX as the only truly objective news outlet.

    The whole thing is really worth a read.

  6. Dan — It would have been easy enough to miss I guess. I only happened to catch it quite by accident while eating lunch, but apparently it consumed much of cable news attention (both in the U.S. and here in Canada — on CBC Newsworld at least) for most of the afternoon. Then of course there was all the media fallout and “analysis”… dragging it out into the next day and beyond.

    Ali Velshi made an interesting observation today on his “Money” program talking about the cost… not only in terms of the direct expenses incurred by the police and various agencies involved tracking the balloon and searching for this little kid, but in the lost productivity while people were glued to their sets watching this little drama — something that he figured might have cost the economy millions of dollars.

    Quite an expensive little hoax, I’d say.

  7. Dan — Regarding the o/t article you referenced, I’d say that’s a very accurate depiction of the right-wing mindset. And not an entirely misplaced one, I’d have to say. While the perceived “culture war” is something that’s frequently scoffed at and ridiculed by those of a liberal persuasion, it’s a very real thing to social conservatives who often feel marginalized and oppressed by mainstream culture.

    I personally don’t agree with many (most) of their positions on a whole host of issues, but who can blame them for feeling victimized to a certain degree? To that extent I can empathize with them and think some of their grievances are legitimate.

    And it’s really a two-way street. Folks of a more liberal persuasion tend to feel that so-cons are trying to impose their reactionary “family values” (or whatever they choose to call them) on us, but surely they must feel the same way in the face of various forms of cultural impingement on their freedoms…

  8. True. But I think the problem (as I see it) is when a minority group reaches a point where they start to believe that a source of information is more important, than whether the information itself is factual or not. In other words, if Rush or Fox News or Glenn told them that something is a certain way it must be true and if the New York Times, the CBC or MSNBC comes a long with something that contradicts it it must be false. How is that different than the old leftist concept that reality is merely a social construct and nothing more?

    I am part of group of people who often perceive ourselves as marginalized and oppressed by mainstream culture, but I have never perceived the gay community as withdrawing from mainstream social, scientific and cultural discourse to create our own “world”, even before we mainstreamed. Perhaps if we were mainstream and were slowly pushed to the margins that may change though.

  9. Whoops there are a few typos there. Anyway, to complete my thought, if a group of people like the so-cons reach a point where they have kind of created their own universe, I think it becomes impossible to dialogue, debate or even address their grievances. In order to dialogue or debate productively there has to be certain agreed sources of authority and rules for engagement.

  10. Dan — Heh. I didn’t actually notice your typos at all, which kind of points to my observation I tweeted about with regards to cognitive perception and Twitter… But I digress.

    Yeah, I’d have to agree with you about the weird sensibility in the right-wing that imagines they are the majority when, in fact, they are no longer. I’ve noticed this a lot in the broadcasts of Fox pundits like Glenn Beck who frequently addresses “America” as a whole, when actually he’s speaking to a rather narrow sliver of the populace constituted by very angry people who feel disenfranchised or alienated somehow by the system.

  11. RT,

    How can you suffer through this American right wing punditry?

    I can’t even watch or listen to it without flicking channels or turning it off (It is why I never post on that stuff). Yet you seem to soldier right through it commenting on all the little inanities you see and hear.

    Are you a rubber necker? Do you slow down when passing a car wreck?

    If you answered “yes” to the above questions, you and my wife would get along famously.

  12. Tomm — I suppose there is an element of that involved. In my more dispassionate moods, I like to think that I’m just trying to understand where these folks are coming from (i.e., why they say the fantastically nutty things they do — surely it doesn’t come out of the ether — or does it…?) because I find some of their ideas so strange and alien to me; but at other times, I’ll admit that it’s just gawking at what I perceive to be their inchoate anger and monstrous stupidity.

  13. How can you suffer through this American right wing punditry…

    …[sotto voce] “(that reflects attitudes in no way congruent with my own)…?” 😉

  14. Sir Francis,

    You are tying Stephen Harper’s attempt to make toothless the cabal of lower and upper Canada… his disassembling of the national social justice bureaucracy, …and his re-empowerment of the provincial governments to…

    American Right Wing Wingnuttery?

    You have never understood me. You can have your ring back.

  15. “the cabal of lower and upper Canada”=”Coastal elites.”

    “the national social justice bureaucracy”=”Obamunism.”

    “provincial governments”=”Red states.”

    It’s exactly the same, just expressed in a slightly different dialect.

  16. Ti,

    I didn’t know that you spoke “Calgary School”. You are a wealth of surprises. Read that book by Cooper yet?

    You shouldn’t assume that “no” means “yes”. I hear it can get you into trouble.

  17. … just expressed in a slightly different dialect.

    Heh. And the difference is so slight, it eludes me completely.

    Read that book by Cooper yet?

    “Read”? Cooper’s books are things to colour, not to read. The same goes for the rest of his pseudo-intellectual confrères in Calgary U.’s dreary Canada-hating consistory. I’ve always found Ignatieff philosophically shallow, but those guys consistently make Ignatieff look like Spinoza.

    Rather than reading the likes of Cooper and draft-dodging Yanks like Flanagan (who took a pass when so many of his generation, like Al Gore, were “fighting for civilisation” in Vietnam), you might want to read the history of the Upper and Lower Canadas you appear to loathe. You’ll discover that the Calgary School agenda–apparently so brave, so new, so full of promise–is actually 19th-century Clear Grit liberalism, still ugly and syphilitic but tarted up in thigh-highs and shocking pink lip gloss in order to provide the rootless, alienated jades of our homogenised metropolises, bored by the old Confederation ball and chain, with a cheap, masculinity-affirming tryst in the backseat of their SUV’s.

    The Calgary School is a brotherhood of pimps in elbow-patched corduroys, and their mission is to keep our nation working on their corner. Nothing more.

    Now go and read some Grant, you silly man.

  18. “The Calgary School is a brotherhood of pimps in elbow-patched corduroys, and their mission is to keep our nation working on their corner. Nothing more.”

    Can you print t-shirts SF?

    I missed Sir Francis.

  19. Truly a worthy rant.

    It started great…

    “…“Read”? Cooper’s books are things to colour, not to read.”

    And ended just as strong.

    OK, I’ll keep the ring.

  20. Sir Francis,

    If you are looking to make a few extra bucks, Rick Mercer would probably love to buy you lunch.

  21. Now go and read some Grant, you silly man.

    Yeah, that’ll happen. Even our own so-called “elite” find such writing inaccessible. And the ones who don’t are exhausted. Meanwhile, the younger enfants terribles (and they’re my age, so I’m not being an old fart about it) are too interested in their careers and reputations, which hinge on coming up with the flavour of the month, to indulge in the careful observation and experience that provides the wisdom required to render anyone’s insight compelling and persuasive.

  22. SF:

    But you see, Tomm won’t try to read Grant as the prose is “too purple.” Code for: Too Central Canadian Elitist blahblahblahyaddayaddayadda …

    The fact that Grant predicted all of this between 1959 and 1965 is besides the point.


  23. Aeneas,

    I’ve made it a winter project to work my way through the tortuous and viscous prose of one of Grant’s books. Sir Francis has kindly recommended a good “starter” book for me.

    I’ve already had a look at it, and it ain’t Cooper, that’s for sure. I may need to buy a thicker dictionary to go along with it.

  24. And like I said, Tomm…I wouldn’t recommend it, unless it you’re interested in sinking into a bleak funk when you’re reminded that the conditions that characterise Canada today are rooted so far back in the past and so well-entrenched that the situation would appear irremediable (as ATY believes).

    I’d rather focus on what should be the final solution: The end of the American Empire, and what we can do to hasten its demise, as a prolonged decline will be hardest on Canadians most of all.

  25. Just read “Lament for a Nation.”

    Just bone-up on political philosophy first …

    Classical liberal = Individualism, Representative Democracy, non-conformist secularism, Free-Markets-Free Trade, Corporate Capitalism, strict (rights-based) constitutionalism, decentralised federation, continentalism.

    Classical Conservatism = Communalism, Mixed Democracy, mainstream denomination religious establishment, Free-Markets-Managed Trade, Mixed Capitalism, conventional (evolutionary precedent) constitutionalism, centralised federation, Commonwealth-centric.

    These are the primary cleavages (to this day) in Canadian political life. The former used to be found somewhat strictly in the Liberal Party of Canada and the latter in the Tory Party. Nowadays elements of each are scattered across all major and minor parties.

  26. …younger enfants terribles… are too interested in their careers and reputations, which hinge on coming up with the flavour of the month…

    I hope you’re not saying that abstruse, jargon-driven inquiries into the subtextual transgendered semiotic encoding that is clearly latent in Susanna Moodie’s transgressive use of the semi-colon are not worth pursuing…

  27. And, back on topic–the hammer falls.

    At the risk of sounding unsophisticated and vindictive, I hope the cops nail their sorry asses to the wall. Given the way they exploited a six-year-old, I think child endangerment charges are in order here.

  28. Sir Francis,

    The “hoax” part of this has been clear as soon as the dad asked his boy in front of the media …”didn’t you hear us calling for you?”.

    I thought you were quicker than that.

    It is what makes this all the juicier. The Mom & Dad didn’t just want to be on the front page for a day, they wanted a week!

    I see some tabloid money flowing here. I see a book in the works. I see appearance fees.

    Richard & Mayumi Heene are surfing the wave built by the American media machine.

  29. I hope you’re not saying that abstruse, jargon-driven inquiries into the subtextual transgendered semiotic encoding that is clearly latent in Susanna Moodie’s transgressive use of the semi-colon are not worth pursuing…

    I wasn’t even thinking of that (*shudder*). I’m thinking more of the public intellectuals who are writing for the general pubic: Joseph Heath, Malcolm Gladwell, the immensely irritating Don Tapscott, Richard Florida… It’s not that they don’t have any good ideas at , it’s just that their focus appears to be more about marketing them (and themselves) than contributing anything substantive or long-lasting.

  30. Given the way they exploited a six-year-old, I think child endangerment charges are in order here.

    Sure, but you can’t blame them, given the nature of the media, which is hyperactive and completely incapable of judging what is “public interest.”

    We may all have to resort to such actions in the near future in order to brand ourselves sufficiently to be distinctive in a highly competitive market. Innovate or perish, Sir Francis!

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