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Balloon Boy a Hoax?


It seems depressingly possible that Balloon Boy was a hoax dreamed up by a family with an uncommon appetite for appearing on television (the parents have been on the reality show "Wife Swap." Twice). But whether or not the drama was staged, it certainly served as a perfect metaphor for cable news: America spent hours riveted by a powerful and gripping story that turned out to be totally meaningless, and will have no significant impact on anybody's lives going forward.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Ed Andrieski.

By Ezra Klein  |  October 16, 2009; 9:31 AM ET
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Ah, but the film was beautiful.

Posted by: katiebird36 | October 16, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Hey, it's not just cable news at fault. It's just plain human nature to be absorbed in often-meaningless stories. How many centuries of human life have been spent absorbed in the minutia of religious myths that were (and continue to be) believed to be real? How many lives are dedicated to figuring out the details of the first few nanoseconds of the universe post big bang--or journalist hours and media consumer hours spent relating these discoveries/theories to the audience outside of academia? People are drawn to the flame, whether it's bright and shiny or dark and gloomy. I'm not above it in the slightest myself; I'm just saying that this pattern is deeply embedded in us as humans and cable news is merely our latest method for satisfying an innate craving.

Posted by: JonathanTE | October 16, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

It's just lucky for us that the average reality show wannabe is a product of the American public school system and would have no idea how to build a balloon that could hold a small child. Otherwise this would be happening once a week.

Posted by: bmull | October 16, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

As has been pointed out, the media was very literally distracted by a bright, shiny object.

Posted by: adamiani | October 16, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Was this some solely cable-tv thing? I honestly can not remember it being even mentioned at the time, but then again, but then again, I get all my news on the Internet.

Posted by: guardsmanbass | October 16, 2009 10:33 AM | Report abuse

last night, they showed the family in a press conference.
the father, crying crocodile tears....the children loving the publicity and the mother smiling into the camera.
if you thought that your child had escaped into a balloon, wouldnt you have torn your attic apart, and every other part of your house looking for him?
especially if you knew that the national guard and norad had been advised? that television news had essentially stopped.

i was playing into a tenth hour of a monopoly marathon with two children, when we were called and told about the child.
one thing i never do, is to turn on the news when i am with these children.
and i shouldnt have again.
the ten year old girl was scared that he was cold. the eleven year old boy was afraid that he would hit a power line.
they watched the silver balloon glide, nearly upside down and start to fall.
if we werent so riveted, as to the fate of the little boy, we also would have turned off the television.

the news shows got lots of viewers...the man was able to showcase his invention, the child was fine.
the joke was on us.

Posted by: jkaren | October 16, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

If it's a hoax I hope they send the family the bill for the search and toss the father in jail.

Posted by: obrier2 | October 16, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

The boy admitted it was a hoax here:

Posted by: Castorp1 | October 16, 2009 10:59 AM | Report abuse

To the extent that public safety personnel were traipsing over half the state trying to rescue the boy, the parents should pay x3.

I try to ignore that stuff...but it sure seems like people love it.

Posted by: luko | October 16, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Good! I feel completely vindicated. The girls at work were all a twitter about balloon boy, so I left the break room and ate lunch outside.

I'm feel like launching a rescue mission to retake the break room from headline news.

Posted by: Aatos | October 16, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

This episode will have its uses, fear not. Have you heard of buffalo hunters who are legendary for using every part of the beast? That's this administration. Expect to hear this raised in connection with the proposed lengthening of the school day. If this little boy had been in school, or his brothers, if they were part of a hoax, this would never have happened. The kids and the family had way too much time on their hands. Let's "fix" that, let's "reform" that.

Posted by: truck1 | October 16, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

When one of my kids is missing, the first thing I do is search the house... my mind focuses, I don't hear or see anything, except for the task of finding the kid. I call their name every 5 or 10 seconds and search. Luckily, every time this has happened, I have always found the child.

In the case of "balloon boy," when the police arrived, the father was frantically searching the house for his son. This is exactly the reaction that I would expect, and that makes me think that he really did believe the son was on the balloon. Never mind that a balloon of that small size could not pick up a 6-year-old child. He believed the story.

Posted by: kurtl | October 16, 2009 9:09 PM | Report abuse

Dude, no doubt about it this a HOAX. Looking to jump on the gravy train they are.


Posted by: clermontpc | October 17, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

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