Monday, October 19, 2009

Hell Hath No Fury . . .

. . . like the American public duped. Seriously, if you want to really get on the bad side of the American populace - I'm talking about across all ages, political viewpoints, and what have you - dupe them into caring about something that turns out to be bogus. Involve the safety of a child? Serious bonus points.

I'm referring, of course, to the saga of the "Balloon Boy", which captivated the nation last Thursday. You remember, where the backyard balloon builder's creation got away from him and - oh noes! - his six year old son was trapped on board. By the time I left work, I remember, the craft had hit the ground, with no sign of the child. There was much concern.

To their credit, by the time I got home and the kid was located hiding out in the attic at home, people were already suspicious. Displaying a cynical skepticism that would be better applied to important things like religion and politics, folks were quickly questioning whether the whole thing was a setup. As with the "runaway bride" a few years back, folks immediately started calling for a full investigation and for authorities to "throw the book" at the parents.

Looks like the skeptical mob will get its wish:

'They put on a very good show for us, and we bought it,' Sheriff Jim Alderden of Larimer County said Sunday morning at a news conference.

Calling the episode an elaborate hoax, Sheriff Alderden said he expected to file felony charges against the parents — Richard Heene and his wife, Mayumi — who claimed Thursday that their 6-year-old son, Falcon, had climbed aboard the homemade helium balloon before it soared thousands of feet into the skies above Fort Collins, Colo.
Potential charges include conspiracy, contributing the delinquency of a minor, and attempting to influence a public servant, all felonies.

And the Heenes aren't the only characters in this story, either:
The neighbors of the family, most of whom seem unusually inarticulate, are either unhappy or very happy with all the media attention. A fight broke out between two men outside the house Sunday which a news camera duly recorded. (More on that here.)Since none of those present who were interviewed could speak in a complete sentence, it's not clear why or how it related to the attention the case has brought to the neighborhood, but the news reporter said it did.
So we have a UFO-nut father with a desire for reality TV fame, a parcel of oddly named kids used as props, and a monosyllabic Greek chorus to connect all the dots for us. This should really be fun, in the coming weeks.

If I represented the Heene, I would try and keep as low a profile as possible over the next few weeks. The 24-hour news networks, which provided the oxygen to Heene's spark that turned the whole thing into a national firestorm. A few weeks away from the spotlight and the country will move on. Then Heene and family can work out some painless deal with authorities and get this whole mess behind them.

And then sell their story to Hollywood, of course. Can't let sensation like this go to waste, after all.

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