Friday, October 16, 2009

Kick 'Em When They're Up, Kick 'Em When They're Down

I am very, very happy I was running errands yesterday afternoon. If I hadn't been out and about, I might have been tempted to turn on the TV and watch the dramatic "Balloon Boy" story unfold, against my better judgment. Instead, I was on the bus, making my way from one place to another, when I checked Twitter and saw message after message about this six-year-old kid who was apparently soaring high above Colorado in a runaway makeshift hot air balloon/flying saucer thingy. ?!?!

Upon reading bits and pieces of the story (and then checking for more info), I became totally nauseous. I couldn't believe there were live feeds of the balloon's treacherous flight. EVERYONE THOUGHT THERE WAS A YOUNG BOY TRAPPED IN THE BASKET! What exactly were these media outlets going to do if all of a sudden this kid (named Falcon, oh irony of ironies) peered over the side and tipped out? Seriously, I need to understand what their plan was. Were they going to show a young child falling to the earth? Or were they just going to cut away? Fade to black? It's sickening that I (and most likely others) even need to wonder about this, but this whole episode just underscores the main reason I don't watch any news programs: they're all about getting the scoop, without regard to taste or decency or consequences.

Listen to me, sounding like I'm ninety years old. "Back in MY day... we didn't even have TV... we would just all sit around looking at each other for hours... and we liked it, dammit, WE LOVED IT!" Clearly, something about this Balloon Boy saga has riled me up. I know it's awful and uncomfortable to think about what might have happened if this story didn't have a happy ending, but while all of the various shows are grilling the Heene family this morning (and poor Falcon has already thrown up twice in the middle of these interviews), asking whether or not the entire thing was a hoax, no one's asking the only question I want an answer to: what were they going to do if this kid was in the balloon like everyone assumed he was, and he fell out while they had their live feed going? I want someone to own up to their plan!

I personally couldn't care less if the whole thing was a hoax. It doesn't change the fact that reporters bought it and were all over it like white on rice. It brings to mind the wise and true words of Don Henley in the awesome, awesome song "Dirty Laundry":

We got the bubble-headed bleach-blonde who comes on at five
She can tell you 'bout the plane crash with a gleam in her eye
It's interesting when people die --
Give us dirty laundry.

Ugh. Anyway, I'm sure we're going to hear lots more about Balloon Boy (which I feel silly typing, much less saying) over the coming days and weeks. There will be Balloon Boy skits on Saturday Night Live, Halloween costumes, magazine covers, you name it. I'm just glad the kid is safe and that my "What if?" worry wasn't realized.

- e


Anonymous said...

Erika, I can't tell you how much I agree with what you said. I happened to have a hair appointment and of course, every TV station was playing the live "Balloon Boy" saga, so we all sat there in shock, praying for this poor boy, and wondering how they were going to safely get this thing out of the air and on the ground, and what, God forbid, they were going to do if he was dead?? I do not want to tell you the thoughts going through my head just thinking about having to watch the reactions of the rescuers had they finally got it down and found a tragedy inside. Once it safely touched down and he wasn't in it, then of course all I could think of was this poor boy having fallen out of the sky and how we were going to be subjected to some moron with a video camera who just "happened" to catch it as it was happening live. I do believe it's a hoax based on the evidence I've been seeing and reading about, but that is neither here nor there. This media bs is out of control and their sensationalism of other people's tragedies is really getting on my last nerve.

Thanks for letting me rant!!

Erika (aka "e") said...

Lisa -

I felt the exact same way after I read that the balloon landed and the kid wasn't in it... I seriously was just sick to my stomach thinking that the other compartment had fallen off and he was in it, and that yes, somehow all of that would've been captured on video as well. I'm really so horrified by this whole thing, I just can't get over it!

- e

Jeremy F said...

i think it was some sort of viral marketing for where the wild things are. think about it, guy yells at his kid, kid goes and hides to

Erika (aka "e") said...

Jeremy - Yeah, I heard that yesterday too, as well as a lot of admittedly hilarious Kanye-isms applied to the situation: "Yo Balloon Boy, I'm happy for you and I'mma let you finish, but Carl from UP had one of the best balloon rides of ALL TIME!"

At least we can all joke about it now, which is of course a good thing.

- e

Sean said...


I was planning on writing a post on my blog today about this whole situation and how utterly ridiculous it was. And you've said virtually everything I wanted to say, so instead, I'm posting a link directing people here! :)

Great post.

Anonymous said...

omigod, Erika. The Kanye West connection was priceless. I'm guffawing at my desk.

Anonymous said...

the CNN coverage was airing in my lunchroom at work. to their credit, they emphasized several times that they were on a short time delay so they could cut the feed if anything happened not suitable for viewing. (they mentioned if it crashed, etc). they also declined to identify the child's name until the child was determined to have not been in the balloon, out of sensitivity for next of kin who may not know their loved one was the child in question. not saying their coverage was perfect (far from it) but at least there was some awareness of the "line".

Erika (aka "e") said...

Anon above -

Ah, that's actually very good to hear. I didn't watch any of the coverage myself, but did know that it was on several channels all over the world and had not heard any mention of a time delay.

In the rare times I do choose to turn on the TV for something other than one of "my shows," like after the Hudson plane crash when they already knew everyone was safe, I do always choose CNN because I feel that they're the least exploitative of the American news options. And because I'm always hoping to get a glimpse of Anderson Cooper.

- e

The_Other_Other said...

I posted this on your facebook too. The kid blew the story, saying that they were dong this as a hoax. 30 to 40 seconds.

Scott said...

I agree with everything you said, but to another point, that t-shirt is awesome. Why can't I ever think of something like that?

KimS said...


So true! The 24 hour newsstations are so obsessed with being the first to show us the best shot, that they ignore the potentially damaging images they risk showing. And then free TV doesn't want to be left out, so they jump in too. Here in NY we don't have many police chases, but you see tape all the time of horrendous crashes being shown live on the news on the West Coast.

I guess it's the rubbernecking syndrome. Just makes me shudder and flip over to Bravo!

And then it gets even worse if it wa a hoax - a family manipulating everyone with compassion and fear for a child in danger. It's disgusting...

Unknown said...

I completely agree with you about the news, and I very rarely watch it either. One time I was visiting my sis-in-law in Iowa (I'm from Chicago, where death is a daily part of the news) and the news out there was showing a car accident where a mother and two young kids died, and the lady was reporting from the scene of the accident since it was a pretty big deal for something that tragic to happen in that area. They were showing clips of the scene; skid marks, broken glass, etc. One of the clips was of a child's teddy bear. It made me so mad. They were totally trying to play off of our emotions and it was in such poor taste. What if the dad was watching? The grandparents? Let's just add a little lemon juice to that cut, shall we? Pisses me right off.

Wanders said...

e -

This post was awesome, even if I am getting to it after this story has blown away on the winds of fickle fame. I cannot stand broadcast news. So I'll just keep reading your blog for all the information that matters.

Anonymous said...

Well I agree but I contemplate the post should secure more info then it has.

Wanders said...

Off season According to e is always a great read... Not that you haven't been busy with Redbox and all the fun LOST contests... but I am missing the World According to e.