Look, an air-balloon hoax

Media stunt highlights shallow national horizon.

We can all rest safely, now. The boy was just hiding in the attic. That thing that dropped out of the balloon wasnâÄôt him after all! Thank God. If you happened to miss this episode of national melodrama: as of yesterday afternoon some six-year old boy may or may not have been floating to his death above (cue mountain peaks pan shot and eagle noise) the Colorado ground in a helium airship. Yep, a six-year old floating to his death in front of a national audience. Advantage mainstream media critics. Falcon Heene, our young âÄúUpâÄù adventurer, captured every light of the national stage. First DenverâÄôs Channel 9 picked the story up. Then cable news shifted into frantic. The Larimer County family had you tuned into their testy YouTube music video before you’d even heard the family did âÄúWife Swap.âÄù When the puffy disc had hit the ground by late afternoon, the boy wasnâÄôt in it. The far-flung tale turns out to have been a well-orchestrated publicity stunt. The newsiest popular news turned out not to be news at all. Perhaps the unemployment figures were too bleak, or health care had become sickening. Or perhaps humans naturally like to be part of a common saga unfolding. To be a part of a larger organism is certainly a beneficial impulse: governments are founded on it. And while it is good to be part of a larger organism, it is not much good to have an organism so large one is no longer a significant part; a mere gasping spectator in the intangible and innocuous distance. When too many lose reach, things get out of hand. CNNâÄôs Wolf Blizter captured the moment of truth, âÄúwhy didn’t you come out?âÄù his father asked. The boy replied, âÄúYou had said âĦ [pause] âĦ that we did this for a show.âÄù The national network of communication became quickly, completely, and worse, predictably, hijacked by a patchwork Mylar ploy. And we all watched it play out in stimulated stupor. So as we recover from the wreckage, and it becomes clear just how shallow our national focus can be, one question remains: is society floating to its death, or are we just hiding?