Image Source: CBS
I have a confession to make: I've got a half-finished blog about a religious litmus test that I not only have been writing for a while but have been thinking about for a ridiculous amount of time, mulling over the concept and letting the thoughts and ideas percolate in the back of my mind for weeks. To some extent, the writing process should be organic--I'm a firm believer in outlines and knowing what I'm writing, but certainly it's exciting to find that the subject matter is boldly heading into a different direction than what you originally expected. It is for that reason that my religious litmus test blog will remain unfinished for the time being.
I assure you, however, that it will be VERY engaging upon its completion.
Staying true to this new plan for Horbawrong Mondays and Wednesdays, I'm going to employ a new writing/brainstorming technique. It will give me the opportunity to stretch my creative imagination and assert some moral and ethical perspectives, while at the same time provide regular, topical content for the aforementioned days.
My task, I have decided, is to pick a headline out of Google News (likely the first one I see) and write about it. One goal, obviously, will be to "stay creative" and present an argument that perhaps has not been considered.
Read all about this first entry after the break.
To kick things off, the first thing I glimpsed on Google News this evening (as I'm writing this, it's 9:40, Sunday evening) was a story about balloon boy. If you are unaware of this national story by now, it might be a good idea to avoid reading any further. Not because my words will not make any sense--I'm sure they will--but because you clearly reside somewhere dark and murky, underneath an assuredly enormous rock.
Balloon boy, in the spirit of simplicity, became a national story this past week because the 6-year old lad had allegedly climbed into his father's large weather balloon before it was released into the sky. After the story broke, the coverage stayed live until the balloon found its way back to the earth, whereupon it was finally discovered that the boy was never in the balloon in the first place.
Leno joked that shortly afterwards, he was discovered trapped in a well.
Now, of course, it's being publicized that the whole affair may have actually been a publicity stunt relating to this particular family's reality TV's past or current aspirations.
I'm sure these details have managed to illicit a range of emotions, mostly being negative, about how horrible it is that the media were manipulated, children were unfairly taken advantage of, and the general public was subjugated to lies and misinformation.
I find myself thinking: "Good for them!" And by "them", I of course refer to the people who executed the stunt in the first place.
Brilliant. Just brilliant.
Our entertainment (read: broadcast news) is suffering an unfortunate lull. There haven't been any major celebrity deaths to report on and the swine flu craze seems to have been recognized for what it really was, the chant in Washington is concisely that Obama isn't really doing much of anything at all--good OR bad--and aside from fires and floods in California, there's apparently not too much happening in the world today.
That is, of course, until the Heene's from Colorado made their move. Regardless of their motives or whether it was a planned stunt or not, Balloon Boy has shined a bright light into some dark shadows of American media.
I don't know about you, but when I first heard this story, my reaction was simply that it didn't make sense. In fact, my guess is that many people had this reaction. It was a helium-filled weather balloon, for crying out loud. Even the most simple-minded of people recognize that just because a little boy is depicted as getting carried away by a gaggle of helium-filled balloons at a local park in some odd-ball cartoon, they realize that this can't really happen.
As a matter of fact, I recall a Mythbusters episode addressing this specific idea.
And, to further the point, days after controversy unfolds, this brief article is published on CNN's website dispels the notion that the 37-pound 6-year old was even remotely possible of being carried any kind of distance by the balloon in question.
It simply was not possible.
My friends, it all boils down to two things. Well, three, technically.
Suspension of disbelief, shock, and awe.
The Heene's (or whomever orchestrated the stunt) knew that our media cares little about factual news reporting and instead trades solely in shock and awe. If a story does neither of those things, frankly, it's just not a story worth reporting. The bigger the shock and awe factor, however, the bigger the story.
The problem with the Heene's story is that it's simply too unbelievable.
And that's how they managed not only to manipulate the media, but America as well. Suspension of disbelief. They knew there was going to be a mountain of disbelief, but if you don't give people time to think, only to react, you've got your story.
Remember the details as it started coming out:
A weather balloon was released in the air.
A child is missing.
The child MAY HAVE entered the balloon before it was launched.
Smash cut to the live feed and start counting your demographics.
No time to think translates into suspension of disbelief. The American audience demanding shock and awe in their news reporting translates into suspension of disbelief. The news reporting agencies, needing to capture as much audience as possible, is only too happy to oblige.
And that's how the Heene's manipulated America. Balloon Boy was IT last week, and because of the slow news cycle, probably will stay it for the next several days. They wanted their fifteen minutes and they got twenty. They knew the system and knew how to play it.
Good for them.