Unidentified Flying Oddballs

Last week's story about the young boy, Falcon Heene, who sparked a global news frenzy and rescue attempt when it was believed that he was trapped in a home-made balloon, continues to fascinate, now that evidence is suggesting that the whole fiasco was a publicity stunt by his parents.  A few things came to mind for me as I was watching all this unfold.

1.  The mass media is continually fascinated by these types of sensational stories in which children are in danger or there's a chase.  CNN abandoned its regular programming and focused on the "breaking news" of the Lost Balloon Boy, with repetitive footage of the lighter-than-air silver craft flying through the air, with high-tech multi-media maps, and with hysterical reporting when the balloon landed without the child, sparking fear that he had fallen out during the wind-swept ride, finally culminating in a press conference where the local sheriff announced that the boy was safe and sound "hiding in a box in the family's attic."  If it turns out to be true that the entire escapade was a calculated hoax by the family, they managed to play the mass media for fools by targeting all the sensationalistic tendancies on which today's news gathering agencies thrive.

2.  With the rise in reality television shows and our society's growing worship of fame, I'm surprised that more crazy people aren't attempting stunts like this to get their fifteen-minutes-or-more of notoriety.  People want to become rich and famous celebrities without having any real talent, skill, or achievements that would merit public attention or justifiable rewards.  I fear more outlandish publicity stunts by delusional nobodies in the future.  Hopefully, the public will not feed their vanity, even if the mainstream press continue to do so.

3.  The image of the disc-shaped balloon flying through the air made me think of the UFO phenomenon that continues to grip conspiracy theorists, science fiction lovers, and average citizens alike around the world.  With more sophisticated and easy-to-use still and video cameras, as well as editing software, it is becoming easier than ever to fake a sighting of a mysterious unidentified flying object.  From satellites to weather balloons to military aircraft to natural atmospheric occurances, there are enough strange things in the sky taking place every day to make us wonder what we are seeing.  Some people try to take advantage of that curiousity by fabricating images or video clips of flying saucers or strange lights, just as they did with crop circles and Bigfoot.  Being a speculative fiction fan myself, I find some of this stuff to be fun and entertaining, but some charlatans cross the line and try to take advantage of the public's desire to believe in extraterresterial or supernatural visitations to our planet.  This, in turn, allows the government and even the media to unfairly caricaturize people as loonies who study or are interested in unexplained events like the Roswell crash or other events that still stir questions.  It enables them to disregard legitimate inquiries and actually gives fodder to those out there yearning for coverup stories and widespread, farfetched conspiracies.

We all want to believe, but at the same time we all should question what we are seeing if we really want to uncover the truth, whatever it may be.