In Defense of the 'Balloon Boy' Dad

Please DO NOT miss Frank Rich's column in today's New York Times, one of his wisest and most insightful ever into the warped perspectives of the news media and those of us who consume what it dishes out. A key setup graf:

Certainly the “balloon boy” incident is a reflection of our time — much as the radio-induced “War of the Worlds” panic dramatized America’s jitters on the eve of World War II, or the national preoccupation with the now-forgotten Congressman Gary Condit signaled America’s pre-9/11 drift into escapism and complacency in the summer of 2001. But to see what “balloon boy” says about 2009, you have to look past the sentimental moral absolutes. You have to muster some sympathy for the devil of the piece, the Bad Dad. And you can’t grant blanket absolution to those in the American audience who smugly blame Heene and television exclusively for the entire embarrassing episode.

Read the whole thing.

Photo: Richard Heene (L) reacts as he holds his son Falcon Heene outside their house in Fort Collins, Colorado.— Photo from Reuters/File

Polanski. Good work from the Los Angeles Times' Joe Mozingo on how a rape got watered down to sex with a minor.

How influential is FOX news? My Boston University journalism colleague Chris Daly puts this in some perspective. The answer: FOX has a small part of the market. But that doesn't stop everyone on both the left and right from pretending that it has great clout. Could that be a convenient fiction for both sides? Especially Democrats who need excuses for not doing what they were elected to do?

The coverup continues. Of Bush administration abuses of power, but this time it's the Obama administration carrying it out. The New York Times pens a particularly good editorial on the subject.

Insurers poised to reap benefits from healthcare overhaul. So says the Los Angeles Times. Read it and weep.

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Anne Gilbert said…
I'm glad someone has injected some sensible thinking into this whole "balloon boy" episode. It's really sad, and not just because it was a hoax. My heart goes out to the family, in a way, but especially to the children. It must be hell, living like that.
Anne G
jqb said…
It's ridiculous to think that FOX's influence is measured solely by its number of viewers -- talk about pretending and fiction! Here is some far more sensible analysis by Media Matters' Eric Burns:
jqb said…
Here's another Media Matters piece on Fox News:

As it notes,

"... And of course, Tapper is ignoring that the attacks of Fox's triumvirate dictate his own network's -- and the rest of the media's -- agenda as well. Is there any doubt that Glenn Beck's war on ACORN -- he's reportedly mentioned ACORN 1,224 times (versus 50 mentions of Al Qaeda) since his Fox News show started -- is the primary reason his network and other media are still talking about the organization? ..."

The claim that Fox News is insignificant is at great odds with the reality of the American political arena.
Michael Balter said…
Burns makes many good points, but I think his analysis is still very consistent with the idea that both the new media and the liberal/left side of the spectrum are too obsessed with Fox, with the result that its influence gets pumped up even more than it deserves based on its own efforts. It is easier for even well-intentioned people to spend lots of time moaning about Fox, the Christian right, etc etc than to really get out in the streets and organize for what people need. The health care reform struggle is a good example of this: The right, with its tea parties and its Fox bullhorn, has out-organized the left on this issue, making Obama even more timid on the "public option" than he was starting out. Too much focus on what the right is doing, not enough focus on what the left should be doing--it's an old story!
Michael Balter said…
I meant news media, not new media, although that is true too.
jqb said…
It's also easy for well-intentioned people to moan about what other well-intentioned people supposedly aren't doing.