Dear Solitary Reader,
So I’m just on the ol’Interweb surfin’ for news and I see that the Heene family, born under an ill star as they were, have suffered another blow to their hopes of becoming a reality TV mainstay. Balloon Dad gets 90 days in jail, Balloon Mom gets 20 days in jail and the Balloon Children… well they are sentenced to the rest of their life with the Balloon Parents so they’re being punished enough.
While the father is obviously a colossal douchebag, and the mother appears to be a mail order bride, this whole sequence of events could not have transpired without one thing: the media.
There is something in all of us that cannot help but look at the bad things. Homer made us laugh at ourselves when he summed up our general reaction by saying “It’s funny because it didn’t happen to me.” It even has a name of sorts: bad car accident syndrome. When you see something bad happen you want to keep watching to see how it turns out; and if anyone’s dead, so you can be thankful its not you.
The media has glommed on to this fact and are attempting to spoon feed us badness in all its forms on their 24/7 news channels. Every time a tornado in the Gulf of Mexico gets downgraded to a tropical storm you can see the disappointment on the face of every reporter at a CNN desk. Every time the US government releases some stat saying that the economy isn’t doing so well that same reporter lights up like a Christmas tree.
H1N1 was a hot topic for a while, but people weren’t dying as frequently as they should have been so there was a couple of slow news casts there for a while until they were lucky enough that Tiger let the cat out of the bag (and oh so much else!) and the sharks had some new chum to feed on. News corporations can’t legally make up news (that’s not saying they don’t) but they can take a story and report on it so often and from so many angles that it seems a lot more important than it actually is.
In the case of the Heene family, one can’t help but sense an undercurrent of satisfaction in the media that jail time was part of the final result. They seem to point their fingers at Papa Douche Heene and say: ”Look at this man. Look at what he has done to his children in his search for fame!”
But within hours of that first call going out saying that a kid was trapped in a balloon and about ready to plummet to his death the media were there; the boy in the sky was the chum and the sharks were circling below. You can bet at least one reporter on the scene thought something along the lines of: “This will be such a great story if that kid dies!” He or she may have felt bad about having that thought, or maybe not.
While there will always be idiots in every avenue of life, the media provides a venue for them to be idiots on a world stage; and because they’re idiots they don’t know what’s happening to them.
TV/movies equals easy fame; fame sometimes equals riches (at sometimes too high of a price, rest in peace virginal Lindsay Lohan); people with no marketable life skills often use it as a transportation module to make a quick cash grab. The media builds them up up up and then eventually these pariahs of our culture are brought low.
It’s one of the reasons why most of my favourite TV heroes are either muppets or cartoons: He-Man doesn’t sleep around, Astroboy doesn’t do drugs and no one cares about the world of finance in the village of the Smurfs (with the possible exception of Gargamel because I’m pretty sure he’s trying to make all that gold because he lost his retirement savings by investing with AIC).