Press "Enter" to skip to content

Balloon-boy blunder a betrayal

Publicity.
It’s funny how people who have it want to avoid it and people who don’t have it will do anything to get it. Take for instance a family in Colorado that performed a hoax involving its child all to get in the public eye.
In case anyone has been living under a rock these past few weeks, the Heene family pulled the above-mentioned stunt. On Oct. 15 they claimed their six-year-old son had accidently gotten caught in a huge balloon contraption that was floating high in the air. Sound ridiculous? It was.
But of course, there was a public outcry to get the little boy down safely. Police officers came, people gave up their time to help them and even the National Guard was called to get this kid down. Planes were rerouted, experts were called in and people’s lives were disrupted.
The story stirred up a lot of emotion from the public. People feared for the boy’s safety, wondered what must be going through his head, if he would even be alive if they managed to get the balloon down and of course were worried for his poor terrified parents. Emotions were stirred even more when the balloon finally came down … without the boy inside.
The truth of the matter was the boy was never inside the balloon – he was hiding in the family’s attic the entire time. The whole thing was a publicity stunt fabricated by the media-hungry parents.
And while it was sad that there were viewers who fell for their stunt, it was even sadder that these parents had used their child in order to gain publicity.
When Larry King asked the little boy why he hadn’t left the attic, he said it was “all for the show.”
News is not a show. People expect to hear about important events going on around the world. The fact that two people are so unfulfilled with their lives they use their child to make the world notice them is just sad and a waste of time.
I honestly wonder if they stopped to think of the ramifications. Did they think they would pull this off and everyone would laugh and give them high fives and a reality show while they were at it? 
Did I mention they were outed by the kid? If they were going to do it right they could at least train the kid to not say he’d been hiding in the attic. They couldn’t come up with a fake story for him to tell?
Anyone who has spent time with small children knows that typically they do not lie. It’s part of their innocence, they don’t know what they’re saying is incriminating. He didn’t know that what his family was doing was wrong.
The Heenes could face up to six years in prison and fines up to $500,000 for charges of conspiracy, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, false reporting to authorities and attempting to influence a public servant.
In my opinion these fines should include the time and money spent by police organizations, since without this hoax they could have been out solving and preventing real crimes.
You have to wonder if this incident could result in a boy-who-cried-wolf effect. If anything should ever truly happen to the Heenes there will always be doubt in everyone’s mind as to whether anything has happened or if this is just another crazy publicity stunt.
Annabelle Vang is a junior journalism major from Pekin. She is the Scout news editor.
Direct questions, comments and other responses to avang@mail.bradley.edu. 
Copyright © 2018 The Scout, Bradley University. All rights reserved.