I must confess to being totally captivated by yesterday’s ‘Balloon Boy’ drama, and sat glued to my television until the mischievous boy was found sitting in a box in his attic. Yes, there were more important things going on in the world (the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, corruption on Wall St, the economy, jobs, the health care debate, global warming, global hunger, suicide bombings in Pakistan, Swine Flu…etc), but at that moment, nothing seemed more important than stopping that 6 year old boy from accidentally leaving the atmosphere.
The human drama was simply too much to bear, and I literally couldn’t turn away. I imagined what it must have been like, aged 6, to be trapped in an air balloon thousands of feet above earth, and have absolutely no control over anything. I would have been terrified beyond belief, I couldn’t even imagine what my parents would be going through.
The drama was so gripping because it was so relevant to our deepest fears — the fear of losing a loved one, the absolute helplessness to protect a small child, and the nail biting wait for an unknown ending. It was every parent’s worst nightmare, and in a way, everyone’s nightmare. ‘The Boy Who Flew Away’ could easily be the title of a scary children’s book, the type that would give impressionable kids nightmares and one used by parents to instill fear not to do silly things (like getting into a homemade hot air balloon).
And for every parent and every person still aware of what it was like to be a child, the unfolding story was a surreal, yet very real nightmare.
Arianna Huffington eviscerated MSNBC’s Ed Shultz for his network’s wall to wall coverage of the story, and was probably rightly so. They ignored countless other stories during the day, and should have behaved like a real news station by featuring updates rather than live coverage.
Yet somehow, I found myself disagreeing with Arianna. And I’m still not completely sure why.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.