5 Meanings of Balloon Boy

What does the balloon boy story really represent? If you believe these commentators, everything.

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As it turns out, 6-year-old Falcon Heene was never aboard the out-of-control helium balloon that dominated the attention of the American media on Thursday. He was, in-fact, hiding at home the entire time. Yet the following reactions suggest his odyssey into the annals of weird American pop-culture trivia has scarcely just begun.

  • Liberals Take Their Cues from Balloon Boy Michelle Malkin tweeted the following, sly balloon-boy reference in an attempt to puncture liberals legislative health care hopes: "Speaking of manipulative transportat'n devices, keep eye on Dems' hot air-powered healthcare vehicle!"
  • Balloon Boy Is Out To Get Rush Limbaugh Too  The ever-prudent Newsbusters saw the media coverage of Balloon Boy as another example of Rush Limbaugh being slighted. As Julia A. Seymour wrote: "The bogus Limbaugh quotes were not a priority for the networks which were happy to spend 100 times more coverage on the possible balloon 'hoax'....The huge disparity of coverage between the two incidents revealed the priorities of the networks."
  • Balloon Boy Is The Defining Symbol Of Our Times  Salon's Mary Elizabeth Williams connected the dots between Meghan McCain, Jon & Kate Plus 8, The OC, the musical Chicago, Paris Hilton, Facebook and various other pop-cultural icons. The story, she said, "represented a moment not just when one little boy had a moment of fame, but the rest of the world raced to jump into his briefly shining spotlight. Because we want to. Because we need to. And the thing about getting drunk on attention is that it’s often enough to make you throw up."
  • Balloon Boy Is The End of Activism  Foreign Policy's Evgeny Morozov was extremely disturbed by all the Tweeters out there who re-tweeted variations on the following crude joke that made light of Balloon Boy, the Kanye West/Taylor Swift controversy, and Anne Frank:"Yo Balloon Boy, I'm real happy for you, and imma let you finish, but Anne Frank had the best attic-hiding spot of all time!" As he wrote: "Well, if a tasteless joke about one of the most dramatic symbols of the Holocaust becomes the most popular topic on Twitter, there is something fundamentally wrong with the taste and norms of that community. This cynicism is not going to have any positive impact on the nature of civic engagement in the age that is heavily mediated by Twitter and Facebook."
  • Balloon Boy Was Magical, When We Still Believed In Him  Chicago Tribune commentator John Kass took the position that the brief moments of national fixation on the floating balloon represented the best America had to offer: "I don't know what you were thinking, but if you were a boy once, a certain kind of boy given to books about boys building flying ships at home out of spare parts and egg-beaters and stuff in the garage, a boy who knew the names of all the American astronauts, you could picture yourself in that soaring portabello mushroom."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.