THE PLANK OCTOBER 25, 2009
Frank Rich, today:
It would also be nice to think that the “balloon boy” viewers were the innocent victims of a dazzling Houdini-class feat of wizardry — a “massive fraud,” as Bill O’Reilly thundered. But even slightly jaundiced onlookers might have questioned how a balloon could waft buoyantly through the skies for hours with a 6-year-old boy hidden within its contours. That so few did is an indication of how practiced we are at suspending disbelief when watching anything labeled news, whether the subject is W.M.D.’s in Iraq or celebrity gossip in Hollywood.
Really? Maybe the reason that so few of us questioned the balloon's "waft" was that no one knows anything about balloons. As for Rich's last comment about Hollywood gossip, well, he can speak for himself. I suppose when your beat consists of drawing overly broad generalizations between pop culture and politics this tendency becomes more pronounced. Meanwhile, here is the last paragraph of Rich's column:
If Heene’s balloon was empty, so were the toxic financial instruments, inflated by the thin air of unsupported debt, that cratered the economy he inhabits. The press hyped both scams, and the public eagerly bought both. But between the bogus balloon and the banks’ bubble, there’s no contest as to which did the most damage to the country.
The problem here, again, is that Rich is comparing two things that should not be compared. I can glibly say that "Just as numerous Americans were fooled by the few hyped instances of shark attacks into staying out of the water in the summer of 2001, so were many Americans fooled by Bill Clinton's initial comments on Monica Lewinsky." The problem is that such a comparison is completely inane and worthless. Rich should stop looking for patterns where none exist. If only his columns were not required to demarcate the supposed intersection between American cultural life and America political life...