Not Exactly the Mercury Theatre on the AirBy
At least the damage was minimal, Frank Rich suggests in this morningâ€™s New York Times. Itâ€™s not as if the â€œballoon boyâ€ fraud led the country into invading a sovereign country in search of nonexistent WMDs, or into investing in dot-coms with no business plans, or into buying oversized homes with no-income no-asset loans.
But â€œballoon boyâ€ is this generationâ€™s â€œWar of the Worldsâ€ hoax, Rich believes, â€œthe inevitable product of this reigning culture, where â€˜news,â€™ â€˜realityâ€™ television and reality itself are hopelessly scrambledâ€ — a culture in which media snake oil salesmen are as likely to be suckered as their audiences, if not more so.
As â€œballoon boyâ€ played out, the White House opened fire on one purveyor of fictional news, Fox News, where â€œtea partyâ€ protests are inflated into a national rebellion rivaling the Civil War and where Glenn Beck routinely claims Obama is perpetrating a conspiracy to bring fascism to America. But the White Houseâ€™s argument is diluted by the different, if less malevolently partisan, fictions that turn up on Foxâ€™s competitors. On CNN, for instance, Lou Dobbs provided a platform for the nuts questioning Obamaâ€™s citizenship. When an ABC News correspondent insisted that Fox was â€œone of our sister organizationsâ€ in an exchange with the presidentâ€™s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, last week, he wasnâ€™t joking.
Not that anyone around him would have gotten it if he were.