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Punishing the Balloon Boy hoax
How should authorities deal with Richard Heene and his family for wasting our time and money?

“Karma’s a bunch of hooey,” but I can see the appeal when it comes to the balloon boy hoax, said Jack Loftus in Gizmodo. Larimer County, Colo., Sheriff Jim Alderden says he will seek criminal charges against Richard Heene, “the arrogant, self-centered con artist” behind the phony runaway balloon drama. But whatever the punishment, that jerk had better pay back “every cent he owes the authorities after they chased down that now infamous—and empty—Mylar balloon.”

There’s talk of a $500,000 fine, but “good luck collecting that,” said Melinda Henneberger in Politics Daily. Anyway, law enforcement has already “wasted an ocean of adrenaline,” time, and resources on these “looney parents,” so “I’m not so sure about throwing away more money on prosecution or incarceration.” Worse yet, punishing Richard Heene would only further “traumatize the poor kid,” Falcon, he used in his hoax.

The Heenes are hardly alone in the traumatizing kids department, said Scott Collins and Nicholas Riccardi in the Los Angeles Times. Richard and Mayumi Heene allegedly staged the balloon saga as “a publicity stunt to score a reality television show,” but they’re only following in the footsteps of “Octomom” Nadya Suleman and Jon and Kate Gosselin. Small wonder Sheriff Alderden said "some entertainment media might have been complicit" in the balloon boy hoax.

So the Heenes were so desperate for "the limelight" of reality TV, said USA Today in an editorial, that they “felt no compunction in involving Falcon and his brothers.” That’s a “sad commentary” on our fame-obsessed culture. But “hopefully, a different kind of reality show will play out” in criminal court now. If so, the Heenes may help us see that “abandoning adult behavior to the god of Being On TV” can have “serious consequences.”

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