The Balloon Boy and Party Crasher episodes tell us something about the media, consumers of media, and the same base urges in human beings that create rubbernecker slowdowns when there's a juicy wreck on the other side of the Interstate.
"Give them bread and circuses," one Roman emperor prescribed for keeping a deprived citizenry quiescent. Even in a lousy economy, people will always pay good money to see a five-legged calf, a bearded lady, or a peep show on the midway.
Clever folks can parlay a good gimmick into a sweet payday if they know how to play the game. At the very least, they can get the attention they crave. They know that the Larry Kings, the Good Morning Americas, and all the other media outlets (yes, even newspapers) have a symbiotic relationship with fresh, fascinating content.
How do you slap the brakes on when things get potentially dangerous, like the crasher episode? You can't stop the media...remember the First Amendment? Instead, throw the book at the perps. Prosecute, convict, and sentence. There's nothing like the prospect of a little jail time to dampen the ambitions of would-be copycats.
A big mistake, by the way, was to humiliate the Secret Service. Yes, they've taken the blame and apologized, but hell hath no fury like a federal agency that's been made a fool of.
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