A little sympathy for the Balloon Boy dad, please. Yes, he "grotesquely" put his kids through hell, but he’s also a fitting emblem—and the “inevitable product”—of our time, writes Frank Rich. Richard Heene gave us a fake spectacle that reflects our era much as “War of the Worlds” did on the eve of WWII. It's not his fault we live in an age in which “news, reality television and reality itself are hopelessly scrambled, and the warp-speed imperatives of cable-Internet competition allow no time for fact checking.”
It's easy to see how Heene got seduced by this environment, writes Rich in the New York Times. He's an under-employed handyman who tried to make a buck in one of the "last dependable job engines"—the circus of reality TV. When compared with other hoaxes hyped by the media and bought by an eager public—the dot-com bust, Saddam's WMDs, the banking bubble—this one is benign. "The ultimate joke is that Heene, unlike the reckless gamblers at the top of Citigroup and AIG, may be the one with a serious shot at ending up behind bars."