Acting!
November 2, 2009 6:35 PM   Subscribe

Slate goes meta on Balloon Boy. Some good questions here about the accuracy of law enforcement in determining veracity.
posted by Jimmy Havok (30 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Emotional forensics? I prefer physics: Why Balloon Boy Never Could Have Been [mefi projects link]
posted by mjg123 at 6:48 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Why couldn't we tell that the balloon boy's parents were faking their distress?"

Umm, it's called acting.

People will pay good money to watch people fake their emotional responses to things that aren't actually true. Because, you know, some people can fake it so well that other people will believe them.

Next question.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 7:15 PM on November 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


What do you mean "we"? I don't know anyone - not friends, not the slowest members of my family, not co-workers, not people standing next to me at the sandwich counter that day, who bought this for one second.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:24 PM on November 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


We now know, of course, that Richard and Mayumi Heene were merely credible actors who duped the networks and the sheriff.

Wait, really? I thought it was fairly common knowledge that the sheriff duped the Heenes, gained their trust by pretending to not be investigating them, and then swung the trap shut.

The only people who blindly accepted their story was the media, and we all know why the media took the story as truth: they no longer have a journalistic bone in their collective bodies it was a good story.
posted by graventy at 7:25 PM on November 2, 2009 [9 favorites]


How many times have you seen real people moved by their real kid disappearing in some real circumstances?

How many times have you seen second-rate actors acting moved by their fictional kid disappearing in a Lifetime movie?

We're conditioned by crap "based on a true story" dramas. A crappy acting family on TV will probably ring more convincing than if it were true.

Also, policemen aren't trained to detect fake distress, they are trained to act on distress, and if it's fake, bummer. The last thing you want is your boy really flying away on a balloon and a cop looking at you and evaluating if your reactions ring true or not. What would be the reaction if there really was a kid on the balloon, and the cop said "yeah... the family told us that... but it didn't quite ring true, so we told them to take a hike."
posted by qvantamon at 7:26 PM on November 2, 2009 [8 favorites]


then swung the trap shut.

...by giving Falcon Heene Ipecac before his TV appearance...

The timeline I recall had LEOs completely hornswoggled until Falcon broke down.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 7:31 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


That could be, I've avoided the story as much as possible since Launch Day.

Still, I'm not completely sure I see the police taking a parent's statement at face value until holes appear is a bad thing.
posted by graventy at 7:35 PM on November 2, 2009


We already went meta on balloon boy, and that thread is still open.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 7:38 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


The article points out that LEOs don't necessarily take statements at face value. The recent execution of Cameron Todd Willingham in Texas is specifically referenced.

Taking statements at face value while a child appears to be in danger is justifiable. Executing someone because you don't think they are distraught enough is not.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 7:42 PM on November 2, 2009


Why couldn't we tell that the balloon boy's parents were faking their distress?

Because in the current PC ADHD aspergers chronic fatigue syndrome victim culture everyone's a got a disease and no one's allowed to challenge the obvious anymore.
posted by HTuttle at 7:42 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Still, I'm not completely sure I see the police taking a parent's statement at face value until holes appear is a bad thing.

Imagine having a job where you make even the smallest emotional investment into what someone tells you as true. Then you find out that what you were told was BS.

What would that do over time?

Cops don't trust what people say most of the time because, well, they get lied to. And, when they do make a mistake they have the fall back of 'that is why the DA and courts exist'.
posted by rough ashlar at 7:43 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Speaking of the media, watch this CNN clip (which I gather is from a Graceless Nancy Grace segment). Who is that guy, and why is he on television?
posted by davebush at 7:45 PM on November 2, 2009


What do you mean "we"? I don't know anyone - not friends, not the slowest members of my family, not co-workers, not people standing next to me at the sandwich counter that day, who bought this for one second.

Well, check the MeFi thread, plenty of people here bought it.
posted by wildcrdj at 7:49 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


(and plenty of others were skeptical, of course)
posted by wildcrdj at 7:49 PM on November 2, 2009




also Booger Soup (unpleasant)
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:07 PM on November 2, 2009


Wait, really? I thought it was fairly common knowledge that the sheriff duped the Heenes, gained their trust by pretending to not be investigating them, and then swung the trap shut.

It was the classic double-dupe. Or as the French call it, "le deuxp".
posted by cortex at 8:57 PM on November 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Which translates as "The Duplex."
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:08 PM on November 2, 2009


I'm still holding out hope that Falcon Heene grows to maturity more or less unscathed by all of this and ends up getting to tell us his version of what really happened; not just the STUPID day in question, but his whole no doubt convoluted childhood.
posted by philip-random at 11:17 PM on November 2, 2009


I've had enough of this Heene idiot, but wow, I was sucked into the article linked in the first few paragraphs about Cameron Todd Willingham

Apparently I missed it when it was an FPP
posted by I, Slobot at 12:01 AM on November 3, 2009


Richard Heene's own website now contains nothing but a link to Larimer Corruption Report: "We are a group dedicated to exposing the corruption, criminality and clear abuses of power by those in the justice system of Larimer County Colorado." Hm.
posted by FrauMaschine at 12:18 AM on November 3, 2009


I prefer physics: Why Balloon Boy Never Could Have Been

Amusingly, the Discovery Channel is re-running the "Balloon child" episode of MYTHBUSTERS this Wednesday, and the network's been strongly hinting in its ads that it's picked it BECAUSE of the "Balloon Boy" furor.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:53 AM on November 3, 2009


I was hip deep in a swamp this entire weekend hunting ducks and missed the entire story so I've got no horse in this race but is Falcon Heene not the most bad ass name of all time? How do you not end up a superhero with a name like that?
posted by spicynuts at 6:53 AM on November 3, 2009


Sure the sheriff may have bought the Heene's story, but whether he did or didn't, they still had to investigate.

My concern is that apparently law enforcement in Colorado isn't skeptical enough to put aside their feelings about the subjects, and to do a thorough search of the house an nearby environs. Really? They didn't check the attic? They had enough folks that they could do two simultaneous investigations.

1. Assume the kid is in the balloon and do what it takes to bring it down safely.

2. Search the hell out of the house to insure that the kid isn't hiding somewhere.

You can't help but think of Jon-Benet Ramsey, and again, Colorado law-enforcement's horrible efforts to secure the house, and to search it properly.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:59 AM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Has Ekman ever made his magic face observations based on footage where he doesn't know all the lies in advance?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:05 AM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was hip deep in a swamp this entire weekend hunting ducks and missed the entire story so I've got no horse in this race but is Falcon Heene not the most bad ass name of all time? How do you not end up a superhero with a name like that?

Well, see, this whole Balloon Boy kerfuffle is the tipping incident in the lad's life. Before this, he was a young boy struggling against a culture which aims to pussify him. But now, with the loss of his dad, he realizes that he was born for more, oh so much more, and he begins his own experiments with human flight. After about 15 years of dedicated study of both the physical sciences and perhaps some time spent in a dojo, he will suddenly return to Colorado, and will begin fighting the endemic corruption which is running rampant in the state, vigilante style.

We have witnessed his creation myth.
posted by hippybear at 8:33 AM on November 3, 2009


Icarus being so named because he icked up on Daedalus during an interview at the ampitheatre.
posted by cortex at 8:38 AM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


This was a failure of what we'll call emotional forensics: the process of determining whether someone's reaction to a crisis is genuine.
Emotional Forensics!? It's good this guy could come up with a scientific sounding term for people pretending that they're psychic, which is all this is. There may be some people who claim they can do things like that, and maybe they have some accuracy. But the fact is there is no scientific basis for this. I mean obviously there are people who are bad actors, but when you try to "tell" if people are behaving "as expected" during a traumatic event all you're really doing is comparing their reactions to stuff you've seen in movies, since that's mostly the only reference we could have.
It's not just an academic question. As The New Yorker's David Grann recounted in his recent examination of Cameron Todd Willingham, the man executed in Texas for an arson he almost certainly didn't commit, Willingham's reaction at the scene of the fire was alternately presented as evidence for and against him.
It's kind of surprising that he would bring up Cameron Todd Willingham, since that's one of the most obvious failures of this kind of thinking. But he's actually using to advocate a fake "field" that's as bogus as the arson forensics used in the case, if not more-so.
posted by delmoi at 1:26 PM on November 3, 2009


Hmm, well actually the story is actually more arguing against it. But still, the idea that there is a "field" or "emotional forensics" is pretty absurd. I mean there are some people that are pretty terrible actors, or whatever.
posted by delmoi at 1:28 PM on November 3, 2009


@Lentrohamsanin: my thoughts exactly. Easy enough to see a tell when you already know someone is lying. All you have to do is decide which particular slight movement you want to call a tell. "Heh...there, did you see that? He twitched his eyebrow. Obvious enough when you know what to look for."
posted by Jimmy Havok at 3:34 PM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


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