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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Boys, Balloons, Toyotas and Cable News

I'm ashamed I didn't write about this earlier. While the cable and network TV world swallowed and repeated endlessly the claim by the Toyota driver who claimed he was racing out of control down a California highway. Being naturally suspicious of almost everything lately and having a well developed reputation as a crank, I mostly sat on my suspicion that this could have been a hoax. I had NO evidence to base this on, but the news networks (all of them), smelling blood, scandal and ratings, reported each and every word with shock and sympathy. This came right on the heels of weeks of the most publicized automotive recall in history. I was struck by the similarity of this account and the testimony before congress by the Tennessee woman who calmly and articulately told her Toyota acceleration nightmare. I have no idea the true facts of that incident either. The fact that it happened some years earlier gives it some credence, but no one knows the true facts of that case either, only 1st hand account as given. We should know by now that even camera friendly, well spoken people don't always tell the truth, but in today's environment of instant "information" and real time reporting even people who should know better jump to instant conclusions that feed into their preconceived beliefs.

My only claim to skepticism in this circus amounts to a single Tweet on March 9th asking if anyone else thought this might be a hoax. My few short searches turned up nothing and I certainly saw no hint of skepticism in the electronic media. If it was there it was buried in the shock and horror over what this person and by implication you must have been going through. Here's what I have picked up just this afternoon.

  1. The driver is deeply in debt ($800,000).
  2. He has a history of filing insurance claims.
  3. His story was full of contradictions. He claimed he couldn't reach the gear shift (which is on the steering column), but tried to pull up on the accelerator (which is on the floor).

There's more, but you (should) get the idea. I wonder if any lessons will be learned or remember from this. I know what my lesson will be. Use every bit of intelligence God gave you, but stick with your gut. It is far more adept at sorting out truth from fiction than your intellect. The next time you hear about a flying saucer shaped balloon with a six year old in it as yourself. "How likely is that?"

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Anonymous said...

This story deserves an update now that our gov't is bringing in NASA to figure it out! :)

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