Monday, November 19, 2012

Remembering The Balloon Boy Hoax

              Do you remember the balloon boy hoax?

don't forget the talking heads who were becoming emotional on live TV who were certain it wasn't a hoax...who 24 hours later seemed to struggle with memory...   :)  

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Does anyone remember the balloon boy hoax?  These people were the central point of what "reality TV" and the lust for fame has become in our country.  They pulled off this hoax in an attempt to make money from infamy, nothing more, and nothing less.  They are no different than an attorney who takes a high profile case in order to make money, and is willing to lie, pervert justice, and watch a guilty murderous human being walk free, just so he can exchange publicity into money.  

Some people use bad behavior to get noticed, and sadly, some find that crime pays handsomely.  

Millions of people tuned in via CNN hoping and praying the little boy would be alright.  Experts on television later took positions on whether or not the 911 call was legitimate, or if this was a hoax.  The emotional strain upon a caring American public is beyond a price tag.  

Statement Analysis gets to the truth, even if this author loses all reason when he hears a woman cry.

Below is the 911 call from a frantic mother and father trying to explain that their son has floated off in a flying saucer — one they say "emits a million volts on the outer skin" every five minutes and could electrocute their 6-year-old.  Since we already know they were lying, it still remains useful for teaching the techniques, or for some, practicing the application of detecting deception.  This husband and wife time are, like politicians, generous in donating sample for us.

Dispatcher: Ma'am, what's your name?
Mayumi Heene: My name is Mayumi Heene.
Dispatcher: Ok. And you're at the 5434 Fossil Ridge Drive Now?... And so it was an experimental plane?
MH: It's a flying saucer.
This indicates that discussion has already taken place.  The initial contact is important for analysis:  the very first words in response to "911, What is your emergency?" will put the subject into a classifiction of caller and is revelatory.  Here, we do not have it.

Dispatcher: It's a flying saucer? And that's gone too, right? Is the flying saucer gone as well?
MH: Yes, um, about 20 minutes or so
It is a yes or no question but the mother gives, instead, an answer of time

Dispatcher: They've both been missing for a bout 20 minutes?
MH: Yes. Oh my God, oh my God my son!

Yes confirms what she said.  They've both been missing for about 20 minutes.  Note that lying is stressful and it is generally avoided whenever it can be, via missing information, dropped pronouns, avoidance and so on.

Dispatcher: Hang on just one second don't hang up, ok? Ma'am, does it have any kind of a tracking device or anything on it?
MH: No, no nothing.
Dispatcher: Ok, is it electronical?
MH: Uh, you know I needed to talk with husband. ...
note that she "needed", past tense, to talk with husband, and not, "you need" to the operator, so she could gather information.  MH appears in a panic at this point and wants to bail out and let her husband take over.  People say what they mean and we should not interpret, but listen.  She tells us here that she should have talked to her husband; that she "needed" to talk to him.

Dispatcher: Ok I can't understand what you're saying ma'am. Does he know how to work the flying saucer?
MH: Yes. I think he's calling somebody.
Dispatcher: He's what?

Dispatch is a bit surprised and repeats back words that are sensitive, such as "flying saucer" and the fact that while making this horrific report, her husband is making a phone call. 

MH: He's calling somebody.

Note that "somebody" is gender neutral. 

Dispatcher: He's calling somebody?

Dispatch is surprised.

MH: Yeah.
Dispatcher: Who's calling somebody?

Dispatch is very surprised.

MH: My husband.
Dispatcher: Ok, let me talk to him.

Dispatch has had enough. 

MH: Rick! He's coming over.

Dispatcher: Hello? Hello? Ma'am, did you find him?
MH: No, we haven't found him yet.
Dispatcher: Ok, where was the saucer, was it in the backyard?
Richard Heene: Uh hello?

Remember our original analysis of 911 calls, especially in emergencies:  Any time a caller who should be frantic and zoned upon the safety of the person at risk uses a greeting, it should be flagged for deception.  Some examples of greetings in 911 calls include Adam Baker, father of Zahra Baker, and Tiffany Hartley.  People under "excited utterance" in dire need of help do not make small talk but go right for assistance for the victim.  This brings up another point:   assistance for the victim.  Some guilty callers will ask for help, but it is not for the victim; it is for themselves.  It is generally a truthful thing:  they do need help.   The exception is a person administering CPR or in the process of saving a life in which the caller needs help.  I am aware that, thus far, Zahra Baker's father has not been charged, but he had guilty knowledge when he made that 911 call, and was deceptive in other statements.  Not only did he greet the operator, but he went on to disparage Zahra, howbeit subtly, but nonetheless, guilty callers find a way to push away blame and guilt, and find a way to 'justify' their actions by blaming the victim.  Even in thefts, we find insults towards the company or the person victimized. 

Dispatcher: Is this Richard?
RH: Yes it is.

At this point, a parent of a missing child would likely jump right in.  Recall:  he wants police to think his son is flying in the air in a dangerous apparatus.  
Dispatcher: Ok how long has the 6-year-old been missing?
RH: Um, just a few minutes.

note that Mother said it was 20 minutes; but to Dad, it is just a few minutes. THis is not credible given a parent's worry and high state of adrenaline alert.  Perhaps this is what his wife meant when she said she needed to talk to her husband:  get their stories straight.  Many readers seem to pick up on this readily. 

Dispatcher: Was the flying saucer in the backyard?
RH: Yes.

Note the economy of words by a father who should have been out of his mind in fear. 

Dispatcher: Ok, so it obviously has electronics which he can know how to work and he gets it up off the air, off the ground?

RH: No, he doesn't know how they operate.
Note that this does not have any indicators of deception.  It is likely truthful that he does not know how to operate the flying saucer the world was watching on television.  Note the contraction "doesn't" rather than the emphatic "does not" (Reid)  This is relaxed and highlights the truthfulness that the boy did not know how to operate it.  But, here, he also uses the plural, "they" meaning more than one flying saucer when there is only one being watched via television. 

Dispatcher: He does not know how to operate, so and that's gone though too, right? And you're sure that he's in that?

Here is the critical point of deception.  The operator is reflecting back what is known:  the boy does not know how to operate the contraption.  Because of having a tough time believing these two, clarification is sought in a "yes or no" question.  Yes or No questions are the easiest to lie with and so every word after "yes" or "no" becomes highly significant:  

RH: Yeah, we looked everywhere and then my son just said — he's terrified — he said yeah he went inside just before it went off. Because we have it tethered it wasn't supposed to take off.

Oh, those pesky pronouns!

Pronouns (and articles) are instinctive.  They are learned from our earliest days and via shear volume of use, they are spoken without thought. 

"Yeah" is weaker than "yes".  "Is your son on that dangerous thing so high up in the air that he could easily die?" would be answered by a father with a resounding "YES"; not a casual, "yeah".  We do not need to hear his voice inflection, but the word chosen.  In a "yes or no" question, he said, "yeah" and then immediately shifted to:


He is the boy's father.  He is responsible.  The most natural response would be "I".  But, in case you struggle on this one, at least you should know that pronouns are easy to make fit when you are telling the truth.  He said "we" plural, but then not plural, "my son" instead of "our son" and then went back to the "we" again.  This inconsistency itself indicates deception. 

Note that he did not report that his son was inside the balloon, which would be a direct lie; something rare.  Instead, he uses his son's language.  "Yeah, he said he went in..." but he did not say "in the saucer" or "in the balloon", and it is this type of choppy way of speaking that a liar avoids telling a direct lie.  He appears to be unwilling to blame his son in full, so instead does not finish the sentence "he said he went in the flying saucer" as he likely felt the internal stress of not only lying but bringing his son into it.  This is a reminder of the fiasco when he had his children on TV and tried to get them to lie; where he was outed by his own son. 

Dispatcher: So was it running then?

RH: Well it doesn't run, it's filled with helium. And it operates off of a million volts to move left and right — horizontal. And we were testing it to find out what effects we could get.

Dispatcher: OK. And so it was last seen 20 minutes ago?
RH: Um, probably. I'm gonna check the time. Probably, yeah.

You or I would know how long our 6 year old is up in the air, possibly with a child,  but this sentence shows the usefulness of analysis:

1.  The use of "probably" shows room for doubt, therefore, sensitivity indicator. 
2.  Repetition of a word shows sensitivity.   Note that it is the same word, showing that time frame is a topic of sensitivity for the subject, which would now cause the analyst to conclude:

First, that he said "probably" so he is not certain, but
Secondly, deception may be present since he repeated the qualifier.  Next note the continued inconsistency in pronouns in his response: 

Dispatcher: Ok. So there's no electronics on it, there's no tracking device, right?

RH: No, no. I don't know whether it's possible you guys could detect the electricity that it emits, but every five minutes it comes on for one minute, and uh, it emits a million volts on the outer skin. And uh, if he takes a ride in it he could get electrocuted.

Note that he should be telling the operator what he knows; not what he does not know.  Here we find him seeking information, rather than giving it.  At this point, the analyst may need to remind himself or herself that this is supposed to be a 911 call of an emergency, not an interview.  Next note that he only offers that "if he takes a ride in it he could" get harmed by the electricity. 

Dispatcher: Ok, so every five minutes it comes on for one minute and then shuts off again.
RH: Right.
Dispatcher: And it does that to charge?
RH: No, no, no, no.
Dispatcher: Ok, ok, that's ok. How big is this machine?
RH: It's 20 feet across. Are you there? It's (?) feet high.

Dispatcher: Ok. And the wind is blowing pretty good today, which direction is the wind blowing?

RH: Hold on one second. Who the hell is calling me?... It's blowing southeast. So he's headed right straight for the Loveland airport. I only hope the FAA you now was listening to me because if an aircraft hits it, I mean you know.

Statement Analysis starts off believing what the subject says.  Here we learn what he hopes for:  The FAA.  

Most would hope for the return of the child, but he hopes the FAA is listening.

If the FAA is listening, it will be the publicity he has hoped for.  

When speaking to a parent of a missing child, the word "hope" is always sensitive.  

Dispatcher: So it might be headed for the Fort Collins, Loveland airport area
RH: Uh yeah, I think it's just the Loveland.
Dispatcher: Is it silver in color?
RH: Yeah, it's got aluminum foil on it, that's how it gets its charge.
Dispatcher: And its totally silver foil, right?
RH: Yes.
Dispatcher: Ok. And he has no idea how to turn it or anything is that right, no instruction has been given to him?
RH: No, no, there's no way to turn it, no.

Dispatcher: And he has no idea how to land it or anything right?

RH: No. And there's no communication — mean it was just supposed to be in the backyard, you know?

"You know" is a habit, and it is important for an analyst to note when the habit shows itself, just as it is important to note when it does not appear.  It shows an awareness of the interviewer's questioning (here, the interviewer is the dispatcher), indicating that he is aware that dispatch has been questioning the validity of this call. 

Dispatcher: Ok hang on just a second don't hang up...

Dispatcher: Ok sir we've already contacted the FAA they've already been made aware of it. I'm gonna go ahead and call the Loveland airport and let them know as well, ok? Sir? Hello? Hello? Hello?
This fulfilled his "hope"


Dispatcher 1: 911 What is the address of your emergency?
Dispatcher 2: Hi, this is Fort Collins with a transfer for 5434 Fossil Ridge Drive.
Dispatcher 1: OK
Dispatcher 2: Phone number is ....
Dispatcher 1: K
Dispatcher 2: This woman and her husband are pleading that their 6-year-old son had an experimental flying saucer that they built.
Dispatcher 1: Mmhmm.
Dispatcher 2: They believe that their 6-year-old son is in it and flying around. They left less than 20 minutes ago.
Dispatcher 1: OK. Thank you.
Dispatcher 2: He's on the phone with me now.
Dispatcher 1: OK, thank you. M'aam, what's your name?
Mayumi Heene: My name is Mayumi ... Mayumi Heene.
Dispatcher: And you're at the 5434 Stossel Ridge drive now?
Mayumi Heene: 5434 ... yes
Dispatcher: And it's Fossil Ridge Drive, right?
Mayumi Heene: Yes, yes.
Dispatcher: Is it Drive east or west?
Mayumi Heene: West
Dispatcher: OK. And so it was an experimental plane?
Mayumi Heene: It's a flying saucer.
Dispatcher: It's a flying saucer?
Mayumi Heene: Yes.
Dispatcher: And that's gone too, right?
Mayumi Heene: Sorry?
Dispatcher: Is the flying saucer gone as well?
Mayumi Heene: Um, like 20 minutes or something.

She needed to talk to her husband to come to an agreement about time. 

Dispatcher: They've both been missing for about 20 minutes?
Mayumi Heene: Yes.
Dispatcher: OK.
Mayumi Heene: (crying) We gotta get my son!

Mothers, in particular, are instinctive protecters and the use of the word "I" shows the owning of responsibility and even when a mother is seated next to her husband, when the topic is critical, the first person singular is more likely to be used. 

Dispatcher: OK. Hang on just one second. Don't hang up, OK? Just a minute.


Dispatcher: Ma'am, does it have any kind of a tracking device or anything on it?
Mayumi Heene: No, nothing.
Dispatcher: OK. Is it electronical?
Mayumi Heene: Uh, you know, you need to speak with my husband ... (unintelligible) my husband
Dispatcher: OK. I can't understand what you're saying, ma'am ... Does he know how to work the flying saucer?
Mayumi Heene: (completely unintelligible)
Dispatcher: What?
Mayumi Heene: He's calling somebody.
Dispatcher: He's calling somebody?
Mayumi Heene: Yes
Dispatcher: Who’s calling somebody?
Mayumi Heene: (completely unintelligible)
Dispatcher: Let me talk to him.
Mayumi Heene: OK.

Dispatch struggled to wonder why he was making phone calls. 

This ended with his son, terribly upset being told to lie, vomiting on television and showing his father to be a liar. 

How selfish must one be to put his own children through such trauma in order to gain fame?  What was the final cost of search and rescue operations?  

Can we put a price tag on the emotional toll of a public praying and hoping for his safe return?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember well. Now that I have been following SA the lies do seem apparent.