Aloft in Search of Monsters to Destroy

Photo by Tomas Castelazo. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Photo by Tomas Castelazo. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

They’re over Alaska! They’re over Montana! They’re over Lake Huron! They’re over … oh, wait, they just got shot down. Whew! That was close!

Tesla’s engineers are gathering this week in Washington with an eye on dramatically improving their vehicles’ acceleration profiles by studying how fast the US government managed to get from “nothing there,” to “balloon of some kind,” to “spy balloon,” to “Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon,” to seemingly flying squadrons of military aircraft over every child’s birthday party and using expensive missiles to take down stray helium containers.

From, you know, an abundance of caution. Wouldn’t want the Chinese to find out about those low, low prices at the Walmart in Billings, Montana on pretty much everything but the giant sub-$100 helium balloons which US Senator Josh Hawley finds “very disturbing” (as if we didn’t know he’s already very disturbed in general). To surreptitiously gather THAT information, they’d have to surveil an distribution center.

Perhaps we should all hide under our beds — except that they were probably made you-know-where — or before long we may end up carrying surveillance devices around in our pockets and purses 24/7, inadvertently feeding Beijing valuable information on cosmetics use and videos on the gustatory joy of laundry pods.

In the immortal words of Joe Biden: “C’mon, man!”

In anything like a sane world, “there’s a balloon over [insert latest location here]” wouldn’t make the news at all, crowding out important information like the local Pop Warner league’s box scores and someone’s great-aunt’s recipe for peanut butter no-bake cookies, let alone become the basis for Defcon Freakout.

Quick, no search engine cheating:

How many billions of your dollars has the US government given to Ukraine since last February?

For how long, and why, has the US government had in place the crippling sanctions on Syria which it lifted over the weekend to facilitate earthquake relief?

Heck, how many face piercings is your own teenager sporting these days?

If you can’t answer those questions, but can point at a spot on a map (to within 50 miles of) where a US F-22 finally shot down that first “Chinese spy balloon,” it’s not because you’re a bad person.

It’s because you’re being conned by politicians who’d rather distract you with made-up issues of no real importance whatsoever than risk the possibility that you might start paying attention and take notice of the crazy stuff they put over on you 24/7/365.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.