by: Michael Shields
Why the media coverage of Malaysian Flight 370 has me feeling exasperated with the the 24 hour news cycle, and with myself…..
Initially, my head was in the right place. When news came down of the loss of an airliner with over two hundred people aboard I immediately thought of their families. I thought of their pain, and confusion, and their futile endeavor to grasp onto hope, even in the face of certain tragedy. I then thought of the passengers themselves. I shivered with uneasiness imagining the unfathomable terror engulfing their final moments. I hoped it was quick, and that it was easier than my anxieties presume it to be. And I took a moment in silence to bid them farewell, reminding myself how lucky I am for every breath I am granted.
And then suddenly, everything changed.
It wasn’t but a few hours into the coverage of the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 when the speculation began. At first, I dismissed it as nonsense. The world is vast, unequivocally so. The fact that an airliner goes down without notice isn’t a cause for confusion, but rather a reminder of the immensity of our earth, particularly our oceans, and of the limits of modern technology.
But, the information that was filtering in through the usual pipeline of talking heads that function as my lifeline into the world’s affairs began to mix with traces of suspicion. Something just didn’t feel right, as whiffs of speculation quickly snowballed into a mountain of supposition and conjecture.
In what felt like hours, and what continued on for what felt like months (we are nearing the one month mark of the flight being reported as missing), things got out of hand. Before long, I had heard it all. A series of theories were hatched, one after the other, and all based on limited information trickling in from various sources. At first, the flight was kidnapped by terrorists (usually this theory maintains the terrorist hijacked the plane for use as part of another more hideous plot). Then, maybe, just maybe, Uighur militants attacked the plane, or the flight, get this, was somehow “cloaked” using advanced technologies for research purposes. The US military base in Diego Garcia was mentioned often, as was the idea that there is a phenomenon mirroring the ‘Bermuda Triangle’ in the Indian Ocean. “China did it,” so said the the Russian State Media. Or, Flight 370 encountered and was subsequently swallowed up by a black hole. And, finally, a slew of supernatural suggestions I remain too embarrassed to admit I indulged in were fodder for the news media, every minute of every hour of every day. And I lapped it all up wholeheartedly.
Look, the media surely is culpable for this brand of sensationalism. Mass media has a very secure, and often times overlooked, influence and power over the public. When abused, as is often the case, false and inaccurate information can not only be misleading for the sake of profit but also can literally cause harm, or in this case dismay (the families) for thousands of people.
The media, once again, is blatantly revealing itself as biased, consistently irresponsible, and prone to sensationalistic reporting that distorts and exaggerates the truth in order to boost circulation, readership, clicks, and listeners. And it has become more and more obvious how this brand of business is a true threat, a detriment to the greater good of mankind. Constantly being fed a daily diet of propaganda, of “junk food news,” which I can only assume most people in the United States accept as fact, is a commonplace practice of once trusted institutions, and potentially a larger part of what could be the downward spiraling of society, and truth as a whole. It’s remarkable that exaggerated accounts of far away occurrences are systematically being repackaged and served to people as “the news of the day.” Case and point: The disappearance of Malaysian Flight 370, a tragic event being discussed with a TMZ mentality.
I understand the intrigue, and of course the natural inclination for concern. After all, the last devastating attack on US soil was accomplished with the use of an airliner as a weapon. And when 239 souls disappear from the face of the earth it is our basic right to know why. Most of us travel via planes frequently, and we know what it means to lose family and friends – so in so many ways we all relate, and thus have stake. But things got out of hand here, once again……and we are to blame.
At this point we are well versed in the media’s tactics. So pointing the finger at our faulty, opportunistic, communication systems, and for getting caught up in their maddening spin and disingenuousness, is delusionary in its own right. It is up to the information consumer, to us, to look in the mirror and decide if they are a part of this problem, or part of the solution. And I for one do not like what I am seeing.
It’s the Devil Inside. I can see him, lurking in there – ushering us away from the light, stoking our enchantment with the dark. The blackness that feeds on the grief, heartache, and suffering of others. The one that turns us into rubberneckers, gossipers, and perpetrators of irresponsible activity. We are better than this. We must believe that.
An investigation may never determine the reason why the Malaysia Airlines jetliner disappeared, and search planes scouring the Indian Ocean for any sign of its wreckage aren’t certain to find anything either. This scenario makes it more and more possible that, with each passing day, the fate of the Boeing 777 and the 239 people on board might remain a mystery forever. And, with no real answers, no wreckage found, I still find myself pining for an explanation, and harking back to conspiracy theories that have ran amok for the last month. What if? I wonder, there wasn’t something to (insert conspiracy theory here)……but this behavior, while somewhat natural, is something I am ashamed of, and seek to subdue, and eventually deaden.
We live in a world of exaggeration. A world blinded by hype, egotism, and lack of perspective. Where speculation replaces hard facts, and finding nothing becomes breaking news of momentous importance. And we grow blinder by the minute, distracted by the noise of a thousand talking heads blathering away in unison. But again, we are better than this. We must believe that.