The story of the missing Malaysian airliner was from a very, very early stage labelled a 'mystery'. The reason for this is simple: the word 'Mystery' sells better than almost anything else - most of us love a good mystery. I thoroughly a good detective novel (I recommend Michael Connelly's novels if any of you share that enjoyment) but I don't at all enjoy the kind of frenzy of speculation that we are now witnessing around this human tragedy.
From the start, in the absence of any footage, photographs or other data about the missing aircraft (and more of that in a moment), the media have focused upon the emotional torment of the relatives in Malaysia and China. I found myself asking why this was so - in such a situation, the grief, fear and sadness of relatives of the missing people is not news, after all - or is it these days? For some reason in relation to this one item, we were relentlessly blasted on all sides by pictures and footage of desperately upset people, as if this kind of reaction was somehow something that the public had a right to know about - something we have an entitlement to witness. The reality, of course, is nothing of the sort - we all have a right to privacy and respect at such times, we all have a right not to be cynically exploited at such a vulnerable time. These rights count for nothing to the massive media corporations, even as they pretend - for their own commercial reasons, let's not be so naive to believe otherwise - to champion the rights of individuals.
This particular story has fed the insatiable monster media particularly poorly in terms of visuals; all the ravenous (apparently) public has had to look at as illustrations of the story so far have been boring pictures of empty ocean-scapes, boring pictures of possible flight paths and stock footage of a similar aircraft taking off or landing somewhere. It's all been a bit thin on visuals for the poor old media companies, and so to fill in we are now persistently fed images of distraught people. Somehow, that is itself deemed to be news - something I can't agree with. People being understandably emotional is not news; it's broadcast purely for titillation.
Leaving aside the rather astonishingly poor treatment of the information stream by the Malaysian authorities in particular (which is fast becoming almost as big a story as the disaster itself, and should in my opinion be far more of a focus for scrutiny), the need for the media industry to find fresh 'revelations' each day is now reaching out for almost any new analysis of the situation. On Monday a man professing to be a pilot was telling the world that it was all very simple and that to him the cause of the so-called 'mystery' was obviously a fire caused by X, resulting in Y which nicely explained the (assumed) resulting Z. All very nice; a fresh 'story' for some media outlets, something upon which to hang some fresh expert opinions...it's a circus, folks, it really is.
Today, that opinion has been repudiated by equally - or better - qualified experts, and the story therefore becomes those opinions...endless speculation continues, real information takes a back seat, etc., etc. If we examine what the mdia does around this or any other story for that matter, the facts rapidly begin to take second or third place to speculation, opinion, polarizing statements and ultimately, enormous portions of "Who can we BLAME?", from which, of course, the media industry can draw even more hours - or rather, days - of so-called 'news'. In that spirit, the latest so-called revelation that some files have been deleted from one of the pilot's flight simulator program at home is deemed worthy of mention and hype and speculation...I mean, come ON! There is no other 'evidence' against which to judge this fact; it means nothing as a stand-alone piece of information, but that doesn't stop the news media from presenting it as 'news', and driving hours of speculation about it. The circus wins once again.
It seems to me that very little of what we watch, listen to or read these days is actually news. Reporters rarely report salient facts; by far the most time and effort is spent upon constructing an emotional experience; so often a report will begin with a cringe-worthy patronizing line such as: "It all began with a child's cries in the dark...". Hard, somewhat boring facts don't sell so well, I suppose - what we, the public, seem to want is sensational, shocking, gory or (failing that) tear-jerking stories. What happened to that airliner is only of interest now because the media can milk the tragic aspect of it; the 'human interest' aspect as they sanitize the 'let's revel in other people's agony' so-called story. They simply don't care about people, and we would be foolish to assume that they ever do.
Similarly, one has to wonder what the hell is going on with the Malaysian authorities in connection to this incident. I usually poo-poo conspiracy theories (and as always, there already seem to be plenty of those around, from the faintly possible hijacking explanation to the completely ridiculous alien abduction theory) but something about the way the information has dribbled out seems very odd to me. I have no way of knowing the truth of the matter, but I'm pretty certain that much more is known about this incident than the wider public is being allowed to learn through the reliably agitated media outlets, hungry to report anything - especially if it's remotely salacious. The lack of information - or rather the lack of reported information and the contradictory information strike me as very curious both in nature and the manner in which we have come to be told of it.
I'm not sure what really happened (except that I'm 99.99% sure that it wasn't jelly-like beings from planet Goop behind all this); I have some ideas but until we hear some facts, there's no way to be sure. One day - one day - the facts will become known and until we do, the poor people waiting, suffering and being pushed around by media, government officials, security officers will continue to be treated like the stuff I spread on my garden to make the vegetables grow. The people in this story haven't counted from day one.
A barely regulated media industry has created a world where once shocking, scary happenstances have become boring; we see so much footage of horrible car crashes, earthquake aftermaths and guerrilla warfare that it's all become banal, even everyday. Through the dispassionate eye of the camera (and those even more unblinking phone cameras), everyone is slowly becoming remote; that 'other person' to whom everything happens. When those things happen to those 'other' people, guess what: tragedy becomes entertainment. You see, it's the story that matters, the story and the money it generates - we are all becoming simply characters (anonymous) in the media machines' stories; numbers in a news report, nameless faces in footage of grieving relatives...faceless bodies on a war-torn city street.
I rarely watch TV news any more. I can't stop the images flashing on my screen, can't prevent myself from seeing them - unless I don't watch at all. My news comes to me from the internet (my reliable BBC news website) because there I can edit, I can choose which items I wish to learn more about - I can pick and choose whether the headline tells me all this I wish to know. I recommend it to one and all as a way to prevent being part of the sickening circus which ultimately makes all of us bit-part players in someone else's increasingly disturbing entertainment.