MH370: The story without closure

Families of Missing Flight Passengers Just Hoping Media Gets Closure It Needs.’

As reported by The Onion, speaking on behalf of the families of the 239 individuals on board flight MH370, Sarah Wan made the following statement:

“The conflicting reports and numerous remaining unanswered questions have been devastating for them. It’s not surprising that they are obsessing around the clock, wondering what could have possibly occurred on board that flight. I don’t know how they are able to stay so resilient, grasping at every new statement or bit of information that trickles out. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them.” Wan said there was still a chance the plane may have been hijacked and the passengers aboard had been taken hostage, but she didn’t want to unfairly get the media’s hopes up.’”

In the absence of any solid information about what happened to the Malaysia Airlines flight that went missing on March 8th, this report has come the closest to cutting to the heart of the matter. Over the past 12 days, as 26 countries have joined the international search of an area covering 7.7 million square kilometres, the families of those onboard have been subjected to a drip feed of conflicting information from Malaysian authorities about what may or may not have happened to MH370.

The media coverage has been even less helpful. From the map of all 634 runways the plane could have landed, to the revelation that ‘Pilot of Missing Jet Expressed Interest in Democracy and Atheism on Social Networks,’ to the ‘Simple Computer Upgrade That Could Have Helped Solved the MH370 Mystery’, and the understatement of the millennium made by none other than Courtney Love that, ‘I’m no expert, but up close this does look like a plane and an oil slick’ – it all seems horribly reminiscent of an online game of Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?

The fate of MH370 is, admittedly, an incredible mystery, one that broke in a slow news week and plays on all our fears. It’s open-ended, allowing for endless speculation, all of which draws in more and more online clicks. It’s human nature to assume the worst in cases like this, but the media are doing so in a gleefully ghoulish way. News.com.au made the po-faced announcement earlier this week that their coverage was just facts, no conspiracies – then went on to list some of the more ridiculous theories to be floated yet. As journalists and readers alike become armchair aviation experts, everyone chooses the theory that best confirms their world-view. For those on the extreme right, the fate of MH370 confirms everything they believe about terrorists. For me, it confirms everything I believe about mainstream media coverage.

Whether they find the plane or not (BREAKING!: MH370: Two objects sighted in ocean, Australia says), this is a story with no ending. The producers of the television show LOST didn’t know how to impose a neat narrative conclusion over the disappearance of a commercial airline either, but that didn’t hurt anyone’s career, and the production crew went on to ruin many a series after that. Whatever the fate of MH370, and however many more stories run, the daily news cycle will continue to churn. 

Michaela McGuire

Michaela McGuire is a journalist and the author of Last Bets: A True Story of Gambling, Morality and the Law and the Penguin Special A Story of Grief. Visit her blog, Twirling Towards Freedom.

@michaelamcguire

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