What Our Obsession with Flight 370 Says About Us

Rounding up a few of the seemingly endless conspiracy theories over Malaysia Airlines’ Flight 370, Matt Lewis, writing in The Week, asks, “Why do we obsess this way? Is there a primal reason we are drawn to such stories and, yes, to conspiracy theories explaining them?”


[S]ince JFK’s death, many of us live in a state of somewhat constant apprehension over similar tragedies striking.

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 taps into similar primal fears, exposing a shocking naïveté about the amount of control you and I really have over the world. Many of us like to think, when we’re speeding through the sky in a metal tube, that some technician is sitting in front of a computer somewhere on the ground, following our progress with a pointed finger tracking a blinking green dot across a radar screen.

This is just not so.

It’s hard to believe that in 2014 we cannot find a missing airplane. This goes against everything we’ve been led to believe about our shrinking world, about Big Brother’s ability to track us every second of the day (they may invade our privacy, but at least they keep us safe!), and about a culture that believes we are all, to some degree or another, protected.

“We almost sort of have this idea that every square foot of the planet is under some level of observation,” observed Chuck Klosterman on The BS Report podcast, before noting that something like a measly 6 percent of the ocean floor has been explored.

Despite all of our technological advances, despite the many debates about the surveillance state, despite decades-old fears about the 1984-ization of our world, the huge bulk of our planet and our lives on it remain a mystery. The light of modernity shines only so far. The rest is a dark unknown.


Conspiracy theories also allow for a redistributive balance between the enormity of an event and its cause. The left couldn’t process both the asymmetry of 9/11, and its implications to its multicultural worldview, hence, Osama, Mohamed Atta, and Al-Qaeda were replaced with an all-knowing, all-powerful and infallible US government led by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney blowing up the WTC and the Pentagon. Similarly, regarding the Kennedy assassination, as blogger Frank Martin wrote:

In regards to conspiracy theories, William Manchester once said that people want a certain symmetry to exist in the affairs of the world; they see 6 million Jews on one side of the scale, balanced by the criminals called the Nazis on the other side and they see the symmetry of a measure of good counterbalanced by the certainty of evil. When they see John Kennedy on one side of the scale balanced with the hopeless waif of Oswald, they don’t see symmetry, so they try to add a conspiracy to help return that sense of symmetry.

Of course, given who benefits, perhaps comedian Albert Brooks as the most logical explanation yet for Flight 370’s disappearance…


Update: “Malaysia 370: A Tragic Accident (and Nothing More),” Retired airline captain Rob Schapiro posits at the American Thinker.


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