Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Searching for a Missing Jet

The longer the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, missing now for more than a week, goes on, the more frantic and hysterical some people seem to be.

At least, that is what I gather from some of the theories they are putting forth.

I'll grant you that it is an intriguing mystery, but it is not a cause for panic.

I guess I owe my calm to my training as a journalist. When you work for newspapers, you learn quickly that very seldom (if ever) can you give your readers the whole story on something important the first time. It tends to dribble out over time, especially if you're dealing with people who are intent on keeping the truth hidden. Heck, it took Woodward and Bernstein nearly a year of writing about the Watergate break–in before the Senate started calling witnesses to testify before a special committee — and it was another year after that before the House began considering articles of impeachment.

Journalists have to keep a cool head — and keep their eyes on the prize. Just because the answer isn't obvious doesn't mean it can't be found. Journalists must be patient.

I'm not saying this jet went missing because of a criminal act, that it has been hijacked or anything like that — although there are some who have been saying that for several days now. It may well turn out to be a terrorist act, but, without any evidence, I find that assertion to be, at the very least, irresponsible.

After all, the idea behind terrorism is to make sure that the people you want to terrorize know what you have done. The plane has been missing for nearly two weeks, and no one has claimed responsibility for its disappearance or made any demands.

Some have suggested things that are even more dramatic and implausible — alien abduction, for example, or a meteor strike.

Courtney Love rejected the alien theory (but not the meteor theory), claiming that she had found the plane or, at least, she had found evidence of it — in an aerial photo of water in which she claimed she could see an oil slick. Rush Limbaugh suggested that the jet was shot down by a "hostile country."

Some of the theories that have been put forth are even more absurd. Few, though, are as absurd as the paranoid assertion that terrorists were behind the plane's disappearance.

So what did happen to it?

The most plausible explanation I have heard so far comes from Chris Goodfellow, an experienced pilot writing at Wired.com. He says he believes an electrical fire on board the plane led to the disappearance (and probable crash, either on land somewhere or in the sea, when the plane ran out of fuel).

My advice is this: Speculation won't accelerate the discovery of the plane or what is left of it (if, indeed, it is discovered), but as long as your attention is on the Eastern Hemisphere, you might want to pay closer attention to what is happening in Russia and the Ukraine.

What is happening there is sending signals to other potential hotspots, such as China, North Korea, Iraq, Iran ...

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