The unfolding tragedy of Lion Air flight JT 610 is now playing out on the flat, tepid seas off the Java coast of Indonesia, as search and rescue personnel comb the waters for debris from the ill-fated flight and search for the fuselage and vital data recorders.
And with the intense media focus on the tragedy has come another increasingly common – not to mention, annoying – facet of modern digital life: Social media chatter.
Literally within minutes of the first news of the downed aircraft, all manner of social media-connected ‘aviation gurus’ jumped into the fray, busy as retarded bees, weighing in on the possible – and impossible – causes behind the crash. Although for most of these cell-phone pundits, there’s no ‘possible’ in the equation, their opinion, gang-clustered and emboldened by legions of similarly rationally-impaired global netizens, stoke a bonfire of conjecture and outright misinformation.
The tawdry list of speculation and innuendo goes on and on, ad nauseum: The Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft is brand new (and hence has heretofore unknown safety defects), the aircraft’s technical issue from the night before was the cause, Indonesia’s shaky safety record is at the root, the flight crew were mostly trainees, Indonesian fundamentalist terrorists have struck again, Lion Air lacks proper oversight because of its rapid growth, the engines are at fault and so on and so on.
Whole threads of self-claimed ‘expert’ commentary drivel on, espousing just exactly what went on to cause the crash. It may well be one of of the above cited examples, but clearly it’s massively premature for any kind of conclusion, as we all know.
And the mainstream media, in some cases, are no better. Barely six hours after the incident a reporter from a well-known global media outlet asked an Indonesian official what he thought the cause of the crash was. Really? That question was the most undeniably stupid thing that has surely come out of the reporter’s mouth. As a journalist for many years I was simply embarrassed to even read it.
The official, who clearly had far more sense than the journalist, answered plainly: “It’s too early to reach any conclusions.” I’m sure the journalist actually knew better, but was actually fishing, hoping the official might say something dramatic that would, at least temporarily, push his or her media outlet to the top of the Internet hit-list, if only for a fleeting moment in Internet time.
To be fair a sizeable chunk of the mainstream coverage is sensible, laying out what is known and steering clear of any conclusions. But of course the competitive pressures inevitably come to bear and that means finding that nugget of information no one else has. Meanwhile, the tweets, posts, PMs, likes and shares from the ‘insta-gurus’ continues to spew in its mind-numbing continuum.