Uncertainty + 24-hour News Cycle = Wild Theories of Missing Airplane

It’s not often that the biggest story for two weeks and counting also doubles as a News of the Weird piece, but that’s what happened with the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 several years ago.


It’s a true, real-life mystery. What happened to a 250-ton Boeing 777 and, more importantly, its 239 souls? Of course, it has all the trappings of a mystery, challenging what we know about the connectivity of our hailed technology. No apparent radar blips; no emails, texts or posts; and not even any debris to speak of have everyone from experts on the news to your coworker or neighbor offering their own ideas.


When some of the more plausible ideas have been exhausted, like terrorism or plane malfunction, the lead story gets even stranger. Enter Don Lemon, the CNN broadcaster who has been reporting on this story for several days, who threw out the following ideas he’d received via a few tweets while speaking to one of the experts: could the plane’s disappearance be the result of a “black hole,” Bermuda Triangle or an occurrence akin to the television series “Lost?”


“I know it’s preposterous, but is it preposterous, do you think, Mary?” says Lemon, speaking to former inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation Mary Schiavo.


Schiavo’s response was almost comedic in its unapologetic logic: “It is,” Schiavo replied. “A small black hole would suck in our entire universe. So we know it’s not that. The Bermuda Triangle is often weather, and ‘Lost’ is a TV show.”


Lemon’s response was understandably brief: “right.”


When you consider how much time newscasters like Lemon have to give for weeks at a time to the same story in which new information is released at a slow trickle, it’s easy to sympathize with Lemon’s position. But it’s not the first time he has leaned on a strange supernatural theory to explain the missing airplane on air.


On the Sunday before the Schiavo interview, he said:

“Especially today, on a day when we deal with the supernatural, we go to church, the supernatural power of God. You deal with all of that. People are saying to me, why aren’t you talking about the possibility — and I’m just putting it out there — that something odd happened to this plane, something beyond our understanding?”


Of course, not everybody’s holy day falls on Sunday.


Whether it’s Lemon or one of your coworkers, a theory of what happened to missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is interesting not so much because it’s necessarily plausible, but rather because it says something about how a person thinks.


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