Not since O.J. took a drive in a white Bronco have so many talked so much and said so little. The presumed crash of MA370 and the loss of 239 people has provided a field day for 24-hour news outlets.
True, the missing jetliner hasn’t had the god awful live action video of a nice little war or act of God, but it does play to our fear of flying, of technology, of madmen and for the networks has the great benefit, as did the O.J. saga, of no end in sight.
It allows faux solemn TV hosts and host-ettes to ask so-called experts all about terrorism, the battery life of black boxes, the training regimens of Malaysian pilots and the incompetence of Malaysian investigators. Did the pilots do it? Did a passenger do it? Did the plane crash or land? Did it fly north or south or east or west.
A typical exchange occurred several days ago, but a reasonable facsimile is probably airing somewhere right now and will be available tomorrow.
Anchorman Earnest: Breaking News! We have Bob Forthright standing by in front of a picture of Kuala Lumpur. Bob, you’re a former crash investigator for NTSB, licensed pilot and rodeo cowboy, could this plane have been hijacked?
Forthright: On the one hand, how could anyone outside the cockpit have disabled the transponder not to mention resetting the flux capacitor and the auto-gyro-gearloose. On the other hand the cheery ta-ta from the co-pilot suggests he was not witting even though the preprogrammed course correction was just minutes away. Of course a large electrical or battery malfunction might have sent the onboard computer and telemetry into DEFCON I. But then, why not a Mayday or at least an Arbor Day call?
Earnest: Fascinating insights, Bob. Tell me, could the pilot have been brainwashed as in “The Manchurian Candidate,” possibly by radical fringe followers of the Dalai Lama? Or how about a disguised space alien aboard, maybe Sandra Bullock, in a duel with Sky Marshall Liam Neeson. Call it “Non-Stop to Neptune? “
Forthright: Now you’re just practicing your pitch meeting for DreamWorks.
Earnest: Well, you caught me there Bob. And I know you don’t like to speculate before all the facts are in, but given your long experience what is your best guess as to what happened and where the plane is, as we speak?
Forthright: Well, that’s a real head scratcher. Your guess is probably as good as mine.
Precisely. The networks have been beating no news to death day after day. But they wouldn’t do it if the obsessive coverage wasn’t bringing in viewers and ad dollars. It sure beats actual news like Russia invading neighbors, our malingering economy, gimcrack health care system, time bomb budget, decaying infrastructure and third world educational performance.
Who wants to hear about those hard and eye-glazing subjects when there’s a missing plane and imaginary malefactors straight out of melodrama — live. Cheap to produce too. No reporters on the scene since there is no scene, just guys in a studio in Aeron chairs letting their imaginations run wild. And no speculation too lunatic to be dismissed. It’s one gigantic media free throw.
Back to you, Twyla.