Five wrongheaded theories about MH370

With the news continuing to be dominated by the search for the Malaysian Airlines flight, we look at the five least helpful bits of speculation.

5) Terrorist plot
Too many have been willing to see a nefarious hand at work in the disappearance of MH370. Even Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak was convinced two weeks ago that the plane’s vanishing was thanks to some ‘deliberate’ action, a story which the nominally respectable press picked up and ran with until they’d exhausted their roster of counter-terrorist experts. Still, even they probably didn’t imagine that, as one prominent theory had it, Iran had hijacked MH370 and taken it to a hidden location. And why might Iran have done this? Because it was intent on turning it into a nuclear weapon which it would then somehow fly into the belly of the American beast. Because that’s what the Iranian government is like: bonkers, bloodthirsty and thoroughly impractical. There are far simpler ways to mass destruction.

4) The military industrial complex
For those of a countercultural hue, with the whiff of Woodstock still in their nostrils, the culprit was far closer to home – the military industrial complex. Yep, that’s right, MH370’s disappearance was part of a military experiment to see if the latest in hi-tech cloaking devices could successfully conceal a large commercial airplane from, as it turns out, the eyes of the world. Adding grist to the conspirators’ mill was the fact that 20 employees of Freescale – a semi-conductor manufacturing firm which makes, among other things, hi-tech weapons systems and aircraft navigation – were on board MH370. Still, if Freescale really wanted to show off its wares to prospective buyers, prompting the biggest international search-and-rescue mission in years does not exactly suggest it’s a master of stealth.

3) Suicide mission
‘Flight MH370 crashed into the Indian Ocean in an apparent suicide mission, well-placed sources have revealed’, reports the Telegraph this week. It’s not exactly a revelation. The authorities and the media have been peddling the suicide theory since MH370 first disappeared. Initially, it was suggested that the pilot, 53-year-old Zaharie Ahmad Shah, might have plunged the plane into the sea because, er, he was a supporter and incredibly distant relative of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. Ibrahim was charged with sodomy at the beginning of March, so, according to the theory, Shah decided to show his support for Ibrahim by plunging the plane into the ocean. It makes no sense, of course. Would you have expected Jeffrey Archer-supporting taxi drivers to have responded to the Tory peer’s imprisonment in 2001 by hurtling passenger-laden black cabs into the Thames? Due the predictable lack of evidence to incriminate Shah, the suspicion has now shifted on to the 27-year-old co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid, who was on his first flight as a fully qualified pilot. The fact that there are easier and far less murderous ways to kill oneself, should one wish, seems to have passed investigators and conspiracy theorists by.

2) The Chinese
The proximity of the plane to China – Beijing was its destination after all – was clearly too good an opportunity to miss for the revamped Yellow Peril brigade. Cue speculation that China brought MH370 down, a dastardly deed it is now desperately trying to cover up. Quite why the Chinese military would have shot down the plane hasn’t been made clear by the theorists. But then again why would it be? That’s what the Chinese are like: unfathomable little creatures with a nasty, world-dominating streak. Of course, if China-bashing is not your thing, you could always blame North Korea. Oh look...

1) Mass air travel
Far worse than the endless speculation, as tinged as it is with all colours of prejudice, has been the murmuring of those who just always knew there was something wrong with flying. They have their dubious reasons: it’s destroying the planet; it’s transporting Britain’s uncouth classes to places they have no right to visit. But now, with the disappearance of MH370, they have their latest bit of proof: mass air travel is just too risky, too dangerous. It’s alright for some, of course, just not for the many. Or as the Guardian put it: ‘Malaysia Airlines’ missing plane prompts the niggling thought that maybe we have no business taking to the skies.’ The thing is, the reason why the disappearance of MH370 initially dominated the headlines was precisely because air disasters are so rare nowadays. Far from indicating that we have no business taking to the skies, the headlines generated by the missing plane show us just how accustomed we have become to our airborne freedom.


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