These Media-Spread Rumors About the Missing Malaysia Airlines Plane Are Getting Out of Hand
India and Pakistan know nothing about Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. Neither does the Taliban. The search, which now involves 25 countries, has not given any answers to the families and friends of the missing 239 passengers, or to the international community glued to the news. But as investigators continue to speculate, so does the general public, confusing an already muddled investigation.
The media's dissemination of sensational rumors — snatching up comments as evidence and masking anecdotes as analysis — not only adds noise to the clamorous search, but also detracts from the immense and important effort to find Flight MH370.
Speculations of foul play are growing as the investigation deepens, as well as deliberations as to whether or not terrorism was a factor. The plane traveled in a confused path before disappearing from all communications grids, leading some experts to suggest that the plane may have landed in remote mountains in Pakistan or Afghanistan where Taliban forces are known to hide.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban in Afghanistan, said that the missing plane had "nothing to do with them," according to Reuters. "It happened outside Afghanistan, and you can see that even countries with very advanced equipment and facilities cannot figure out where it went," Mujahid said. "So we also do not have any information, as it is an external issue."
A leader of the Pakistani Taliban also claims his militia had nothing to do with the flight's disappearance. He added, however, that he and his forces could only dream of such a plan.
"We wish we had an opportunity to hijack such a plane," he told Reuters by telephone.
Continuing the desperate search for any information on Flight MH370, Malaysian officials have sent diplomatic notes to several countries requesting radar information, satellite images and details of their respective sea, land and air search operations. Indian and Pakistani officials have responded that they had not seen anything suspicious. Indian officials in particular deny what they deem an outrageous claim that the flight could have flown over their country without any notice or alarm.
While investigators attempt to eliminate theories regarding the missing plane, media outlets attempt to fill in the gaps. On Sunday the Daily Mail published an article, "Is missing Malaysian jet the world's first CYBER HIJACK?" The article bases claims of terrorism on anecdotes that one of the pilots aboard the plane was a vocal political activist and a "gadget geek."
"It was against this background that, seven hours later, he took control of a Boeing 777-200 bound for Beijing and carrying 238 passengers and crew," the article states.
Comments by one security expert, Dr. Sally Leivesley, about a possible cyber-attack, have spawned handfuls of reports that Flight MH370 was hijacked by cell phone. Though a possibility, the claim is just one on a list of several.
"These conspiracy theories are rubbish, one independent aviation analyst said to Manchester Evening News. "They are just absolute balderdash. They are ridiculous and getting more ridiculous by the hour. I think they are proving to be a distraction."
Cyber-attack theories based on one expert's comments; 9/11-style hijackings based on speculation; alien abduction and supernatural powers: The media has it all when it comes Flight MH370.
Considering how emotional this search has been, it might be time for the media to cool it with the frantic speculation.