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WASHINGTON — For nearly a week, the saga of a missing submarine who ventured into the depths of the ocean to witness the wreck of the Titanic has been spreading through national and global conversation — culminating in the news that the craft has exploded and its five occupants are dead.
But a much larger disaster just days earlier, a shipwreck off Greece full of migrants that killed at least 80 and left 500 missing, did not become the focus of moment-to-moment global attention anywhere near in the same way.
One of them captured the constant attention from one moment to the next. One was watched and discussed as a sad but perfunctory news story.
What makes these two events at sea so different in how they are received? Looking at each other, what do they say about human reactions to the tragic news? And why has the submarine saga attracted so much attention?
By the time the world learned of the Greek shipwreck, the event had already occurred and, to some extent, the outcome was already known. All that remains is the fallout.
On the contrary, Titan was (the world believed) an event in the making – something that happened in real time with a deadline attached. As with any story, the ticking clock builds tension and attention.
The fact that no one could communicate with the submarine—or know anything about what the people inside were experiencing—only added to the potential for close attention.
Before anything went awry, Titan was already venturing into a world of great interest existing – the wreck of the Titanic, which itself was the archetype of modern disasters long before James Cameron’s iconic 1997 movie. So there was interest already unrelated. the submarine itself.
Cameron’s reaction to the Titan disaster only made that connection even more intense.
he told the BBC in an interview He broadcast on Friday that he “felt in my bones” that the submarine Titan was missing shortly after he heard it had lost contact with the surface as it descended to the ocean liner wreck at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. He said that the focus in the media over the next few days on giving the submarine a 96-hour supply of oxygen—and that banging noises were heard—was a “long, nightmarish charade”.
Many of the reactions and memes this week have centered around the notion that — fair or not — one event involved rich people using the ocean as a playground, while the other was an unfortunately recurring iteration of people who lack status, resources, or even a voice in the modern marketplace. for ideas.
Migrants on the ship in Greece did not seem to generate the same interest from the public as did wealthy individuals who paid $250,000 each, said April Alexander, a professor of public health at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte who has studied trauma and survivors. to explore the Titanic.
This reminded Alexander of the differences in news coverage of crime in the United States. Alexander says crimes get more attention when the victim is white and rich than when a person of color lives in poverty.
People tend to be drawn to stories that allow them to empathize with the suffering of others — and that it’s easier to empathize when there are a smaller number of people involved, says Tim Recober, an assistant professor of sociology at Smith College who studies media, digital culture, and emotions.
“I think some people are calling out this time for a kind of inequality that cuts across all rows,” Rickoper said. “We’re able to tell who the sub people are because of who they are. They’re wealthy and they have access to the press. The divisions of ethnicity and national identity matter in terms of who they sympathize with.”
Risk takers have been in the headlines for almost as long as there have been headlines. So the public is likely to be fascinated by tricking others into dying by doing something dangerous, says Darrell Van Tongeren, a professor of psychology at Hope College in Michigan who has studied the meaning of major events and their impact on people.
In other words, readers and viewers can feel alive by living vicariously through others who take risks. “There is this fascination with people who engage in these high-risk experiences,” Van Tongeren said. “Even though we know death is the only certainty in life, we invest in these activities where we come close to death but overcome it. We want to show our superiority over death.” He said.
epidemic. Mass shooting. Economic problems. war. Climate change. Another piece of bad news can be difficult to break through. “People are starting to restrain themselves,” Alexander said.
Ultimately, she said, she would like to see the same level of societal interest in human tragedies regardless of race, religion, demographics, or other factors: “For all of us, we hope that if any of our loved ones go missing that the media and the public will Same concern for all stories.”
Contribute: Kara Rubinsky
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