Over the course of about a week, the Lost Submarine saga Who went to the depths of the ocean to see the wreckage of the Titanic spreads across the national and global conversation – culminating in the news that the craft and its five passengers have exploded. We are dead.
But a much bigger disaster a few days ago, a shipwreck off Greece Filled with immigrants who killed at least 80 people and left 500 missing, it didn’t become a moment-to-moment global focus in anywhere near 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?
An unknown result and (we thought) a numbering watch
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.
Famous historical tragedy in the news
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 Titan’s submarine He went missing shortly after learning that she had lost contact with the surface while descending to an ocean liner wreck at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. He said that the focus in the media over the next few days on the submarine being given a 96-hour supply of oxygen—and that the noises had been heard—was a “long, nightmarish charade”.
Class and ethnicity played a role
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.
A small group of people had a media ear
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 disparity being hidden around the classroom,” Rickoper said. “We are able to know the people who are on the inside because of who they are. They are wealthy and they have access to the press. The divisions of ethnicity and national identity matter in terms of who is empathized with.”
The public lives largely by the risks others take
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 are participating in these high-risk experiments,” Van Tongeren said. “Even though we know that 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.
Fatigue is a factor, too
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.”
Associated Press journalist Kara Rubinsky contributed to this report.
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