MH370 – more than just the loss of a plane


Ex-Convent Girl

The past participle ‘vanished’ is now being used to describe the ill-fated flight MH370. After almost three weeks at sea, SAR operations have not been able to retrieve even a single scrap of wreckage – no floating raft, no airplane seat, no twisted metal belonging to the jetliner.

What has surfaced, though, is a growing crowd of shameless opportunists who call themselves ‘news people’. Like a pack of ravenous wolves, these well-suited, polished professionals have been eager to tear apart our government in their quest to feed an equally ravenous audience with repackaged, rebranded and recycled stale news.

Displaying the most horrid version of herd mentality, the viewers themselves keep tuning in to devour the latest version of yesterday’s news so they can huddle in cafes, offices and pubs as they conjure up the next ridiculous conspiracy theory with their like-minded friends.

Through it all, the Malaysian government has remained stoic, putting on a brave face as they too grapple with this tragic and as yet unexplained disappearance.

The foreign press, however, has had a field day, interviewing aviation ‘experts’, seasoned air-crash reporters, even authors of books on air crashes, who have spoken out with plain disgust and arrogance at how incompetent and deceiving the Malaysian government is. Those who dared offer an alternative view, were simply cut off in mid sentence or thrown a look of deep scorn at being so naïve. So much for objective reporting and news anchoring, Piers Morgan!

A prominent ex-CIA agent is given too much camera time on CNN to repeatedly say, “I do not trust the Malaysian government”. I have this one question for him – “Do you trust yours?” There are still conspiracy theories aplenty regarding 9/11. Was the CIA sleeping on the job too that they had no inkling those planes were coming? What happened to your reels and reels of sophisticated and extensive surveillance footage? How come you let 9/11 happen?

Remember that heart-wrenching scene of a Chinese woman being ‘man-handled’ by Malaysian police? Remember how many news networks re-played that scene then recounted with deep solemnity how treacherous we Malaysians were? How come they never got their hands on the interview when that woman said she was afraid of those aggressive reporters? Of their flashing lights and booming microphones? How come they never reported that she asked our policemen to protect her… that she came to Malaysia to wait for her son’s return? That she was grateful for all the Malaysian government was doing to find her son?

Yes, it was a concerted effort by media big-wigs like CNN, BBC, Sky News, Al-Jazeera, Fox and CNBC to selectively play up the bad, give it their own warped interpretation and milk it for all it was worth. So long as viewers were repulsed, these reporters were earning their keep. Maybe a bigger, fatter year-end bonus thanks to the tragedy of MH370.

Back home, more brickbats are hurled at our government including airline, air force and police authorities. Opposition politicians gleefully join in the fray and so do their supporters who take to social networks and online news portals to whinge, whine, insult and berate Malaysia’s ‘hopeless’ handling of MH370.

26 countries stumped by this mystery… 26 countries drawing a blank despite the most sophisticated equipment at their disposal… 26 countries coming up with zilch despite scouring the seas for days in search of the wreckage. 26 countries! But only Malaysia singled out as incompetent, untrustworthy, deceitful.

Yes, we fumbled at the start. The conflicting statements made us cringe. Bugged-eyed spokespeople so obviously terrified of the vultures in the media should not have attempted to answer serious questions that they proceeded to bungle up.  And the slow trickling of information did drive us mad.

But wait a minute…

This mishap took us by surprise. So, yes, we were scrambling to make sense of it all. We admit to the incompetence. And we regret that our glaring shortcomings in public relations and crisis management cast an even more negative light on our country.

But revealing too little information? Remember, investigations are still underway. The FBI has been roped in. How responsible would it be to divulge every shred of evidence to the media while conclusions have yet to be made? And why can’t the foreign media understand this?

The vanishing of MH370 has been a monumental loss to the world. Besides the 239 lives we lost, Malaysia is also dealing with the loss of her credibility. Her competency. Her capacity to diffuse the damage the foreign press has done to undermine her authority and sincerity at every step of this tragedy. Even the honesty and empathy that Hishammuddin Hussein has shown these past weeks is only reluctantly acknowledged or altogether disregarded.

Thank you foreign press for showing us your acute lack of compassion. Most of all, thank you for doing very little honest reporting but much rumour-mongering and sensationalising of news. As I see it, MH370 also resulted in the loss of journalistic integrity.