Malaysia blamed in MH370 'mystery'

Malaysian officials answer questions during a 13 March, 2014, press conference on the disappearance of flight MH370. Malaysian government officials have become the focus of frustration following the disappearance of flight MH370

It now has been almost six full days since flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing disappeared without a trace. The plane's fate has become a hot topic for commentators and pundits around the world.

"Frustration over the fruitless search has increasingly been directed at Malaysian officials after a series of fumbling news conferences, incorrect details given by the national airline, and a long delay in divulging details of the military's tracking of what could have been the plane hundreds of miles off course," writes Stuart Grudgings of Reuters.

The criticism of Malaysian officials has gone beyond focusing solely on the response to this particular story and identifies institutional problems.

"The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has challenged the country's paternalistic political culture and exposed its coddled leaders to the withering judgments of critics from around the world," writes Thomas Fuller in the New York Times.

Start Quote

Everyone seems to have an opinion regardless of whether they know anything about jet planes or aeronautics”

End Quote Marina Mahathir The Star (Malaysia)

It's Malaysia's "ethnically polarised society" that's responsible, he continues:

Talent often does not rise to the top of government because of patronage politics within the ruling party and a system of ethnic preferences that discourages or blocks the country's minorities, mainly ethnic Chinese and Indians, from government service.

Commentary in the Malaysian press is defensive, thanks to the harsh international spotlight.

"Under the circumstances, the Malaysian authorities have carried out their roles well," writes Chok Suat Ling in the New Straits Times. "Considering the large number of countries involved and assets deployed, the search-and-rescue has been well coordinated."

Marina Mahathir of the Star agrees.

"Everyone seems to have an opinion regardless of whether they know anything about jet planes or aeronautics," she writes. "And let's not forget those who take opportunity to place blame based on the most outlandish reasons. A bit like when some blamed the Indian Ocean tsunami on people partying on beaches."

Other writers have latched onto the story about two individuals on the flight who were travelling with fake passports, although there's currently no evidence of a link to the plane's disappearance.

"The rampant use of fake travel documents presents a terrorist threat to aviation security," writes Zhou Zunyou of the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law in the South China Morning Post.

The editorial board of the Chicago Tribune also weighs in.

"The passengers who did so to board this flight may not have been dangerous to their fellow travellers," the editors write. "But no one steals and uses someone else's passport for legitimate reasons."

A story this big has been a boon to aviation experts, who each have their own theory. A news outlet can find an opinion to support just about any position.

Take the lack of a distress call from the plane.

Start Quote

In the absence of facts we get cliches”

End Quote Charlie Beckett London School of Economics

Very telling, writes aviation journalist Clive Irving in the Daily Beast: "Whatever happened was instantaneous. There was no distress call from the pilots, and no previous hint of a technical problem."

Or maybe not. Airline pilot and author Bill Palmer for CNN:

An aviator's priorities are to maintain control of the airplane above all else. An emergency could easily consume 100% of a crew's efforts. To an airline pilot, the absence of radio calls to personnel on the ground that could do little to help the immediate situation is no surprise.

Charlie Beckett, director of the London School of Economics' journalism think tank POLIS, posts on his blog that stories like this highlight the flaws in the modern news business.

"In the absence of facts we get cliches," he writes. "We (currently) have no accurate idea where the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is, so journalists resort to phrases such as 'mystery surrounds the fate' or 'confusion reigns'. More journalism is like this than you realise."

Journalists have a blind spot when reporting on stories like these, he argues, looking too much to the past for guidance on a breaking story.

"Journalists tend to fall into a pattern based on previous narratives and ignore evidence or theories that don't conform to those prejudices," he writes. "The pundits tend to tell the journalists what they want to hear, or what sounds exciting."

At some point we may learn the fate of flight MH370. Or maybe we won't. It's a mystery, and confusion reigns.


More on This Story

MH370 mystery


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  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    My personal belief is that the Malaysia plane went down due to the Dragon Triangle

    The Dragon Triangle is the same as the Bermuda Triangle except that they are in opposite positions on Earth
    (as if they are connected in the middle)

    Mysterious disappearences have been reported for many years

    Likely the Dragon Triangle threw their compasses, ect off course

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Given the simmering tension over the territorial claims being made by all the nations in the region, it is no wonder than they are unwilling to share tracking data from their air defense networks, who whole purpose is to locate and track unidentified aircraft. Saying what they saw or even admitting they saw nothing gives away information about their capability to neighbors they distrust.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    WindsorKnot: From the get go other countries are involved.Example US was involved fairly early. 7th Fleet assets (2 vessels, USS Pinckney, USS Kidd. 2 planes a P-3 Orion, today added a P-8A Poseidon), NTSB, FBI, Boeing technical representative, Atlanta based disaster recovery consultants. There are 12 countries involved in SAR operations. This is before going into international agencies involved.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    I think it was taken by a UFO.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    I think Malaysia needs to cede the fact that they do not have the capabilities to head the search of this plane. They need help and shoudl look to countries with more experience, like France or the US. One looks at this from the outside and thinks that this is in the hands of amateurs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    The official communications have been a fiasco, but I have a good deal of sympathy with Malaysian officials too - last contact with the plane was as it left Malaysian airspace, and there was no distress signal. Which left very few leads for them to follow.

    After finding nothing in the "obvious" search area, the list of things that could have happened is very long.


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