This article originally appeared in our Elevenses newsletter.
Good morning. On Thursday afternoon, as oxygen countdown clocks ticked down on American TV shows and a new crop of social media submersive experts turned their attention to other pressing news items, the five passengers on board the missing Titan vessel were tragically pronounced dead. At a press conference in Boston, Massachusetts, Rear Admiral John Mauger of the US Coast Guard, who had been leading the multi-million pound search, said debris found near the wreck of the Titanic was “consistent with a catastrophic loss of the pressure chamber”. After days of speculation, the announcement delivered the definitive answer we had all been searching for, and the media circus rolled out of town.
Throughout the week, memes doing the rounds on social media had sought to draw attention to the supposed lack of interest in other tragic drownings at sea, highlighted by the sinking of a ship that went down off the coast of Greece at a cost of hundreds of lives. ‘Why do we care so little about asylum seekers who had no choice other than to make perilous journeys across the ocean and so much about those who paid $250,000 to put themselves in harm’s way?’, or so the narrative went. Billionaire’s lives matter, was another familiar trope.
But this was no ordinary tragedy. The Titanic has always been of interest to the public. That it has claimed more lives has made it even more so. Add to that the 96 hours of oxygen, PlayStation control pads and the fact that crew members were bolted in from the outside and you’ve got all the trappings of a James Cameron blockbuster, and no matter which side of the debate you land, we were all watching. Does that make it worse than any other poor soul who has perished at sea? No. Does it make it more headline-worthy? Regrettably, yes. The media is hardly a worthy bastion of morality, after all.
If morality is your thing, though, then arm yourself, because there’s likely to be plenty more quandaries like this on the horizon. In a world where billionaires choose to pump their money into exploring the earth’s extremities and, increasingly, exploring beyond our own planet, hobbies that would have once been the preserve of Black Mirror episodes are now an every day reality. As the world’s media primed their cameras on the search and rescue mission in the Atlantic, Virgin Galactic completed a final test that will green light its vessel to run commercial flights into space. Blue Origin has already completed suborbital joy rides, taking Jeff and Mark Bezos up for a peak at the galaxy at an eye-watering cost.
Is it so bad that people want to dive to the bottom of the ocean when space tourism could soon account for six per cent of warming if we reach once-a-day rocket launches? Billionaires already emit a million times more greenhouse gasses than the average person, according to an Oxfam study. And while people get displaced from their homes by the effects that is having on our planet, as Amazon destroys the Amazon, they’re already planning their next carbon-guzzling, nature-defying trip to quell an insatiable appetite to do what others cannot. Charlie Brooker eat your heart out.
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