I’ve gone out of my way to avoid writing about the missing airplane, even though many Americans evidently find the mystery’s allure to be irresistible. Let’s face it: CNN isn’t going wall-to-wall with the story because of its intrinsic news value. I’ll freely admit that there’s something about aviation disasters in general that is morbidly fascinating, so a bizarre case involving a massive jet with hundreds of souls aboard simply vanishing is inevitably going to attract lots of eyeballs. And yes, some of the morsels of evidence that have emerged only add to the intrigue  That being said, the media’s endless speculation about this case — in the absence of much tangible news — strikes me as profoundly unseemly.  Some of the coverage has descended into self-parody.  In a much-derided segment, CNN anchor Don Lemon asked if there was any merit to a theory that the plane was swallowed up by a black hole.  (Bravo to the guest who deadpanned that even a small black hole would have sucked in “our entire universe, so we know it’s not that”).  CNN’s sister network, HLN, took the theater of the absurd a step further, hauling a psychic on air to offer the following “insights:”

It’s mind-numbing stuff to sit through, so here are the relevant bits from the transcript:

“Naturally, I don’t have hard, concrete evidence. I think any psychic who has hard, concrete evidence can’t do their job correctly…They’ll just work off what they know. I tend to work off what I don’t know….I kept feeling as though yes, there are some people who have passed away…I do believe that it actually crashed, and I see a lot of trees. I think there is a larger organization behind this that is leading us off track with this debris.”

She sees trees. And dead people. But hey, she’s only working off what she admittedly “doesn’t know.” This is embarrassing. I realize that television bookers and producers are under immense pressure to fill hours upon hours of air time to feed the public’s appetite for this story. But if you’re entertaining crackpot theories and interviewing psychics on air, it may be time to re-evaluate what you’re doing. The worst part of this press circus is the hellacious impact it must be having on the missing passengers’ loved ones. They’re being bombarded with stupid conjecture and misinformation, while desperately seeking any kernel of hope or truth. The “moar theories!” coverage model might be great for ratings and clicks, but it must be borderline torturous for the people with a real stake in all of this. The Onion distills things rather well in this piece of satire:

Saying they have endured heart-wrenching uncertainty and deserved definitive answers, the families of passengers aboard missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 expressed hope Wednesday that the media will eventually receive some kind of closure regarding the plane’s mysterious disappearance. “This has been an extremely difficult time for the reporters and anchors covering this event; they have put their lives on hold over the past 10 days and we know they won’t be able to move forward until they learn the fate of this airliner,” said Sarah Wan, speaking on behalf of the relatives and loved ones of the 239 missing individuals, who remain hopeful that some sort of resolution will be reached for the sake of the various news networks and websites. “The conflicting reports and numerous remaining unanswered questions have been devastating for them. It’s not surprising that they are obsessing around the clock, wondering what could have possibly occurred on board that flight. I don’t know how they are able to stay so resilient, grasping at every new statement or bit of information that trickles out. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them.” Wan said there was still a chance the plane may have been hijacked and the passengers aboard had been taken hostage, but she didn’t want to unfairly get the media’s hopes up.

Oof.