Fully one-quarter of Americans think that Malaysia Air Flight 370 was either destroyed by terrorists, landed somewhere and is being kept hidden, or got stolen by aliens. I'm just going to repeat that sentence: Fully one-quarter of Americans think that Malaysia Air Flight 370 was either destroyed by terrorists, landed somewhere and is being kept hidden, or got stolen by aliens.
An exhaustive new survey from Reason.com addresses, among other important issues, the extent to which Americans are baffled by the disappearance of the Malaysia Air flight. Which is entirely understandable. Last month, The Wire walked through the tumultuous, weird, dumb series of assumptions and theories that have plagued the plane's disappearance. It was flying northeast and spotted from an oil rig but then it wasn't and it was headed to Kazakhstan and then it wasn't and it crashed into the ocean. A plane took off, flew normally for a bit, and then flew in silence for hours in the wrong direction. That is odd!
But, America, this is not acceptable:
"Crashed due to mechanical problems" is the accepted excuse at this point. What the problems were, and how they prevented communication are unknown. One-third of Americans say, OK, I can live with that uncertainty. And those nine percent that say they don't know? The most honest of the bunch. What happened to it! Where is the plane?
Then we start walking a bit further into the wilderness. "Crashed by pilots" and "destroyed by terrorists" are things that have happened to planes. Egypt Air Flight 990 was deliberately crashed; terrorism needs no example. But there's zero evidence those happened here — including a complete lack of any terror organization claiming responsibility.
OK. So. Fourteen percent of Americans — 44 million people! — think that one of these three things happened.
- The plane was stolen and is being hidden somewhere to be sold or used for terrorism. Its occupants are dead or hostages, though, if they're hostages, no one seems to be asking for anything in return. Nine percent of Americans think that.
- Three percent of Americans think it was shot down. By whom? Who knows.
- One of of every 20 Americans thinks that aliens or something otherwise supernatural made the plane vanish.
I'm not a spiritual person and am not inclined to think that Men in Black was based on actual events. So what does this mean? Is it like a catch-all for "something weird happened"? Or do two or three of the people in this large room in which I am currently working actually have theories about how an alien spacecraft/ghost appeared over Malaysia last month to take an airplane from the sky? If so, and they are reading this, come say hi! I want to hear about your ideas.
And, I wonder, does this group of people overlap with the one percent of respondents who told Reason that Flight 370 made them "more likely" to want to fly? I mean, when else do you get to meet an alien?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.