The bipolar world of the affluent and underclass has been brought into sharp focus over the last few weeks with two similar incidents that received very contrasting reactions from the media.
As rescuers made every effort to find and rescue a handful of wealthy individuals and explorers who went missing after undertaking an expedition to investigate the Titanic, another maritime disaster that is thought to have killed hundreds of people has been pushed to the sidelines.
The drowning of a fishing boat carrying migrants attempting to cross from Libya to Italy last week provoked arrests, violent protests, and doubts about authorities’ unwillingness to intervene or find a long-term solution to the problem. Many human rights campaigners, however, are disappointed that the world appears to have moved on and that the resources and media attention devoted to the Titan rescue attempts significantly outnumber those devoted to the sunken migrant ship.
As of Thursday evening, the five men trapped in the OceanGate Titan submarine, OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, French diver Paul-Henri Nargeolet, Pakistani investor Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman, and British businessman, Hamish Harding, had been reported to have died after losing all contact with officials Sunday morning.
The Titan submarine took off on Sunday, 18 June, to explore the infamous Titanic shipwreck. At 8 am the submarine was released from the ship that brought it to the location and at 9:45 am they lost all contact with the people monitoring them.
Rescue missions led by the US coast guard and navy commenced the same day as it was reported that the submarine only had 4 days’ worth of oxygen and if they weren’t found soon, they most likely would not be found alive.
The missions quickly garnered international attention with millions of people sharing their hopes that they would be found and providing insight into the dangers of “titanic tourism” people, namely millionaires who spend millions of dollars to explore the Titanic even though the ship is at the very bottom of the ocean where it would not be possible to explore fully.
As the rescue searches continued into the week public sentiments began to change as people criticized the quick responses from multiple militaries and the attention shown to the submarine over other ship disasters.
One in specific is a fishing boat with migrants traveling from Libya to Italy. It is now being considered one of the deadliest human tragedies in the Mediterranean Sea after it began to sink off the coast of Greece. More than 500 migrants are presumed to have died as the boat was carrying at least 750 people. This incident has arguably not received the same amount of attention or resources as the submarine.
“My biggest takeaway from the Titan story is that we absolutely could have coordinated, multinational efforts to ensure no migrant dies crossing the sea and we choose not to.” One tweet says.
Another one, “Yet again, the media disappoints us by licking the boots of the super-rich. A boat carrying hundreds of Pakistani migrants sank while crossing the Mediterranean. I came across this as a social media post before I saw a news headline that spoke of this devastating news.”
Former US President Barack Obama also shared these sentiments in an interview on Thursday, hours before the US military confirmed that the people on board the submarine had died:
“There is a potential tragedy unfolding with the submarine that is getting minute-to-minute coverage all around the world. This is understandable because we all want and pray that these folks are rescued…But the fact that this has got so much more attention than the fact that 700 people sank is an untenable situation,” Barack Obama said.
Though the boat sank two weeks ago many people have expressed their frustration of how this news has been overshadowed by the sensationalism of OceanGate.
On World Refugee Day, Tuesday, artist Oliver Jeffers expressed such sentiments through a cartoon. It showed a television crew focusing their cameras on a ship beneath the waves while turning away from persons who appeared to be drowning in surrounding waterways.
“While we are glued to the news about 5 mostly wealthy tourists lost on a submarine on their way to seek the wreckage of a sunken ship, today is World Refugee Day, and only last week a boat holding hundreds of refugees sank off the coast of Greece,” Jeffers wrote in an Instagram post accompanying the graphic.
Some also relate this back to how the public and governments pay attention to and willingly spend millions on the richest in society while neglecting the rest of the population. Especially in their reactions to migrant ships crossing the Mediterranean. Multiple ships sink every week due to it being one of the harshest waters to cross by boat because of the unpredictable conditions.
However, many European countries, Greece specifically, have been implicated in delaying aid missions as well as engaging in illegal pushback, forcing boats to go back to their point of origin.
As the investigation of what happened to cause the Titan incident continues the question remains, if tragedy shows no discrimination, how can resources and media attention continue to be skewed towards one group over another.