In a week marked by tragic losses at sea, my entire feed was divided between two similar but different events: the catastrophic implosion of a deep-sea submarine carrying five billionaires and the sinking of an overcrowded immigrant ship off the coast of Greece that claimed the lives of hundreds. The stark differences in the response to these two disasters have ignited a debate about the value of human lives and the bias in media coverage, particularly when class and wealth disparities are involved.
Although these events have been all over the news, I’m just going to share a brief summary of what happened.
What Caused the Catastrophic Implosion of OceanGate's Titan Submersible?
OceanGate's Titan submersible experienced a "catastrophic implosion" while going down to the Titanic wreck site, located at around 3,800 meters below sea level. The US Navy found sounds "consistent with an implosion" a little bit after the sub lost contact and a search confirmed the loss of the vessel and the instant death of all five passengers onboard.
If you aren’t familiar with the parts of a sub. This video below helped me understand the lingo I didn’t know about.
Basically, the sub's hull, which is designed to withstand tremendous water pressure at extreme depths, suddenly collapsed, leading to the catastrophic event. An investigation into the cause of the implosion is set to be carried to focus on the sub's carbon fiber mid-section (a design choice that was made to accommodate more people inside the vessel) but one that might have exposed the vessel to structural issues under extreme water pressure.
Unpacking Power Dynamics: Is There a Price Tag on Human Life?
Then we have a desperate and perilous journey that ends in a disaster for the 750 immigrants onboard a ship off the coast of Greece. The overcrowded vessel was in dire straits, and evidence suggested that European officials were aware of the situation but did not intervene. The tragedy claimed more than 300 lives.
The contrast between the two tragedies, the scale of the rescue efforts and the global media response stirred a fierce debate about national and international inequality and the different values placed on human lives. This was a debate that I witnessed for the entire weekend on Twitter, Instagram and Tiktok.
But my point here is not to compare the two events or mention the names of the lives that were lost in vain. I kept seeing content comparing the two.
And it wasn’t about the value of a billionaire’s life or that five lives matter more than a thousand. I don’t think anyone would willingly equate one tragedy to another. I think it was more of a cry to the abuse of power.
And the thing is that power doesn’t scream. It doesn’t walk into a room wearing a bejeweled crown. It shines through the cracks of a tinted glass, deciding what to illuminate, when to illuminate it and what to leave behind in the shadows.
It decides whose life is worth writing novels about and who to barely mention on the page, maybe scribbled in a foreign language, only to be understood by a few.
Power preys on the aspirations of the helpless. The boredom of those that are safe. It weaves a story of suspense and mystery because it is more entertaining than that of a complex desperation.
These 5 faces are more recognizable, even in an incredible distance than the faceless poor.
So no, I don’t blame the people for it. It is easier to know a handful of people than to know a small village. It is easier to look up the social ladder - be warned of our aspirations, confronted by what we lack - than it ever was to look down, and be reminded of all the privilege.
It was easier to blame and mock, “look at their silliness and wastefulness,” easier to point fingers. To overlook our own overindulgence and ingratitude.
I am alive to watch this criticism unfold. To see both narratives play out in front of me. But how will it go down in history?
How are the stories we learn in schools chosen? What narratives are prioritized and which ones are left out? How does this shape our understanding of history, culture and even society?
The truth is I don’t have all of the answers. The processes that dictate the narratives we absorb in educational institutions and in the media, are complex and multifaceted. They are influenced by a list of factors such as political affiliations, societal norms and cultural perspectives.
These factors help establish dominant ideologies or viewpoints that shape how historical events, cultural phenomena and societal issues are perceived. The inherent bias in these processes lead to a skewed interpretation of events, promoting a one-sided view of reality.
An example that I grew up hearing about was when the British established control over India and what is now Pakistan, they implemented administrative and institutional changes that had long-lasting effects on these countries.
The British introduced Western-style schooling as a means of disseminating cultural, ideological and linguistic values, a process often referred to as "Anglicization."
The curriculum ended up presenting the history and culture from a British or Eurocentric perspective, emphasizing the benefits of British rule, such as the introduction of railways, the legal system, and modern administration. At the same time, these curricula glossed over or omitted the atrocities committed by the British Empire, including famines caused by British economic policies, the brutal suppression of uprisings and exploitative taxation systems.
These were things that if someone wanted to learn, they would have to refer to external sources since the curriculum books in those countries are completely distributed by “Oxford University Press.” That is a department of the University of Oxford (located in the United Kingdom) and the largest university press in the world.
So, you can’t trust the books. Next up, we have the media. But can you trust them?
How the stories you hear are carefully chosen?
- Conceptualization: The first step in the creation of media content involves the conceptualization of ideas. This is where power dynamics start to come into play. Those in positions of power and influence in the industry, such as producers, directors, and writers, will conceive ideas based on their own experiences, perspectives or biases.
- Funding and Greenlighting: Once an idea has been conceived, it needs to be funded and approved (or "greenlit") for production. The people who hold the purse strings, such as studio executive, investors or publishers, have a significant say in which stories get told and how they get told. They make decisions based on perceived marketability, profitability and audience appeal. This leads to a preference for stories that appeal to the majority or those that perpetuate existing narratives, as these are seen as "safer bets."
My personal favorite thing to do is to search up the validity of the facts of a movie after I watch it. What I have normally found is those feel-good movies that are based on a "true story" often omit facts, exaggerate events or just add stuff for cinematic purposes.
- Production and Casting: During production, decisions about casting greatly influence representation. Roles can be written or cast in ways that reinforce societal norms.
- Distribution and Marketing: The way media content is distributed and marketed reflects the final stage of power dynamics. Major distribution networks and platforms choose which content to highlight and promote, influencing which stories and perspectives reach a wide audience.
So, power influences every step of the media creation process, from the initial concept to the final product.
Power is a double-edged sword. It's used for good and evil, for justice and oppression, for enlightenment and deception. But when power is abused, it has devastating consequences for individuals, communities and societies. It erodes trust, dignity and human rights. It breeds corruption. It silences dissent, manipulates information and distorts reality.
One of the strongest tools of power is the media. The media shapes public opinion, influences behavior and affects policy. How can we avoid the abuse of power by the media? How can we ensure that the media serves the public interest and not the private interests of those who control it? How can we foster a media culture that is diverse, inclusive and accountable? How can we promote a media literacy that is critical, creative and responsible?
They require collective action, civic engagement and democratic participation. They require courage, integrity and solidarity. They require us to challenge the status quo, to question the sources, to verify the facts and to seek the truth. They require us to be active citizens, not passive consumers, of the media. We are so busy being online warriors and waging argumentative wars under comment sections because that is all we know to do. That is our "contribution."
But sooner or later, we will come to realize: Power affects us all. It shapes our identities, relationships and opportunities. It determines who has access to resources, rights and representation. It influences how we see ourselves, how we see others and how we see the world.