Just what in the wide, wide world of sports is going on (to steal a quote from the great screenwriter Mel Brooks) over at CNN? Riding high on some ratings they haven't seen the likes of since the last magnetic disaster that had millions tuned in (probably the Boston Marathon bombings), the Cable News Network seems to be doing whatever bottom-dredging it takes in order to keep the viewers from grabbing the remote control and changing to another network. So, with almost 24-hour coverage of the Malaysia Airlines plane disappearance and mystery and in with desperation aforethought, the news network seems determined to introduce speculative theories regarding the missing plane that go beyond the pale of the supernatural and right into the realm of "preposterous" -- like black holes and zombie planes.
As Yahoo News reported March 20, CNN anchor Don Lemon phrased it exactly so when he brought up the topic of the oddball theory that the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 had vanished due to a smuggled-aboard hydrogen bomb that exploded and created a black hole that swallowed the jet. Said Lemon: "I know it's preposterous, but is it preposterous, do you think, Mary?"
Mary was CNN contributing analyst Mary Schiavo, former inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation, who wasted no time letting Lemon know just how preposterous the theory was. "It is," Schiavo replied. "A small black hole would suck in our entire universe. So we know it's not that. The Bermuda Triangle is often weather, and 'Lost' is a TV show."
Schiavo was referring to -- with the Bermuda Triangle and "Lost" references -- other crackpot theories that have been given voice on the Internet and even a few broadcasts here and there.
But Don Lemon's question regarding something extraordinary isn't his first. In fact, on Sunday he vaguely alluded to some sort of religious connection.
"Especially today, on a day when we deal with the supernatural, we go to church, the supernatural power of God. You deal with all of that. People are saying to me, why aren't you talking about the possibility — and I'm just putting it out there — that something odd happened to this plane, something beyond our understanding?"
Apparently Don Lemon has been reading the "Left Behind" series, which starts out with a sequence where a character is aboard an airplane where the passengers and even a pilot disappear, the beneficiaries of being true Christian believers that are taken up in the "rapture" to be with God while those who are doubters and less worthy are left to fight Satan's armies in the twilight years of the tribulations. It is typical pre-Armageddon fare served up by evangelicals.
And yet, that was not the end of CNN's outreach to Generations Y and Z. On Thursday, anchor Wolf Blitzer brought out senior correspondent Suzanne Malveaux to champion the "zombie plane" theory, where fumes and smoke fill the cabin and cockpit of an aircraft and render passengers and crew unconscious, the plane continuing on autopilot until it crashes.
Now, it isn't that the theory itself is supernatural, it is the connotation derived from the tag given the theory, i. e. "zombie plane." With zombies being a pop culture phenomenon of the past decade -- "The Walking Dead," "World War Z," zombie flash mobs and walks, "zombie apocalypses" -- it is an attention-getter.
Still, like the black hole generated by a hydrogen bomb and God calling up his chosen, a zombie plane is a highly unlikely scenario.
But that hasn't stopped CNN from reporting on the "preposterous." (An aside: Don't think Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert aren't going to go after the network because of this line of coverage. CNN has become one of their favorite targets as it flails around trying to find some form of identity since the network decided unbiased, straight news wasn't going to be its bailiwick any longer.)
And why not? Like a zombie, the network has become reanimated in the ratings wars with its fellow news networks. And ratings drives the advertising dollars. That's simple broadcast economics. Nothing supernatural about that at all.