Grace Dent: If this really is terrorism – and the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is not found – then this is a new level of terrifying

To be untraceable goes against everything we know about the march of technology

Share

Despite my best efforts, I have still not located the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. One would think I might have by now. I’ve certainly put the hours in. I’ve attended – via Sky News – each morning press conference. And thanks to BBC News 24 and CNN I am somewhat of an expert now on Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah’s home flight simulator; on the desires or disinterests of Uighur terrorists; on mobile phone reception in the Indian Ocean; and on the 24-strong Chinese Arts Peninsular Enterprise trip who ate a banquet of duck soup, then shrimp and pork in brown sauce before vanishing into thin air on a Boeing 777-200ER.

My reaction to the Malaysian story is not, it seems, unusual. The mystery has had a profound, unsettling effect on many friends and colleagues. In 2014, to be untraceable, goes against everything we know about the march of technology. The world became too clever, too nosy, too smart at tracing footprints. It is thought one can’t have anonymity or vanish even if one tries.

Where are the last frantic text messages? Why can’t telephone companies track any of the 229 phones? Why can’t Rolls-Royce use its jet engine data for anything useful? All those satellites we’ve pinged off into space – us arrogant earthlings, littering the  sky with our bleeping oh-so clever debris – why can’t they help us now? And if someone has taken the passengers, why aren’t they communicating?

That’s the script we know with terrorism. The action and then the admission. If this is terrorism, and this plane and its precious cargo of loved ones are never found, then this is a new level of terrifying. The horror of not knowing. I watch rolling news hour by hour, aware I am helping nobody, adding nothing to the dilemma, but instead just self-soothing that something is being done.

And, of course, the joy and splendour of rolling news is that it can make the grimmest, darkest affair into a rollicking pot-boiler. I’ve often joked that my retired father is never happier than at home during a Sky News live televised man-hunt. But then, since the age of Twitter, neither am  I. At one point Raoul Moat was a violent  ex-con who’d shot three people, but within six days of rolling news, the story was certainly more “fun” than a night in watching Silent Witness.

The main characters were gritty and fascinating, the back stories enthralling, and as for the bit with the fishing rods  and Gazza, oh how we laughed. Although now I think back, Moat had shot his girlfriend and Gazza was mentally ill, so it wasn’t terribly funny.

Rolling news has made the scenes from Kuala Lumpur more affable, as we hear the giggles in the news conference over daft questions, the titbits about the co-pilot being cautioned for having “blondes up smoking with him in the cockpit”, and Kay Burley in a crisp white shirt indefatigably searching for the truth.

Without this, we’re left with our own thoughts of what happened, or is still happening, to a bunch of everyday travellers, and that’s not remotely pleasant. And without answers, for me at least, there is still hope. The Hollywood ending, the previously unmapped island with a landing strip, the terrorists who suddenly have a conscience, and passengers like Norli Akmar Hamid and Muhammad Razahan Zamani wandering across the tarmac and saying that this was the most non-auspicious start to their honeymoon. But until then, I’ll carry on with my investigations.

Twitter: @gracedent

Read more on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370:
Did jetliner fly into area controlled by Taliban?
Read more from Grace Dent:
Let's hope Osborne isn't making Budget decisions when he's hungry
RIP Clarissa Dickson Wright - what a lady

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A couple hold hands near the shore  

In sickness and in Health: I miss the way we used to live, and the places we lived it

Rebecca Armstrong
Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders joins the Latitude 2014 line-up  

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde - please don't tell other victims it was theirs

Holly Baxter
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory