This week, media and social media have continuously covered the search deployed to find the submersible Titan.

This small submersible, owned by the company OceanGate, with a cylindrical size of 670 cm by 280 cm by 250 cm, embarked Stockton Rush, OceanGate’s CEO, Paul-Henri Nolet, a Titanic specialist, and three tourists, the English billionaire Hamish Harding, Pakistani billionaire Shahzada Dawood and the latter’s 19-year-old son, Suleman, to descend to some 3,800 meters deep to admire the wreck of the Titanic.

Each of the three clients had to pay $250,000 to OceanGate in order to be able to take part in this risky expedition, as evidenced by the waiver they had to sign in favor of this private company, which sets out physical, emotional damage and death as inherent risks of the expedition.

(Signing this waiver will in no way prevent OceanGate from being sued for criminal charges if participants were misinformed about the reality of the risks – this is my inner lawyer speaking, sorry).

The disappearance of Titan caused a deep emotion all around the world.

All the media talked about it.

Official American, Canadian and French rescuers have been deployed.

We were able to count ten vessels from the US Coast Guards, two vessels from the Canadian Coast Guard, a vessel from the Canadian Navy, several planes from the American and Canadian armies, a vessel from the French national institution Ifremer, two private vessels and several ROVs (remote operated vehicles) including the most crucial, the French Victor 6000.

One might think that the American and Canadian military implications were due to the location of Titan in American or Canadian waters, but this is not the case: Titan and its mother ship the Polar Prince, sailed in international waters.

One could also believe that the American and Canadian military implications were due to OceanGate belonging to the American or Canadian governments, or that it was a scientific mission of national or international scope: it is not so, OceanGate is a private company and the expedition had no other purpose than the satisfaction of private interests.

As of this writing, there is no longer any chance of finding these five people alive, a debris field having been identified as the result of an implosion of the submersible – and that is absolutely tragic.

However, there is just as much, if not more, tragedy, given the number of victims and the circumstances surrounding their deaths: on the night of June 13 to 14, 2023 – five days before the disappearance of Titan, the sinking of a migrant boat where 78 dead were found (the last term is important because the toll is obviously much heavier) off Greece. The boat, which was carrying between 400 and 750 people (sources vary) had left Libya to reach Italy. Needless to say that these people migrated to ensure their survival.

Few media talked about it.

Little rescue was deployed.

Greek TV channels showed the survivors arriving and the sinking received fairly limited media coverage.

In terms of rescue, only Greek Port Police patrol boats, a Greek Navy frigate, Greek Air Force plane and helicopter and six private boats that were sailing in the area rescued the boat. This is little, compared to the efforts made to save Titan.

It could be argued that the authorities were not aware of the sinking in due time, unlike in the case of Titan, where the race against time was aimed at saving five people who, were hoped, were still alive. This is not the case, since the Greek coast guard monitored the evolution of the boat, which had still been afloat for several hours before sinking.

According to Louise Guillaumat, of SOS Méditerranée, there have been more than 1,000 visible deaths since the beginning of 2023, that is to say the bodies that can be counted, being understood that the figures are well below the reality. In addition, the number of deaths continues to increase from year to year, according to UNHCR – the United Nations Refugee Agency. Shipwrecks of migrant boats are a humanitarian and international disaster and should be treated as such.

Alas, no sea rescue policy exists, the effort being left to non-profitable entities and civil society organizations. However, climatic and food crises are accelerating the displacement of populations. One has to accept it, it’s a fact. One must now also agree to supervise and secure such displacements. Unfortunately, the road will be long because the theme is also political.

Don’t get me wrong: both events are as tragic as each other. I just wish they had the same media coverage and the same rescue attempts – that is, the most important ones, that is, those of Titan.

The difference in treatment is striking. How to explain that the disappearance of Titan retains so much media and governmental attention while the numerous shipwrecks and deaths of migrants do not benefit from such attention?

The often morbid and macabre interest in the Titanic itself may be one reason. The sinking of the Titanic has been a source of fascination for 111 years, especially since the discovery of its wreckage in 1985, and it is not James Cameron who will contradict me. The fact that the submersible bears more or less the same name as the unsinkable ocean liner, or that the wife of Stockton Rush, OceanGate’s CEO who is missing, is the great-great-granddaughter of one couples who died on the Titanic – Isidor and Ida Straus – also featured in James Cameron’s film, have further fueled the dark legend of the Titanic.

The infection of our Western societies by the plague of reality TV may be another reason that could explain the intense media coverage of the disappearance of Titan. The conditions which surrounded the last hours of its five passengers gave rise to all possible speculation on the possible causes of their present or imminent death, between implosion and lack of oxygen – the countdown announced by all the media as to the number of hours remaining before oxygen depletion in the submersible being perfectly anxiety-provoking – and perfectly useless.

This attention to the litany of details relating to the submersible, to the participants, to the dangers linked to the expedition, to the atrocity of the assumptions – described and commented on ad nauseam by the media and social networks – has something particularly voyeuristic and insensitive to the families of the lost ones. Dubious jokes have invaded Twitter for a week, between puns and total dehumanization of the missing persons – and it’s sickening. I can’t help but think of this masterful and terrible French film by Bertrand Tavernier, “La Mort en Direct” (“Death Watch”), which follows a dying woman filmed without her knowledge – who denounces the dictatorship of voyeurism and who unknowingly foreshadows reality TV.

The wealth of the billionaires aboard the Titan submersible (like that of the first-class passengers of the Titanic) and the excess they can afford are perhaps two other reasons that could explain the media coverage and general attention related to Titan’s expedition. The possibility of visiting the wreck of the Titanic for a quarter of a million dollars is obviously out of reach, out of anyone’s mind. And even if I had my “Titanic phase” in my childhood, the adult that I am today finds it indecent that a company offers a visit to a necropolis where intense suffering existed.

The scientific interest of the Titan expedition can hardly be highlighted – an exact 3D reconstruction of the wreck having been carried out during the Summer of 2022 from 700,000 images, by the seabed mapping company Magellan. In addition, the wreck is decomposing day by day – certainly because of the rusticle bacteria – but also because of the regular explorations that take place there.

A whole capitalist system allows billionaires to afford, for indecent sums of money, space travels or expeditions to an underwater necropolis. The brainless poor is content with selfies taken at Auschwitz: the idea is the same, the overconsumption of oneself and one’s environment – and unknowingly joins the theme of reality TV where everything is consumable and dehumanized.

An ounce of decency would be welcome: an inaccessible necropolis should not be a subject of trade and the media coverage of an admittedly tragic but isolated event should not be so frantic.

Alas, this media coverage only meets the expectations of viewers and readers.

Whatever contrary may be said, countries like France, the United Kingdom or the United States still live in the monarchical fantasy. France may have cut off the head of its sovereign, but the hyper-presidential regime in which we live, the admiration (or detestation) aroused by the great industrial dynasties such as the Pinaults and other Arnaults say nothing else than this monarchical nostalgia which almost resembles a Stockholm syndrome. The United Kingdom watches and comments on the slightest gesture of each member of its royal family, even if it is devoid of powers, and the United States, which has never had a sovereign, clings to political (the Kennedys), industrial (the Rockfellers, the Mars, the Waltons, the Kochs) or artistic (the Presleys) dynasties.

Whether we like it or not, the class warfare still exists (class warfare which was also at the heart of the plot of James Cameron’s film).

A minority sees the ultra-rich, nepotism and nepobabies as obstacles to social justice and equality. The #eattherich hashtag has been repeatedly associated on Twitter with the Titan’s demise. Approximations that the Titanic only carried hyper-privileged people, too.

But the fact remains that dynasties and money are the golden dream of a large majority (sometimes even those who hate the rich want to be rich).

Videos about dressing according to “old money” or “quiet luxury” codes (I quote) and assimilating “rules of etiquette” (I quote again) are invading Instagram – and God they annoy me. The goal is to assimilate codes, behaviors and attributes that are not those of their original social class. The success of these videos, which are classist without knowing it, says a lot about our society.

The fantasy aroused by money, nobility and monarchy still has a bright future ahead of it. I am the first to appreciate my visits to castles and mansions but my interest is artistic and historical and I always keep in mind that I am visiting a place which was occupied by ultra-privileged people served by an army of servants who lived in great misery.

You may think I’m drifting off topic. I am not.

The fascination exercised by the ultra-privileged classes and their lifestyle is intact and the means to which they naturally have access (and without even asking) are perfectly illustrated by the sinking of the Titan sub. The approach of death, preferably filmed, also holds the attention of crowds feeding on reality TV.

In this light, one understands better why the repeated and clandestine shipwrecks of poor and migrant people hardly arouse international emotion.

The Mediterranean has become an immense blue shroud, and no one cares.


(Editor’s note: to illustrate this article, which never needed any photos, but it is a tradition here, here are some photos of the Channel, the Mediterranean sea and the Atlantic ocean. This will give you time to digest this very long article. I may have swum with dolphins in the open sea, I may have seen sperm whales, I may have been on a number of motorboats or sailboats, the fact remains that the high sea terrifies me for all the reasons discussed in this article. Anyway).

June 23, 2023