MH 370: Donald Sterling, Ipse Dixit and the Investigation

It’s official…or not.  The travails of Donald Sterling and the NBA have pushed MH 370 off the radar (no pun intended) of the 24 hour news cycles.  This conclusion is, by no means, as scientific as the poll of 1000 Americans, 79% of whom think there are no survivors and 69% of whom believe the search should continue.  However, 46% think the searchers are looking in the wrong place.  Wait a minute! If you go back and read the polls results again, they could apply to Donald Sterling/LA Clippers, as well as MH 370.

In any event, even the unscientific poll of just watching any 24 hour news network allows the most casual observer to conclude that the “story du jour”, in fact, the “story du week” is the Clippers.  After all, it’s got sports, sex, money, intrigue and everything else required of a good reality show.  The problem is that there’s finally something to really report regarding MH 370.

Last week the Malaysians, Australians and Chinese met to talk about what comes next.  We have heard reports of reviewing the “ping” data and the Inmarsat analysis, bringing in private contractors to resume the search at a cost of $60.0 million, and expanding the search area.  All of these are admirable steps.

The search, to date , based on the Inmarsat analyses, has come up empty.  The reality is that no one really seems to have had the opportunity to independently review or validate either the Inmarsat data or the methodology they utilized to do their analysis.  There have been reports that it was a cutting edge approach, but it doesn’t appear that anyone has really been able to critically evaluate it.  People are suggesting the possibility that the whole analysis is flawed and that the search is looking in the wrong place.

If you haven’t read it, The Atlantic, May 8, 2014 has an interesting article which dissects what is known of the Inmarsat analysis.  The sub-heading of just one section of the article tells the whole story “Why Inmarsats’ Analysis Is Probably Wrong.”  In examining the Inmarsat analysis and trying to validate it, the article says “Either Inmarsats’ analysis doesn’t totally make sense, or it’s flat out wrong.”

Inmarsat continues to stand by its analysis.  It’s not very surprising, since they have a pretty substantial credibility investment in it.  Taking refuge in the investigation, Inmarsat won’t give any details or answer any basic questions about their analysis or who reviewed it for accuracy.

If one is to believe The Atlantic article, investigators have been searching in the southern region of the Indian Ocean based upon a proprietary analysis by a company which seems to follow the maxim of “ipse dixit” or “it’s true because I say it’s true.”

We don’t know whether to afford the Inmarsat analysis any credibility, particularly in light of the totally unsuccessful search efforts.  Nor do we know whether the criticism leveled in The Atlantic is valid or not.  What we do know however, is that it appears we’re back at square one, or maybe square 12, or maybe square seven, or maybe…

Whether or not the involved nations, which presumably have access to everything none of us do, are in any better a position to determine where the investigation is and where it goes, remains to be seen.  We do know they don’t know where the airplane is.

Just when you would like the media to beat up on someone, that someone being Inmarsat, they’re covering Mr. Sterling’s travails and those of the NBA, maybe because we all know the location of that wreckage.

(Originally posted May 12, 2014)

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