“So,” Gerry Shih, a technology reporter for Reuters in San Francisco, asked on Twitter, “what are the most titillating conspiracy theories about the #MalaysiaAirlines out there?? I'm thinking more ‘Homeland,’ less ‘Lost.’
Wild guesses abound on social media, where riveted users were thinking about everything from black ops to black magic. Some people suggested that aliens, UFOs or a meteor strike could be involved. Others blamed terrorists or speculated that the Malaysian military might have mistakenly shot down the passenger plane. Several hypothesised that the Boeing 777 could have landed safely and that its occupants are still alive.
After a week of conflicting information surrounding the disappearance of flight MH370 and its 239 occupants, theories ranging from ludicrous to plausible have cropped up to fill the void about what happened.
Members of the online community Reddit debated whether the plane, which vanished from radar screens while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on 8 March 2014, might have been hijacked and diverted to North Korea.
A Reddit user named nickryane wrote that the North Korean government has “kidnapped civilians from several nations before. They could have been targeting specific people they knew were on that flight, or they could be after some modern technology in the airliner.”
That idea gained traction on Twitter as well. A user named CA_KarateDog tweeted:
— CA_KarateDog (@CAKarateDog) March 10, 2014
Reddit spawned a competing theory, too — on the premise that 20 employees of a technology company called Freescale were aboard MH370.
“It seemed odd to me that 20 of their employees were on board the plane and that they are a defense contractor linked to cloaking technology … and then the plane vanishes,” a Reddit user named RachelvsPublic wrote.
On Facebook, a user named Riana Thiart gave a twist to that theory: “Another suspicious fact is that 20 of the best electrical motor vehicle engineers were on that plane. You can't help but assume if the OIL mafia was behind the terrorist attack. Super efficient electrical cars could have been about to launch.”
The Wabbster, a Twitter user in Mumbai, India, offered an explanation for the proliferation of hypotheses about the fate of the Malaysia Airlines jet.
— The Wabbster (@wabbster) March 14, 2014
Since the plane vanished, the news media have reported a number of unusual circumstances: Two of the passengers had boarded with stolen European passports; the smartphones of some people on board were still ringing days after the disappearance; and after ceasing contact, the jet may have made a U-turn or veered off its flight path.
On Friday, Manoj Mathew, an Internet entrepreneur in Kerala, India, called attention on Twitter to the latest development — that the plane was hundreds of miles off course:
— Manoj V Mathew (@manojvmathew) March 14, 2014
“No way it was ‘crashed,'” wrote Reddit user ithoughtsobitch. “If it was crashed someone would have found it by now. Creepy really. Just imagine with today's technology. Any plane in the world full of people could just ‘disappear’.”
Several netizens offered tongue-in-cheek speculation.
“Some alien teenagers snatched that thing straight out of the sky,” someone who goes by Hemp5678 wrote on Reddit.
That remark probably falls into the same category as this tweet by a Canadian man named Jeff Arwadi:
— Jeff Arwadi (@spitonself) March 12, 2014
Vishal Ponnappa, a self-described nature worshiper and beer enthusiast, added, “Do you think UFOs are involved? Or Chinese terrorists?”
At Kuala Lumpur International Airport, a group of “bomohs,” or witch doctors, performed a ritual to aid the search efforts for the missing plane. That drew mixed reactions online.
Jun Sebastian of Malaysia tweeted:
I apologize if u saw the so-called witchdoctor claiming #MH370 “trapped” btw 3 countries in the underworld. I'm embarrased for my country.
— Jun Sebastian (@JunSebastian) March 12, 2014
But Anita Kapoor, a TV host in Singapore, countered:
Don't mock e bomoh angle being adopted in Malaysia. It's what folk believe in. Same as the belief in god/s. And not better or worse #MH370
— Anita Kapoor (@AnitaKapoor) March 11, 2014
YouTube also showcased offbeat and outlandish ideas about MH 370. TeamWakeEmUP, a group of videographers, posted a video that received more than 8,000 views:
A video by a YouTube user named connectingdots2 theorized that MH 370 was part of a scheme by governments to force citizens to submit to fingerprint identification technology and other biometric tools.
A Twitter user named Tiio Horn hoped that such theories would help her overcome insomnia. They didn't work any better than the story of Peter Pan, she wrote:
— Tiio Horn (@kaniehtiio) March 14, 2014
One theory that circulated widely online came from media tycoon Rupert Murdoch:
777crash confirms jihadists turning to make trouble for China. Chance for US to make common cause, befriend China while Russia bullies.
— Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) March 9, 2014
Murdoch's comment was re-posted on Sina Weibo, China's microblogging service. Government censors deleted the messages, but the deleted postings were archived by an anti-censorship group called FreeWeibo.
Toward the end of the week, Internet users were grasping at anything. RK of Mumbia tweeted:
Blown up by terrorists? Hit by a meteor? Hijacked by elves? Or pulled out of the air by Godzilla? #MalaysiaAirlines
— RK (@rohit2250) March 12, 2014
A Reddit user named htat_guy suggested a solution with an allusion to characters from the cartoon show “South Park”:
“When are they going to get serious about this and call in the Hardly Boys? After all they are two young whippersnappers with a knack for solving mysteries.”