Titanic Myths – 105 Years Afterward

An iceberg caused the Titanic to sink but not the deaths of 1,513 people. For 105 years we have gotten it wrong; this post shatters Titanic myths. 
Titanic Myths – 105 Years Afterward
By: George Noga – April 16, 2017
     Yesterday marked the 105th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. In addition to being an enduring and compelling human interest saga, it continues to yield lessons that resonate today. This post debunks the five biggest myths surrounding Titanic.
1. Capitalism (greed) caused the loss of life. No one died when Titanic hit the iceberg; the deaths occurred much later when the ship sank. The media blame White Star Lines for not having enough lifeboats – either because of added cost or aesthetics. The real blame was inept (government) regulation by the British Board of Trade (“BOT”) that regulated shipping. The designer, builder, and White Star all deferred to the BOT about the number of lifeboats as the BOT was the unchallenged authority.
     BOT regulations were enacted 20 years previously when 10,000 tons was the norm and 20 lifeboats adequate; Titanic was 46,238 tons. Regulations had not been updated because government was lazy, inept and rewarded for issuing new regulations and not updating old ones. Once government becomes involved, common sense and personal responsibility disappear; hence, no one seriously questioned the BOT regulations.
2. First class passengers received preferential treatment. When dissecting the data, we find 74% of women and 20% of men survived. However, 44% of first class passengers were women versus 23% third class. After adjusting for gender, it is incandescently obvious the survival rates were about the same between first and third class. A third class female was 41% more likely to survive than a first class male. Also, third class passengers were more reluctant to leave the ship and part with baggage. Survival was not about class; it was about gender and children, nearly all of whom were saved.
3. Male aggression impacted survival of women and children. The number of men who survived is cited as evidence of male aggression. There was lifeboat capacity for all women and children and 550 men. There were many more men than women on board. If the crew had loaded one man for each woman and child, all women and children would have been saved. Moreover, lifeboats would have been loaded quicker, with less fear, keeping families together and saving more lives. Male behavior, far from being aggressive, resulted in 200+ fewer men surviving than should have been the case.
4. The Media fairly report the facts. Most media accounts (then and now) are ignorant and/or dishonest. The DiCaprio film in particular contains egregious errors. It depicts third class passengers forcibly barricaded to keep them from reaching lifeboats; that didn’t happen. Nor was anyone shot. The crew and passengers are stereotyped in the worst possible way despite acting heroically and fearlessly in the face of certain death.
Note: Fox has since apologized to families of those falsely portrayed in the movie.
5. There is no taint of political correctness. Au contraire. Titanic is rife with PC. Capitalism is hammered with greed, hubris and indifference to human life while government is unscathed. First class passengers are portrayed in a demeaning manner while others are elevated in dazzling displays of class warfare. Males are bashed.
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    Titanic’s unnecessary loss of life was a failure of government regulation, not of capitalism. It is easier to blame prominent individuals such as the ship’s designer, builder and owner rather than amorphous bureaucrats. The media still get it wrong after 105 years; they return to their leitmotif of shamelessly flogging politically correct class warfare, assaults on masculinity and, their favorite whipping boy, capitalism.
     The enduring lesson of Titanic is not to repose trust in government or media. The damage government can wreak in an age of terrorism and with North Korea, Pakistan and (soon) Iran as nuclear powers is exponentially worse. Instead of 1,513 deaths on Titanic, the toll could be unspeakable. Oppenheimer’s words (from the Gita) upon the first successful nuclear test are poignant: “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds”.

The next post April 23rd contains a collection of MLLG short takes