On June 18, 2023, an OceanGate submarine named Titan lost contact with its support vessel around an hour and 45 minutes into its dive. Onboard were five people—four of whom were billionaires.
These passengers were OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, British businessman Hamish Harding, former French naval officer Paul-Henri Nargeolet, Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood, and Dawood’s 19-year-old son Suleman. Each person paid $250,000 to be on the vessel, which was bound for the Titanic, the ruins of which currently rest about 12,000 feet below the surface.
The news of the submarine’s disappearance almost immediately went viral. Most of you probably remember excitedly texting your friends about it, gossiping about theories you’d seen online. Everyone wondered what happened; well-funded search parties looked for clues about the passengers’ whereabouts around the clock. It took several days and countless resources for the public to receive confirmation of news that many already suspected: the submarine had imploded, and all five passengers died immediately. The search and rescue for these deceased billionaires cost the United States an estimated $1.2 million.
So why all the effort? What was so special about these passengers that people around the world tuned into their situation, that millions of dollars were poured into search and rescue for people we knew from the beginning were most likely dead? Well, the simple answer is that they’re rich, and their articles got more clicks.
There were 4,754 cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women in the United States and Canada as of 2021, according to the Sovereign Bodies Institute’s database. In statistics from the National Crime Information Center, it was revealed that nearly 98,000 Black women were reported missing in America in the year of 2022 alone. That’s thousands of people estimated to have gone missing, but where’s the media coverage? Where are the articles and headlines and buzz?
Part of the reason is because of us: the consumers, the readers, the people who make noise on the internet about something as ridiculous as four billionaires and a son going missing because they wanted to explore the worm-ridden ruins of a ship that sank decades ago. The things we pay attention to matter—the more likes, views, and comments that a post can garner makes the subject becomes more attractive to cover on news sites.
The billionaires in the submarine highlighted an issue that America has had for a very long time: we pay attention to the wrong things. Thousands of women of color go missing every year, with far less time, money, and attention poured into their lives and safety than those of the rich men aboard the submersible. So forget the submarine, actually—five rich people who were well aware of the risks died quick and painless deaths. Read an article or two about it, like an Instagram post, then move on. There are bigger, more important fish in the sea.