Brendan O’Neill Brendan O’Neill

The shameful condemnation of the Titan Five

The doomed Titan submarine (Credit: Alamy)

The five departed souls of the Titan submersible suffered two tragedies. First, the tragedy of dying in a catastrophic implosion deep in the North Atlantic. Then the tragedy of posthumous ridicule. There seems to be a stark and bleak lack of sympathy for the men who perished. Instead a moralistic mob has found them guilty in death of the worst sin of our times: hubris.

Much of the discussion about these doomed adventure seekers is making me feel nauseous. The virtual chatter is even worse. The bony finger of judgement is being pointed. ‘Who in their right mind would pay a quarter of a million dollars to gawp at the ruins of the Titanic?’, ask armchair moralists. It feels like an orgy of puritanical derision, with some even asking if these decadent men with more money than sense got what they deserved.

Like Pope Formosus they have been put on trial after death, only in the kangaroo court of Twitter priggishness rather than in a cadaver synod. Their great offence was arrogance, apparently. Joy Behar, host of the American daytime TV show The View, bemoaned the ‘stupidity’ and ‘hubris’ of the Titan mission. That H-word is everywhere. This was a ‘holiday with hubris’, says one observer, which is when the insanely rich indulge their ‘dangerous fantasies’.

The cruel response to a human tragedy tells us more about ourselves than it does about the five souls lost to the sea

Just as the sinking of the Titanic was turned into a metaphor for the fallibility of industrial man, so the Titan tragedy is being talked up as a kind of retribution for the conceits and vanities of our own era. This doomed mission was ‘born of hubris’, says Ash Sarkar. Filmmaker James Cameron, who directed the 1997 weep-fest Titanic, says the ill fate of both that early 20th-century ocean liner and today’s imploded submersible was brought about by ‘arrogance and hubris’.

Some of the handwringing over the Titan mission is underpinned by a juvenile pseudo-Marxism.

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