What Makes a Story? The Thai Cave Rescue of 2018

Thai cave rescue, 2018

There’s an old adage in western corporate news media… ‘If it Bleeds, it Leads’. This is not always the case though. Recently much of the world has been captivated by the story of a young Thai soccer team and their coach who were trapped in a flooded cave system for two weeks.

This story had everything. For starters, it involved children. There was ongoing tension and endless media speculation. There was the tragic death of a heroic rescuer. A famous American billionaire (Elon Musk) entered the mix, having conjured a child-sized submarine (which was respectfully declined). Then… for a change, there was a happy ending. All twelve boys and their coach were successfully rescued.

An old friend posted that he’d been moved to tears watching news of the successful conclusion to this amazing rescue, shown as an emotional, slow-motion montage to the strains of David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’.

At the same time, there was a rain event in Japan. It was a lot of rain. At the peak, almost 600mm (two feet) of rain fell in 24 hours. The result? Flooding, naturally, and landslides. Two million people were evacuated and the death toll in Japan stands at 157 and counting. This has been barely reported, overshadowed entirely by the more dramatic human story coming out of Thailand.

Japan floods, 2018

Someone close to me posted that her thoughts were going out to the brave little boys trapped in the cave in Thailand. I asked her about the crisis unfolding in Japan, as she lives there. She said she hadn’t heard about it.

Back in Thailand, while the world focused on the trapped boys, a ferry sank killing over 30 people. Hardly a word was mentioned.

There are always reasons why some things are reported and some aren’t. I guess sometimes it’s simply a matter of ratings and clicks. Sometimes it’s political, such as the complete silence over the proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which has decimated the impoverished nation of Yemen for several years now (and in which the United States is complicit).

Sometimes it’s just a case of some lives being considered more valuable than others. We still hear references to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, which in 2005 caused the loss of 1,833 American lives. Eight months earlier, an Earthquake near Indonesia caused a tsunami which killed an estimated 280,000 people as far away as East Africa. That was the sixth-deadliest natural disaster in recorded history, but… no biggie. That’s just 152 Hurricane Katrinas. Imagine if a wave killed 280,000 white people!?

Now, I don’t mean to discount the bravery of those boys and their soccer coach, trapped miles underground for weeks, or the selflessness of the ex-Thai Navy Seal who tragically died attempting to free them. This story, for the most part, ended happily, which made everything all the better. The media was in for this ride though, and things could have turned out very differently. I wonder if now, with the credits rolling on the Thai cave drama, the media might turn to something else. There’s something happening in Japan at the moment. That might do.

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