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Viral TikTok Conspiracy Theories Claim The Titanic Never Actually Sank
"It becomes kind of deflating to see a lot of this junk coming out."
According to The New York Times, a ludicrous conspiracy theory recently going viral on TikTok puts forth the claim that the luxury cruise ship did not meet a watery demise in the Atlantic Ocean during its maiden voyage in the spring of 1912. Some purport that the decaying ruin lying at the bottom of the sea belongs not to the Titanic, but to its sister ship — the Olympic.
"On the short-form video app, long-established facts about the crash are being newly litigated as musty rumors merge with fresh misinformation and manipulated content — a demonstration of TikTok’s potent ability to seed historical revisionism about even the most deeply studied cases," reads the article by Tiffany Hsu and Sapna Maheshwari.
Other "theories," meanwhile, do accept the cold facts of history, but veer off into wild accusations leveled against J.P. Morgan, German submarines, Winston Churchill, and even the Freemasons.
Morgan comes up again and again in conspiracy circles, owing to the fact that the American financial tycoon owned the ship, though he ultimately did not take part in its first and only journey, canceling his trip several hours before the ship set sail.
His notable absence has led so-called "Truthers" to allege that Morgan deliberately sabotaged the Titanic in order to kill off several competitors who opposed his plans for the federal reserve. But as the NYT astutely points out, there were just too many variables at play. Not only would the financier have to account for an iceberg, but he'd also need to ensure that his rivals did not make it onto lifeboats.
"It becomes kind of deflating to see a lot of this junk coming out," Charles A. Haas — founder of the Titanic International Society and an individual who has spent 60 years studying the early 20th century disaster — told the Times. He co-wrote five books on the topic, dived down to the wreck site twice and debunked more conspiracy theories than he cares to count. “I feel like one of the very few voices crying out against the sound of a hurricane."
"Fundamentally, a 14-year-old is probably taught at school that the Earth is round and probably believes it, but with the frequency of watching videos over and over, they start questioning it,” added Helen Lee Bouygues, creator of The Reboot Foundation, whose goal is to combat harmful misinformation and foster critical thinking skills.
The tragedy of the Titanic re-entered the cultural conversation this week following the disappearance of OceanGate's Titan submersible carrying five passengers (including OceanGate founder and CEO, Stockton Rush) down to the underwater wreck.
An internationally coordinated search for the missing tourist craft is currently underway as the world holds its collective breath, hoping that Titan will be recovered before its limited supply of oxygen runs out. Per CNN, "banging sounds" in the North Atlantic were picked up at 30-minute intervals by sonar Tuesday.
Looking for more content about one of the most famous shipwrecks in maritime history? Raise the Titanic — a 1980 adventure film centered around a Cold War race to salvage the titular vessel — is now streaming on Peacock.