When the Hindenburg hove into view over Lakehurst, New Jersey seventy years ago, it was running late. Headwinds had pushed the German dirigible two hours back and the small clutch of radio and newsreel press awaiting below probably probably couldn't wait for the damn thing to land. We all know what happened next. The massive zeppelin caught fire, crashed to the ground and a radio reporter named Herbert Morrison immortalized it all with a simple, heartfelt screed. One can only imagine what the giant airship disaster would have been like had it happened today...
Surely someone would have thrust a camera phone upward as the flames rippled across the bladder's surface, recording a shaky pixelated account that would be later celebrated for its cutting-edge clarity. Audio lifted from the jittery footage would air almost immediately on-line, making for an instant podcast classic. Not to be outdone, the corporate press would swoop in from Manhattan, surrounding 'the incandescent tangle' in sat trucks, HD cams and celebrity journalists who only go by one name. Simultaneously, a smilar firestorm would erupt across the blogosphere, sparking flames wars that condemned everything from German engineering to the idea of airflight itself. As the sun set over the smoldering pile, spotlights would illuminate the field, not to clear the path for first responders - but to max out the background for Chet Graytemples' closing stand-up. Off camera interlopers would joust for the attention of surviving passengers - until all who could talk were booked solid for a whirlwind tour of global live shots.
In the end, the same thirty-five people would have died, lighter-than-air flight would have been largely crippled and those scheming Nazis would have had to been dealt with. But the catastrophe itself would soared to even loftier climes of speculation and conspiracy in the 24/7 cable news atmosphere. Though never more powerful than an impromptu, sincere recording, the rabid blather of today's well-equipped press would bleet and howl over every scrap of burned fabric, until the simple crash of a newfangled airship was lost in the tabloid static.
Talk about a loss of humanity.