In the ongoing absence of firm evidence about the fate of missing flight MH370, the world's conspiracy theorists have weighed in with explanations of their own for the disappearance of the Malaysia Airways plane.
The susbsequent crash of flight MH17, shot down over eastern Ukraine, added to speculation, while a lack of clarity from Malaysian officials about the earlier mystery allowed rumours to flourish. Relatives of some passengers on board the flight have offered a$3m reward for information in the belief that details of the investigation are being withheld from them.
Even the Malaysian opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, has accused his country's government of holding back "missing bits of information", giving fuel to the conspiracy theories. He asked how a country with "one of the most sophisticated" radar systems in the world could simply lose track of an aeroplane. Similar doubts have been expressed by the chief executive of Emirates, Tim Clark.
Was Flight MH370 captured by aliens? Stolen by Israeli agents? Or did it crash in Ukraine? A round-up of the best conspiracy theories
A poll conducted by CNN in the summer found that one in ten Americans believe that "space aliens, time travellers or beings from another dimension" were involved in the plane's disappearance.
The claim that investigators still can't rule out the possibility that Flight MH370 landed rather than crashed has also reignited the debate: according to the CNN poll, 21 per cent of people believe that at least some people from the flight survived.
The Australian-led search operation is now looking for the plane along the so-called "seventh arc", a remote area of the southern Indian Ocean.
But far away from the scene of the search, on the internet's more excitable fringes, individuals have been working on theories of their own to plug the information gaps. Here are some of the best (and weirdest):
Life insurance scam
In March last year, Malaysian police refused to rule out the possibility that the entire incident may have been a complicated insurance scam.
"Maybe somebody on the flight has bought a huge sum of insurance, who wants family to gain from it or somebody who has owed somebody so much money, you know, we are looking at all possibilities," said Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar Malaysia's Inspector-General of Police.
Authorities said that they would consider all possible motives, no matter how unlikely they seemed, and would investigate all passengers and crew for any sign of unusual behaviour.
"We are looking very closely at the video footage taken at the KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport)," he added. "We are studying the behavioural pattern of all the passengers."
China and Edward Snowden
Reddit user Dark_Spectre has a theory that links the disappearance of MH370 with Edward Snowden's revelations about the extent of US surveillance.
The theory is based on the fact that the flight was carrying 20 employees of Freescale Semiconductor – a company which may have worked with the NSA to develop surveillance technology, according to Snowden's documents.
Dark_Spectre writes: "We have the American IBM Technical Storage Executive for Malaysia, a man working in mass storage aggregation for the company implicated by the Snowden papers for providing their services to assist the National Security Agency in surveilling the Chinese. And now this bunch of US chip guys working for a global leader in embedded processing solutions (embedded smart phone tech and defence contracting) all together… on a plane… and disappeared. Coincidence?"
The Reddit sleuth suggests that the apparent disappearance of flight MH370 may actually have been the result of an audacious attempt by China to capture a group of private contractors who helped the NSA to conduct spy operations against them. "Honestly, what would 200 lives be to the Chinese intelligence community for the opportunity to find out exactly the depth and scope of our intrusion," Dark_Spectre concludes.
Hijacked by Afghans
The missing Boeing 777 was hijacked and flown to a small village in Afghanistan, according to a Russian newspaper.
A military source reportedly told the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper: "Flight MH370 Malaysia Airlines missing on March 8 with 239 passengers was hijacked.
"Pilots are not guilty; the plane was hijacked by unknown terrorists. We know that the name of the terrorist who gave instructions to pilots is 'Hitch'. The plane is in Afghanistan not far from Kandahar near the border with Pakistan."
Others have elaborated on the theory, suggesting that passengers have been divided into seven groups and are living in mud huts with almost no food.
MH370 and MH17 were in fact the same plane
One theory that has gained traction over the summer is the suggestion that the airliner that crashed in a field in Ukraine was in fact the lost flight MH370, not the scheduled flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
According to the theory, proposed by a number of sites, including humansarefree.com, MH370 was hijacked and forced to land safely in an undisclosed location. Some believers say that the plane was taken to the US military base Diego Garcia – believed to be within range of where the MH370 disappeared – and then deliberately crashed near Donetsk by US agents months later in a "false flag" operation designed to discredit Russia.
Subsequent world events have played into the theorists' hands, as a number of countries accused Russia of providing military support to Ukrainian separatists – including Buk missile launchers capable of shooting down planes at high altitudes. The EU and US subsequently tightened their sanctions on Moscow.
To support their argument, some commentators, such as Opob News, point to the fact that wreckage found in Ukraine seems to have a different configuration of windows to the actual MH17, and that a Malaysian flag on the side of the fuselage is not in the right place. Others have suggested that these pictures are fake.
Five per cent of Americans surveyed by Reason.com believe that the plane was abducted by aliens. Some bloggers have pointed to a number of recent UFO sightings in Malaysia as evidence for extraterrestrial intervention. Alexandra Bruce, from Forbidden Knowledge TV, "proves" the involvement of aliens with her analysis of radar data. She claims that footage posted on YouTube shows the presence of something that "can only be termed a UFO" in the skies over Malaysia. Of course, that means something that is "unidentified" rather than aliens.
A 9/11-style false-flag hijack mission
No conspiracy is complete without Israeli involvement, and MH370 is no exception. According to this theory, Israeli agents planned to crash the Malaysia Airways plane into a building, as in the September 11 attacks, and then blame the atrocity on Iran. Proponents point to the quick identification of two Iranian nationals travelling on forged passports, and claims that CCTV images released of the pair had been doctored. More extravagantly, some have claimed that a Malaysia Airways Boeing 777 identical to the one that went missing "had been stored in a hangar in Tel Aviv since November 2013".
The plane was shot down
A new book, Flight MH370 – The Mystery, suggests that the missing Malaysian Airways plane may have been shot down accidentally by US-Thai joint strike fighters in a military exercise in the South China Sea. The book also claims that search and rescue efforts were deliberately sent in the wrong direction as part of a cover-up, the Daily Mail reports.
The CIA is behind it
In a blog post, Malaysia's former prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, wrote that he believes the US Central Intelligence Agency must know something about the plane's fate. He also claimed that Boeing, the plane’s maker, and “certain” unnamed government agencies, are able to take control of commercial airliners such as the missing Boeing 777 remotely if necessary. "Airplanes don’t just disappear," he wrote on his blog. "Certainly not these days with all the powerful communication systems, radio and satellite tracking and filmless cameras which operate almost indefinitely and possess huge storage capacities. ... For some reason, the media will not print anything that involves Boeing or the CIA."
The Bermuda Triangle
Ok, so the plane didn't actually fly anywhere near Bermuda, but some people – including one Malaysian minister – pointed out that the area where MH370 vanished is on the exact opposite side of the globe to the Bermuda Triangle. Unfortunately those people are wrong; the exact opposite side of the globe is closer to the Caribbean than Bermuda, The Sunday Times notes.
The disappearance of flight MH370 may be down to the world’s first cyber hijack, according to the Sunday Express. It says that hackers could have accessed the aircraft’s flight computer and reprogrammed the speed, altitude and direction. “It could then be landed or made to crash by remote control,” the paper suggests. It may be worth noting that the woman who came up with the theory “runs her own company training businesses and governments to counter terrorist attacks”.
HAARP caused flight MH370 to crash
Bringing together two favourite subjects of conspiracy theorists, some have suggested that the US government's recently closed HAARP research facility could have caused the Malaysian Airlines flight to crash. "Could HAARP be an explanation for the puzzlement that surrounds the mystery of what has happened to the plane?" asks one contributor to Godlike Productions – a self-described "conspiracy theorists and lunatic fringe" website. The plane may have gone off course because "HAARP was affecting radar systems". Pouring scorn on the theory, another reader counters: "it didn't crash so your theory is BS".
According to reports, 20 employees of Freescale Semiconductor, a company that develops "cloaking" technology were onboard the MH370 when it went missing. Some, such as the writers of WorthyToShare.com, have speculated that the plane may have been turned invisible and landed somewhere, possibly at the US Air Force base in Diego Garcia.
A weapon of unimaginable power
Writing for NaturalNews.com, Mike Adams says that the plane's disappearance shows that "some entirely new, mysterious and powerful force is at work on our planet which can pluck airplanes out of the sky without leaving behind even a shred of evidence". If a weapon capable of making a plane disappear without trace does exist, then "whoever controls it already has the ability to dominate all of Earth's nations with a fearsome military weapon of unimaginable power", Adams writes. Quite concerning.
MH370 itself could be used as a weapon
Some people have expressed concern that the aeroplane may have been hijacked by terrorists and landed somewhere, to be used as a weapon at a later date. The proponents of the theory suggest that the plane could have been flown to a safe place, landed and camouflaged and may, at some point, be used to commit a 9/11-style atrocity. Former RAF navigator Sean Maffett told the BBC that in his view this would be very hard to do, but that the possibility cannot be ruled out. "We are now at stage where very, very difficult things have to be considered as all sensible options seem to have dropped off," he said.
MH370 hid in shadow of another flight
Blogger Keith Ledgerwood argues that the MH370 may have hidden itself from radar detection by manoeuvring itself behind Singapore Airlines flight 68. "It is my belief that MH370 likely flew in the shadow of SIA68 through India and Afghanistan airspace. As MH370 was flying 'dark' without a transponder, SIA68 would have had no knowledge that MH370 was anywhere around, and as it entered Indian airspace, it would have shown up as one single blip on the radar with only the transponder information of SIA68 lighting up ATC and military radar screens", Ledgerwood wrote. Professor Hugh Griffiths, a radar expert at University College London, told the BBC that the theory was feasible, but estimates that to escape detection, the planes would have needed to have flown no more than 3,300 feet from one another. And even then military radar, which is more subtle, could possibly have detected one plane from the other.
Rapper predicted disaster
Some YouTube viewers say that the rapper Pitbull predicted the loss of the MH370 in the lyrics to his track Get It Started. The song, which was released two years ago includes the lyrics: "Now it's off to Malaysia" and "Two passports, three cities, two countries, one day."
What drives conspiracy theories?
David Aaronovitch author of Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy in Shaping Modern History, told the Sunday Times: "Given that people can make conspiracy theories out of something that is fully explained, like the moon landings, it's not surprising that they will fill the void in a genuine mystery with conspiracy theories. Essentially these people can't face the thought of chaos. They can't face the role of accident and contingency in life; they have to attribute agency."
This article originally appeared in : MH370 conspiracy theories: what happened to the missing plane? | theweek.co.uk | LAST UPDATED AT 10:35 ON MON 5 JAN 2015