Dangerous Assumptions

Airbus A321 EI-ETJ in 2014
(Sergey Korovkin 84 via Wikipedia Creative Commons)

The Internet is rife with speculation as to what may have caused the crash of a Russian jetliner in Egypt on Saturday after an airline executive categorically ruled out pilot error or a mechanical problem.

The suggestion by the executive with airline Kogalymavia is that a missile or a perhaps a bomb brought down the Airbus A321, killing all 224 aboard. Conspiracy theorists have latched onto the statement and expanded it into a full-blown, made-for-TV narrative that terrorists targeted Flight 9268 as retribution for Russia's involvement in Syria's civil war.

Unless there's hard evidence to support such a conclusion — and at this early stage it appears there is not — making such pronouncements before the official accident investigation has even begun is not only unhelpful, it's reckless.

It's too early to know what caused this tragedy. Reporting the facts of what happened is one thing, but jumping to conclusions that are unsupported by evidence is counterproductive, not to mention an emotional slap in the face to victims' families.

Some in the mainstream media (though not all) ran with the terrorism narrative until cooler heads in the Russian government prevailed, urging the airline, the media and the public to refrain from jumping to "premature conclusions."

Indeed. It's one thing to discuss in general terms what happened in a particular air disaster, but it is quite another to spin irresponsibly into the realm of rampant speculation. Rarely does the probable cause listed in a final accident report jibe with the breathless conjecture in the days and weeks following a crash.

In due time, we'll know what caused crash of Flight 9268. Until then, let's stick to the facts.

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