TIGHAR: The Ever-Optimistic

amelia earhart pilotMy Washington Post newsfeed contained a familiar name with the same old story, rehashed once again in 2016 just like it was in 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012, and probably before that but I wasn’t keeping track on this blog.

The wonderful thing about TIGHAR is TIGHAR thinks it’s a wonderful thing. It’s actually amazing that this story about a very small team of researchers, apparently indefatigable, always asking for money, keeps getting traction in the mainstream news and avoiding the obvious critical scrutiny they truly deserve. Do journalists even Google? Do they care about accuracy? I think not when hits are everything. The mystery of Amelia Earhart gets guaranteed hits. Shame on the media for regurgitating this crap without any reasonable degree of scrutiny.

Writer Cleve Woodson provides yet another platform for Ric Gillespie, director of the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) who holds an alternative “theory” (consider this like “conspiracy theory”) of what became of Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan. Woodson writes that this idea “recently resurfaced in the news.” Resurfaced is the operative word because TIGHAR’s less than impressive pitch shows up at least once a year, usually more. Gillespie has succeeded in inserting his unsupportive narrative into the mainstream news so often that people believe there is something to it.

Back in 2013 I swore not to post another story about Gillespie and TIGHAR hyping to the press that Earhart lived on for a while in the Pacific Island of Nikumaroro after she was lost. I no longer cared about the story since it was fringe speculation that consistently failed to deliver evidence and showed very limited involvement of qualified scientists. It sounded like a treasure hunt of the same style of those who insist they will find a stash at Oak Island or the Lost Dutchman mine. Gillespie continually wanted money for more expensive expeditions. Discovery Channel supposedly filmed one of these efforts. The documentary was scrapped when nothing dramatic was found. This did not stop Gillespie from holding press conferences and insisting his evidence was compelling. His several efforts returned with questionable evidence that in no way proved his “theory”. Oh, that’s another thing. Good job, WaPo with this misleading headline: Amelia Earhart didn’t die in a plane crash, investigator says. This is his theory. NOT a theory, it’s an obsession, an idea he is in love with. Critical thinking is no where to be found. A real theory has a sound foundation and supporting evidence. It is tested and survives. We can not equate that to TIGHARs yearly appeal for attention and funds.

Photo: TIGHAR, Arrows point to "debris"

Photo: TIGHAR, Arrows point to “debris”

You can find the history of these stories here on DN. TIGHAR never found a plane, their “compelling” images were useless, and they were even accused of racketeering. Discovery News named Gillespie “Person of the Year”. This was the same network that hyped mermaids as real, though, so it’s not really an honor. Maybe it’s more like the Golden Raspberry Award.

The more skeptical views on TIGHAR we put online, the more chance that reporters will EVENTUALLY noticed that this is not a real news story, but a boondoggle. Well, I can hope too…

  5 comments for “TIGHAR: The Ever-Optimistic

  1. September 16, 2016 at 12:47 PM

    The media and particularly The Washington Post, all seem to suffer from a similar sickness. (I was going to use the word “malady” instead of “sickness,” but malady sounded too kind). News outlets are no longer interested in relaying the news. They’re interested in “page views” and “click thru’s.” In fact, in today’s culture you don’t even have to BE a “journalist.” Just look at the case of Matt Lauer. Setting aside the politics of the irrational way he handled the “Commander-in-Chief” debacle, what are Lauer’s credentials? He’s been a “TV journalist” for many years. What does that mean exactly? It means, as nearly as I can tell, that someone else does the research while someone else writes the story while He “reads” it from a teleprompter. If that qualifies him as a “journalist” it paves the way for exceptionally talented 12 year olds to forge their way onto television.
    Unfortunately, news is no longer “news.” It’s now “infotainment.” In order to be successful these days, a person or media outlet must have a website, a twitter account and a FaceBook page (there are a few more, but I digress) and Google is the number one resource for research.
    Some people are making fabulous livings from posting videos on YouTube by representing their content as “Breaking News!” or “The Shocking Truth Revealed!” and on and on ad infinitum. In fact, TIGHAR has it’s own YouTube channel. Unfortunately for TIGHAR, they only have about 890+ subscribers to their channel and so their “cause celebre” has very little sizzle to go along with their “steak!” On the other hand, channels raising the spectre of UFO’s invading planet earth can have hundreds of thousands of “subscribers!” All of this illustrates the simple fact that media outlets, like their “faux” YouTube counterparts, rely on the sensational and often misleading rather than the honest and newsworthy. The Post’s own YouTube channel tells the tale. The most views they have gotten of their various “stories?” A “tell all” video interview with a woman allegedly molested by Bill Cosby! Ya Think?
    If Trump gets elected and ultimately involves us in something akin to WWIII, I’m thinking the Post’s headlines will read something like, “Hillary Clinton to Lead Search for Amelia Earhart on Tiny Atol in South Pacific! TIGHAR’s leader says, ‘I Told You So!'”

  2. September 17, 2016 at 11:08 AM

    It’s a sad day for low bar-setting when even the Discovery Channel can’t muster enough breathless speculation to continue producing an episode!

  3. September 17, 2016 at 3:50 PM

    Not to defend Lauer’s lackluster “Commander-in-Chief” performance, but to imply he has no journalism credentials is a bit naive. He got a degree in media from a decent university and worked in TV as a news show producer and reporter at numerous news organizations. One could argue whether TV news is hard-core “journalism” but it’s what we’ve had for more than 60 years and it appears Lauer has paid his dues.

  4. September 17, 2016 at 5:56 PM

    Here is a different angle on the Earhart and Noonan disappearance.


    What has been “in the news” in the last few days concerning TiGHAR and their attempts to find evidence of Earhart and Noonan’s demise on Nikumaroro Island is “old news” rehashed and printed again and again.

    On the other hand very little is known publicly and in the media about my project based in Australia and searching in Papua New Guinea….

    David Billings

    [Editor: Edited for length, too long.]

  5. Mike
    September 22, 2016 at 2:41 PM

    Go to http://www.aviationmystery.com to learn more about Tighar.

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