The role of the mediaWhat if Titanic had happened in 2001


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Apr 7, 2001
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David,

I have my share of knowledge of Ismay, that I do.

Colleen,

Mr. Ismay passed on in the year 1934, a slight correction if you will.

In 1912 the press created such a debacle for Mr. Ismay that he was not able to recover from it nor was he able to stop it. In April 1934 he was given 6 months to live. He did nothing in those six months but think about death and dying early.

Now take your pick ~ The press in 1912 may not have been sued for their public tabloids, but they just as well ruined a man's life. Which is worse, financial ruin or emotional ruin? I am sure Mr. Ismay could answer that for you very quickly.

I am in the process of compiling a book on Mr. J. Bruce Ismay and hope to have it published by the end of this year. I will post its readiness of publication in my Intro thread.

Sincerely,

Teri
And BTW ~ I live in So Cal just like you do.
 
Apr 7, 2001
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My error!!!!!! I was extremely tired last night. I am so mad at myself for posting that error! Grimey slimps! Ughhhhh! Well I shouldn't post so late in the evening....
 
May 8, 2001
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HI Teri. Thank you for the posting. Was Ismays estimate of six months to live given to him after his stroke? (I had no idea of THAT tidbit of information!) I guess he gave up his will to live. What a sad way for anyone to die.
I will be anxiously awaiting your book to be published. I enjoy reading on the lives of survivors, and have yet to find but brief mentions of Ismay anywhere. (O.K. I did see a book called "The Ismay Line" published in 1961 I believe, on E-bay but it was up in the 65.00 range with "reserve not yet met", and wasn't comfortable with paying that for a sight unseen book).
I look foreward to some day meeting you and Mike Herbold at the Queen Mary if you attend. (& maybe you can autograph my copy of your book!!) <:) He sent me a very kind e-mail with all the particulars of meetings, and even if I can't make a promise when I will be able to go, there is always the chance my company will send me that-a-way at the last second. Thanks again. Colleen
 
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steve b

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The sad part about it is, we never really got to know why Mr Ismay acted the way he did. Only he knows the real answers to those questions, but perhaps if the media had taken time to be objective or at least fair to the man, maybe some of those answers would have came about. It is sad that he never really was given the oppurtunity to be asked about it in such a way that he wasnt feeling like he was being judged. Maybe in a scenario such as that, we might have at least gotten some truthful answers, ones that may have helped answer some of the lingering questions we have today. I had more thoughts on what it would have been like if Titanic was happening now instead of when it did. Can you see the phone lines lighting up at the local tv stations when the housewives soaps are being pre-empted, and can you just see it now, the live coverage with the so-called experts such as Wolf Blitzer or some talking headpiece from CNN on hand in an overhead helicopter? Well at least i get some peace in knowing those poor people were spared from that circus
 

Sam Brannigan

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I am sorry but personally I fail to see why the press shouldn't take issue with Bruce Ismay and why they shouldn't be allowed to come to an editorial conclusion based on the facts put before them.
The plain, simple fact is that Ismay,the president of the combine that owned the Titanic, possibly the most important figure in the ships concept and realisation, a man who rightly basked in the glory of such a wondrous creation, left the ship while she was sinking with the full knowledge that other passengers would be left on board, and that they would die.
If this happened today I would fully expect the press to go absolutely crazy about such a state of affairs and to demand an explanation. The 1912 inquiries were extremely quick to pass over the circumstances of Ismay leaving the ship. On April 19th in America when he is asked how he escaped, he states that it was the "last boat" and there were no women to be seen around. And it is left at that. The burning question that the whole world wanted an answer to is not even seriously addressed.
I agree with Steve that it is sad that we will never know why Ismay acted as he did, but the man was given plenty of opportunity to explain himself and he never did. Today he would be absolutely villified and I believe rightly so. I know that the counter argument to that is to say "What would you have done in his shoes?" but that is a moot point.
He knew by stepping into that boat that his life would be ruined, but that he would live. He also must have known how the world would react, that there was something fundamentally wrong with a person such as him leaving before the passengers who helped create his lifestyle and standing in society were saved. He deserved everything he got.
Colleen mentioned on July 11th that White Star would have been sued out of business and its name ruined. Good. It should have been but it wasn't. We all feel affection towards White Star today because it is a long defunct company from the halcyon days of ocean travel, but if a disaster of similar proportions took place today on one of the new superliners the world would be up in arms, especially if there was huge loss of life and the company president was saved.
If the inquiry into such a disaster proved as favourable to the company and president as those in 1912 were to White Star and Ismay there would be hell to pay. Ismay got it easy, and while his later health problems were terribly sad, that does not excuse his action on the night the Titanic sank.
Bad news might sell more copy, but in the case of Ismay I feel that any bad press he may have got was entirely justified, so I can't go along with the "poor Bruce" feelings being expressed here.

Regards

Sam
 
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steve b

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Sam-Ill politely disagree with you on this, based on one simple piece of of something that is so much open to conjecture. How do we know how we would react if we were put in the situation he was put in that night along with 2,200 other people? We simply cannot know. It is quite easy to sit here in the comforts of home, warm in front of our computers, and say 'i would have done this or that', but thats bull and we all know it. This is what makes us human beings, for in certain situations we are prone to lose all sense of logical thinking, and this certainly could qualify as one of those situations. You can put blame on the man for what led up the collision, but i have hard time taking fault with anything ANYONE did as the ship was sinking, and again for the simple reason, i dont know what my own actions would have been in a situation where i was staring right into deaths eyes. NONE OF US COULD!!! Sam i respect a lot of your opinions and you give me enourmous education information to sift through, so please know when i state my opinion here i do so respectfully. I respect just about everyone who attends this forums opinion, and just wanted that to be cle
 
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Even if the press had gotten the true story from Mr. Ismay, they probably wouldn't have published it anyways. Press don't like to publish nice things!!!

Colleen,

You're correct, that book was on eBay and the bid closed for $358! I didn't feel bad for losing the bid, there's no way I could have successfully bid on that. Also, the winning bidder had about 200 other eBay bids to his name, so he must know how to play the bidding game quite well.

I believe the doctor gave Mr. Ismay the notice to live 6 months before his stroke. And no, not many know about this notice given to him. I'll see you privately. Ismay didn't necessarily give up his will to live. He gave up his will to try to get his life back the way it was before his great ship sank. THAT, was what he spent the rest of his years thinking about ~ his life BEFORE the disaster.

I sure hope I get to meet you at the Queen Mary on July 29. Maybe your company will send you off at the last minute.... Wouldn't that be great?

Sam,

If Mr. Ismay was here today he would never ask that anyone have pity on him or feel sorry for him in any way. Mr. Ismay did not need any assistance on pity, he had enough of his own. You say "Ismay got it easy." IMHO he did not have it easy. The man lost his most treasured accomplishment, his ship. Yes he lived, yes he had money, but deep inside he was a devastated chopped up piece of meat, I spare no words to describe him. But still, he would ask for no pity.

Teri
 

Sam Brannigan

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Hi Steve & Teri

I do respect your opinion but I strongly disagree on one major point. Steve, you brought up the fact that it is easy to sit at a computer and second guess what we would have done on that night and you are correct in asserting that no one knows how they would have acted.
However, when assessing Ismay's treatment by the media in 1912, it all boils down to what he decided to do on the night the Titanic sank.
Instead of standing off from getting into a boat like many notable male passengers (eg Isador Straus, who when offered a place refused it on the grounds that he would not leave the ship before all the other men were safe, thereby sealing his wifes fate as well as his own) Ismay decided to follow the stronger instinct for survival.
Whether you and I would have acted like he did, or not, is beside the point. The whole crux of the matter is what would the consequences have been.

If Ismay had decided to remain on board he would most likely have perished. A stark choice, but one that was made by many passengers and crew on the night. Those that made that choice are regarded in a heroic light, which for the vast majority is justified.
In the end he decided to leave the vessel in a boat. In doing so he saved his life, but there was bound to be a very high price to pay. He was not the only passenger to to pay this price. One of the most pilloried men to leave the Titanic in a boat was Masabumi Hosono, a Japanese second class passenger whose life was utterly ruined by surviving the disaster and there were many more who lived on with the "stigma" of surviving.
I would suggest that the reasons they got it so hard were twofold. Firstly, the actions and conduct of many of the men who remained behind damned those who escaped in the eyes of the public and the media, and it also went against the sensibilities of the era (and today, it could be argued) that these men survived while women and children died such a horrible death.
If I was standing on the boat deck that night and I was offered a choice to stay or leave I would have to make a decision. What that decision would be I do not know, and I hope never to, but I would be fully aware of the CONSEQUENCES of that decision before I made it.
Depending on what I opted to do I would then have to live or die with that choice, just like Ismay and others did on April 14/15 1912 and for many years afterwards.

Regards

Sam
 
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steve b

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That may all be true Sam, but the thing your forgetting once again, is that when you are facing a life or death decision, you are not think about later results that may come about of your actions. The instinct there is to survive the moment and deal with what comes afterwards. It all goes back to the same point for me, we are here in the safety and comfort of our homes. We were not there on a freezing night and with little time to make a decision of our own lives, while watching others around die horrible deaths. My inclination would be at, that at that point in time, your thinking of mere survival, not the future. You can call into question his decision making before and leading up to the sinking, but having that stark reality of looking into the eyes of death and having to make that choice is something i hope nobody has to face. Im not saying i agree with what he did, im just saying its hard to speculate not being the
 

Paul Rogers

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All,

Steve said: "...but the thing your forgetting once again, is that when you are facing a life or death decision, you are not think about later results that may come about of your actions. The instinct there is to survive the moment and deal with what comes afterwards."

It would appear to me that a great many people managed to resist their survival instinct and make a decision based on other factors; be they moral, spiritual, or whatever.

If Bruce Ismay had been on a ship that sank quickly, such as the Empress of Ireland for example, then an argument may be made that he acted purely from survival instinct. However, the time that Titanic took to sink gave him (and many others) time to consider the wider consequences of their actions.

Like Sam (and like most of us) I have no idea how I would have acted if I had been in Bruce Ismay's position. Ismay, who appeared to be an intelligent man, would surely have considered the likely reactions of his peers and the public to his survival, at some point in the time prior to when he boarded the lifeboat. In his position, one might have thought: "It's better to die now than face a lifetime of ostracism from society." I'd imagine that this attitude was widespread amongst many of the 1st Class Passengers.

One could argue that Bruce Ismay made a brave decision - choosing to survive and "face the music." By the same token, one could argue also that Capt. Smith chose the "easy" option of going down with his command.

Just my &pound;0.02

Regards,
Paul.
 

Sam Brannigan

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I also think that it is worth considering the feelings of those whose loved ones perished in the disaster. Can you imagine the sense of injustice they must have felt when after hearing that someone in their family died they found out that the president of the line which was ultimately responsible for their safe passage across the Atlantic was saved?
The word "scapegoat" is now used almost exclusively in the context of someone who has been unfairly landed with a large amount of responsibility for something going wrong, you never hear about someone being "rightly" labelled a scapegoat.
If I was a relative of a victim of the Titanic I would find it disgraceful and morally indefensible that Ismay lived and my relative had died. I would feel so angry that I would wish him every unhappiness, failure, disgrace and ignomy. If that is what he got, and it seems he was fairly well sheltered from it during the passage of time, then that is what he deserved.
I am also in the camp which believes that Ismay was not the mere "passenger" he made out to be. There is a lot of evidence which suggests he may have been indirectly culpable for the Titanic disaster, such as Elizabeth Lines observations of his meeting with the captain to discuss the time of arrival in New York and the ice warning which he paraded around to his "fellow passengers".
I have also come to wonder if the revolutions of the engines as discussed by Ismay at the American Inquiry were common knowledge among the other "passengers" on board. Of course they could follow the ships daily progress in terms of nautical miles, but the revolutions of the engines? Further enlightenment would be most welcome.
Ismay also knew the exact state of affairs with regard to lifeboat capacity and he also knew the Titanic was doomed. Therefore he must have known that serious loss of life was inevitable, yet with all that knowledge this man claimed that "there were no passengers left on the deck" who could have taken his place, a claim which was not contested at the inquiry.
Now, picture yourself on the decks of a 46,000 ton ship with 1600 or so other people on board. It is 1.40am in the middle of the North Atlantic and it is by now patently obvious to everyone on board that the ship will soon sink and that the word is going round that everyone left aboard will be sucked down when she sinks. Where do you and those 1600 people go? I would say there is a fair chance that most would be desperate to get into a lifeboat to relative safety, but according to Ismay there was no one around. Excuse me if I find that a little hard to believe.
I believe that Ismay left the ship under the eyes of those left behind to die. In that respect, Paul, he was very brave.....or extraordinarily spineless and amoral.
Now ask yourself whether such a man deserves the same respect and standing among his peers as those men that didn't follow their "survival instinct". In my opinion, he deserved, and still deserves, nothing but shame and infamy for a display of cowardice which reverberates down the decades.
There is no getting away from this, no matter what was going on in his mind, and how fearful he may have been. That man should have been the last bar the skipper to leave that ship and his failure was his disgrace. That was the option he chose and he had to live with that.
Contrast his actions with those of Lightoller, who when asked to take charge of a boat replied to his superior "Not damn likely". He would take his chances with the rest and the fact he survived was down to sheer luck, spirit and human strength, things Ismay knew nothing about.

Regards

Sam
 

Paul Rogers

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Hi Sam.

Lightoller's response of "Not damn likely!" is, IMO, an example of someone who had thought through the unpalatable consequences of survival.

As the most senior surviving Officer I am sure he was expecting, and of course got, quite a grilling at the two enquiries. Imagine what treatment he would have received were it not for the fortuitous circumstances of his survival.

Faced with this prospect, it's not surprising that he chose to take his chances. I'm not, BTW, demeaning his courage in any way; but sometimes people act bravely simply because that's what is expected of them. Isn't that the reason why the "women and children first/only" rule was obeyed unquestioningly by so many - even when they could see lifeboats being lowered with available spaces?

Whether or not Bruce Ismay should be castigated for his decision remains very much a matter of personal opinion. Arguments can be made for both sides of the case. Personally, I will not judge him. I'll leave that job for an infinitely more qualified and higher Authority.

Regards,
Paul.
 

Sam Brannigan

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Paul

I agree that what Ismay did that night will always have people argueing and forming opinions about his conduct. While I disagree with your opinion that he should not be judged, and also with Steve's opinion that Ismay may have lost the ability to think things through logically, like Lightoller did, I wish to stress that I respect everone's opinion on this topic, especially as it is so subjective.
The last thing I want is to go down the "Lordite/anti-Lordite" road with this debate. I am sure you have all seen how nasty and vindictive other threads have become when people get heated about things here!
However, I stand firmly by my views and the contrast between Lightoller and Ismays actions make me even more adamant that Ismay deserved the censure he experienced after the disaster.
Lightoller knew his actions would determine the course of the rest of his life (if he survived) after the disaster and he acted, IMO, responsibly. Remember also that there was even less of an onus on him to sacrifice himself to duty and reputation. Third Officer Pitman manned a boat, and didn't even return for survivors. Yet he faced very little or no public scrutiny for his actions.
Had Lightoller taken Wilde up on his offer it could easily have been passed off as necessary to have as experienced a crewman as possible to man the boat, a perfectly valid and correct reason.
However, Lightoller obviously felt strong enough about the morality of leaving the Titanic in a boat and the forsaking of responsibility, that he chose to stay. That to me says more about the difference between him, the other male passengers and Ismay than any words I can say.

Regards

Sam
 

Tracy Smith

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I would not group any male passenger with Ismay or with any crew member. Ismay was not an ordinary passenger, but not a crew member, so he is in a category of his own.

If it had been up to me, it would have been families with children first, not necessarily just women. Certainly Michel Navratil should have been able to get into a boat with his toddler sons, to use a prime example.
 
Apr 7, 2001
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Sam & Paul & Tracy,

I"m not so sure Ismay left the sinking ship on the account of instinct for survival. I am sure that he did not want to live knowing that all of his passengers had died aboard HIS ship. It may be more of a matter of it being expected of him to act a certain way.

From the moment Mr. Ismay learned of Titanic's fate, he vowed within himself to assist as many passengers as possible into the boats. He did not sit around in the lounge or smoking room contemplating what he should do. He was very busy assisting with the loading of lifeboats and when his turn came to possibly get into one, he resisted at first, quite firmly. After some urging he then decided it might be best to get into the boat in case he was needed later. The only thought he probably had at the time was, "what is everyone going to say to all this?" I seriously doubt he ever thought about "saving" himself. However, I do agree with your statement of, "Ismay, who appeared to be an intelligent man, would surely have considered the likely reactions of his peers and the public to his survival, at some point in the time prior to when he boarded the lifeboat." Yes, at "some point" he considered what his peers and the public's reaction would be. I'm sure anyone in his position would.

And you made a most beautiful statement of, "One could argue that Bruce Ismay made a brave decision - choosing to survive and "face the music." By the same token, one could argue also that Capt. Smith chose the "easy" option of going down with his command." In my own opinion, I think that's precisely what Mr. J Bruce Ismay did, he faced the music.

I see both Sam's and Paul's arguments of Mr. Ismay and my own opinion is that Mr. Ismay realized shortly after his ship sank that he should have gone down with it, but it was too late. He wasn't about to jump over the side of the lifeboat and into the freezing water. And soon after that realization well he sort of lost his mind from what I know..... Out of honor for the rest of the crew and passengers I should say he could have stayed aboard the ship and gone down with it, but as Tracy freshly points out, Mr. Ismay wasn't an ordinary passenger nor should he have been treated as such. I could see the viewpoint of a Captain being expected to go down with his ship, but an owner????

I don't think today's society would expect the owner of a shipping line to go down with the ship if it sank. I personally wouldn't expect that.

Teri
 

Kris Muhvic

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Good Day All-
This is most interesting to me because it touches on some things I have always mulled about in my mind, yet never fully articulated. So forgive me if I sound a bit rambling.
It appears that the only way to be heroic on Titanic was to...die. That just seems unfair and rather unrealistic to me. However we must remember the scrutiny and suspicion of the men who survived. The survivors, and those who died, tend to fall into two, simplistic catagories- "heroic gentleman" or "hapless victim". At best, a survivor is considered lucky, or in the right place for use of some kind of assistance. At worse, of course, a coward. I like to ponder that any and all are somewhere in between. Honor, gallantry, personal responcibility are never to be taken for granted. Yet, I have to believe, no one that night wanted to die.
Which brings me to this: yes, no one knows how one will react in a given situation until faced with it. To speak personally of myself, if something fell out of the sky and told me of my father's sudden death, I would of thought I would curdle into a non-functioning mess on the floor! But I did not-I made plans, funeral, picking out the casket, etc. After it all I thought, how did I do all of that?!? A friend, who went through the same thing with the death of her mother, explained that during shock and grief you just sort of operate on "auto-pilot". Not everyone will agree with that analogy, but it works for me.
I tell you this example to illustrate the delicate nature of human response, even at the most difficult, and yes, scary times. We only know what we are capable of, or incapable of, when in the thick of it.
I guess I'm sort of an "opposite"-I sometimes (OK, many a time!)think of myself as a wuss, yet when push comes to shove, I find some kind of strength that I did'nt know I had. Maybe there were those that night that felt as I do...?
I feel I must stress that by all I wrote was only to use my own thoughts to allow some kind of perspective on events that, well, we may never fully understand. And in the nightmare crush of it all...how much can we?

Thank you-
Kris
 

Kyrila Scully

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Apr 15, 2001
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Kris:
You need to remember that the Edwardian mindset was much different than the current trends. There was a code of conduct strictly adherred to. Men practiced chivalry and were more inclined to sacrifice their lives for others, particularly women and children. World War I changed the rules, and they have deteriorated ever since. Today it is a dog-eat-dog world where women as well as men are likely to run over their own grandmothers to achieve their selfish ambitions. Edwardians who are still alive today are shocked by the attitudes and violence we take for granted.

Kyrila
 
Apr 7, 2001
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Kyrila,

Nicely worded and well explained.

I'd like to think that some of the members here on ET still possess the Edwardian mindset and I would also wish that there was such a thing as the Edwardian Style Society or something named to that effect. The members of this community would all have the same mindset and make Edwardian sytle posting a safe and fun game. So much for wishful thinking, eh?

Kris,

Your post was quite sentimental regarding choices men and women had to make during the Edwardian era. I don't know which is better, the narrow-minded mindset way of thinking of 1912 or the careless and unrefined way of thinking of 2001.

Teri
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Just to keep a sense of perspective on this, we should remember the crucial difference between Ismay and the crew of the ship. The crew had training and plenty of experience on their side and they signed on knowing the risks. Also, some of the male passangers had military backgrounds and combat experience. They knew how to keep a cool head in a pinch. Ismay had no such advantage. He found himself way over his head in a sticky situation that he didn't know how to deal with. Some reacted well. Ismay didn't, but he was hardly alone. We discuss stories of courage and cowardice all the time on ET, but don't take my word for it. Check out your books and the threads that have been posted here over the years.

From what I've been able to gather, the man was not acting rationally and his behaviour is rather common for people who find themselves in a life threatening situation. Good old post traumatic stress disorder is an observable and quantifiable fact, as Jan Neilsen has gone to some pains to point out on different threads.

While I don't consider Ismay a saint, neither was he a sinner in this instance. In light of the public censure he endured and the nightmares he had to have suffered long after the event was forgotten, I wouldn't be surprised if he wished he had gone down with the ship. Frankly, I wouldn't want to walk an inch in his shoes.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
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