Is America the SS Titanic?


In 1912 the steamship Titanic was an enormous floating palace with many levels of society enclosed in a single vessel. The upper levels of the ship housed the wealthy and powerful. Below the richly furnished staterooms of the elite, the corresponding levels of society descended to the very bottom of the ship, where the lowest classes lived and worked.

The ill-fated Titanic"At her launching in May 1911, the British press hailed the White Star Line's 46,000-ton superliner Titanic as 'the Wonder Ship,' the most stupendous, the most luxurious, the safest ship afloat," wrote Sir James Bisset.

Despite the media rapture that heralded the Titanic as the most marvelous ship afloat, several of her crew deserted. "The rumor had started several days before the Titanic left Southampton ," said then second mate Bisset. "Newspapers for months had been printing articles extolling her wonderful qualities, but on the morning when she was due to leave Southampton , twenty two men who had signed on in her crew were missing." Despite the media rapture that presently heralds America as the sole remaining superpower, an unsinkable republic and an unassailable democracy, the country appears to be cruising as comfortably into unsafe waters laced with icebergs. The warnings have been forthcoming for a long time now. Similar to the enduring morality tale of the Titanic, where "not one, but many errors brought her to disaster," little hints of disaster indicating a larger tragedy to come have been sent'and ignored'by friendly ships of state all around. Aboard the SS Titanic on her maiden voyage a helmsman firmly took the wheel. Behind him stood two powerful figures, the ship's Captain, Edward John Smith, and Bruce Ismay, the Chairman of the White Star Line. Behind them stood the prestige and power of the owner of the White Star Line, Ismay's father. "There is testimony that Ismay urged the captain to maintain maximum speed," said Bisset, one of the first men on the rescue scene after the sinking. Thus the helmsman aboard the Titanic actually wielded little power, exercised little judgment, aside from spinning the wheel. Those who stood behind him in the shadows set the course and determined the speed (and were wholly responsible for the ship). A New Atlantic Speed Record for her maiden voyage became an enviable goal. All that was required was an increase in power, and thus, speed for the entire voyage. Aboard the SS America, nearly a hundred years later, the helmsman stands at the wheel, looking self-important, nominally in charge. Although the hands of the helmsman certainly grasp the wheel, the course and speed of SS America have been set by others. In the shadows, the power elite plot the new course, having increased power and speed, irregardless of the safety of the vessel. To the privileged class striding the upper decks of the most powerful vessel afloat, there is little cause for alarm, however. After all, capable men control this enormous ship of state and so the leisure class promenade proudly past the stout lifeboats of their diversified investment portfolios, and calmly tell themselves the vessel is unsinkable. Ice warnings arrived throughout the entire voyage, 21 warnings altogether, including seven that Sunday. The Titanic continued steaming at top speed towards the pack ice'growlers and bergs--drifting down from Greenland . The two radiomen aboard the Titanic, Harold McBride and Jack Phillips, passed the warnings to the officers on the bridge throughout the day, but were mostly kept busy sending stock market messages from the wealthy businessmen on board and relaying stock quotes from New York . Aboard the SS Carpathia, steaming east towards the Titanic, Captain Rostron remarked about the great ship on her maiden voyage. 'She must be a wonderful ship, but all their newspaper bragging seems a kind of blasphemy, claiming that she's 'unsinkable' and all that kind of thing.' The Carpathia would be the first ship on the scene after the disaster. Ironically, Captain Smith of the Titanic had remarked, on an earlier occasion, "I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that." On Sunday evening aboard the Titanic, the upper classes continued to dine in opulent splendor before retiring. In the lower levels of the ship, particularly steerage, the common folk passed the time, reassured by the throb of the powerful engines and the stoutness of the steel hull, the swishing of seawater against the steel plates almost reassuring. The prospect of a bright new future, a new American century, appeared almost within their reach. Unknown to anyone aboard the Titanic, whether passenger or crew, a critical design flaw had been built into the construction of the vessel. Inexplicably, Titanic's bulkheads and watertight compartments, did not reach all the way to the top of the overhead ceiling. Should the ship ever be flooded suddenly, her pumps might not keep the seawater from topping the bulkheads. The 'unsinkable' Titanic would then quickly sink. Aboard the SS America, the bulkheads and watertight doors likewise did not go all the way to the top. An intentional yet critical design flaw, ignored by passengers and crew alike, revealed that, in an emergency, nothing stood behind the US dollar but mere paper, empty promises, and the weight of massive debt. Still the ship of state sped onward, into uncharted waters incurring mountainous debt while the helmsman swung the wheel according to the dictates of the rich and powerful men behind him. Despite ample and repeated warnings of hazards ahead, from writers and radiomen with foresight, another foolhardy speed record beckoned those in control. Called the Project for New American Century, all that was required was an irrational increase in power and speed to achieve their goal. That and considerable luck. AT 11 PM, the Titanic steamed west at her maximum speed of 22.5 knots, her radioman still sending and receiving stock market directives. A message arrived from the steamship Californian, ten miles to the northwest, that she was stopped for the night by ice blocking her way. Aboard the Titanic, the harried radioman, Jack Phillips, cut him short with the terse reply in code, 'Shut up old man I'm busy.' The SS Titanic, the largest ship afloat, where 'not one but many errors brought her to disaster,' was only minutes away from her doom. Aboard the opulent luxury liner, however, neither the passengers nor the crew realized their immediate danger. Indeed, most slept soundly even when the Titanic struck the iceberg at 11:40 PM and had to be aroused thirty minutes later. By then, at 12:15 AM, the frantic radioman Phillips tapped out his first distress signal'CQD--to be followed ten minutes later by this desperate message to the reply of the Carpathia: "CQD CQD SOS SOS CQD SOS. Come at once. We have struck a berg'" The score of ice warning repeatedly ignored by those who set the speed and course aboard the Titanic had finally caught up to the "unsinkable" liner. "The fact that the Titanic had struck a berg in calm weather on a clear night meant one of three things," observed second mate, James Bisset of the Carpathia: "insufficient lookout; responses too slow from her bridge; or that the big vessel at her full speed had not quickly enough answered her helm to avoid collision."Full view picture of an iceberg Within two hours the largest ship afloat would be foundering, her engine rooms flooded, her radios failing. Untrained crewmen struggled to launch lifeboats and board hundreds of stunned, reluctant or disbelieving passengers. If the ship was so unsinkable, they wondered, why were they being forced into lifeboats? Many wealthy passengers'and almost all of those in steerage'would drown when the ship sank; there simply were not enough lifeboats. By 1:45 AM, when Phillips tapped his last message, "Come as quickly as possible. Engine room filling up to the boilers," the last lifeboat pulled away from the sinking ship. Bruce Ismay, however, would survive the sinking of the Titanic. "According to evidence," remarked Bisset, "he had jumped into a boat that was being lowered." Like many of those now in command of this ship of state, the SS America, the Ismays of the world always survive. Indeed they thrive, even prosper, whether in disaster or success. Whether Neocon, Bilderberger, Wall Street insider or architect of the New World Order, they're the first ones into the lifeboats with a money belt firmly around their waist. When the collision of the SS America occurs, with a mountainous iceberg of foreign debt amid an ice pack of foolhardy foreign adventures, the ablest survivors will be those least clinging to the notion that the vessel is unsinkable. Indeed, many of the foremost survivors will resemble the 22 crewmen who abandoned the Titanic before she sailed, aware that those who command our beautiful vessel are woefully incompetent or criminally insane. Postscript: Then as now, New York newspapers were pretty unreliable for accuracy: "ALL Saved From Titanic After Collision," blared the New York Evening Sun, of April 15, 1912. The Carpathia arrived at 4 AM, Monday, April 15, almost two hours after the Titanic had sunk. "The increasing daylight revealed dozens of icebergs within our horizon," observed Bisset. "Among them were four or five big bergs, towering up to two hundred feet above water level. One of these was the one that the Titanic had struck." The Carpathia's crew spent the morning rescuing 703 survivors and hoisted 13 lifeboats aboard. Neither the Titanic's captain or her first officer were among the survivors. Captain Smith, aware of the enormity of his error in judgment, had gone down with his ship. One final irony: sometime this spring the vessel USS America will be sunk, somewhere in the Atlantic.

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Douglas Herman's picture
Columns on STR: 149

Award winning artist, photographer and freelance journalist, Douglas Herman can be found wandering the back roads of America. Doug authored the political crime thriller, The Guns of Dallas  and wrote and directed the Independent feature film,Throwing Caution to the Windnaturally a "road movie," and credits STR for giving him the impetus to write well, both provocatively and entertainingly. A longtime gypsy, Doug completed a 10,000 mile circumnavigation of North America, by bicycle, at the age of 35, and still wanders between Bullhead City, Arizona and Kodiak, Alaska with forays frequently into the so-called civilized world of Greater LA. Write him at Roadmovie2 @