Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Titanic Fantasies


“Just count on the life boats.”

-Billy Zane, People Magazine, Mar 7, 2013

Evidently, losing a hold on the Australian National Party has rattled the man, but one of Australia’s richest figures feels that history ought to repeat itself, expressing his desire to build another Titanic with that same hubristic pointlessness that doomed the first project.  There are reasons why certain catastrophes find their place in lore, but mining magnate Clive Palmer will have none of that.  One human’s disaster is another’s opportunity, and he is keen to imitate everything.  Well, almost everything.

Palmer wishes to build an exact replica of the liner that sank in April 1912, and most probably capturing the exact atmos – first, second and third class, the grand staircase, the gastronomy, the dancing, and, if his culturally informed advisors are at hand, much Bermet to consume before the sinking.  The fact that Palmer wishes to not merely fund the construction of the monster but take the very same route from Southampton to New York suggests his sheer desperation to leave something to posterity. Making money renting and extracting the earth must batter the conscience after a while.  Time for some flair and acts of sheer madness.

Australian comedians found the stuff of dreams in the announcement.  Shaun Micallef, in his snappy news comedy Mad as Hell, suggested that Palmer was a larger than recommended medical character.  Palmer himself came out to the press to make the trite observation that anything with a hole in it will sink.  “I think you’d be very cavalier to say something like that.”  Besides, chances of being struck by an iceberg will be minimal – climate change, fed in part by Palmer’s mining enterprises, has reduced the number of icebergs.  In his own words, “One of the benefits of global warming is there hasn’t been as many icebergs in the North Atlantic these days” (Wall Street Journal, Feb 26).

Palmer has been very quick to let his social vision of Titanic II out of the advertising bag.  At a press conference last July, Palmer admitted that there would “be some sort of screening (process)” for applicants (Herald Sun, Jul 27, 2012).  For one thing, he has it in for those pensioners.  Access to the casino would be restricted to first class passengers – after all, they can afford it, and Palmer is one of those responsible ones who doesn’t want people to fritter away what they don’t have.  But if you are a third classer, you might “share a bathroom, sit down at a long table for dinner every night, have some Irish stew and a jig in the night.”

Such concerns on the tycoon’s part will also come with a few tweaks to the original design, if only to cope with modern health and safety requirements.  There will be a “safety deck” and “proper life boats”.  The ship will be a metre wide for reasons of “stability”. “New escape stairs, service elevators, air conditioning room and similar functions have also been added.”  Markku Kanerva, director of sales for the marine design company Deltamarin, has courted fate, insisting that “from a safety perspective”, Titanic II will be peerless (Daily Mail, Feb 28).

With all of this fuss, it is appropriate to consult Joseph Conrad, who considered the calamity of this rich person’s sinkable toy box.  The monsters that were taking to the sea in the form of ocean liners were not servants of “progress in any sense.”  In his essay “Some reflections, Seaman-like and otherwise, on the loss of the Titanic” (1912) Conrad could only see the rich prostrate before Mammon, at a loss as to where to spend their wealth.  Two thousand rich but confused individuals aboard a 45,000 ton “hotel of thin steel plates to secure [their] patronage”, “a perfect exhibition of the modern blind trust in mere material and appliances.”

Pat Lacey, the great-great niece of the captain of the Titanic Cmdr Edward John Smith, has found the entire venture to build Titanic II in poor taste and pointless.  Helen Benziger, great grand daughter of survivor Margaret “Molly” Brown, suggests otherwise.  None of that matters – the very fact that the original was in poor taste suggests that every remake of the ship, on screen or off, will be distasteful.  The Titanic is the graveyard of egomania.  There is no need to dip into a bit of Sigmund Freud to realise that technological terrors are not something people ever want to abandon.  That is the difference between mourning and melancholia.

Even after Titanic II is built, Palmer will have to convince customers to get on, or rather, the types of customers he wants.  True, actor Billy Zane is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but even he was nervous at the prospect of another ship being built in honour of the long sunk liner.  “I’m sure I’ll get an invitation though.  Although it’s funny, I can’t get a charter to save my life – I don’t know if people really want me on board.”  How droll Mr Zane.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email:

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 25, 2016
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Sheldon Richman
Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Joseph Natoli
Seething Anger in the Post-2016 Election Season
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017