Fear alone isn't enough to grab eyeballs, but fear plus novelty will do it every time. And airliner crashes are scary and rare.
But I think it's important not to discount the actual dangers here, and the value of bringing them to light on the world stage.
All the evidence points to a very real design flaw with the MCAS system in the 737 MAX series. What's worse is that it's a design flaw that probably could have been a minor issue if Boeing had created proper training materials for pilots, and if they hadn't made the inexplicable decision of only providing a critical warning light if the customer paid for an optional upgrade package:
Lion Air 610 should never have been allowed to get airborne on October 29, a conclusion shared by those familiar with the inquiry. The plane simply wasn’t airworthy. According to the preliminary investigation, PK-LQP’s Angle of Attack sensors were disagreeing by 20-degrees as the aircraft taxied for takeoff. A warning light that would’ve alerted the crew to the disagreement wasn’t part of the added-cost optional package of equipment on Lion Air’s 737 Max aircraft. A guardrail wasn’t in place. Once the aircraft was airborne, the erroneous Angle of Attack data collided with an apparently unprepared crew with tragic consequences as the MCAS system repeatedly activated, driving the jet’s nose into a fatal dive.
Yesterday I read a fascinating recap of an earlier mechanical problem that plagued Boeing 737s in the 1990s and caused several crashes. By all accounts it was a far more serious problem than the MAX's MCAS flaw. And by many accounts, Boeing was aware of the problem and for years tried to hide it instead of fixing it.
In that case, it took many crashes and lots of news coverage and regulatory pressure before Boeing finally fixed the problem. While reading about it, I reflected on the several flights I took on 737s during that time. All those planes were susceptible to the fatal tail rudder issue. Any one of them could have crashed. But luckily for me, the planes I was on didn't crash.
If I had known about the problem at the time, would I have gotten on those planes? Absolutely not. Even though the overall chance of a crash was relatively small, that mechanical issue made it much higher than it should have been. For the same reason I also wouldn't fly on a 737 MAX today, or drive a car with dodgy brakes. It's just an unnecessary risk.