Objective Nonsense (part 5)

Chris Johns

Is National Geographic “unbiased,” as Editor-in-Chief Chris Johns claims? Is Chris credible when he says: “In a world full of shrill voices and agendas, we at National Geographic are committed to an unbiased presentation of facts. … It’s what we’ve been doing for more than 120 years.”

Let’s examine more evidence.

Here again is Dr. Zahi Hawass, the secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, and a National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence. (Dr. Hawass is also on the masthead of National Geographic, our Society’s official journal.) In his own words:

Further Remarks on Statements Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Dr. Zahi Hawass, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence

In an article about Jewish history that I wrote in January for El-Sharq El-Awsat newspaper, I wrote, “It seems that the idea of killing children, old people, and women and ignoring taboos runs in the blood of the Palestinian Jews,” a statement that has been interpreted as anti-Semitic. There are two important points that I want to stress in addressing this criticism. First, I was not speaking of Jews in general. I was speaking only of the “Jews of Palestine” – the modern state of Israel. I deeply disapprove of the policies of the Israeli government with regard to Palestine, and I felt that strong language was necessary to communicate the intensity of my emotions. In addition, I was writing in Arabic for a Middle Eastern audience. The cultural gulf between the West and the Middle East is so deep that I cannot blame people for misinterpreting my statements, but I would like for everyone to know that the tone that I adopted and the words that I chose were tailored to convey my emotions to other Arabic speakers in an idiom that they would appreciate….”

A question for Chris Johns:
_____

Is Dr. Hawass “unbiased”?

Three suggestions for Dr. Hawass:
_____

  1. If you have criticisms of the Israeli government, please share them. There’s plenty to criticize, as many Israelis will tell you. But please don’t suggest that “killing children, old people, and women” is something that “runs in the blood of the Palestinian Jews.” That’s not a political critique; it’s racial demagoguery. A man in your position should choose his words much more carefully.
  2. You say your racist rhetoric (“runs in the blood”) was used to “convey my emotions to other Arabic speakers in an idiom that they would appreciate.” They may appreciate that idiom, but we don’t. Talking like a demagogue to your Arab audience and then speaking in a more tolerant way in English to Westerners is not a testament to your multicultural fluency; rather, it’s dangerous, and it deepens the cultural divide.
  3. Yul Brynner as Ramesses II in "The Ten Commandments"

    As a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, you’re supposed to support the Society’s mission to “inspire people to care about the planet.” But it’s not very inspirational to say that “killing children, old people, and women… runs in the blood of the Palestinian Jews.” We respectfully suggest that you spend less time castigating “Palestinian Jews” and more time talking about your true area of expertise: the power and the patrimony of the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt.

__________

A question for John Fahey, CEO of National Geographic:

_____

_____Why is Dr. Hawass still on our Society’s masthead and payroll?

__________

__________
Photo credits
Zahi Hawass via touregypt.net
≡  Yul Brynner via Danny Miller’s blog

  • Edward Gross

    Dr. Hawass should not be part of National Geographic. As a long time subscriber, I am appalled that the magazine would continue to use his services when he clearly is a racist and hypocrite. Archaeology should be, as much as possible, a science; and those who cannot sort out their personal prejudices from their scientific knowledge should not be given the prestige that goes with being on the NGS’s masthead.

    • Hi Ed,
      I couldn’t agree more. Problem is, if NGS gives Dr. Hawass the shove, then how will our Society get access to the mummies, the tombs, and all that Egyptian gold? I’d argue the trade-off is well worth it, but I doubt most folks at the Society would agree. One challenge to seeing this problem clearly: the inability to recognize that the story of Pharaoh is not an old, outdated story, but one that’s about the here-and-now. Just as in ancient times, we’re too often influenced by visual spectacles (mummies! gold! giant pyramids!) instead of following the voice that helps us tell the difference between what’s good & what’s not-so-good.
      Happy Passover & Easter…
      best,
      Alan

  • Edward Gross

    Dr. Hawass should not be part of National Geographic. As a long time subscriber, I am appalled that the magazine would continue to use his services when he clearly is a racist and hypocrite. Archaeology should be, as much as possible, a science; and those who cannot sort out their personal prejudices from their scientific knowledge should not be given the prestige that goes with being on the NGS’s masthead.

    • Hi Ed,
      I couldn’t agree more. Problem is, if NGS gives Dr. Hawass the shove, then how will our Society get access to the mummies, the tombs, and all that Egyptian gold? I’d argue the trade-off is well worth it, but I doubt most folks at the Society would agree. One challenge to seeing this problem clearly: the inability to recognize that the story of Pharaoh is not an old, outdated story, but one that’s about the here-and-now. Just as in ancient times, we’re too often influenced by visual spectacles (mummies! gold! giant pyramids!) instead of following the voice that helps us tell the difference between what’s good & what’s not-so-good.
      Happy Passover & Easter…
      best,
      Alan

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  • Skylark55

    danielpipes.org/comments/180021

    • Skylark – Thanks for the link — and for another insight on Zahi Hawass. He is hardly alone in questioning the historical veracity of Exodus. Plenty of other archaeologists make the same case. And pointing to Biblical sources — Kings, Joshua, Exodus, and Judges — wouldn’t help persuade them.

      Your bigger point, however, is spot on: The story Zahi Hawass is telling is not one that gracefully includes the modern nation-state of Israel. Why? Because the existence of the state is a stick in the eye to anyone who truly believes that Mohammed was the final prophet, and that his revelation would gradually spread & be embraced by the whole world. To a devout Muslim, Israel is history running in the wrong direction.

      Thanks for stopping by…

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