Objective Nonsense (part 24)

This Objective Nonsense series began 23 installments ago with Chris Johns describing a photo review at NGS headquarters:

Chris Johns

The room darkens, and Stephanie Sinclair’s photographs flash on the screen. For months she has been photographing members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the FLDS. Its members are known to most of us because they believe in polygamy, but Stephanie’s photographs tell a deeper, broader story. …

Stephanie has no agenda. She does not judge. There is nothing superficial or glib about her work. Her photographs are honest. They reflect her insatiable curiosity. They also reflect her compassion and sense of responsibility. … Stephanie understands that others may want to pass judgment, but that is not her role. She photographs what she sees and provides the opportunity for insight. The rest is up to the reader.

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.


Dear Chris,

We’ve been documenting why we think your claim is nonsense. Now, in the June 2011 issue of NGM, you’ve made our case for us (again) with another story by Stephanie Sinclair. The title — Too Young to Wed — is pure bias. You’re not just presenting facts, you’re staking out a clear moral position: Five-year-old girls should not be forced to marry 25-year-old men. (This bias of yours is one we heartily endorse.)

The NGM website also includes a How To Help page, with links to the International Center for Research on Women, Equality Now, The Veerni Project, and a variety of other organizations that “are encouraging families to delay marriage and give girls an opportunity to reach their full potential. They welcome your financial support — an investment in improving the lives of women and girls worldwide.”

This is a wonderful agenda. We applaud your support of it (although we would have been more impressed if you’d published this financial appeal in the print version of NGM instead of tucking it away in a back room of the website).

Our question: When are you going to print a correction to the “no agenda” Editor’s Note that you published last year?

(Given the Note’s high-profile spot in the Magazine — full-page, front of the book — it really is a whopper of a mistake.)

NO NEW POSTS will be published here after February 6, 2014. THIS IS WHY.