Dear National Geographic Channel: Stephen Colbert isn’t laughing with you, he’s laughing at you.

Doomsday Preppers, Colbert says,
“not only documents this behavior, it encourages it.”

{ Got that right. }

  • J Adkins

    The men who founded the Society felt that they could improve the human condition by making common people more aware of the world’s spectrum of climates, races, customs, extremes. Being aware of Antarctica makes life in Rhode Island different in subtle ways. But those thoughtful gentlemen at the Cosmos Club didn’t set out to compete for market share. NGS has misnavigated. It’s a nonprofit. It’s established for the broadcast of geographic knowledge. Is it necessary to reach for ratings with such coy, crass, National Enquirer slug lines and topics? Does the Society need the attention of every TV-addled couch potato? Can the Society revisit what it needs and what it does? Is a broader audience necessary or even desirable if grasping for the fringe elements requires such pandering? What happened to dignity? How does Wild Sex and Doomsday Preppers affect the Society’s  factual authority? Is it mauling journalistic truth to beguile the peanut gallery?

    • I basically agree with you, Jan. 

      But NGS is certainly not the non-profit it once was. Today the News Corp tail wags the NGS dog, and what comes out at the end isn’t pretty. … Also, you gotta agree that ink-on-paper journalism is dying, so the business model has changed. The new model is captured perfectly in Bob Garfield’s paraphrase of John Fahey during a recent nationally broadcast interview: “Brazilian women in prison subsidizing voyages to the bottom of the sea.”  

      Playing to the peanut gallery may or may not maul the journalistic truth. But that seems to matter far less than creating as big a peanut gallery as possible. Growth is the game for NGS, which is an awkward place for NGS to be. Just watch John Fahey squirm a little here:

  • Guest

    Right with you. Pathetic is the word I am starting to use. The Society executives have no dignity, just money in their pockets. Honestly don’t think they care about factual authority. Fact-checking and research means time and time means money. They are banking on the good NG name now, but eventually the name will be about as authoritative as the National Enquirer. But those in power will be long gone and have their nice retirement packages.

    • It does sometimes feel like NGS is running on fumes. But the question remains: What’s an alternate strategy?

      What’s intriguing about Colbert’s segment is NG’s response on Facebook: “Gotta love Stephen, he always keeps us laughing.” If NG really is laughing at the same things Colbert is laughing at — namely, the “all kinds of crazy” portrayed on Doomsday Preppers — then why does NG think mocking these people is the right thing to do? Why publicly laugh at and ridicule the very people who have given you permission to enter and film their private lives?

      There is a deep, powerful current of cynicism that runs through NGS these days. It’s a cynicism that, if left unchecked, will one day destroy the place.

      Happy weekend, Guest! 🙂

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