Objective Nonsense (part 31)

Remember the claim made by Chris Johns, Editor of National Geographic, that the Magazine has “no agenda”? It was part of an Editor’s Note in which Chris insisted that in “a world 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.”

In our ongoing rebuttal to Chris’s unsupportable claim, we present this excerpt from “Yellow Fever: A hundred and twenty-five years of National Geographic,” an essay by Adam Gopnik that appears in next week’s edition of The New Yorker:


 { The full version is behind a paywall here. }

Given that our Society has promoted this “agenda” for more than a century, why would Chris insist we didn’t have an agenda, and say so on such a public stage? Why would he distance himself, the Magazine, and the Society from its own history? Why pretend?

Because pretending opens the door to China.

Chris Johns Terry Adamson China National Geographic Liu Xiaobo

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson celebrate NGM’s new publishing partnership in the People’s Republic of China. (2007)


Postscript: In this video from Russian TV (below), Terry Adamson admits what Chris Johns won’t, but you can tell Terry doesn’t like saying it out loud and in public. Listen for: “… it may have been somewhat the case.” (Adam Gopnik has no such doubts.)

  • bob

    I suppose that you will next go back to our coverage of blacks in the early 20th Century (which was abysmal) and talk about how racist the organization is today.

    • The Society in its early days was racist. It embraced nutty eugenics theories that ultimately led to all sorts of horrors. So that piece of Western civ I’d leave to the past. But there’s plenty of other things — open societies, freedom of the press, the rule of law — that are worth celebrating, don’t you think?

      Re: the racism today — say some more, Bob. Why do you think the organization is racist now?

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