Bondage, Discipline, Sadism, Masochism & The Silent, Submissive CEO

New season, new episode:

Taboo BDSM pony play

Rupert_Murdoch_laughs_majority_owner_br_background

John Fahey National Geographic

  • bob

    giddyup!

  • DClover

    Ugh!

  • Jan Adkins

    This may be the precise collision of subject and Society that
    illuminates our concern, Alan. The dominatrix accepts money for sexual
    gratification of unusual, titillative, socially underground desires.
    She’s a prostitute willing to counterfeit fantasies. She goes to the
    bank on her clients’ need to debase themselves.

    How
    does this differ from Geographic Channel’s programming? Not much.
    Murdochian cynics are willing to counterfeit titillative fantasies to
    satisfy the viewers’ baser desires for fringe sensationalism.

    Unlike
    the dominatrix, however, the NGC programmers prey on unsuspecting
    communities and beliefs without respect for their decency or for the
    reality of their lives. Comparatively, the dominatrix appears to be
    offer an honest and private exchange without pretense. NGC, however,
    cloaks itself in the Society’s mantle of respectability while it
    indulges similar sexual and social fantasies and makes its millions on
    false scripts, skewed editing, and plain lies.

    There’s
    another unsavory factor in the NGC’s programming choices. Holding up
    religious belief, sexual orientations, ethnic backgrounds and
    nationalities to ridicule is a form of elitism. The National Enquirer
    nature of NGC “documentaries” (it is to larf) is an invitation to
    disdain the distorted portraits of untermensch, “we’re so much better
    than those weird people.”

    There’s no doubt that our
    forebears at the National Geographic Society were full-blooded men and
    women with broad appetites for life. But what they reported was factual
    and honestly engaging without being snarky or coy.

    What’s
    the difference between art and pornography? If it’s the intent engage
    the higher faculties and critical thinking, then the National Geographic
    Channel has a wealthy future with the Playboy Channel.

    • cdwidea

      Didn’t find that episode of Taboo elitist or judgmental at all – your post was far more judgmental than the show. the show was actually a pretty straight forward doc about people who live on the fringes of our society. Why are you so afraid of sexuality?

      Should NGC be airing it? Of course not, but its not sensational crap- it was well done doc. If HBO had done it, probably win an Emmy – NGC does it and apparently the entire fabric of society was ripped apart. their promotion for it was horrible and embarrassing that – photo of out context, horrible and embarrassing, but sorry, guys, not the end of the world.

      • CDW – You write: “Should NGC be airing it? Of course not…” Great news! We’re all in agreement.

        Re: HBO — what’s the mission statement of HBO? what’s the mission statement of NGS? Compare & contrast.

        • bob

          Why shouldn’t NGC be airing it? Coverage of the “world and all that’s in it” – straight from the mission statement of co-founder Alexander Graham Bell. Hasn’t Taboo has been a popular NGC show? Is this “tribe” just too different from one along the Amazon or in Papua New Guinea?

          • Actually, the mission statement was revised. Now it reads: “To inspire people to care about the planet.” Not sure exactly how BDSM videos help that cause.

            And if even if Bell’s formulation — or the old “to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge” — continues to inform the Society, the truth is that our beat was never everything under the sun. For instance, I don’t recall ever seeing a Magazine story about maximum security prisons; or the graduated income tax; or the life and times of Joseph Stalin. Plenty of things have long been considered off topic.

            Re: the popularity of the show — is that the ultimate metric now? Because from what I hear, porn is a huge moneymaker. So is gambling. And prostitution. We could do TV shows on these topics — sub-cultures all — and Magazine stories… and then provide opportunities for people to experience these subcultures first-hand on NG Tours. Because who are we to judge? Aren’t they just different “tribes” with different “values” who…

            I’m afraid, “Bob,” that you’re wildly sliding too far down the proverbial slippery slope.

          • bob

            Consider it a balance to those of you standing too high up on your righteous mountaintop. Fact is, as you have pointed out, the Society needs money to exist. You can compare this to porn, gambling and prostitution, etc. but it’s not and no one would confuse it as such. Is it sensational and titillating in the guise of educational – probably. But, I seriously doubt that you can find one financially successful TV channel that isn’t full of similar (probably worse) fare. So, I’m sorry if the Society participating in television as it exists today upsets you, but until someone comes up with another idea as to how to bring hundreds of millions of dollars into the Society, I’m happy to have the Channel. (BTW, none of the ideas posited on this site have that potential. In my estimation, most would actually cost money.)

          • You’re right — all BDSM isn’t porn, but some porn is BDSM. In any case, we’ve done TV shows about porn and prostitution, but they’re cloaked with clinical clothes (“sex addiction”) or not (“Sex For Sale”).

            As for the money the Channel brings in — you’re right again. But my whole point is that John has failed to find another way. It was his decision to effectively strip the word “Society” from the marketing of NGS, and turn over the editorial reins to Murdoch’s boyz. To say that everyone in the TV industry produces this crap is not a defense of what John has done, it’s an indictment.

            As for whether the ideas shared on this site would make any money, how could you or anyone else possibly know? More to the point: Why aren’t these ideas, or any ideas, being discussed — in public or at staff meetings?

            Think about this: John Fahey is the CEO of one of the largest non-profit educational organizations in the world, and he barely speaks to the press. And when he does, it’s a carefully scripted affair.

            I’m looking forward to a conversation, that’s all. An open exchange about what the future of the Society is, or might be. I don’t have to be part of that conversation, by the way. I don’t have to be posing the questions, or moderating the discussion. But best I can tell, that conversation is not taking place anywhere — and hasn’t been for at least 20 years.

            In the past week, several changes at NGS help make my point for me…

            1. a reorganization that puts Chris Johns (and a few new hires) in charge of all editorial for the Magazine and the website.

            2. The launch of National Geographic Creative, which is essentially an office that will help sell the NG Brand as sponsored content.

            3. BDSM videos on the Channel that John Fahey says he could kill if he wanted to (see his Q&A with On The Media) — but he doesn’t.

            It’s all part of The Great Convergence, where the lines between print and digital continue to vanish… where ad money becomes even more important… and — most important — where what the Society truly represents will become much more difficult to determine.

            (As I’ve said before, John’s essential strategy — high brow in print, low brow on TV — might have made sense in 1998. But technology has changed, and it’s going to bite him in the ass… again.)

            Also, remember this: John Fahey is retiring as CEO next year, which means two positions still need to be filled: CEO and President. Watch that space.

          • bob

            I’ll try to keep my reply concise. I prefer to go by ‘bob” because, occasionally, I feel the urge to comment on what I see as some of your more egregious statements. And, while I’m happy to discuss these topics in detail with my friends (some of whom are on your site, some of whom are still at NGS), I have no desire to bicker with folks I don’t know who appear to be very set in their thinking.

            My urge to comment comes from brief statements (what I have called “pot shots”) on this site. Two examples just from your reply to me:

            1. Chris Johns’ promotion – all in all, I believe the recent changes among upper management are healthy for the Society. Declan Moore seems to have a good grasp on the publication side of NGS, and, if he believes that Johns will do a good job in the new position, then it is worth a try. More to my point, you don’t offer any real reason that this is a bad move; you simply present it as if it is an obvious bad move.

            2. National Geographic Creative – to my understanding this is neither a launch (i.e. a new department) nor an office dedicated to “selling the Brand as sponsored content.” It is a re-naming of the NGS stock photo group (previously Image Sales), which has been around for 20 or so years. It is a small office that directly benefits the NG photographers and other creative contributors. My point here – either your is information faulty or you are simply willing to spin any move at the Society in a negative light. The latter is evident with a regularity that makes it impossible for me to take the remaining “discussion” seriously.

            Fahey – he’ll be gone in less than a year, which pretty much makes him, and all his shortcomings, a part of the past already. The future of the Society will be in the hands of his successor and the upper management that remains. I don’t expect any insightful comments to come from him nor do I need to hear what he has to say. I’m old enough to recognize that TV is still a vast wasteland and that our leaders speak only when it benefits them and in language that generally says little to nothing. I can agree with you that both are sad, but expecting a change is wholly unrealistic.

          • “Bob,”

            I still don’t understand your need for anonymity when defending the current policies at NGS. But it’s obviously your call.

            When I mentioned the recent reorg & promotions, I didn’t take any “potshots.” I simply said it’s part of what I called the Great Convergence, where the line between print & digital all but vanishes. Putting Chris in charge of the web & the Magazine is part of that process. But as I’ve said repeatedly here, I think part of the Society’s problem is not the technology challenge, but the editorial one. That by becoming de facto International Geographic, NGS has abandoned the storyline that made — and could still make — the Society great: The West Meets The World.

            Put another way: More cheetahs (on the web, on your iPad app) are not the answer to what ails us, but part of the problem.

            Re: Declan Moore — there’s a huge conversation going on about the future of media, and how legacy media companies will survive given all the challenges posed by digital. As the publisher of one of the best known print titles in the world, where is Declan in that conversation? I never see his name pop up anywhere. And I see no evidence that he’s solved the riddle that is puzzling so many of his fellow publishers.

            Re: NG Creative — you’re right, it is the Image Collection renamed, but it’s a whole lot more. Go to http://www.nationalgeographic.com/ngcreativestudio/ and click on the first main tab — Custom Content. That’s the new online home for what some called “sponsored content” — and NG wants a piece of that business. Will it generate revenue for a while? Sure it will. But will it add to the Brand’s overall equity? No. It’s the equivalent of a farmer selling his seed corn, a skill John has perfected.

            Re: John is “part of the past already” — no, he isn’t. There’s another year ahead with him at the helm. Then, he has to choose a successor. Then, he’ll remain as Chairman of the Board for who knows how long.

            Re: “TV is vast wasteland” — John has built the financial future of NGS on this “vast wasteland.” I’m not sure why you think that’s a smart move.

            Your last point — “expecting a change is wholly unrealistic” — yeah, you may be right. But given what you’ve said, we have a lot more in common than you seem to suggest. The “change” only happens when enough people stand up and say: Dear John, You’re building the future of the Society on a vast wasteland, and we think we can do much better. Please talk to us and begin the conversation about a different, more constructive path we can all take together.

            But for some reason, “Bob,” you decide to aim your anonymous arrows at me. I don’t really understand why.

          • bob

            Actually, the NG Creative link you reference goes here – http://www.nationalgeographic.com/ngcreativestudio/ – which is run by the NY Ad office (according to the contacts). NatGeoCreative.com is run out of the “old” Image Sales office in Washington, DC. Connected to a small degree, but otherwise totally separate.

            Why do I respond to you? Let’s use this as an example. You evidently have an issue with one of these operations but you seem content to slander them both. My impression on why this is acceptable to you – NGS cannot do anything positive, so all NG actions are equally up for criticism.

          • Bob,

            You’re right, and I’m wrong. I honestly thought these two entities had become one — but they’re haven’t. My mistake, and thanks for the heads up.

            I must say, though, that the naming convention they’ve selected is very confusing. NG Creative vs. NG Creative Studio. Not real strong differentiation there, at least in my mind.

            And in any case, NG Creative Studio, which I think is relatively new, is, in fact, about sponsored content: “LEVERAGING THE WORLD’S MOST TRUSTED MEDIA BRAND. Bold images. Spellbinding narratives. Trusted expertise. NG Creative Studio taps into the talent and resources of the National Geographic Society to deliver your message to a global audience of 400 million.”

            I think this is probably good for cash flow, but I can’t see how “leveraging the brand” this way will add to NG’s brand equity — can you?

    • Thank you, Jan, for saying so eloquently what I merely hinted at with a few hastily assembled images.

      My favorite line of yours: “She goes to the bank on her clients’ need to debase themselves.” This, of course, is a Murdoch specialty. The only difference with these NG shows is the requisite appearance of a PhD psychologist to give the whole thing the veneer of scholarship.

      I just put up another post with comments about the show that have been shared on Facebook. What I hadn’t fully considered is that the Channel runs ads for these shows when 8-year-old kids are more likely to be watching.

      Unbelievable….

  • cdwidea

    Alan, what’s with the twitter fight with Baldwin? Look i get it, you need attention to your cause and using a celebrity to help. Shameless, but I get it – good to know you are a commercial whore like everyone else.

    • Alec Baldwin got called out by Washington Post TV columnist Lisa de Moraes for participating in this NGC program, so I followed up with him on Twitter. I wanted to know why he decided to front a program that, on its surface, seemed to run against his values. And Alec was gracious enough to respond.

      Re: your calling me a “commercial whore” — don’t whores get paid? If so, I haven’t yet received my cash.

      • cdwidea

        depends on how good they are, I suppose

        • “I keep visiting your site, reading your stuff, commenting on your posts, and attacking your character,” said cdwidea (anonymously), “but I’m not satisfied with your services, you lousy commercial whore. No payment for you!”

          • cdwidea

            Fair enough, my apologies, I certainly didn’t mean to attack your character, in fact as below, i actually meant some of it as a compliment. I won’t apologize for calling you sensationalist, that’s not a character attack anyways. Although I did pay, just to be clear – my page views helped your Honest Tea promotion 😉

            If you don’t want people to read and argue, fair enough, I’m gone. I hope you understand your view isn’t the only view – or even the right one (is there even a ‘right’ one). I, too, want NGS and NGC to change – but not all the ways you do. Your blog, you can be as open or closed as you wish – i respect that. Good luck!

          • cdwidea

            last thing, I’ll move on – you always bring up the Society’s tagline/mission/whatever as to why the society is wrong. Yours is How the National Geographic Society could create a new blueprint for journalism. Not all things wrong with the Society.

            Think about your own mission, i like it, noble, valid and a great cause. It doesn’t say your mission is to trash everything and find all the problems. A blueprint is a great word – sometimes you have to build on the foundation given to you. That, and just relax man, its only National Geographic

          • C – No apologies necessary re: character attack. My feelings were not hurt, and I always welcome your thoughts. I really do…

            Fact is, I do want people to read and argue. And I certainly don’t believe my view is the only view or even the right one. But all my online jabbering is, I hope, is at least the beginning of a conversation. You write: “Your blog, you can be as open or closed as you wish…” For the record: It’s open. Wide open…

            Re: blueprint — you’re absolutely right. That’s the mission, and it’s one from which I’ve often strayed. But here’s the dilemma: Early on I posted often about alternatives — about membership… about Groupon-like arrangements for members… about NPR and its funding model and the trust it has cultivated with its members & its brand consistency… about the editorial substance of NGS that would give people a sense of participation as citizens of open societies (rather than curators of a global wildlife museum)… about creating affiliate relationship with other like-minded non-profits… about the subjective nature of journalism, and why it has always informed what NGS has done, and could still do…. and more.

            And while I still believe many of those ideas are still relevant, and could still work, they would get posted, then sit in a parallel universe over here on my blog while Murdoch & his boyz continue to wreak havoc at the Channel.

            It’s as if you went to your annual physical, and your doctor said: “Look, C, you gotta lose weight, and stop smoking, and stop eating a bucket of french fries for lunch every day. Your cholesterol is off the charts. You’re killing yourself, and can’t keep up this craziness” And you said: “Doc, why all the negativity? Can’t you say something nice about, say, my new shoes?”

            Okay, not a perfect analogy, but I hope you get my point.

            I think the ideas that inform NGS, and the decisions that John Fahey has made, cannot sustain the Society for very long. I think it’s classic short-term business thinking. I also believe that John has misread the history of NGS, and pulled at the wrong thematic threads (science, adventure, the environment) to try and weave something new and sustainable. So instead of continuing to map out my alternate vision, I spend more time saying The Emperor has no clothes. … Now, you might say that the boy in that fable might do better to sew some new clothes for the Emperor, and then help him get dressed again. But the boy doesn’t stand a chance until the crowd and the king’s court wise up and realize the naked truth.

            Re: build on the foundation — absolutely. But as I’ve said repeatedly, John picked the wrong one. The right one is a Society that knows what it is, and what it values (Thomas Jefferson & team) and what it does not (autocrats, bullies, dictators, and political parties of enormous countries that lock up Nobel Peace Prize laureates).

            As for your “relax man” — yeah, I know. I could probably bring it down a notch. But I’ll share a story with you…. When I was in my 20s, I was working on a book manuscript that I was certain, when published, would change the world. My dad, who was a very wise man, told me that the world wasn’t waiting to hear from me about my Big Ideas, and that my real job wasn’t to change the world, but to clean up my room — or at least start there. … As I’ve gotten older, the wisdom of his advice has become more apparent. You want change? Start small. Real small. Start in your own room, and work out from there….

            NGS feels like a few steps beyond my own room. And for more than 20 years, it was my professional room. So, to me, it’s not “only” National Geographic. It’s the world writ small. It’s all the subjects that mesmerize me, subjects that play out among a very small group of people in a single institution right down the road from where I live.

            All that, and it’s an amazing story — a story for which the next chapter has not yet been written.

            Thanks again for your thoughts, C. And don’t be a stranger……

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  • Kristin Sturdevant

    Thanks for informing me again, Alan. I seriously do not get it.

  • Kristin Sturdevant

    So much of what is going on reminds me of the 7 deadly sins, and the movie Seven.”

    • bob

      Did you actually see the movie “Seven?” There are very few things on TV that compare to that and certainly none on NGC? Every time I look on this site I find comments sensational enough and factually unhindered enough to fit on Fox.

      • Kristin Sturdevant

        Yes. And are you referring to what Alan says as “unhindered enough to fit on Fox?” Alan actually has some values and is not a sensationalist.

        • cdwidea

          Really? Not a sensationalist? He blows up everything to the biggest issue, rarely points out anything positive and makes claims based on one thing. Like this pony play with Taboo – its one story of a long-running series. Yet, channel has gotten more popular, the brand rankings have gotten higher as well. Alan is a masterful sensationalist – and a shameless promoter. Not criticisms, but i do find it ironic.

          • “He blows up everything to the biggest issue…”: I have no idea what this means.

            “rarely points out anything positive”: All Things Positive at NGS can be the title of your blog, C. Anyway, I’m not especially interested in how NGS spends its money; I’m interested in how the Society makes its money.

            “…one story…” Puppy play… pony play… what’s next? Python play? Taboo is mostly trash, and you know it.

            “… brand rankings have gotten higher…” Higher than what? Compared to whom?

            “masterful sensationalist”: Give me three specific examples, and explain how I sensationalize.

          • cdwidea

            How fun, I didn’t know you were so prickly!

            Biggest issue – goes with sensational below. One bad segment of one show – death of a brand. one cover of a magazine – death of a magazine. you take things to the extreme.

            Positive- you’ve pointed out channel MAKES money – and not all of that is from things like Taboo. An agent of change can’t ignore what’s happening, you need to be holistic – that’s all I’m saying. And no thanks, more fun to argue with you here.

            Taboo – no I, don’t – you should take the time to watch. I’d say its got a healthy dose of trash, but doesn’t define a network. And sorry, one man’s trash – another man’s treasure.

            Check out the harris poll (believe its called Equi-trend) results for the magazine and the channel. Its a big annual brand study for all major industries –

            As for sensationalism – that was a compliment, by they way. You are desperately trying to get attention to your cause, I respect that – but you seem to believe you have a higher standard. Somehow what you are doing isn’t sensationalizing, that’s not facing reality. 3 very recent, top of mind examples

            Titled a blog: Death of a Major Media Brand. No backup, no data, just sensational opinion and headline to get people to click on it. Is it dead? or are you playing it up to make a point? Methinks the latter.

            Titled a blog: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. Again, sensational headline that overplays a show – particularly since you haven’t even seen yet. Didn’t your teachers ever go over books and covers with you?

            Everytime you use Rupert’s picture. Yes, you’ll say its widely available on the net – but you use it to make a funny point,to be more shocking than necessary – the definition of sensationalizing. That’s carny tactics, my friend. effective and at times funny, but sensationalizing.

            Plenty more, but those i did from memory!

          • Re: “one man’s trash – another man’s treasure” — you sound more like John Fahey every day. After all, who are we to judge what’s degrading and plays to people’s basest instincts? Who are we to be cultural arbiters or what’ brings out our better angels and what does not? Who are we to determine what’s sewage and what inspires people to care about the planet? Let the market decide. The customer is king. We are here simply to satisfy his (or her) appetites, whatever they may be.

            Equitrend results — I can’t find them. Would you please send me some links that show how over the past 10 years or so the Channel has been boosting the Society’s brand equity? Any and all historic trends (then vs now) would be more than welcome.

            Re: sensationalizing material — let’s just agree to disagree… though you do have a good memory! 🙂

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