Satisfying the blood lust of the TV gods

Alex Honnold skyscraper climb

This is painful. Just awful.

National Geographic is creating, then monetizing a “global TV event” where the drama is simply this: Will Alex Honnold kill himself?

Because if the drama really is about the challenge of climbing up the side of a skyscraper, then hang a safety rope off Alex’s back to prevent him from dying.

But death is the point, isn’t it? Without the potential to deliver a fresh corpse on live TV, Howard Owens & Da Boyz at the National Geographic Channel (majority owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation) really have no story, do they?

Here’s a question for John Fahey, Chairman & CEO of the National Geographic Society, whose job is to safeguard the future of NGS:

Imagine that Alex kills himself.
How will you explain the Society’s central role in his death?

John clearly can not say to the media: “Cable TV is a very competitive entertainment space, so periodically we must bring forward a young adrenaline junkie like Alex, and offer him as a blood sacrifice to (temporarily) slake the thirst of the TV gods. Such global spectacles not only draw massive crowds, but they also increase our corporate profits and the profits of our “partners” at News Corporation.”  

All that might be true, of course. But John can’t actually say that out loud and in public.

What, then, would John say?

Also: Why are U.S. taxpayers still providing 501(c)3 tax-exempt status to the National Geographic Society when the organization is willing to make millions of dollars for itself — and for Rupert Murdoch — by staging and globally televising Alex Honnold’s possible death?

Rupert Murdoch laughs

John Fahey National Geographic

  • Luther

    How long before Nat Geo sponsors a real version of The Hunger Games?

    • I’m convinced that almost anything is possible.

  • cdwidea

    so its okay if he free climbs on his own, but if its on tv- that’s blood lust. What about all the free climbers, free divers, etc that do this every day? Some people live their lives differently than you (or I) do – putting it on TV doesn’t make it Blood Lust. I assume you thought the same of the Discovery Wallenda walk? I found it inspiring and nuts – but that’s his choice-i’m not into censoring other people’s lives.

    • Great point. And yes, it’s fine with me if he free climbs on his own. It’s a free country. Alex can do whatever he likes as long as it’s legal. I also agree with you that the Wallenda stunt was nuts, as is this NGC skyscraper “stunt” (which is what the Hollywood Reporter calls it).

      That said, the Society is enabling this behavior. We’re paying for it. We’re producing it. And we’re making money off it, mostly because Messrs. Fahey & Lyle can’t figure out other, more respectable ways of keeping the lights on.

      Again, I’m not suggesting anyone “censor” Alex’s life. But I am saying there’s no reason for us to encourage his suicidal behavior.

      Finally, don’t think Alex is just doing his thing, and we’re just tagging along behind him. Read NGC’s Facebook post, and note the language: “He’s going to take on a whole new challenge for us.” He’s doing this “for us.” Indeed he is. (see screen grab, below)

      My question for you, C: If Alex dies, and you’re John Fahey, how do you explain the Society’s decision to profit from this tragedy?

  • Jan Adkins

    Have a drink. Oh, you’re a recovering alcoholic? Oh, come on; you know you want a drink. Have a drink. Six years sober? Good for you. That’s probably enough. Have a drink. It’s bad for you, it brings out the worst parts of your personality? That’s okay: we’re all like that, we all have dark sides. Since all of us share the dark, dark must be good. Anything’s okay if we all do it. Have a drink.

    Here, kid, try some of this crack cocaine. It will make you feel weird and cool. It’s against the law? Ridiculous. Anything’s okay if we all do it. I’m bad for offering you something unhealthy and illegal? But it’s something everyone wants: look at the ratings it’s getting! Crack is obviously popular, clearly something the people want, so how can I be wrong in filling a need? Okay, so I fill the need for my own profit; isn’t that what capitalism is all about? Try a jolt of this crack. You’ll learn to love it.

    Let’s go to Bedlam and make fun of the crazies. It’s wrong to amuse ourselves at the cost of someone’s dignity? Ridiculous. We all do it; how can it be wrong? Seeing people who are plainly beneath us will make us feel better, more righteous, more superior. Bad to do it for profit? Isn’t that what capitalism is all about? Appealing to our basest instincts? How can they be so bad if everyone has them. Make fun of defenseless people! Feel better about yourself! You deserve a break today!

    Let’s use this empty temple as a video arcade and crack house. Good location, just up the street from the White House. It was for sale; we got it for cheap. Important, even holy services were held here? Ridiculous. That was then; this is now. No one cares about ethics or superlatives; this is the Age of Glorious Mediocrity. If some old farts practiced a religion of enlightenment and exploration, here, it couldn’t have been important. They wouldn’t have sold us the temple, would they? And who would leave greedy nihilists in charge of a holy place unless it didn’t matter? Nice building. Maybe we can sell the fixtures. Hell, maybe we can sell the inmates.

    • Exactly right. And powerfully put. Bless you (again), Mr Adkins.

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