Why John Fahey’s decision to do business in China was a huge mistake for the National Geographic Society

Banned in China: Bloomberg and New York Times say they had no choice

Meanwhile:

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson stand tall with our new publishing partners in the People$rsquo;s Republic of China (2007).

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson stand tall with our new publishing partners in the People’s Republic of China (2007).

Chris & Terry shake hands with our new partners.

Chris & Terry shake hands with our new partners.

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)

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:

Yellow-Fever-New-Yorker-excerpt-National-Geographic

 { 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)

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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.)

Here comes our Society’s new membership platform

{ click to enlarge }Catherine_Karnow_we_are_explorers_email

Dear Catherine,

Thank you for your warm welcome. I’m delighted to be part of the National Geographic Society’s team of explorers, and honored to be considered a colleague of yours.

As I looked through your body of work, I was especially impressed by this social documentary project:

The Agent Orange story is obviously one that’s of great importance to you. My particular interest is the oppression of political dissidents in China. I’ve blogged about it quite a bit here. And as you probably know, National Geographic magazine once took subjects like freedom and human rights very seriously.

I’d like to share my work with other Society members who have joined our new community of digital explorers.

How might I do this? Where may I post my work on the NGS website? How can I get in touch with other Society members who also care about human rights, freedom, and democracy? Does the NGS site have tools that enable people to find one another based on common interests? And how can we take these virtual communities that are beginning to form and bring them alive in real life?

Because I firmly believe in what you say in your message (above): “Working together, we can discover more and make a bigger difference.” (I said very much the same thing back in 2009.)

Looking forward to hearing from you — and to working with you.

all the best,
Alan

Watch our Society look the other way

NYT_oped_Dim_Hopes_for_free_press_China

Read the whole thing here.

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

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

Read about Chris Johns’ firm belief in our Society’s lack of “agenda” here.

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John Fahey National Geographic

Turning our back on “the most important product of American culture”

Here’s Nicholas Kristof on the role Americans should play in China:

Nicholas_Kristof_on_Ai_Weiwei

Here’s a counterpoint from Chris Johns, Editor-in-Chief of National Geographic magazine, who evidently considers it a virtue to be a consistent advocate of nothing:

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 [at National Geographic] for more than 120 years. 

This “unbiased” stuff is nonsense, of course. National Geographic has always had a bias — a predisposition either for or against something.

The only thing that’s changed in the past 15 years is that National Geographic would have once stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Ai Weiwei and Nicholas Kristof. But now we go to Beijing and do stuff like this:

Chris & Terry shake hands with our Society’s new publishing partners in the People’s Republic of China (2007).

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson shake hands with our Society’s new publishing partners in the People’s Republic of China (2007).

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson celebrate with our new publishing partners (2007).

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson celebrate with our Society’s new publishing partners in the People’s Republic of China (2007).

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson stand tall with our new publishing partners in China (2007).

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson stand tall with our new publishing partners in China (2007).

Ai_Weiwei_quote_photo_Beware_of_Images

John Fahey National Geographic

“Let your project go”

“Working against the very cause of freedom
is something that you need to approach very delicately….”

The Society’s project
once meant championing the very cause of freedom:

NGMcover_June1945_Ike_letter

Thomas Jefferson, Architect of Freedom

NGM, February 1976

NGM September 1987

NGM September 1987

But then we let The Project go:

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

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

Ai_Weiwei_quote_photo_Beware_of_Images

John Fahey National Geographic

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Related posts:
The Elephant in The Room
Befriending Thugs Who Love The Planet
Adventures In Global Media
Thugs, Oppression, Global Media & Democracy

Yu Jie, John Fahey & “the frontiers… we must protect”

TO: John Fahey, Chairman & CEO of the National Geographic Society
RE: Taking your own words seriously

Did you see this news item?

{ Read the whole article here. }

Given your recent public statements about freedom of expression and the First Amendment

… don’t you think Yu Jie’s online project is a perfect fit for the National Geographic Society?

After all, Yu Jie:

We have some great ideas about how National Geographic could become a partner in Yu Jie’s project, which will not only help Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, but will also help you build a secure and sustainable future for the National Geographic Society.

If you’re interested in learning more, please get in touch, or let us know in the comments below.

Green (adjective): environmentally aware, ecologically friendly; also: unworldly, simple, amateurish, naive

Terry Garcia goes to China
and delivers a speech that leaves us
(almost) speechless.

Did you know that people in China
prefer locally grown food?
And live near “their usual destinations”?
And embrace renewable energy sources?
They also love bike-sharing!

It’s all true, says Terry,
citing the Greendex,
National Geographic’s sustainability survey.

“Can China go green?” Terry asks his captive audience.
The answer, he says, “is an emphatic yes.”

In other news: 

{ Read the entire report from Freedom House here. }

{ Read the full BBC story here. }

(All these evictions no doubt move Chinese citizens
closer to what Terry Garcia calls “their usual destinations,”
which is great news for the Greendex… and The Planet.)

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

Focusing on the “staggeringly obvious”

Bryan Christy, author of this month’s National Geographic cover story “Blood Ivory,” takes exception on Twitter to this editorial cartoon, which appeared last Friday in the Star Sun (Philippines):

But dismissing the cartoon as “racist” misses the main point, which is sharpened in the accompanying editorial:

China, Not The Philippines

IN NATIONAL Geographic magazine’s cover story, “Blood Ivory,” writer Bryan Christy attempted to rationalize his over-emphasis on the veneration by Catholics in Cebu and the Philippines of religious icons, some of them sculpted from ivory, this way:

“The Philippines’ ivory market is small compared with, say, China’s, but it is centuries old and staggeringly obvious.”

It’s a pathetic rationalization simply because it covers up the real reason for the recent upsurge in the global demand for ivory that resulted in the mass slaughter of elephants in Africa. …

The Philippines’ ivory market maybe “staggeringly obvious,” but per Christy’s admission, it is “small” and “centuries old,” meaning it could not have propped up the recent upsurge in the demand for ivory that resulted in the mass slaughter of elephants in Africa.

So where is this upsurge in demand coming from? A straightforward story on the same topic is The New York Times’ “Elephants Dying in Epic Frenzy as Ivory Fuels Wars and Profits” (published on Sept. 3, 2012).

The New York Times, quoting experts, said as much as 70 percent of the illegal ivory flows to China. It added: “China’s economic boom has created a vast middle class, pushing the price of ivory to a stratospheric $1,000 per pound on the streets of Beijing.” …

“China is the epicenter of demand,” Robert Hormats, a senior State Department official, was quoted by The New York Times. “Without the demand from China, this (the ivory trade) would all but dry up.”

Knowing context proves the kind of disservice Christy’s National Geographic article brought on the religious in Cebu and the Philippines. By using the Philippines as a jump-off point for his discussion of the global ivory trade, he made the country look guiltier than, say, China, for the slaughter of elephants in Africa.

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Cheers!

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson celebrate with our Society’s new publishing partners in the People’s Republic of China (2007).

Chris Johns, Editor of National Geographic magazine, bravely confronts the… uhh… Catholics & Buddhists

Here’s how The New York Times covers
the elephant poaching crisis:

{ Read the whole thing here. }

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Here’s how National Geographic covers the crisis: 

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Here’s what Buddhists think of Chinese rule in Tibet:

Buddhist nun Palden Choetso engulfed in flames in her self-immolation protest against Chinese rule on a street in Tawu, Tibetan Ganzi prefecture, in China’s Sichuan Province. Dozens of Tibetans have set themselves on fire over the past year to protest Chinese rule, sometimes drinking kerosene to make the flames explode from within, in one of the biggest waves of political self-immolations in recent history. (AP Photo/Students For A Free Tibet via AP video)

Here again is investigative reporter Bryan Christy
describing his field work for this National Geographic story:

Here’s how Catholics in China are being persecuted:

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Summing up:

Cheers!

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson celebrate with our Society’s new publishing partners in the People’s Republic of China (2007).

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≡  Hat tip to Bong Wenceslao, who first compared the New York Times & National Geographic treatments of this crisis.

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