Tale of Two Stories

This feature story about the illegal ivory trade — with a special focus on China — was recently posted at The Atlantic:

The Atlantic story on elephant poaching

This cover story on the same subject — but which focuses on the Philippines (not China) and the use of ivory by religious communities (i.e., Buddhists and Catholics) — was published by National Geographic in October 2012:

NGM Blood Ivory cover

Length of The Atlantic‘s story, in words: 12,700+
Number of times the “Philippines” is mentioned: 3

Length of the National Geographic story, in words: 7,500+
Number of times the “Philippines” is mentioned: 18

What The Atlantic says about the Philippines (all three mentions):

  • … The rest goes to Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, the Philippines, and other Asian friends of the United States, in routine disregard of the ivory ban that the United States led a generation ago.
  • … The prospect of sanctions came up the last time around, when, as the Bangkok Post recounts, the conference identified three African nations, along with transit countries Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, and top markets China and Thailand – as making insufficient efforts to curb the trade.
  • … They need to trust us on this one, as do Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines and every other friendly or dependent government in the Asia-Pacific region, and more “promising steps” such as Secretary Clinton noted last November aren’t going to cut it.

What National Geographic says about the Philippines (only 4 of 18 mentions):

  • “The Philippines is a favorite destination of these smuggled elephant tusks, maybe because Filipino Catholics are fond of images of saints that are made of ivory.” 
  • When I ask how new ivory gets to the Philippines, he tells me that Muslims from the southern island of Mindanao smuggle it in.
  • During my five trips to the Philippines I visited every one of the ivory shops Garcia recommended to me and more, inquiring about buying ivory. More than once I was asked if I was a priest. 
  • Corruption is so bad in the Philippines that in 2006 the wildlife department sued senior customs officers for “losing” several tons of seized ivory. 

What a political cartoonist in the Philippines says about Bryan Christy, who wrote the National Geographic cover story:

political cartoon about NGM coverage of Blood Ivory

Number of times National Geographic mentions “Buddhist”:  10
Number of times The Atlantic mentions “Buddhist”: 0

Number of times National Geographic mentions “Catholic”: 8
Number of times The Atlantic mentions “Catholic”:  0

Number of times I’ve asked Bryan Christy for an on-the-record Q&A so he can describe in detail his fieldwork for this story: 6
Number of times Bryan Christy has responded or acknowledged my requests: 0

What might explain National Geographic‘s willingness to punch well below its weight class, and beat up the Philippines instead of 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)

John Fahey, Chairman & CEO of the National Geographic Society

 

Who are our Society’s heroes?

Words of wisdom from Nicholas Kristof, a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and the winner of the George Polk Award, the Overseas Press Club award, the Michael Kelly award, the Online News Association award, and the American Society of Newspaper Editors award:

Nicholas Kristof Facebook Liu Xiaobo

John Fahey National Geographic

NGS CEO John Fahey

Chris Johns

Editor in Chief, National Geographic magazine

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)

James Cameron on China

James Cameron, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence

Rupert Murdoch laughs

We can do so much better than this.

Remembering Tiananmen

Today is the 24th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square democracy protests,
and the suppression and slaughter of democracy activists
by the Chinese government:

Once, we did remember this tragedy
(from NGM July 1991) :

But not anymore:
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)

James Cameron, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence

James Cameron, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence

John Fahey National Geographic

Milan-Kundera-quote-power-memory

If only he cared more about cheetahs

Chen Guangcheng at Oslo Freedom Forum

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

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

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)

_____
More than 20 years ago in National Geographic magazine
(long before any local language editions were launched):

 

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)

_____

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.)

Watch our Society look the other way

NYT_oped_Dim_Hopes_for_free_press_China

Read the whole thing here.

_____

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.

_____

John Fahey National Geographic

What do Jill Abramson & Dean Baquet grasp that John Fahey & Chris Johns do not?

NYTimes_dismantles_environment_desk

 Read the whole thing here.

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

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