Dear John: Why is a “violent insurrectionist” the star of an upcoming show on the National Geographic Channel?

See update (below)

Meet James Yeager. According to a news report, he’s the star of an upcoming episode of Doomsday Preppers, which is now one of the most profitable shows on the National Geographic Channel:

This is the campaign run by the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, which is trying to persuade National Geographic to cancel the Doomsday Preppers episode featuring “violent insurrectionist” James Yeager:


This is David Lyle, CEO of the National Geographic Channel:

David Lyle

David Lyle

This is Rupert Murdoch:

Rupert Murdoch laughs

This is John Fahey, Chairman of the Board of the National Geographic Society:

John Fahey National Geographic

It’s worth remembering that John Fahey has the authority to unilaterally kill shows on the Channel if he considers them inappropriate for the National Geographic Society. At least that’s what John said last year to a national radio audience.

So, what do you think, John? Does this episode of Doomsday Preppers deserve to be cancelled? If so, when? If not, why not?


Update, 20 September 2013 @ 10pm

From the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence:

UPDATE: On September 19, 2013, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence was sent the following statement by Chris Albert, a Senior Vice President for Communications and Talent Relations with National Geographic Channels:

“Doomsday Preppers documents many individuals from across the country with unique beliefs and practices as they prepare (legally) to protect themselves and their families from various disaster scenarios. Given recent events such as Hurricane Sandy and the flooding in Colorado, this program is also a valuable platform for presenting survival tips to our viewers, and we regret that any potential interview has clouded the important work this show does. With more than 600 hours in production at any given time, we give our producers the liberty to conduct hundreds of interviews for programming on our behalf, including for this series. [James Yeager] was approached by our production company for participation in the upcoming season of Doomsday Preppers. However, after being made aware of the interview and consulting with the producers, National Geographic Channel does not believe that he fits with the show or the network, and we do not plan to air his interview in the series.”

It’s funny because it’s true

Remember back in November when David Lyle, CEO of the National Geographic Channel, appeared at an international conference for documentary producers, and went head-to-head with John Wilson, a Senior Vice President at PBS? It was a breathtaking moment: National Geographic, which once proudly showcased its award-winning documentaries on PBS, was presented as the counterpoint to PBS in a Low Road vs. High Road debate.

Evidently, the folks at PBS think this distinction is worth emphasizing (and I’m afraid they’re right):

For more details, see this

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do

Then again, maybe they do know.
{ How can they not? }


Jenny Daly, president of T Group (quoted above), includes the following TV shows on her production credits: “Fashionista Diaries” for Soapnet, “Night Club Confessions” for Fox Reality and “Pageant Mom’s Unleashed” for E! Entertainment.  Also: “Love is in the Heir”, “Fight For Fame”, “Last Bride Standing”, “Starveillance,” “Diary of an Affair,” “Fake-A-Date,” “Friend or Foe,” and “Party Crashers.”

Given that resumé, Ms. Daly seems like the obvious choice to handle a six-part National Geographic series about faith-based communities.


How many people of faith will these four men
be able to offend in six hours?
Stay tuned…

Orwell’s World


Read the whole thing here.


In related news: David Lyle, CEO of the National Geographic Channel, still has not responded to the Hutterites’ plea for help.

David Lyle, CEO of the National Geographic Channel

David Lyle

Hit-and-run TV: Who’s driving that Big Yellow Car?

(to hear the same audio with chapter divisions, please see below)

car_at_night_headlightsImagine you witnessed a hit-and-run “accident” one night on the street outside your home. An innocent victim — let’s call him the Hutterite — gets run over by a Big Yellow Car, which then speeds away… but not before you get the license plate number.

The Hutterite struggles to recover, and tries to contact the Big Yellow Car’s owner — let’s call him David Lyle — but Mr. Lyle won’t return the Hutterite’s letters and phone calls. He’s a busy guy. As the CEO of a major TV channel, Mr. Lyle has much to do, and many miles to drive before he sleeps.

Now imagine that six months later you look up — and you see the same Big Yellow Car speeding down the street, heading straight at another innocent pedestrian — let’s call him the Old Believer. We think it’s a safe bet that you’d probably stand up and shout: Hey Old Believer! Look out for that Big Yellow Car!

That’s essentially what I’ve been doing these past few weeks. After the debacle of Meet The Hutterites, David Lyle — CEO of the National Geographic Channel (which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation) — has sent a production team to the village of Nikolaevsk, Alaska, to produce a TV “docu-series” about the Old Believers. The premise of the series — religious community devoted to its traditions struggles to confront the challenges of the modern world, etc. — is eerily the same as Meet The Hutterites.

In an attempt to inform the people of Nikolaevsk about what happened to the Hutterites — and to find out the latest news about the pre-production on the Old Believers TV series — I called various people in Nikolaevsk, including Nick & Tina Fefelov, who are being recruited to appear in the show.

When we spoke on the phone, Tina expressed serious reservations about participating in the production. She also mentioned that National Geographic’s production team — Jarrett Lambo, Charlie Marquardt, and Natalia Livingston — would be at her house this Tuesday (February 26, 2013) at 10am to answer questions. Since I have a host of questions about this production — including questions I emailed to Jarrett Lambo on February 16, but which he has ignored — I asked Tina if it would be helpful to her and to the community if I joined that morning meeting at her house via conference call.

Nick & Tina thought that was an excellent idea.

On Tuesday, I called Tina. She put me on speaker phone and introduced me to the group that had gathered in her living room. Almost immediately, Jarrett and Charlie, who are familiar with what we do here at Society Matters, announced that all their comments were off the record. I encouraged them to let us share their answers to our questions — from Tina, Nick, and me — so the entire community of Nikolaevsk might better understand how a National Geographic “docu-series” gets made. After all, bringing light to the facts helps people make wiser decisions. But Jarrett and Charlie insisted they wanted this meeting to be “intimate,” and therefore it had to be off the record.

What to do? If I was guided by the journalistic standards of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation — which is infamous for hacking the phone of a dead school girl, and which also owns the National Geographic Channel — I’d probably post the whole interview anyway. But that’s unethical. If Jarrett & his team refuse to publicly answer some rather simple questions, that’s obviously their right.

But the questions I raised during our discussion — well, those are my questions, and they’re hardly new ones.

So here again are my questions, comments, and concerns — this time in audio form — from Tuesday’s Q&A at Nick & Tina’s house. But since Jarrett and Charlie insisted that everything they said was off the record, I’ve removed all comments by Jarrett, Charlie, and Natalia. (Instead of their voices, you’ll just hear an audio whoosh.)

The people of Nikolaevsk won’t find any answers in this audio, but they might find a few questions that are worth asking again… if and when you see Jarrett, Charlie and Natalia around town:

In Alaska, the Old Believers send our Society a message

National_Geographic_Old_Believers_cold_reception_Homer_TribuneRead the whole thing here.

This article raises a host of new questions:

  • How is it possible that two producers from National Geographic could begin work on a “docu-series” that’s almost identical to Meet The Hutterites, yet have no idea the series even exists? Given the controversy surrounding what happened last year in Montana, why didn’t the two producers say something like: Yes, of course we know about the Hutterite series. David Lyle, CEO of the National Geographic Channel, has insisted that all producers watch it, study it, and learn about what went wrong with that production. We have learned. And we stand before you tonight with a solemn pledge that as we produce this series about the Old Believers, we will not repeat the mistakes of the past.
  • Why did National Geographic producers tell the media to leave the meeting? If the “docu-series” is, in fact, a documentary, and there are no “reality” TV stunts awaiting the Old Believers, then why is it necessary to whisper behind closed doors? Why the secrecy? Why not relieve the community’s fears by opening up the doors and windows to let the sun shine in?
  • Does the National Geographic Channel think the painful legacy of Meet The Hutterites is going to simply fade away?

We’ll keep you posted.

The Hutterites ask, yet again, for David Lyle’s help. And David Lyle ignores them, yet again.

To: The people of Homer, Alaska
Re: National Geographic’s “Old Believers”

David Lyle, CEO of the National Geographic Channel

David Lyle, CEO of the National Geographic Channel

Tomorrow night (Tuesday, January 29, 2013), producers from National Geographic Television will invite all interested residents who live in and around Homer, Alaska, to a casting call for a new “docu-series” about the Old Believers.

As you ponder your options — and the money that’s being offered as an incentive for your participation — it might be prudent to consider the recent case of the Hutterites of Montana’s King Ranch Colony.

The short version: In September 2011, a producer representing National Geographic promised the Hutterites — in a legally signed contract — that he would make a “documentary” which would “celebrate Participants’s way of life as a model for family values.” However, that is not what the producer delivered.

Instead, the 10-part TV series American Colony: Meet The Hutterites is a “reality” show which included many scenes that were dreamed up, then staged and shot to increase the program’s dramatic punch. Wesley is rushed to the hospital in an ambulance because he’s having a heart attack? That was fake. The drunk Hutterite teens who accidentally burned down the “barn”? Totally staged. Clinton driving a car without a license (and then getting arrested)? That stunt, we’re told, was the brain-child of the TV production team.

Meet The Hutterites has been deeply embarrassing and painfully divisive for members of the Hutterite community. And now their pain and embarrassment has gone global: the show, which premiered last summer in the United States, is now being broadcast all over the world on the National Geographic Channel.

(For the longer version — with supporting documents, correspondence, production notes, testimonials, media coverage, and more — please see this page.)

Afew weeks ago, lawyer Jeffrey Sveen, who represents Montana’s Hutterite community, sent yet another letter to David Lyle, CEO of the National Geographic Channel (and the former head of the now-defunct Fox Reality Channel). In his letter (please see below), Mr. Sveen outlines the many problems the Hutterites have faced during their brief encounter with National Geographic, and respectfully asks Mr. Lyle to take remedial action.

More than three weeks later, Mr. Lyle has still refused to respond.

His silence is deafening, for Mr. Sveen’s letter indirectly raises — and answers — some critical questions about David Lyle:

  • What sort of person is Mr. Lyle?
  • Should the people of Homer, Alaska, trust him?
  • If problems arise during the production of the Old Believers “docu-series,” will Mr. Lyle be there to support to the community?
  • Most of all: Would the global reputation of the Old Believers be safe in Mr. Lyle’s hands?

Please give it some thought. Because if you wait, and ask these questions in six months… well, it’ll be six months too late.

Good luck.

Hutterite lawyer TO David Lyle, NG Channel CEO

The Fine Art of the Sucker Punch

Remember how our Society sucker punched the Hutterites of Montana’s King Ranch Colony?

If so, this story (from the Homer Tribune in Alaska) will seem like deja vu all over again:


Lisa Blake (via IMDB)

Lisa Blake (via IMDB)

Executive Producer Lisa Blake has a long history of making shows with “gravitas.” Here are some highlights from her website:

… As the entertainment news producer for FOX’s national morning news show, Good Day Live, and the Emmy winning Good Day LA, she produced and directed live and live-to-tape segments exploring Hollywood Behind the Scenes and covering weekly red carpet events and feature film premieres. During her three years at FOX News Lisa worked with such luminaries as Brad Pitt, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jim Carrey, Halle Berry, Jack Nicholson and Robin Williams, among countless others. …

Lisa was the supervising producer on FOX’s Reality Remix, and a producer on reality shows Mr. Personality for FOX, ABC’s Are You Hot? and E!’s Style Star. … 

And why do Lisa Blake’s promises to Alaska’s Old Believers ring a little hollow? Hmmm… maybe because she seems to be reading from the same playbook as did Jeff Collins, who produced Meet The Hutterites:

{ Listen to the whole interview here. }

Sucker punching small groups of people,
and then humiliating them on international TV,
is one way to make a buck.

The trick, though, is to keep moving…
and get out of town before the locals figure out
who you really are. 

Montana… Alaska… New York City
and onward our Society goes, hoping that the truth
won’t catch up with us. 

(It’s a lot like The Ali G Show.
Except Ali G punked the rich & powerful,
not the powerless.) 

Eventually, Murdoch & His Boyz
will pocket their money and move on…
leaving the National Geographic brand
damaged beyond repair.  

Dear John,
Are you still out there?


Reality TV is even faker than you think

In a must-listen segment from this week’s installment of WNYC’s On The Media, an anonymous TV producer pulls back the curtain on what really happens during the production of many “reality” TV shows.


David Lyle made his name in reality TV.
Reality TV is his professional calling card.
It’s his specialty.
And now Mr. Lyle is the CEO of the National Geographic Channel.

David Lyle, CEO of the National Geographic Channel

Good on you, John Fahey

In late November, David Lyle, CEO of the National Geographic Channel, told a big audience at the 2012 World Congress of Science & Factual [TV] Producers that the only people who buy National Geographic magazine “are either 70 years old or dead.” He also said the reason back issues of the Magazine look so good is “because no one reads them.”

Evidently, Mr. Lyle’s public trashing of the official journal of the National Geographic Society didn’t go over very well with NGS Chairman & CEO John Fahey — or so says one of our Society Matters correspondents:

“Thought you’d like to hear a rumor going around Nat Geo HQ. Word is that John Fahey read about David Lyle’s performance at Science Congress on Society Matters and made him deliver a mea culpa to the board in person. So somebody is listening!”

If that’s true, then a tip of the hat to you, John Fahey.

John Fahey

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