Begin, if you will, with what initially sounds like an earnest question from John Fahey, Chairman and CEO of the National Geographic Society.
During a staff meeting last fall, John described the challenge of producing television shows which don’t ridicule people for the sake of entertainment:
“How do you [make TV shows] in a way
that doesn’t seem exploitative, or holding someone up to ridicule?
How do you get the balance?”
Then, consider this new show, which is a spin-off of the National Geographic series Doomsday Preppers:
Then, watch this spoof of Doomsday Castle — and of the Doomsday Preppers series as a whole — by the very funny folks at The Onion:
Then, on the Doomsday Castle Facebook page, see the producers laugh along with The Onion at the spoof of their own show: “It was funny.”
In other words: Doomsday Preppers and Doomsday Castle is one long joke on the preppers themselves, all orchestrated by the executives at the National Geographic Channel.
In the audio clip (above), you challenged the National Geographic staff to consider a question which you presented like a Zen koan: “How do you [make TV shows] in a way that doesn’t seem exploitative, or holding someone up to ridicule? How do you get the balance?”
It’s easy: If you produce two TV series about preppers, then don’t pay The Onion to produce a parody that mocks and ridicules preppers.
It’s nasty and deeply dishonest to set people up as the butt of a joke, and then broadcast the joke to millions of people, while you and our “partners” at News Corp count up the profits.
This is a painfully cynical way to run a business. Our Society — and our society — deserve so much better than this.
No formal announcement seems to have been released by National Geographic. But the Channel’s Twitter stream reveals this interesting item: Taboo USA, which has been one of the Channel’s most offensive shows, may have finally been shuttered:
The question, of course, is why? Could it be the popular backlash to this sort of programming?
On Facebook, people react to National Geographic’s
new primetime BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism) show,
and they are not amused.
This BDSM stuff is evidently part of a continuing series:
Watch as National Geographic’s family-friendly brand
continues its breathtaking implosion,
while a powerful media magnate laughs
all the way to the bank
STEP 1: Create TV programs that fuel “popular conspiracy theories”:
STEP 2: “Fact check” these same “popular conspiracy theories” which you have aggressively promoted on your own television channel, and show how these theories “can be easily debunked by science”:
STEP 3: Watch the CEO of one of your media subsidiaries stride onto a public stage, and then verbally stumble when he momentarily forgets whether he is the CEO of The Organization That Cares About Science… OR the CEO of The Organization That Perpetuates Conspiracy Theories Because Real Science Is Boring:
STEP 4: Revel in the corporate confusion & personal havoc you’ve created. Congratulate yourself on your ability to create conflict, then monetize it. (As we’ve noted before, Rupert Murdoch is a lot like fight promoter Don King, but with a lot less hair.)
STEP 5: Count your cash.
STEP 6: Rinse & repeat.
Which prompted the following exchange in the post’s comment section:
Bill The Thumb • Ian, Frankly, you seem to be a bit of a blowhard and a tool. I would suggest you a) Relax. You will live longer. And b) Reserve judgment until you have seen the show. You can’t judge a show by a trailer. And I don’t know much about Hollywood, but it seems to me the producers of this show are pretty darn reputable, so let’s give them the benefit of the doubt until they prove otherwise.
Ciuin Ferrin, Educational Director, O Porrajmos Educational Society • Bill the Thumb, I would have to question your education at this point. You judged Dr. Hancock without understanding what he knows and proved yourself when you resorted to name calling. The reason why he and other Romanies were offended is because we recognize that our culture, something you know nothing about, is being misrepresented and exploited by Nat Geo. It is obvious in the trailer. We’ve now seen the show. Dr. Hancock is correct.
As for Ralph “The Karate Kid” Maccio being a reputable producer of a show about a culture he knows nothing about, I again question your logical thought. One would think someone with his background would be slightly more sensitive to the complex issues other cultures face. It seems not. We have listened to Ralph explain how he knows us because he knows the Mafia. He and Nat Geo are using a dysfunctional family (personal friends of Maccio’s) to gain ratings. Nat Geo has tarnished its good name by stooping to such levels. Both are now less than reputable.
From their own website, Nat Geo claims the high ground: “Since 1888, National Geographic has supported exploration and discovery, bringing gems like Machu Picchu, undersea wonders, and new species to light. Inspiring people to care about the planet—and every living creature on it—is our mission. We promote and fund natural and cultural conservation projects. National Geographic supports groundbreaking scientific fieldwork and critical expeditions through grant programs and public projects.”
How does a Facebook page designed to mock the Romani kris by “take your friends to Gypsy Court” fit the above mandate?
For the sake of ratings, Nat Geo would rather join the ranks of tripe reality TV than to do what it should: educate the masses about what is really going on in Romani reality. In reality our children are kept out of the public school system in the Czech Republic. The CR lost its case in the Court of Human Rights some five years ago, but they refuse to incorporate Romani children in to the system. How can the cycle of poverty be broken without an education? (D.H. and Others v Czech Republic).Since 1980, 90,000 Romani women were sterilized in the Czech Republic (Office of the Commissioner of Human Rights for the Council of Europe). While the CR has apologized, it refuses to make reparations to the women in question. Neo-nazis are burning Romani homes in the CR and getting away with murder (Prague Daily paper). What is frightening? The Czech Republic is responsible for writing human rights policy for the UN! Slovakia also has sterilized Romani women and allowed the neo-nazis to attack and murder Romanies. The list goes on and on, but I think even you, Bill the thumb, can see the pattern.
Our reality is one of discrimination. Our reality is one of poverty. Our reality is one of fear. And Nat Geo is thriving on it. I think that makes Nat Geo and you, Bill, the tools.
Educational Director, O Porrajmos Educational Society
For Dr. Hancock’s detailed critique of American Gypsies,
please see our Roma resource page.
Here’s Jeff Collins, executive producer of Meet the Hutteries,
in a blog post on his website in May:
Here are some of the Hutterites,
expressing their deep regrets
about their participation in this so-called “documentary”:
And here’s Jeff Collins again,
less than three months later,
surveying the controversy and all the damaged lives:
John Fahey rarely, if ever, gives interviews.
But we’re requesting one — partly to ask him this question:
Why is the National Geographic Society
silent during this media mugging?
You can help us get an answer to this question
by clicking Like, below.
331 more people like Dear John: Let’s Talk but we can’t include their names.
(They’re either not on Facebook, or they’ve asked to remain anonymous.)
If you’re in the same boat, please email me
alan [at] societymatters [dot] org
and I’ll increase the total tally by one.