New frontiers in corporate cynicism

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:

Doomsday Castle

 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.” 

Doomsday Castle Facebook
Then, notice The Onion spoof is actually “presented by” the National Geographic Channel (click image to enlarge):

The Onion and Doomesday Castle

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.

Dear John,

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.

John Fahey National Geographic


John Fahey & The Lurid-o-meter

If Alex Honnold plunges to his death this autumn
during his skyscraper stunt for National Geographic,
who will be held accountable?

Here’s John Fahey describing his “right to veto” programs slated to appear on the National Geographic Channel (which is majority owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation):

If a young man killing himself on live TV does not qualify as “lurid” in John Fahey’s mind, then what does?

Alex Honnold

≡ Audio clip from John Fahey’s interview with Bob Garfield
of On The Media, March 30, 2012. Listen to the whole thing here

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

Cengage Learning declares bankruptcy

Remember this from 2011?


Which inspired John Fahey, NGS CEO, to say this:

“Cengage Learning’s scale, educational publishing expertise, and existing relationships within the international and domestic markets, particularly in the higher education space, enables us to expand the reach and impact of the Society’s mission to inspire people to care about our planet.”

Well, if the sale of NG School Publishing was really about the Mission (and not about dumping an asset), then John bet on the wrong company:

Cengage bankruptcy

Read the whole thing here.

John Fahey National Geographic


UPDATE: Cengage Learning’s Chapter 11 petition (See page 8 for details on National Geographic’s claim.)

Parody of a parody

Which one is the real “reality” show?


Rupert Murdoch laughs

John Fahey National Geographic

(For more parodies from WNET Thirteen, see this.)

Serving deep-fried dreck to the masses while dining on lobster tail

Tonight, in primetime,
from 8 to 10pm:

Sex - How it works

Then, at 10pm, this:


Shows about male prostitutes
are served up for the masses, of course.
They’re not really intended
for our Society’s leaders,
who prefer a far more refined diet.
Last week at the National Building Museum,
they gathered to celebrate the Society’s 125th anniversary
beneath tasteful images of wildlife.
On the dinner menu: chilled 
lobster-tail medallions,
roast bison filet, Pavlova, and champagne:
NGS gala at National Building Museum

June 13, 2013: The National Geographic Society’s 125th anniversary gala
at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC.

Mind experiment: Why isn’t there
a wall-sized mural at this dinner
of Tommy the Male Prostitute?
You know, something to pay homage
to the types of TV programs that are paying for…
well, for all that lobster tail:
Tommy the male prostitute mural

Doesn’t Tommy the Male Prostitute deserve some respect for all he does to support our Society?

Meanwhile, back on the Channel,
the masses keep getting served stuff like this:


Our Society — and our society — can do
so much better than this.


P.S. via Twitter:

Twitter Taboo plague asteroid

Retweeted by National Geographic,
whose mission is
“to inspire people to care about the planet.”

Rupert Murdoch laughsJohn Fahey National Geographic

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.

The Death of a Major Media Brand (cont’d)

On Facebook, people react to National Geographic’s
new primetime BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism) show,
and they are not amused. BDSM Facebook comments


John Fahey National Geographic____

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

Bondage, Discipline, Sadism, Masochism & The Silent, Submissive CEO

New season, new episode:

Taboo BDSM pony play


John Fahey National Geographic

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


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