There comes a time in every crisis or disaster when the simple, obvious insanity of the issue becomes hilarious, beyond understanding, within reach only of a bewildered laugh.
They’re programming WHAT? Oh, they can’t be! They are? This is too rich, beyond the pale. Alexander Graham Bell, we’re not in Kansas any more.
So the National Geographic Society is featuring the “greatest mob hits,” an uplifting and educational series on how the dark side of America deals with differing opinions. It’s a celebration of sleaze and unrestricted violence, just what a sabbath needs. The explorers of Machu Picchu, the Antarctic, Everest, the Empty Quarter and the Brazilian Rainforest are no longer parts of our history core curriculum, but who can forget the corpse of Albert Anastasia in a pool of Sicilian blood on the floor of his barber’s shop? The lesson is clear. Right? Well, maybe.
Who cares? Education be damned! Give them what they want. And who knows better what the educated viewers of National Geographic Channel want than Rupert Murdoch? What’s important isn’t the dissemination of knowledge. It is to larf. The object is to get a bigger market share.
Funny, this is too funny. Sure, sure, it might be easier and just as cheap to create reality-reality rather than scripted-reality, and to recount significant histories of discovery and invention. But who would watch? Ask Rupert. Murdoch the Master Comedian is cozening all of us into trivial dross.
I give up. The great satirist Tom Lehrer stopped working after Ronald Reagan was elected. He said that satire had gone mainstream, so why work at it? We’re backwards. Every moment of Congress we see on C-Span is a lie, and the best source of actual news we have is Comedy Central. The National Geographic Society is spoofing itself, pretending to be what it was and isn’t. Those guys in the boardroom must be falling off their chairs laughing. Thank God the loose money will cushion their fall.
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.
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?
≡ Audio clip from John Fahey’s interview with Bob Garfield
of On The Media, March 30, 2012. Listen to the whole thing here.
News item: This autumn, executives at National Geographic — John Fahey (Chairman & CEO), David Lyle (CEO of the National Geographic Channel), and Howard Owens (President of NGC) — will produce a global television “event” featuring Alex Honnold, who will attempt to free climb the side of skyscraper on live TV. The dramatic hook: Will Alex slip and fall to his death?
From Jan Adkins:
Have a drink. Oh, you’re a recovering alcoholic? Oh, come on; you know you want a drink. Have a drink. Six years sober? Good for you. That’s probably enough. Have a drink. It’s bad for you, it brings out the worst parts of your personality? That’s okay: we’re all like that, we all have dark sides. Since all of us share the dark, dark must be good. Anything’s okay if we all do it. Have a drink.
Here, kid, try some of this crack cocaine. It will make you feel weird and cool. It’s against the law? Ridiculous. Anything’s okay if we all do it. I’m bad for offering you something unhealthy and illegal? But it’s something everyone wants: look at the ratings it’s getting! Crack is obviously popular, clearly something the people want, so how can I be wrong in filling a need? Okay, so I fill the need for my own profit; isn’t that what capitalism is all about? Try a jolt of this crack. You’ll learn to love it.
Let’s go to Bedlam and make fun of the crazies. It’s wrong to amuse ourselves at the cost of someone’s dignity? Ridiculous. We all do it; how can it be wrong? Seeing people who are plainly beneath us will make us feel better, more righteous, more superior. Bad to do it for profit? Isn’t that what capitalism is all about? Appealing to our basest instincts? How can they be so bad if everyone has them. Make fun of defenseless people! Feel better about yourself! You deserve a break today!
Let’s use this empty temple as a video arcade and crack house. Good location, just up the street from the White House. It was for sale; we got it for cheap. Important, even holy services were held here? Ridiculous. That was then; this is now. No one cares about ethics or superlatives; this is the Age of Glorious Mediocrity. If some old farts practiced a religion of enlightenment and exploration, here, it couldn’t have been important. They wouldn’t have sold us the temple, would they? And who would leave greedy nihilists in charge of a holy place unless it didn’t matter? Nice building. Maybe we can sell the fixtures. Hell, maybe we can sell the inmates.
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?