Behind the screen with Sea Shepherd

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Captain Pete Bethune takes aim at Japanese whalersYou have to wonder where nonviolence would get activists on the high seas. Whales can be grateful the Sea Shepherd Society heros don’t opt to sacrifice the whales to save them. Captain Paul Watson is visiting Colorado College tomorrow to elaborate, but I have no illusion he’s at liberty to detail his provocative strategies. First off, he can’t spoil the upcoming TV season of Whale Wars and second, doesn’t playing for the media really turn on illusion?

Sea Shepherd’s fight to defend whales scored big when the cameramen began to film their adventures for the Animal Planet network. Even for veteran activists the reality TV format has necessitated they take some stage direction, and meant that the documentary lens presuming to take viewers behind the scenes, created a layer behind that one.

For example, look at the action shot at the top right, where a Sea Shepherd inflatable comes in close to harass a whaling ship. Everyone is helmeted and goggled, except leading man Pete Bethune aiming his stink bomb launcher as the camera focuses in. He doesn’t even have gloves or the bulkier dry-suit of his comrades. Are we to imagine protection from the Japanese water cannons is optional? Obviously adventuring with a script requires taking greater risks to get more drama in the shot. I’m contemplating now about the controversy surrounding the ramming of the Ady Gil. It was certainly dramatic.

When I went to check out one of two Whale Wars DVDs at my public library, I discovered a waiting list fourteen borrowers long. Certainly Sea Shepherd got its money worth from the sinking of the Ady Gil, whether by accident or not. After the collision the whale warriors demanded the Japanese whalers be charged with attempted murder. There could have been casualties, if anyone had been below deck. Skeptics suspect the Ady Gil’s helmsman sneaked his bow into harm’s way. How will we ever know?

By all appearances the Ady Gil was coasting slowly, all hands on deck, when the Japanese ship suddenly turned on her. Unseen might have been a quick lunge to intersect with the whaler’s bow. It’s hard to tell from the footage, taken from just the right angle by the Bob Barker coasting nearby. The Ady Gil was an innovative speed boat designed to pierce waves, not ride them, and could well disguise a last forward thrust.

I don’t think Paul Watson is about to fess up.

The third season of Whale Wars promises to reveal what happened behind the scenes, at Sea Shepherd, because they don’t have cameras following the Japanese fleet. And I think we’re going to see where reality television hits the wall. Whale Wars is not documentary filmmaking, it’s advocacy and drama. I love it, and I’d like to see more of it.

I’m not such a kill-joy to say that fashioning 43-minute long narratives prevents telling the truth. But I suspect filming the whaling renegades is something akin to televised poker, pretending to film behind the dark glasses. After seasons of strategies and bluffs, some inferred, some revealed, Watson and co now have to play close to the chest, and certainly must never been seen by their adversaries to have something up their sleeve.

I already lament the distance which official history keeps in relation to historical truth. What really happened, the story of mankind, is reserved for the student with no whale in the race.

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Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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2 Responses to Behind the screen with Sea Shepherd

  1. Avatar John says:

    I wonder why Bethune boarded the Japanese ship he says illegally sunk his speed boat and tried to arrest it, and he did that instead of waiting for the outcome of the investigation to determine if in fact the Japanese ship was at fault. Doesn’t that seem odd? And who the hell does he think he is to act as judge and jury to declare who is at fault and then take the law into his own hands and try to arrest the Japanese ship? And wasn’t it just a little insane to believe he could arrest the ship anyway- or was that a clever ploy so when his court case comes up in Japan he can plea insanity- should work fine!

  2. Avatar Brother Jonah says:

    Actually, for the most part Japan is promoting Ecology not only to the Japanese people but also to the entire world. But that’s more in the realm of art than Government. The Captain Planet cartoon show, for instance. The entire Godzilla phenomenon for another.

    And then there’s whaling.

    As for counterattacking the ones who attacked him, how would that be insanity?
    Insanity would be expecting the courts of any country to rule against the Rich Corporations.
    The outcome of the investigation was rigged beforehand. Kangaroo courts aren’t limited to the U.S.

    Kind of like expecting the U.S. government to actually do what they’re legally obligated to do and arrest War Criminals like Rove, Bush, Kissinger, Cheney, Prince.

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