Tag Archives: National Geographic

Time Magazine spites its face

This week’s cover of Time has to rank at their most scurrilous, a baldfaced attempt to evoke the iconic National Geographic cover, this time figuratively defaced. It’s Mona Lisa given a Howl; The Green Revolution’s “Neda” shot in the head, instead of the evocative-deficient not-in-your-face mortal wound elsewhere. If the Taliban cut off this young woman’s nose as a warning to others not to abandon their families, Time Magazine wants to broaden the extortion. Here’s “What Happens If We Leave Afghanistan.” But instead of counterspinning the Wikileaks’ Afghan War Logs, Time’s imagery reinforces the triumph of the leaked documents. This is the barbarity which will face the Afghans collaborators, those unmasked by the leaks, and those who might still be induced, in spite of the now certainty their confidence will be betrayed.

Time’s editors assure us that the young Afghan woman is safe from reprisal, held at an undisclosed location protected by armed guard. Do they take responsibility for her “If We Leave Afghanistan?” Time’s exploitation of this young Afghan is direct extortion.

National Geographic is a nature pic zoo

Upsala Glacier Chile in retreat
January’s National Geographic featured an article about Charles Darwin. Juxtaposed against excerpts from Darwin’s diary on the Beagle, were the usual photographs of nature at its most vivid. But an image of a glacier, purporting to match Darwin’s awed description, left me slack- jawed with contrary impression. We’ve all been treated to then and now pictograms of retreating glaciers, so the National Geographic’s usual reverse illusionist, nature-isn’t-vanishing-act, wasn’t going to work for this pastoral scene. I’m looking straight through the glossy NATURE industry, and it’s nothing but a virtual zoo.

You might say the world of nature documentaries keeps more to the spirit of the early collector-adventurers, who shot and stuffed their specimens, in the name of documenting their existence. Certainly the photographers of today are capturing the living images of soon to be gone phenomena. Perhaps it’s more appropriate to regard their nature images as exhibits of Natural History.

Except that Museum goers know that what they are looking at is dead. Nature program viewers are given no such insight. And need they, really? If the closest that the recliner-set get to the Pacific Ocean is their HD flat screen TV, what does it matter if the Pacific is full of plastic instead of fish? Nature-appreciation wise, the eyes of the climate-controlled majority dictate its value.

The illusion which nature programs create is of a living Earth, susceptible to cycles, or whatever excuse they present for why you are hearing reports of coral bleaching while enjoying high saturation images of vibrant, fully vital, reefs. You are shown things alive, and so you believe it lives. That’s where this glossy facade is a lot more like a zoo.

Zoos are criticized for showing nature out of context. Even as the best zoo settings approach the theatrical stages of natural history dioramas, they still present an inert being. The zoo animal is not searching for food, fending off predators, or jockeying for a mate. The zoo attraction might almost be preserved in formaldehyde, for all it teaches about nature, and mankind’s relation to his origin.

Zoos, like domestic animals neutered or spayed, like doe-eyed Disney renditions of circle-of-life citizen animals, teach an antiseptic version of wild life, where man might deduce that his own life’s purpose is but a few years spent pinned like a butterfly adjacent thousands and millions more.

Camera lens filters enhance reality, camera lenses compress and direct it. That much we already knew.

Nature programs and nature photography present life as a spectacle, and seem at first glance to highlight every minutia for our increased understanding. But shown out of the context of the Earth’s present difficulties, the images inform less than they distort.

Not your father’s National Geographic

Near naked natives of old
Looking at early editions of the National Geographic Magazine, it is hard for me to imagine that the fabled topless photographs of indigenous woman might have been included for the express purpose of titillating the reader. Conversely, I have seen the privately printed books of the same era, published by the Anthropological Society, mailed discretely only to members, which seemed to dwell on seductive nudity it’s true. What the voyeur used to have to animate about the native’s restless frolics, this photograph SEXES UP!

Discovery Channel editorial interest

My first brush with the Discovery Channel came when contemplating which cable stations would be considered kid suitable. The Discovery Channel seemed one of the few obvious shoe-ins. Along with Disney…
I remember looking over the kids’ shoulders at some of the Discovery programming. Not necessarily for kids, and not necessarily informative. Make-over shows? Decorating? Are they interested in the Discovery of everything? Crown molding?

After Disney’s Corporation’s unwavering support for the yellow GOP Path to 9/11, it became time to question what Disney is doing, and what might they be feeding our kids?

Remember the disquieting implication of Lion King? Monarchy (and monotheism) as the natural order? Now that odd acculturation is not looking very haphazard.

Running opposite Path to 9/11 was Koppel on Discovery: the Price of Security. If absent the anti-Democrat partisanship, its tone was still very pro-establishment. Marvel at the pyrotechnics, question nothing. Discovery (Only four letters of separation from Disney) is corporate media, after all, and like National Geographic and Disney, considered subliminally above reproach.

Then I saw the new Discovery documentary about Waco. Not the city formally known as Waco, the Mount Carmel inferno now known as “Waco.” This time, Discover the truth: Assault on Waco with everything learned post-1993 reclassified. What up Discovery?

As if the media had not sufficiently contained the story while it happened, soon after they fixed it from any further development with the official verson Ambush in Waco.

After Branch Davidian survivors made their individual ways across the university lecture circuit, another side of the story began to emerge. Incredible government lies were exposed in the 1997 award-winning documentary Waco: the Rules of Engagement. Further disturbing revelations emerged in the 1999 Waco, a New Revelation.

Thirteen years later, under a new administration, with a madman of another sort in Waco, under “the shadow of 9/11” and rationalizations being made for an authoritarian federal dictatorship, the folks at Discovery Channel want to exculpate the original feds-gone-wild? Now that we have an executive branch breaking the law, Discovery Channel wants to revisit past transgressions and make them right?
What next? Ruby Ridge: ballistic foster-child making? The Philadelphia Move: fiery urban renewal? Vietnam: should we have killed more of them? Elections 2000-04: benevolent despotism in action?
  When citizens still thought the media could be on their side

Right wing imprimaturs

Il Duce in a blue dressDid the Neocons flat out buy the National Geographic? It was a brilliant coup.
If you were to have asked yourself what periodical has been the most trusted and revered, it would have been the Geographic.
Right behind hobbiest zines like Popular Mechanics I suppose, and Hearst’s PM too falls suspiciously in the conservative think-tank stable.

With so much of the world, and the natural word ablaze, the Geographic has avoided showing the flames, maintaining it doesn’t want to take a political stand. (Besides its photogenic depiction of America’s war machine in Iraq.)
Everything, even nature, is political. These days, to be a-political means to endorse the status quo. That’s decidedly political.
I can see their upcoming take on authoritarian oligopoly: FASCISM: IT’S THE NATURAL ORDER.