Pharyngula

WTF, NatGeo?

Oh, it’s another crappy television show put on by a purported science-positive network that I completely missed. National Geographic ran a show called “Chasing UFOs” on Friday, and since about the only television I ever watch any more is commercial-free movies on Netflix, I wasn’t tuned in. Fortunately, Robert Sheaffer did, and found it “lurid and sensational”.

A fellow named Kacey Simmons claimed to have seen UFOs in a particular forested area, so the UFO Chasers decide to go there to check it out. At night, of course. So they attach themselves to absurd-looking night vision equipment with long booms protruding from shoulder braces, looking very much like people with broken necks wandering about. We repeatedly hear one or another excitedly exclaim, “What the (bleep) was that?” They take a video of a light in the sky “changing sizes,” not realizing that is the operation of their camera’s auto focus function, trying to bring the light into focus. We hear coyotes howl in the distance, and they have an almost-encounter with a wild boar. Such are the hazards facing those who dare to pursue extraterrestrials. They photograph an aircraft with three lights, and wonder if it is from earth.

Great. The ghosthunter tactic. I guess people tune in to these things, so it must be effective television for some segment of the population, but every time I’ve seen these horrible green screen/night vision videos with everyone running around with a camera on a boom pointed at their face, I think it’s television for people who want to laugh at how stupid and gullible other people are.

Now why would National Geographic want to sully their good name with this tripe? Here’s a clue: they did a survey. 77% of Americans believe that there is evidence that aliens have visited the Earth, and 36% are sure that they have; 79% of Americans believe the X-Files was a documentary, and that the government has been covering up the Truth about the aliens.

Another nugget of information: Rupert Murdoch owns a 2/3 stake of the National Geographic Channel. Much is explained.


By the way, I know it’s in vogue in these parts to mock the old-school skeptics who track down Bigfoot and UFOs and other such weird phenomena, but I think the contempt is misplaced. As the survey shows and this series exploits, the gullibility of the population for these topics needs to be addressed. If serious organizations with good reputations like National Geographic are going to be pandering to idiocy, we need skeptics like Bob Sheaffer to counterbalance them.