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.


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Nat Geo channel has gone woo for some time now. It's very disappointing. From mostly really good shows, it's now an occasional good show sneaks in.

By Caraleisa (not verified) on 01 Jul 2012 #permalink

The only "science friendly" TV these days is NOVA and Mythbusters. Even PBS (other then NOVA) puts up fair amounts of woo these days. We've cut the cable in our house and frankly the only thing I miss is Mythbusters. (NOVA we can get online.)

By S. Williams (not verified) on 01 Jul 2012 #permalink

I gave up Dish for this same reason. The History and Discovery and now Nat Geo are all into feeding the ignorance. This does not bode well for the nation.

By Rodney L. Glas… (not verified) on 01 Jul 2012 #permalink

What does not bode well for the nation is the army of couch commentators who feel the need to critique every little thing because they have an inability to offer any constructive contributions to society. Who cares if you like it or not?

By Billy Willis (not verified) on 01 Jul 2012 #permalink

revolting. i wonder what sort of woo will be spouted on scienceblogs now that NatGeo purchased it?


By GrrlScientist (not verified) on 01 Jul 2012 #permalink

Oh. My. Dog.

By Patrick Tinkham (not verified) on 01 Jul 2012 #permalink

Hey guess what PZ Meyers, Your showing how very intelligent you are ... NOT !!! By making comments like that when you clearly have never bothered to spend much time to research the subject other perhaps than to read an article from "The Spoof" There are millions of people that believe and millions upon millions of people who know without a shadow of doubt that our air space is being penetrated by craft of origin from off this planet and our governments can do little about it. All Sceptics who have carried out a SERIOUS study have changed there minds, and most of us who have bothered to spend some time looking into the skies have seen them at least once. Personally my sky watching has allowed me to witness 16 UFO's now. 35 years of research has left me in no doubt that something we do not understand is visiting us and is not wanting to alarm the masses, none of us have the answers, we only speculate. So either do your homework or write professional articles on subjects you actually have some knowledge of !!!

By Mark Lawes (not verified) on 01 Jul 2012 #permalink

I love your stuff...I tried to subscribe using the RSS for your blog but it isn't cooperating. Any idea why???

By Peggy in SC (not verified) on 01 Jul 2012 #permalink

The existence of these shows illustrates the failing of our educational system and the continued necessity for skeptics and skeptical organizations. It means we have more work to do.

By PsyberDave (not verified) on 02 Jul 2012 #permalink

Since Robert Sheaffer was brought up, is he still a devout denier of anthropogenic global warming or has the two by four of reality and real world data finally smacked some sense into him?

By Cliff Van Horn (not verified) on 02 Jul 2012 #permalink

This is not to be Mocked. it made Ellen Chrystal famous for her 900 plus photographs of weird flying objects and even some objects on the ground complete with wierd humanoids flurrying about as well.

If I were going to try to find out if UFOs were real the best way to go about it would be to actually go to the sight where they are most reported and observe.

That 400 yard wide silent triangel that flew over Phoenix a few years back certainly got some attention. So did the one over Cincinnatti and new York and Rome, and Tehran.

I wish I could see a flying triangle low enough to scrape the top of the trees that measures about 400 yards wide and is moving aproximately five miles per hour. Then again, if I did see it all I could do is try to get its attention. Knowing me and my redneck methods I would shhot at it with a barret 50 caliber anti-tank round to see what critters is flying the thing. Better yet, why hasn't the Taliban shot one of those things down with a shoulder fired surface to air missle yet?

If I were going UFO hunting I would want a portable STA missle. Then when I crahsed the damned thing I would revover any of the livings one and one dead one and all of their weapons and as much crap as I could pack out of that thing, then I would gasoline the craft and buurn it to keep the army guys busy whle I got away with the goodies.

I would then take one of the live ones and drag its ugly anal probing ass up to FOX News headquarters and show the world what is really going on. I could then use the live alien as a blackmail from hell device to say this administration signed a treaty with these things to amke us all slaves of a one world government run secretly by the aliens. I would then call on citizens worldwide to overthrow the the EU, dismantle the UN, and throw out the globalists. Even if the rumor was not true , you would think a majority of people would believe a guy who got his hands on a live alien or even a dead one.

Oh and I would keep one weapon for myself, give one to the NRA, one to the IRA, and sell the rest to Israel for self defense againt jihadist gaza hethens.

Now, THAT, is a plan for a UFO hunter.

By Edgar N.Jensen (not verified) on 02 Jul 2012 #permalink

NOTE: Better drag the alien body to MSNBC instead. We all know that secular oppressives would never believe it if it was on FOX. Then again this poses a problem as well. If I drag it to MSNBC, the conservatives will not believe it. Hmmm. Decisions, decisions.

By Edgar N.Jensen (not verified) on 02 Jul 2012 #permalink

"79% of Americans believe the X-Files was a documentary."

Please... For the love of fuck... Just tell me this is some sort of sick joke... PLEASE! :O

Very well said. It never ceases to amaze me how popular these kinds of shows are. I find it scary to think that most of the population is gullible enough to buy into this stuff, but they apparently are. It might explain why our democracy has become such a farce. Most people aren't even smart enough to vote in their own best interest.

By Glen Farber (not verified) on 04 Jul 2012 #permalink

Rupert Murdoch owns a 2/3 stake of the National Geographic Channel.

I, too, was wondering why NG was sullying its brand by broadcasting such puerile crap. Now I know.

Sooner or later, everything this prunefaced old troll touches turns to shit.

By ZakAttack (not verified) on 06 Jul 2012 #permalink

I doubt the BBC's "Horizon" would do this. The joys of "Socialist" TV? lol

By bismarket (not verified) on 14 Jul 2012 #permalink