Monday, September 21, 2015

AAAIIIIEEEE!!! National Geographic is about to become a Rupert Murdoch publication.

Is there NO limit to which the stupid will pervade? Probably not. "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits," which has been attributed to Einstein, but try finding an authoritative source that documents him saying it.


  1. That was more or less my reaction, though with a bit more [censored].

    In a way, it's fitting: the NG, as good as it is, is a legacy of imperialistic science, exploration as conquest, anthropology as hierarchy. It's a throwback to an early 20th century concept of science and exploration, which is precisely the period to which Murdoch would like to return, culturally.

  2. Similar reaction here. On the one hand, @#!%!, what is this world coming to?

    On the other hand, given Murdoch's embrace of page-3 girls, and the uses to which adolescent (and post-adolescent) males (and females) historically put the NG*, it may be a good fit.

    *I was told in a graduate class (during a discussion of Typee, which was apparently issued in numerous illustrated "deluxe" editions, which were much more successful than Moby Dick, with its pretty much all-male cast of characters) that National Geographic subscriptions fell precipitately the year Playboy began publication. I can't find a citation for that, but, true or not, as Jonathan points out, NG's history is interwoven in complicated ways with the history of sexuality, colonialism, the exploitation of women (and men), etc., etc. Still, I have a nostalgic fondness for NG centerfolds (the maps; I love maps), and for the fact that I did some of my first library research in the pages of NG. Also, my grandparents bought us a NG globe on which we followed the travels of my father, who was often away.

    So, yes, there are some good memories, and I'm inclined to think that NG has participated in American culture in positive as well as questionable ways (and, if it weren't for the objectification of people who can be classified as "other" issue, I'd count access to (limited) information about human bodies and facilitating adolescent exploration of sexuality as among the positives. How exactly one provides access to such information/experiences without objectification, or whether objectification can or should be entirely eliminated from sexual experimentation/experience, I'm not sure; what's currently available on the internet certainly makes NG, even with all the colonialist/imperialist overtones, look positively wholesome. Whatever use Americans may have made of the pictures of half-or-more-naked people in NG, at least they were just pictures of people going about their lives in a state of dress/undress appropriate to the climate and culture. While the magazine certainly offered a narrative of primitivism that could and probably did do real harm, viewers probably had to take a certain amount of responsibility for any sexual fantasies they projected onto the pictures, since I don't remember the magazine text doing much to invite same, even as the editors must have realized that part of their audience was buying the magazine for the pictures, and catered to said audience. Or maybe that sort of covert exploitation cloaked by a veneer of scientific objectivity was even worse than more overt exploitation. That's probably the sort of question that could be debated endlessly without resolution).

    1. it was a joke on the TV show "M*A*S*H" that Radar had a collection of NG's hidden in a file drawer.

  3. Thanks to Cal for getting off his ass and sending a graphic about a day too late.