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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Is Discovery Channel shooter James Lee a canary in a coalmine?

Yesterday afternoon, James Lee picked up a gun, strapped some pipe bombs to his body, and took hostages at the Washington DC-area headquarters of the Discovery Channel. The situation ended a few hours later when Lee was shot to death by police.

According to the Village Voice blog Runnin’ Scared, Lee had a history of protesting the programming on the Discovery Channel, and noted that DCist had highlighted some of Lee’s protests in 2008. DCist asked:

Anyone who seriously ponders questions about the Discovery Channel like, “If their ‘environmental’ shows are actually working, then why is the news about the environment getting worse?” is just asking for a good mocking.

But Lee’s question seems like a pretty good one, actually. Here’s what Lee actually wrote in an attempt to gather participants for a week-long protest in 2008 outside the very same building where he died yesterday:

The Discovery Channel produces many so-called “Environmental Programs” supposedly there to save the planet. But the truth is things are getting WORSE! Their programs are causing more harm than good. They are failures. If something is not functioning; there needs to be a change of course. It’s time to bring about new initiatives and try different approaches whether they are conventional or unconventional. It is evident that the old approach is ineffective. We can see this when we watch the news or read the newspapers that their ways are not working. It’s one disaster after another. They are deliberately showing ineffective shows to make it seem like something is being done when nothing is. Their ineffectiveness is evident by the lack of results. Things should be getting better because of their shows, not worse.

We are running out of time to save this planet and the Discovery Channel is a big part of the problem, not the solution. Instead of showing successful solutions, their broadcast programs seem to be doing the opposite. Shows like “Cash Cab” and “Dirty Jobs” serve as diversions to keep the focus off what is really important, which is Global Warming and Animal Extinction. Why do they broadcast a show like “Future Weapons” that only promise to destroy the planet even more? And their new lineup “Planet Green” is all about more products and other substandard solutions. Do we really need shows like these when the planet is in crisis? No, instead the focus should be on coming up with new formulas that actually work. Why would the broadcasters and programmers focus more on the destruction of the planet rather than saving it?

Clearly, Lee was insane — taking hostages is hardly a productive activity, and his manifesto, which is separate from the protest information above, is much more poorly written and full of such phrases as “disgusting human children” and “immigrant pollution.” But just as even a stopped clock is right twice a day, Lee’s tirade touches on some vital questions about the state of the world, and the state of journalism.

And yet even all the likely responses to Lee’s words and actions seem like defeatism: Well, what can we expect from a TV network? Its job is to entertain, not inform. If you have to be insane to be frustrated by this, if the “sane” response is to shrug and say, “What can ya do?” then is there any way to right all the many things that are wrong with journalism and to repair the idiocy of what passes for our cultural discourse?

Obviously, Lee’s “solution” is no solution at all, and is ridiculously counterproductive. But what is the solution? Is Discovery Channel shooter James Lee a canary in a coalmine? Are his terrible actions yesterday a harbinger of an increasing collapse in meaningful communication… or of an increasing frustration with that collapse? What do we make of him, and of what he was so angry about? Or do we not make anything of him at all?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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  • The news reporters I listened to live as the situation unfolded were even worse. They all agreed that Discovery was the “most environmental” of the networks and thought it was weird Lee targeted them. No shit, Sherlocks. Just because they have the most environmental programming doesn’t mean they have enough environmental programming.

    And I agree that “Kate Plus 8” is a show that should never ever exist at all. On the other hand, anyone who demands less “Cash Cab” is obviously insane.

  • bitchen frizzy

    James Lee’s identification of the Discovery Channel as a TV network that is supposed to be saving the environment is part of his madness. Since when is that the Discovery Channel’s job, any more than any other network? Irrational fixation on one network. It is not, and never has been, the Discovery Channel’s job to save the planet through environmental programming.

    Are his terrible actions yesterday a harbinger of an increasing collapse in meaningful communication… or of an increasing frustration with that collapse? What do we make of him, and of what he was so angry about? Or do we not make anything of him at all?

    Could we ask the same things about religious nuts who shoot abortion doctors and bomb clinics? I don’t see a difference.

  • Lee is just one of the early signs that our national dialog on ANY topic is becoming so diluted, fragmented and radicalized that an uptick in violence is inevitable.

    There’s little difference between a guy like Lee and a guy who flies a plane into a Texas IRS building or a guy who shoots up a Unitarian church. All three are examples of stressed-out ideological persons pushed by frustration that their ‘side of the argument,’ whichever side that was, wasn’t getting paid enough attention or being viewed as the correct solution. In the case of the IRS kamakazi pilot, it was frustration from trying to get away with using tax loopholes that ‘everyone else used’: in the case of the Unitarian shooter it was frustration with lack of employment coupled with years of getting told from Rage Merchants like Beck and O’Reilly that it was all the libruls’ fault.

    This is just the tip of the iceberg. Unless the employment situation improves, until someone gets fact-checkers at FOX Not-News, until the partisan divisions in this nation are recognized for what they are and fixed, we’re gonna see more madmen with issues and the firepower to make everyone suffer for those issues.

  • MaryAnn

    James Lee’s identification of the Discovery Channel as a TV network that is supposed to be saving the environment is part of his madness.

    But the network *does* position itself as the one to turn to for science-based information. And it often invokes “eco” and “green” and “environmental” issues… and then fails to deal with them in any meaningful ways.

    Could we ask the same things about religious nuts who shoot abortion doctors and bomb clinics?

    I don’t think so. This is specifically about journalism. The issues here are about informing the public about important matters that concern us all, and frustration with those who have the public’s attention failing at the very job they themselves set out to do.

    Lee’s actions may be similar to those of abortion protesters, but what underlies them is very different.

  • Jester

    Remember the guy that slammed his light plane into an IRS building a few months back in a “protest” against the IRS? Yeah, me neither.

    James Lee will be forgotten in three weeks.

    Even if he weren’t forgotten for that reason, he’d be forgotten for another. Humans suck at recognizing the causes or proponents of generational change. The time difference between someone in the U.S. saying “You know? Slavery is bad. Maybe we should do something about it.” and someone else saying “Slavery is abolished.” was 85 years.

    But nobody remembers the abolitionists from the late 1700s.

  • bitchen frizzy

    And it often invokes “eco” and “green” and “environmental” issues… and then fails to deal with them in any meaningful ways.

    So do car manufacturers, politicians, oil companies, restaurant chains…

    …Discovery Channel is run by a corporation.

    The shareholders and advertisers determine how much environmental programming is enough, based on ratings and demographics. Yours, mine, and James Lee’s opinions are duly noted, but we don’t get a direct say unless we own shares or pay for advertising slots.

    Television networks do not have a failed obligation to engage in social engineering. Frankly, I don’t want to live in a society – and there are some, scary places – where networks do have that job.

    The programming changes when the audience changes. That’s you and me, and your neighbor and mine. You want to change the programming, then change the people. Don’t pass the buck to the networks to do it – they won’t, and it’s not their job. It’s our job, and the people making petition drives, and the church down the street, and the volunteers at charities and political campaigns, and protesters and parade organizers, and so on.

    This is specifically about journalism.

    I don’t consider the Discovery Channel to be a news network, and I don’t think they ever claimed to be. I’ve never mistaken them for anything other than television entertainment. Maybe they have news programming that I don’t know about, but if not then journalism isn’t an issue.

  • RogerBW

    Maybe the Discovery Channel just isn’t as important as he thinks it is.

    (A challenging concept for someone living in a society so immersed in a medium seemingly built for self-aggrandizement, particularly if he’s of doubtful mental stability already.)

  • We need to get James Burke (Brit historian, not US author) back out to frame the questions we have better. In the last episode of the first Connections series he concludes with some thoughts about science:

    Scientific knowledge is hard to take, because it removes the reassuring crutches of opinion, ideology, and leaves only what is demonstrably true about the world. And the reason why so many people may be thinking about throwing away those crutches is because thanks to science and technology they have begun to know that they don’t know so much. And that, if they are to have more say in what happens to their lives, more freedom to develop their abilities to the full, they have to be helped towards that knowledge, that they know exists, and that they don’t possess. And by helped towards that knowledge I don’t mean give everybody a computer and say: help yourself. Where would you even start? No, I mean trying to find ways to translate the knowledge. To teach us to ask the right questions.

    I think Discovery Channel was originally an attempt to translate scientific knowledge into a format people understood. So I sympathize with the belief that it’s lost its way by trying to be understandable by being entertaining. “Science” has become a genre to them, in a way, instead of the language they were meant to contextualize.

    (The rest of his closing thoughts in that episode are powerful as well, especially given when he first delivered them. I’ve included it below:

    See, we’re on the edge of a revolution in communications technology that is going to make that more possible than ever before. Or, if that’s not done, to cause an explosion of knowledge that will leave those of us who don’t have access to it, as powerless as if we were deaf, dumb and blind. And I don’t think most people want that. So, what do we do about it? I don’t know. But maybe a good start would be to recognize within yourself the ability to understand anything. Because that ability is there, as long as it is explained clearly enough. And then go and ask for explanations. And if you’re thinking, right now, what do I ask for? Ask yourself, if there is anything in your live that you want changed. That’s where to start.

    Connections first aired in 1979.)

  • chance

    This is for the extreme evironMENTAL movement. Your movement has totally wasted your own message through misapplication. Industry has been greener every year by default. EXAMPLE; Your refirgerator uses about 1/5 the electricity then one from 1955. You see using less energy is a good idea all by itself. The auto industry has reduces emsissions by 95% since 1970. Increased engine power and efficiency which leads to smaller lighter vehicles. Your problem is you want us all to live in caves and be hunter gatherers for food. You have let Al Gore torpedo your own movement through bad science and forced life style messages. Now when the convservative movement throws the liberals and Obama out of office I’m sure we’ll have more people like Mr Lee to put up with. The best way for your movement to be effective is lead by example. Stop driving cars, Turn off all your lights, grow your own food, stop taking baths, stop washing dishes, stop washing clothes, sell all your electric appliances, turn off your computer, stop texting and using your black berry, AL Gore is a fraud and phony, he did this to get wealthy and be famous. It’s not about the planet for him, it’s about him for him! You have been dooped. If you don’t feel stupid you should.

  • Pollas

    The lesson to be learned by Lee’s actions is that extremists of any ideology end up doing their cause harm instead of helping it.

  • AJDS

    TempestDash> And the truly sad thing to me about James Burke and Connections and his other series The Day the Universe Changed…is that I remember watching it on The Learning Channel which now goes by “TLC”.

  • Pollas

    Chance is right on (except for the whole conservatives sentence, IMO)

  • John Muir’s Body (a-molderin’ in the grave)

    It’s really perplexing: despite their jejune and sensationalistic programming, The Discovery Channel really IS much closer to Lee’s positions than, say, The Outdoor Channel.

    Come to think of it, why *didn’t* he go after the Outdoor Channel? I mean, with their guns and their red-staters and their guns and their Republicanism and their guns and their pickup ads and their guns and their ATVs and their guns and their hunting and their guns…why didn’t he barge into *their* building and try to take hostages?

    Instead he picked on people who were probably mild-mannered and gentle and very unlikely to shoot back. Why would someone who was fundamentally progressive do something like that?

    Like I said: perplexing, no?

  • The real issue with any environmentalist action is that the United States is a minority in the world, and even if we got our act together (which we haven’t) it still pales to the other 70% of the planet that could be doing damn well anything else.

    That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be trying, we should, but there is more we need to consider than helping our neighbor build a compost heap and grow their own vegitables.

    Also, I don’t know the statistics on it, so I could be wrong, but @chance delivered numbers on the autos industry generating 95% less carbon emissions since 1970. That sounds wrong to me but I can’t find any reliable stats on the internet at the moment.

    But even if it’s accurate, consider this: if there were 50,000,000 cars in the US in 1970 that generated 100 mg of carbon a day, and now cars create only 5 mg carbon/day, but there are now 150,000,000 more cars today in the US, plus around 900,000,000 more cars in the world since 1970…. the situation hasn’t really gotten better, has it?

    To say nothing of the fact that a *lot* of people still drive 20 year old cars. More than you probably suspect.

  • Sorry, forgot to correct my numbers. The US, as 350 mil people is only 5% of the world’s population, so that “70%” up there should be “95%”.

    Also ‘vegetables’ is spelled as such, and not what I wrote up there. ;)

  • Knightgee

    The hyperbolic and defeatist attitudes expressed by TempestDash and chance are exactly why Anthropological Global Warming is still considered a “debate” among the public even though it has been settled amongst the respectable scientific community. It’s that attitude that leads to the apathy and the laziness that makes it so that nothing ever gets done, because it’s more convenient to throw your hands up in defeat than it is to put them to use.

  • Arnold

    The TempestDash comment about James Burke’s logical observations about our human situation is right on.

    Thanks to TDash for reminding me about two program series JB did (Connections and The Day The World Changed) that helped me back in the day to better understand that the world isn’t necessarily as chaotic as it often appears.

    Over the intervening years, I’d forgotten JB’s comments in those series. To look them up, and re-apply them again today to my life seems like a good and positive step forward.

    It would be quite a “closing of loops” situation on this latest event if James Burke were induced by Discovery to undertake a new series of thoughtful episodes for them.

  • Left_Wing_Fox

    Honestly I do worry we might see more like James Lee. Part of the reason the right wing in the United States has attracted more than it’s fair share of murderous loons is because of the increasingly extreme rhetoric it has been pumping out since the 90’s. It seems like everything these days bounces back to Hitler, Stalin or bin Ladin. Healthcare is compared to Hitler’s eugenics, abortion is the holocaust, taxes are communism or theft, and Gay Marriage is an attempt to destroy civilization. Liberals are considered not merely wrong, but actively evil. Perhaps the best that they could say of us is that were’s simply too stupid to realize we’re evil.

    Even with the Democratic party in control of the presidency, house and senate, the left has failed to have a meaningful voice in this nation. Congress remains beholden to te same right-wing corporate interests and political dogma, and dnce to the tune of a handful of conservative democrats indistinguishable from republicans, and a president who genuinely seems to prfer governing from a non-partisan “Middle” defined by an insane, powerful political right, and a disorganized, largely powerless political left.

    The ultimate effect is that the left is starting to get pissed. There is a strong feeling that democracy in America is either broken in practice, or worse, broken in theory. Between the constant demonization, marginalization in mainstream politics, and the inaction towards very real problems like the environment, economy, and current wars, I think we’re going to start seeing the emergence of a radicalized left in America that we haven’t seen since the 60’s.

  • bitchen frizzy

    @LWF:

    So, you’re saying that right-wing loons are the right-wing’s fault, and left-wing loons like James Lee are… also the right-wing’s fault.

    Can we blame his mental illness on the right-wing, too?

    I am not defending the right wing.

    If you simplify everything down to “them” being at fault, you’re part of the problem.

    The right-wing is just as pissed at how broken the system is, and they blame the left. Switch “right” and “left” in that sentence, and I get your argument. No effective (pun intended) difference.

  • Arnold

    Left_Wing_Fox wrote (in part):

    “the left is starting to get pissed…I think we’re going to start seeing the emergence of a radicalized left in America that we haven’t seen since the 60’s.”

    comment:

    The Left has always been pissed, disorganized, and generally unwilling or ineffective in forming long-term alliances across the political spectrum.

    I say that as a member of The Left.

    It’s doubtful that there is even 2% of 60s youth’s energy amongst today’s leftists to mount a re-emergence of that level of radicalism.

    Times have dramatically changed, The Man is in charge far more efficiently than in the 60s, and today’s Leftist idealogs do not hold the sway or influence of similar types of leaders back then.

    Polls about people’s concerns these days show results that center around themselves, and do not indicate any interest in trying to create a more perfect society through social change.

    The Me Generation won.

    We now return you to regular programming (“Glee!”) already in progress.

  • I don’t think we can characterize James Lee as a “left-wing kook”. While he was obsessed with the environmental problem, which people on the left usually recognize as a problem and people on the right often don’t, his idea of the solution (even ignoring the violence, which we’ll assume for the sake of argument is neither a right-wing nor a left-wing ideal) were very much not in keeping with liberal ideals. In particular, the “anchor baby” and “immigrant pollution” lines suggest at least some absorption of right-wing views. In this case (unlike, say, the Hutaree, who are clearly right-wing nuts, or ELF, who are clearly left-wing nuts), I think we’re dealing with a guy who’s just a nut.

    I also think it’s misleading to talk about the U.S.’s population without addressing its footprint. Americans consume more resources and produce more pollution per capita than any other country on Earth, as a result of which we have a greater environmental impact than China even though they have three times our population.

  • Also, no I’m *not* making the “both sides do it!” argument.

    I’m arguing that *in this one, isolated case* we have an act of politically motivated violence that doesn’t map neatly onto the left-right divide.

  • Left_Wing_Fox

    @LWF:

    So, you’re saying that right-wing loons are the right-wing’s fault, and left-wing loons like James Lee are… also the right-wing’s fault.

    No, I’m saying the politics of fear and demonization attracts loons. Any group that uses that rhetoric are probably going to attract loons. That fear and demonization have become staples of the Republican base is only relevant to American politics now, and to explain why so many violent loons until now seem to share politics with the John Birch society or, now that he’s become the mainstream face of it, Glenn Beck. Had the Democratic base been engaging in similar levels of fascist witch-hunting, capitalist-bashing, and apocalyptic scaremongering, we’d probably be in the opposite political situation.

    But we’re not.

    The right-wing is just as pissed at how broken the system is, and they blame the left. Switch “right” and “left” in that sentence, and I get your argument. No effective (pun intended) difference.

    I agree with you in theory. There are plenty of political groups, apocalyptic religions, and separatist organizations that attract the same sort of loon. But when it comes to right here, right now, it expains why the Republican base historically seems to have spawned more violent nuts than the Democratic base, and why I personally think we’re going to see a rise of James Lee style nuts in the future.

  • bitchen frizzy

    @Froborr:

    Right on all counts, IMO.

    I think Lee was simply a nut, too. I was rolling with the characterization of him as a left-wing loon to make a point.

  • Left_Wing_Fox

    *Forgot to add; the only reason the politics of these nuts gets passed between Democratic and Republican values is because of the two party system that defines that political divide.

  • bitchen frizzy

    But as Froborr pointed out, James Lee espoused both rightist and leftist POV’s.

    So is he a moderate loon?

  • But as Froborr pointed out, James Lee espoused both rightist and leftist POV’s.

    Actually, he really didn’t espouse a leftist POV. “Liberal” and “conservative” have to do with what sort of society you want to live in, and drastic population reduction isn’t really a liberal *or* a conservative ideal. If he were complaining that they didn’t promote sustainability well enough, that would be liberal, albeit nutty liberal. His manifesto had one opinion recognizable as crazy-way-out-there conservative (the immigration thing) and everything else was pretty much not left or right so much as some bizarre other direction at right angles to any known reality.

  • Left_Wing_Fox

    But as Froborr pointed out, James Lee espoused both rightist and leftist POV’s.

    So is he a moderate loon?

    “Compromise or die!”

    Honestly, I don’t expect anyone, especially a violent nutter, to have views that perfectly match the republican/democrat divide. But while the republican party are the ones pimping immigration issues, I have heard a couple Green party folks talk about immigration as a threat to environmental and population control issues. I sure wouldn’t call that a mainstream opinion, but it is out there.

  • bitchen frizzy

    Moths are drawn to candle flames and light bulbs. Something in their brains – an ordinarily healthy instinct – drives them to fly toward light sources. The candle flame and light bulb attract them, but I don’t think that can be understood to mean that the flame or bulb cause the attraction.

    I’m saying the politics of fear and demonization attracts loons.

    My knowledge of psychology is hardly extensive, but as I understand it, that is not what attracts loons. Loons are drawn to organizations, leaders, and causes that offer structure and guidance around which they can organize the chaos in their minds. For example, environmentalism – which can hardly be described as politics of fear and demonization – is evidently as good a cause as any for this purpose.

    If it’s true that the “Left has always been pissed, disorganized, and generally unwilling or ineffective in forming long-term alliances across the political spectrum… and today’s Leftist idealogs do not hold the sway or influence of similar types of leaders back then”; then it’s hardly suprising that the left isn’t attracting its fair share of loons today. Loons want to attach themselves to passionate causes and charismatic leaders.

    Loons aren’t really driven by the ideology or cause they embrace, except incidentally and subsequently by aligning themselves to it. Correlation is not causation. The causation is the madness.

  • @bitchen frizzy: On the other hand, if you go around lighting lots of candles when you know there are moths about, you can’t exactly act all surprised and innocent when those moths burn themselves. You can’t use violent rhetoric and blatant lies to paint people who disagree about politics as enemies out to destroy the country, then claim “It was the madness’ fault!” when the less stable listeners believe you and respond violently.

  • bitchen frizzy

    On the other hand, if you go around lighting lots of candles when you know there are moths about, you can’t exactly act all surprised and innocent when those moths burn themselves.

    No, but it’s no sin to light lots of candles, either. I’ve never lit a candle with the express intent of drawing moths to their destruction, and I don’t apologize for having lit candles. Are you arguing that we should remain in the dark for fear of attracting moths?

    You can’t use violent rhetoric and blatant lies to paint people who disagree about politics as enemies out to destroy the country, then claim “It was the madness’ fault!” when the less stable listeners believe you and respond violently.

    Who did that in James Lee’s case? I haven’t followed the story closely, so I’m not aware that an environmental organization had deliberately incited James Lee to violence. If I had known that someone had deliberately incited him, of course I would not have argued that the enviromentalists that inspired him were not to blame.

  • Bri

    And getting back to Lee…after his stunt, I think it is a given Discovery Channel is going to run a ‘show’ about what went down…inspiration for their viewing block…

  • The hyperbolic and defeatist attitudes expressed by TempestDash and chance are exactly why Anthropological Global Warming is still considered a “debate” among the public even though it has been settled amongst the respectable scientific community.

    Don’t want to hijack this for a debate, but my post was not meant to be defeatist. I was actually trying to say that we need to do MORE, rather than less. We can’t be satisfied with just fixing America, we need to fix the world. Part of that is to actually agree to these international carbon and “green” standards the UN keeps trying to push (but our government has refused to abide by), and the other is to get our companies to do better in other parts of the world.

    The short point was, if Chrysler sells a million energy efficient cars in the US and 40 million guzzlers in China, then we haven’t done enough yet. We need to do more.

  • Jolly

    Although my opinion on this is not set in stone, I doubt that hybrid cars, energy efficient light bulbs and appliances, or carbon offsets for flights are going to be enough to address many of the predicaments that we are facing. And since Discovery depends on the advertising revenues promoting capitalist consumerism, it’s hard to see how the channel can take the necessary stance on environmentalism without alienating their sponsors. Remember, the first two of the “Three Rs” of environmentalism are not consistent with another trip to the mall or hopping on a plane for a long distance vacation. Journalism itself is constrained by structural considerations, which are not going to be easily overcome.

  • You can’t use violent rhetoric and blatant lies to paint people who disagree about politics as enemies out to destroy the country, then claim “It was the madness’ fault!” when the less stable listeners believe you and respond violently.

    Who did that in James Lee’s case? I haven’t followed the story closely, so I’m not aware that an environmental organization had deliberately incited James Lee to violence. If I had known that someone had deliberately incited him, of course I would not have argued that the enviromentalists that inspired him were not to blame.

    As far as I know, no one. I was talking about recent domestic terrorist attacks in general, many of which have been at least partially attributable to demogogues (whether intentionally or merely recklessly) painting political opponents as evil forces out to destroy the country and alluding to violence as a response.

    Although my opinion on this is not set in stone, I doubt that hybrid cars, energy efficient light bulbs and appliances, or carbon offsets for flights are going to be enough to address many of the predicaments that we are facing.

    I agree. You can design many environmentally sustainable societies, including ones with average standards of living as high as or higher than our own, but they all look very different from ours. (For example, none of them have cheap out-of-season fruit imported from the opposite hemisphere. Or suburbs.) The problem is one of “How do we get there from here?” Substituting slightly more sustainable versions of current products, without changing our lifestyles at all, isn’t going to cut it.

  • On the other hand, if each of us saves one six-billionth of the world…

    (Hey, it’s only about 1/3 of a square mile!)

  • CB

    All you people talking about whether or not the Discovery Channel is just a television network that should only care about ratings and advertising profits, and whether or not they are, or should be, tasked with “saving the earth”, are kinda missing the point.

    MAJ, you’re absolutely correct when you say:

    But the network *does* position itself as the one to turn to for science-based information. And it often invokes “eco” and “green” and “environmental” issues… and then fails to deal with them in any meaningful ways.

    Yes, obviously whether they actually feel a responsibility to help the planet, or just play it up for viewership, Discovery Channel is clearly positioned as the pro-environmentalism network. And the question of whether or not they could do more to help, whether or not they can deal with the issues in more meaningful ways, is a very good question. There’s an important discussion to be had about that goal, and balancing the reality that these issues and their solutions are complicated with the need for a simplified message for TV audiences. And so on.

    But that discussion is hampered by the framing of Mr. Dead Discovery Channel Gunman’s manifesto.

    Forget the insanity. His supposition is simply wrong, an affront to logic, and I am offended on the abstract concept’s behalf.
    Here’s what he said:

    They are deliberately showing ineffective shows to make it seem like something is being done when nothing is.Their ineffectiveness is evident by the lack of results. Things should be getting better because of their shows, not worse.

    That’s absolutely horrific logic. As an engineer whose living is coming up with and then evaluating real solutions to real problems, I know that illogic like this has practical consequences. As in, nobody that dumb could ever come up with a real solution to anything — as Mr. Dead Idiot demonstrated.

    Whether the Discovery Channel’s shows are effective or not must be measured against whether things are better or worse compared to if those shows did not exist.

    DC could be very effective, yet the overall situation getting worse if all the anti-environmental influences combined are stronger.

    And in that context, whatever you think of DC’s programming or how much it could be improved, two things are absolutely clear:

    1) Discovery channel is not going to overcome the influences of E! and TMZ and Fox News and “Drill, Baby, Drill!” and everything else that tells us to Consume, Consume, Consume because it’s our birthright. The people who don’t care about the environment aren’t watching Discovery, and they sure as hell aren’t going to start if you amp-up the environmental activism of the channel!

    2) We’re much, much better off with the Discovery Channel than without it. Aside from PBs, nothing else comes close to providing as much environmental messages. And sure, they may not always give us ways to effectively deal with issues. Yet simply making people aware, and care, is terribly important. Every nature program that shows the beauty of nature, and describes how the actions of mankind have nearly destroyed it, is beneficial.

    Again, “could be better” is a vastly different statement than “deliberately ineffective”. One of these statements is rational, and the other is simply not.

  • All you people talking about whether or not the Discovery Channel is just a television network that should only care about ratings and advertising profits, and whether or not they are, or should be, tasked with “saving the earth”, are kinda missing the point.

    Indeed. If the Earth needs saving, how can there possibly be anyone who isn’t responsible for helping save it? Who is there that can honestly say, “Not my problem?” It’s the whole world.

  • Cb

    Who is there that can honestly say, “Not my problem?” It’s the whole world.

    Honestly? Plenty of people.

    Correctly? Nobody.

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