Someone just asked on Facebook if humans are naturally carnivores. My response: What is a carnivore? Taxon? A certain percentage of meat in the diet? Some, even if just a few, humans living mostly off meat? What? Then, what is “naturally”? Genetically determined and unavoidable? Required because of our gut, or some nutritional thing? What if we were like cats, genetically driven to be effective hunters but seeming in need of some training from mom. Does that make it not natural? And, finally, of course, define the verb “to be” here. Thank you.
So, with that in mind, what about the sentence…
“Rupert Murdoch Bought National Geographic.”
I’m seeing this all over the place, along with much consternation and the occasional meme (I’ve included a couple of the memes here). Few people articulate their reasons for consternation, probably because it is so obvious. We don’t want a truth-hating right wing anti-environment jerk running a major Earth-loving institution, with a great magazine and TV specials and everything. It would destroy a long tradition, all that. The truth is too precious, especially the truth about the earth and the environment.
And I would agree with that more or less if it turns out to be true. People should be concerned about the recent thing that happened. But, if you are concerned about that because the truth matters, then please, don’t produce or repeat so much unmitigated bullshit.
Again, I reiterate my concern, because if I don’t I’ll be accused of thinking FOX news is great or for being a Rupert Murdoch Fan or something, because, after all, the truth really matters little even to those who claim it (care about the truth) is central to their very being. So if you were going to do that, just don’t. But let us please look at what is really happening here so you know exactly what to watch for, and to help guide your thinking as things unfold.
First, “National Geographic” is not a thing. It might be a short hand for the magazine, or the web site, or various TV specials, or “The National Geographic Society” which is involved in all those things. I would say that the shorthand “National Geographic” best applies to the society. If it does, then the phrase “Rupert Murdoch bought National Geographic” is simply not true because that simply did not happen.
Second, “bought” is not an appropriate word here. What did happen is that the National Geographic Society (NGS) and a commercial media company have partnered to run the National Geographic Magazine. The news agency has bought into the is partnership at just over 70%, NGS with the remainder. That is not buying the magazine, it is restructuring who is financially running it, though yes, the media company is in control with a major share of the partnership. You might thing that is the same thing as buying something, but if you do, you’d have a dangerously oversimplistic view of these things. So don’t.
Third, Rupert Murdoch did not buy anything. Well, he’s bought lots of stuff, of course, and a few years ago he bought and sold and restructured stuff so there cane to be a new version of 21st Century Fox and News Group. News Group was Murdoch’s old company, and 21st Century Fox comes down from the long time famous studio. News Group now owns or engages in print, 21st Century Fox now owns or engages in pixels, more or less, as far as I can tell. It is a publicly owned company, so if you have a mutual fund or something there is a chance that YOU BOUGHT NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC HA HA HA. Right?
Anyway, having said all that, one could argue that the Evil Entity Known as Fox-Murdoch has effectively taken over National Geographic Something Something (where Something Something is the magazine and the Cable network and stuff). Fine. Think that, be concerned, be mad, and complain about it. But don’t complain that “Rupert Murdoch Bought National Geographic” because it is not correct.
Pedantic? Yes, in part, but also important. For example, knowing so little about the situation to go all apoplectic and throw out your old National Geographic Magazines and cancel your subscription would be a sign of ignorance more than good activism. For at least two reasons.
First, did you know that FOX and NGS were already partners in a large amount of their prior activities, and this simply expands it? Where were you then, where were the memes then, were was the outrage?
And, second, did it make any difference? Did you see the Politics of Murdoch imprinted in the National Geographic Society ventures? Probably not. And this brings us to the more expanded second reason. 21st Century Fox is a huge company and has more interest in making profit than in imposiing its political will on all things it does. Hell, it has enough political will being imposed in a handful of its ventures, it hardly need to do something else.
Also, the Magazine part of this venture is being run by a Murdoch son, and the Murdoch son is famously different from dad politically. And, 21st Century Fox has promised to keep hands off.
Finally, what was so pure about National Geographic Magazine before? A great travel magazine, much less anthropological than people usually think. Did you really ever read it? Do you know what you are trying to save? I’m not saying there is anything wrong with NG Magazine, but it may not be what you were thinking. It really is a travel magazine for the 1% and those who wish to be them. The National Geographic Society, of course, is different. That is bigger, involved in all the other things mentioned, and provides grants for some pretty cool research.
Be outraged if you want, but please be outraged about the outrageous. We don’t know if this is outrageous, or even different. Having said that, watch closely. Very closely. And be triply outraged if the “hands off” policy turns out to be anything but hands off.
Be ever vigilant. But about real things.