Monday, November 24, 2008

Whale Wars Must Go!

I've been reading a lot of Marshall McLuhan lately. It's been pretty difficult. It's not clear to me if the subject matter is uninteresting; if the content is so esoteric that you have to be McLuhan himself in order to understand it -- which includes the fact that every other day I'm not sure I understand it; Or if I'm simply wasting my precious time. But recently, events from another source have reminded me that, as McLuhan has said, " It is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded that, in operational and practical fact, the medium is the message." So what in the cheap seats did he mean? We can go around and around with this and at the end of the day, even if you believe the medium is the message, what do you do with this practical knowledge.

So here simply, as a practical example, is what I want to blog about today – should the TV production of "Whale Wars" be taken off the air? We are, in fact, witnessing, perhaps for the very first time, a prime time terrorist reality show sanctioned by American television. What happened to the GWOT? The message, quite apart from saving the whales, is that this type of behavior and sensationalism is normal--even though it is far from normal. This is not a Hollywood production of a terrorist event, movies for the most part, just like we learn in cartoons, are fiction. They are a different medium with a different message altogether. They are visual novels meant for pure entertainment and emotional stimulus – they are not intended to solve world hunger. Which, as an aside, is why we get so indignant when a foolish director/writer/producer thinks they can insert a message into our emotional fun park. They should knock that crap off and concentrate on their medium -- that's what makes a good movie.

Also, I'm not a big believer in the desensitization of people because of TV violence for instance. But this whale wars reality show is a bit different. An author of the blog I read, on whale wars, believes or hopes that ultimately the show will hurt the Sea Sheppard cause. It will convince us rational folk, that the better group to save the whales is not the crack pot, "borderline" terrorist organization; it is other kinder and gentler outfits like Greenpeace. I think the blogger is wrong on this one – not because I disagree with what the public in general will ultimately believe, but because what world wide fringe elements of society will take away as a more general case of acceptable forms of violent protest, and the idea that we would let dangerous ideas play out in our free market economy, is much worse.

As we move from the specific to the general the message begins to emerge. What is Japan to think -- this is a legitimized (by TV) group from the US now terrorising their whaling industry. Is this not akin to Somalia having a reality show highlighting daily pirating activity? Suddenly I feel like I'm living in Somalia, or worse. Now, what I am advocating here is absolutely contrary to my ideas on free speech and the associated liberties of a free society. However, I believe we've all been in agreement previously on censorship for certain things that cross the line. I firmly believe that a terrorist reality show crosses that line. I bring up the GWOT one more time just for effect.

We've just been witness to the first Internet suicide. Clearly, we all know that crosses the line. Again, how can the United States allow a show, crazies included or not, on terrorism make network television? It has to end or we are all hypocrites of the 1st order. So Animal Planet needs to take whale wars off the air – regardless of what plays out in the market. No reason to let this one go a full season. I firmly believe Animal Planet will come to their senses, lest the backlash that my blogger friend is willing to wait for takes down the entire network. Greenpeace backed away from the issue -- they fought hard for their legitimacy in the world -- they are not going to screw that up due to some crack pot with a video camera. Same with Animal Planet - they have a medium with a stronger message that they need to preserve. What happens on American television legitimizes our way of life, world wide. We are currently in the mist building a global society -- terrorism and the accompanying lawlessness it portents is a threat to us all. The medium of American television is the message -- and in this case we can do something practical about it. Whale wars must go!