Tuesday, August 5, 2008

#43 Educational Channels and the "Woo-Woo" Factor

About the new logo for the Science Channel (be patient...there's a RANT coming). "That's Interesting"--remember, you need one of these moments on average of once a day to make life worth living--"they've changed the pretty, haloed-blue-marble-earth logo in the lower-right corner [you've seen it, I'm sure] to the bland Sc abbreviation in an orange rectangle," I muttered to myself (I may need to watch that, and perhaps my little O.C.D for logos, too). I had this rant planned anyway, and in doing my 10 minute Wikipedia research-module into these basically "educational" channels on cable, the mystery was solved...partially. It's meant to invoke a PERIODIC TABLE entry. OK, very sciency. But they also acknowledge it is the bona fide symbol of an actual element, Scandium, appearing at atomic weight 21. What? It's a "rare earth" element, and very rare, occurring mainly in Scandinavia, and only isolated in pure form in 1960. Significance for the Science Channel? No rationale given. But at least they have by implication, however fuzzily, positioned themselves as the channel of hard-core, indeed "elemental" factuality.

I applaud them for that, but can't do the same for their fellows. What a crock of supernatural nonsense I'm finding on these channels these days! Beware of letting your kids tune in after their stint in front of fantasy video games--there won't be much difference, educationally. This very morning on the History Channel, five straight hours of programming
included "Sasquatch Attack," Real Hobbit: Mystery Ape," "Unidentified Flying Creatures (torpedo-like creatures who fly so fast they can't be seen [I kid you not])," "Mutant Dog: Pet-Killer," "Ohio Grassman: Bigfoot-like Creature." They look like it, but these titles are NOT out of Mad Magazine. Now there are really only two conglomerates, A&E Networks (Hist, Bio, etc. channels) and Discovery Communications (Discovery, Learning, Animal, Science channels), who run all this stuff, the good and the bad..mostly VERY bad lately. Collectively over the last two weeks they have regaled the cable tuner-inner with tales of Atlantis, Bermuda Triangle, UFOs, Nostradamas, Crop Circles, Psychic Investigations, Noah's Ark, Bible Mysteries, Exorcism, Hauntings, Monsters, End of the World Prophecy--and some of these have been playing over and over for a dozen years or more. (Surely they should retire the "Nostradamus: 500 Years After" show with its wine-soaked Orson Welles narration, since the title has effectively dated it...but no.)

All of it a steaming pile of Woo-Woo. Yes, most of these shows bring on the requisite skeptic-spokesman for a few seconds near the end of the program, but by that time the damage is done to the credulous minds who watch these shows, obviously in great enough numbers to keep the ratings up and the advertisers happy. And this is what I find so disturbing. These programmers are pandering to that irrationality epidemic widely spread among our citizenry--many of whom will end up in the voting booth in November without a clue. Too big a jump? Maybe so. But, sorry, it just grabs my ass when people or institutions of influence and authority (lately including role-models like Astronaut Ed Mitchell and his UFO "little people") legitimize this superstitious wackiness.

But having said all that, I just noticed TODAY that a new series called "Evolve" has already debuted as of last week with an episode on The Eye (missed it). And guess what...it's on the History Channel. Well, they have a lot to atone for. I may have to eat my words as I watch tonight's episode, The Gut.

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