Friday, August 21, 2009

Anatomy of an Obscenity

Lemme tell you, it has been an ordeal.

I've slaved myself and watched Deadly Waters, most of it in fast forward as it is so incredibly boring and badly edited on top of being so disrespectful, exploitative, deceiving and stupid. No wonder that the blue bloggers' reaction to it has been so moderate: it's so bad, it defies description!

Felix of Oceanic Dreams and Drew of Wetpixel have posted their take on the overall program so I need not dwell on its entirety, the more as I just cannot stomach having to watch every stupid and obscene detail.

Just this.

The "experiment" with the trailing and stationary chumsicles? Absolute rubbish!
Caribbean Reefs are strictly piscivorous and do not feed on humans - ever! The proof: did they attack the idiot driving along on his scooter? If Gurney had wanted to create a correct analogy to humans, they should not have dragged along the Sharks' favorite food but, say, a bale of hay instead! But hey, it never was about facts, it always was only and exclusively about showing those Sharks in a state of frenzy.
Shame on Stuart for having been the token prostitute!

The "experiment" with the hand and the fish?
Remember the post about not deceiving the audience? When the Lemon predictably ignored the hand, they dipped it in fish blood!

And finally, please note down those operators who aided and abetted the exploitation of Sharks!
As a customer, you have a choice!

Which leads me straight over to the issue at hand, the Fiji shoot.

First and foremost: mission accomplished - mostly!
Please believe me if I tell you that I've been called many things, but "naive and utterly stupid" is just not one of them. When I exploded in a post about Aqua Trek, I was certainly painfully aware of the potential loss of goodwill this would inflict to our business. This post will undoubtedly trigger more of the same condemnation from the same quarters. So be it.
Apparently, exposing perpetrators is good - but when they happen to be your competitors, the very same action becomes "disappointing". Go wonder!

No, this has not been a "food fight" by any stretch of the imagination.
Far from it: after the debacle of having dropped the ball and allowed Gurney to sneak into the country, we decided to disregard our commercial interests and publicly embarrass the perpetrators because we wanted them to use their influence to prevent the airing or at least tone down the sequence. We also went very deep and very high within the Government of Fiji and the country's tourism stakeholders, again with the same aim. As a result, the location has been changed to "Oceania" and after the Fijigirl went out on a limb, the footage of the chumsicle and the night diving sequences have been scrapped.

What remains is a misleading, sensationalistic and stupid prime example of Shark exploitation. What did Stroud apparently say? That he would not be lending his name to any ludicrous productions as he is friends with people like Jean Michel Cousteau and Rob Stewart?
Indeed: hilarious!

Take for instance the Shark attack they re-enacted.
The one that happened not far from this very spot.... in an area that's a known Bull Shark feeding zone? It took me a while to find it, but it is this one.
The location? Check out the map (click on it for detail): yellow is Lake Reef where the show was filmed, red is Turtle Island - 200 miles away, on the other side of the island, far off the coast in a completely different habitat!

The activity: spearfishing - and I'll leave it at that!

And talking about deceiving the audience.
How about the blond bimbo with 12 years' experience diving with the deadliest animals in the South Pacific, that squeaks away on the back deck of the Fiji Peter Hughes? That would be Teresa Carrette, associate producer with Gurney. And the deadly animals? Carukia barnesi (which earned a scientist a honorable mention in the Darwin awards) and Chironex fleckeri, box jellyfish!
Could anybody please tell me how that would make her a Shark expert worthy of being showcased to a global audience?

No wonder her comments are so utterly stupid!
Bull Sharks may, or may not (neither I nor Juerg know of any relevant papers) have a high level of testosterone. But the link to aggression is tenuous at best and has certainly never be researched in Sharks.
What however appears unequivocal is that testosterone promotes the growth of muscle mass and bone density. That, and its effect on virility are why some men in general and bodybuilders in particular resort to anabolic steroids, among which Bull Shark testosterone.
Ever seen a Bull Shark? There you have it!
PS the testosterone assertion has since been debunked: it is utter baloney!

Ever dived with one?
If so, you will know that despite of their impressive size, they are very hard to approach and positively timid - much unlike the Reefs and especially, the Silvertips!
"Aggressive" my derriรจre - and certainly not "territorial"!
So much for Teresa's credentials - and hopefully, for her scientific career!

Other than that, there is Stroud, a diving neophyte, hand feeding massive predatory Sharks without even the protection of steel mesh gloves; there's Teresa flailing around her pasty white hands in murky water saturated with Fish juices; there are signs of impending feeding frenzy; there are cameramen out there in no-man's land bumping, or being bumped by the animals - in brief, there's an operator completely surrendering his dive site to a bunch of yahoos in breach of the most basic safety protocols.
How does that dovetail, exactly, with They came and filmed our dive as we run it everyday. They conducted no experiments. The filming was about Les with a scientist swimming amongst large sharks. We only show sharks in a normal state of feeding, no chumsicle feeds. All very calm?
As I said, pretty brazen!

Plus, there's Stroud's hysterical commentary (dontya just love it how he shakes his head pretending to talk through his mask?) about "deadly waters," Shark attacks and aggression and trying to amp up the action by suggesting that he got bumped and chased out of the water - only to then languidly linger at the dive platform chatting away with the bimbette!
In brief, this is exploitative Shark porn at its very worst and a slap in the face of local conservation efforts and the local tradition and reverence of Sharks.

Did somebody really dare to mention the cause?

As to why Discovery chose to air this shit, what can I say.
As a reminder, check out their Corporate Social Responsibility statement.

John Hendricks launched Discovery Channel in 1985 with a mission to satisfy curiosity and make a difference in people's lives by providing the highest-quality, nonfiction content, services and products that entertain, engage and enlighten; and he chose the globe to represent Discovery's brand as a symbol of the company's commitment to protecting and celebrating planet Earth.
In keeping with this mission, Discovery Communications is committed to being a thoughtful and responsible corporate citizen, supporting the extension of science, environmental and other educational programs in the U.S. and abroad, and promoting the value of nonfiction content and documentary filmmaking across all genres.

That is the vision.
The reality: idiotic shows that pander to the basest emotions of idiotic audiences and are presented by idiotic hosts.

The network has clearly lost its way.
Despite of all the pathetic last-minute greenwashing, it is obvious that this year's disastrous Shark Week has severely damaged the brand and eroded its credibility not only with us Shark people, be it divers, operators or scientists, but with the public at large as well.
The resulting damage to its reputation and its goodwill will only be mended by bold managerial action. Pornographers like Gasek have clearly run their course and must be replaced by fresh and untainted talent that better embody Discovery's aim to be perceived as socially and ecologically responsible. Production companies like Gurney need to be dismissed and idiotic hosts like Stroud ought to be sent back to some remote wilderness to continue doing what they do best, i.e. munch on grubs in splendid isolation.

When people like Stephen Colbert catch on to your hypocrisy, it's high time to act decisively.
Will somebody have the vision to enact the necessary reforms?

And on this happy note... enjoy!

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