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THE DECAY OF AMERICAN MEDIA — Patrick L. Smith on the decline and fall of American journalism; Peter Lee on China and its Uyghur problem; Dave Macaray on brain trauma, profits and the NFL; Lee Ballinger on the bloody history of cotton. PLUS: “The Vindication of Love” by JoAnn Wypijewski; “The Age of SurrealPolitick” by Jeffrey St. Clair; “The Radiation Zone” by Kristin Kolb; “Washington’s Enemies List” by Mike Whitney; “The School of Moral Statecraft” by Chris Floyd and “The Surveillance Films of Laura Poitras” by Kim Nicolini.
From Grizzly Man to the Croc Hunter

The Global Media and the Death of Bears

by Dr. CHARLES JONKEL

School, city, county, and university libraries–they are maybe the best things ever invented by humansocieties. Cave paintings, hieroglyphics, alphabets, the printing press, folk knowledge, learning to read and write–all such things have allowedhuman beings to better their lot, to dominate the entire Planet Earth, and even to leave small dents, tracks, and pits everywhere in the universe.

Our collective knowledge, shared knowledge, cumulative cooperation, and now our global electronic communication/information-sharing, ensure a seemingly endless evolution of human control and development. We can do almost anything that we used to relegate "to the Gods"–we can communicate to anywhere, almost instantly, peer into any corner of our planet, live, or with only seconds of delay.

But also, now, we can sway, control, corrupt entire nations of people, or set lofty global values, goals, and acts, with the punching of a few keys. We can negate justice, dodge blame, instill guilt, "fix" elections, steal vast sums of money, kill people, and even recruit suicide bombers and assassins, just sitting at a keyboard, at "Anywhere," Earth.

We can as easily do only an incredible array of "good things," for ourselves and other people, or for all living things, and this earthly habitat from which we sprung. It is, sometimes, hard to imagine how Heaven could be any better than some things we have already created for ourselves. How can you improve on being full of a good meal, sitting on a beautiful mountain ridge, watching a beautiful sunset, and listening to the coyotes howling or the owls hooting? Yeah, I know–a girl.

It is time for us to "get real," to assess what we have, and where we are going–and to put the mass media back into our control. The design of libraries has allowed us to be evermore productive, has guided our use of knowledge, and for the most part, has created the advancement of "good" knowledge for good things, far and wide. The structure of the library system has ensured the featuring and favoring of specific knowledge, beneficial information, and the use thereof. Libraries are not keyed to "profits," or "business," or corporate takeovers, or "out-sourcing," or buy-outs, or hostile "takeovers," or enormous CEO pay-offs. They are run quietly, professionally, fairly, intelligently, usefully by us, by governments, by communities, by states, by our friends and relatives. And for damn good reason.

Think, for a moment, what our libraries would be like if we ran them for profits, or privatized them. Higher profits, out-sourcing, hostile takeovers, buy low and sell high, would all quickly alter what libraries are, and would eventually destroy our culture, governments, and all of the great things we have created for ourselves. A few, super-rich individuals, maybe, would horde and safeguard (for themselves) what we now hold as precious, and ours. But most of our wonderful life would soon be gone.

Well, look around. That is exactly what we have allowed the global mass media to do. And just guess where your kids are going, more and more, for their information and knowledge. Television, radio, the airwaves, belong to us, and should be managed BY US in the ways that the libraries still are run, designed, and staffed.

Sure, libraries for profit could be extremely profitable, but they would be filled to the brim with skin magazines, pornography, crime, tasteless humor, the exotic and the sensational, the frightening, the corrupting, the "daily tripe" of commercial TV, and on andon.

And that’s where the bears come in. I consider that all of the above is pertinent to wildlife media. All the ills and faults of the mainstream mass media, and the globalization of the media, and the massive profits of the mass media, rule, one way or the other in wildlife media, and it is getting worse rather than better.

In my view, Discovery/Animal Planet people are among the most damaging thing on earth, to the bears and to countless other species. People of the Crocodile Hunter ilk are worse than the most bloodthirsty slob hunters, the most blatant real estate exploiters. Andtheir power is keyed directly to the lack of professionalism, talent, public codes and laws, public ownership, that we feature in the structure of our libraries. And they make lots of money under the guise of caring for wildlife.

Doesn’t anyone, anymore, understand that kids are watching TV? They, and their parents, go more and more to the TV set, and less and less to libraries, for their information, their values, their understandings of government, and their guidelines for voting. Even in their supporting ads, they compel waste, promote greed, stifle learning, corrupt public values and perceptions.

Mainstream mass media keeps hidden the ways of "control," and makes people into slaves of "the system." Anymore, God is the corporation, the money. And all of that teaches us not to care, not to cooperate with our knowledge. The real news is neglected for the more profitable controlled news, the irrelevant, the human interest, the bizarre, and makes people happy to be brain dead, all to the detriment of furthering Mankind, and wounding our Earth.

Almost 30 years ago I identified this problem as of perhaps more importance to wildlife than all of the federal/state/provincial wildlife management, wildlife research; and maybe more important even than all of the wildlife preserves, parks, wildernesses, etc. put together. Why? Because always, public, political bureaucratic, government agencies, etc. perceptions, are formed more and more by the mass media, and nowadays, by the global mass media, the internet, and all of the replications and adaptations of the electronic media.

People, more and more, are "learning" about nature, wildlife, wildland values, "zoology," wildlife management, wilderness, the evolution of species from TV–all of which is Man-made, and almost all of which is made for profit, not for being true or helpful to wildlife. That is why I created the International Wildlife Film Festival, 28 years ago this May. Most biologists, I regret to say, still don’t understand the urgency of the concept and the need.

Face it people, about 90% of all human beings are almost totally oriented to "people things," to what other people are doing, and to human-created things–music, fiction of every sort, religion, political schemes, threats and made-up dangers, video games. Hardly anyone really cares about, is informed about, or is curious about wild things, Nature, climatic change, grizzly bears. Or if they care at all it is in a warped, screwed up way, like the infamous "Grizzly Man" Timothy Treadwell, now becoming (thanks to Hollywood) a dead "bear Icon," teaching millions of people wrong and harmful things about bears. Two bears and an innocent girl were killed directly by his actions, and over time, perhaps 50-100 bears will be killed by people remembering how he and that poor girl were killed. "Shoot first," just in case. Shoot first, bears are killers, Shoot first, for revenge.

Who made him an icon? Who made him a powerful, negative force? Who made him into a pseudo-expert, a self-styled hero of the bears? And who is continuing to promote his idiot acts with bears, the charismatic charm he stole from the bears, the blood and gore of three coroner interviews, and his silly, self-styled role as a protector of the bears?

Well, it was and is the mass media, Hollywood people "in it" for the money. But also, he was created by incompetent National Park supervision, agencies that promote "up close" viewing and photography, and bear biologists who promote bear petting, walking with bears, and the up close exciting contacts with bears. They all are stealing from the bears, taking their wildness, for glory and (one way or the other) for profit. Even those biologists who won’t speak out, don’t try to lean about what really matters, are partly "to blame."

The story goes on, the plot thickens, more people will get rich at the expense of the bears, and more bears will be harmed by misguided, poorly informed, but well-intentioned people. Most recently, the Discovery Channel ran a version of "the Treadwell film" which included extensive comment and obsequious justification, by a panel of people who quite obviously know nothing about bears. Rather, they highlighted "the adrenaline rush," becoming addicted to the thrill of being too close, the "rock star status" he attained from his playing with the bears, his silliness making him "on a great mission," and his having "great fun" being with the bears. Obviously, the Grizzly People group, the filmmaker, and Discover Channel, were ALL trying to put a good spin on the film, the story, for the sake of more money–and to hell with the bears. Well, I have lots of problems with that.

The ultimate question is, what to do? You can’t really fight Hollywood–they can throw millions of dollars at you, to counter whatever you do or say. And for the most part, they make even more money if you cause bad publicity, create debate. They win no matter what, and the bears will lose no matter what. Until the whole system changes–and we (the public) take back ownership of the airwaves from the profiteers, and wildlife biologists exert research, management, law enforcement authority over the poaching and "market hunting" by the mass media-we can only do what small things we can do, in a sea of greedy and exploitive wildlife media. For starters, maybe, scream "more grizzly bear habitat and habitat protection," and ignore almost everything else. Find, buy, read, watch, promote the good books and videos on wildlife, and give copies to kids and schools, and libraries.

Dr. CHARLES JONKEL is the president of the Great Bear Foundation in Missoula and the recipient of the Denver Zoological Foundation’s Conservationist of the Year in 2005. He is known to be on the forefront of bear biology.

This article originally appeared on Lowbagger.