One of the frustrations of politics for us common folk is not knowing what is factual and what is fake. Any fact that a politician doesn’t want to hear can be labeled and discarded as “fake news.” The same problem exists on popular television in what we would call fake documentaries.
People seem to feel that if they see something on television called a documentary that it is true and has been verified by a reputable source. Religious groups, atheist groups, and food fad groups produce fake documentaries. They are also created by promoters of ESP, people who advocate alien visitations to Earth both now and in the past, and people who just want to make money with a fake documentary.
In the November issue of Astronomy magazine (page 64), Jeff Hester tells of being asked to comment on a bogus show about UFOs. The show was called a documentary and Hester, who is an astrophysicist, was interviewed as part of the program. The claims were totally false, and Hester said so in the interview and assumed the documentary would be scrapped.
The show was eventually broadcast as a documentary and given broad exposure. Hester called the producers and pointed out that he had shown that the story they were presenting was false. The producers admitted that they knew it was false. Then they stated something which Hester quoted in his column:
“Documentaries on stuff like this aren’t meant to educate people. They’re meant to sell soap. My job is to tell the intended audience exactly what it wants to hear. If people want to see miracles and space aliens, I show them miracles and space aliens. That way they tune in, watch to the end, leave happy, and buy the sponsors’ products.”
Remember that this was a television show called a documentary which many people will quote and believe. Yet the person who produced the fake documentary freely admits it was fake. Hester concludes “..they’re just plain old-fashioned carnival hucksters, picking the pockets of gullible people they play for rubes.”
We try very hard to quote scientific research from credible sources that can be verified. We also remind our readers that there are fake documentaries. We encourage you to think, and not believe something you see on television just because it is called a “documentary.”
–John N. Clayton © 2018