Of Mermaids and Dis-information...

The Discovery Channel trumpets itself as 'Factual Channel of the Year'. I have subscribed to the Sky documentary channels for years now at great expense I might add, but have always been disillusioned and frustrated by the pap they produce. It really is drivel, aimed at titillation and spin, capturing audience attention with hyperbole and unbelievable truths.

The latest example I have experienced has just about finished me off. I have laughed at Finding Bigfoot scoffed at Born Survivor and explained to my kids how von Däniken's theories were debunked forty years ago while watching Ancient Aliens don't even get me started on any of the programmes with 'theological' content, suffice to say they peddle every Templar/ Jesus is married/ a Pagan/ an alien/ never existed/ is still alive/ myth ever conceived. but I recently caught an Animal Planet show called Mermaids-The Body Found which is a spoof documentary, which doesn't explain itself as a spoof at all, but basically fakes a documentary. The programme follows two government scientists who claim to have found the remains of a "never before seen sea creature" with ties to human origins at a particular beaching. The documentary also features amateur video, photographic evidence such as photos taken by two boys with a cell phone in Washington State and audio recording that suggest mermaids exist.

The only two facts in the documentary turn out to be, first, that in the early 1990s, the US Navy began a series of covert sonar tests, which were linked to groups of whales dying and then washing up on beaches throughout the world. For years, the Navy denied they were responsible for these beachings and second that in 1997, scientists at the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recorded a mysterious sound (called “The Bloop”) in the deep Pacific, which was thought to be organic in nature. It has never been identified.

But the film mixes this tiny shred of fact with a huge amount of science fiction. It heavily relies on CGI images to show how mermaids might look (if they existed), how would they swim, hunt and survive. To add to it's credibility, the documentary utilises Aquatic Ape Hypothesis, a scientific theory which claims that humans had an aquatic stage in our evolutionary past, which provides some explanation as to why humans have adaptations which set us apart from other primates and why these adaptations have parallels in aquatic mammals. The programme suggests that rather than this, AAH postulates that when sea levels rose in pre-history, our ape-like ancestors moved in-land and evolved into terrestrial humans, whilst some remained, spending increasing amounts of time in the sea and eventually evolving into something similar to a mermaid.


“The theory of ‘aquatic ape’ mentioned in the program is real and has been studied for decades,” says Charlie Foley, creator, writer and executive producer of the show, and SVP of Development. “Many events in the show have occurred — i.e. the whale beachings, Navy experimental sonar testing, The Bloop…” If you've seen the film, it's a bit of a stretch! Actually, it was first proposed by German pathologist Max Westenhöfer in 1942, and then independently by British marine biologist Alister Hardy in 1960. After Hardy, the most prominent proponent has been Welsh screenwriter Elaine Morgan, who has written several books on the topic, and is Welsh.

Back in the real world, authorities in the field in the United States have denied mermaids exist, the organisation the scientists in the programme are supposed to be from, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released the following statement:
"No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found," 
The full statement was released in earlier this year, following the world premier of the documentary on May 27th on Animal Planet.

The NOAA claimed that mermaids only exist in the "collective unconscious" - as they have been mentioned from Greek Mythologies to ancient Far East and Australia mythologies-, and that is the job of historians, philosophers and anthropologists to explain why they exist there.

It took me some considerable research to verify this information and to collate the facts regarding this programme. I couldn't help but wonder how many people watched this 'documentary', or rather mocumentary, and just accepted it as fact? I watched with disbelief, and kept calling my wife to say 'look at this!' I particularly found the 'scientists' performances hard to believe; they just didn't seem completely credible, but one of the things that was confusing was that they had different actors for the reconstruction bits and the narration bits. Actors playing actors. All set to confuse—this would have made a wonderful April 1st joke!

If you know me, you probably know that this is one of my big bug bears. Everyone seems so convinced that modern people want proof and question everything and that in the old days they just accepted. I am pretty sure that the opposite could, in fact, be true. These days we are spoon fed information through the t.v. and the internet, and we have a tendency to simply accept it as fact. We live in an age of disinformation and we need to tune out the noise sometimes and listen to the truth. What are the long term consequences of having a series of t.v. channels which claim to be 'factual' but actually produce deliberately deceptive material? I have suffered the ramblings of many 'experts' who have cited the Discovery Channel, or Animal Planet as a 'proof' of their argument. Come on people, sort it out!

Mermaids- you're pulling my leg, right?

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