Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dangerous Ltd. is Either Very Stupid or Dishonest, or Both

Our friend Matt Wedel over at SV-POW wasn't treated very well by Dangerous, Ltd. These are the people who brought you Clash of the Dinosaurs on the Discovery Channel. The show itself is pretty bad, as I've said before, and you've probably read on other blogs. However, they quote mined Matt when it came to that old, dead myth about pelvic brains. That shit's not cool, and here's why: It's not just misinforming the public (which is bad enough), but it also puts Matt's reputation and credibility on the line. That's called slander, and it's a crime.

So, what to do, what to do? Well, the first step is to read Matt's account of the situationHERE. The next step is to email some of THESE PEOPLE and politely, succinctly, discuss your concerns. If you're thisting for further justice, you should know that Dangerous Ltd. is owned by Zodiak Entertainment. You can tell Zodiak that you're displeased with how their subsidiary is treating its interviewees HERE. Finally, you can tell the Discovery Channel that they should probably know better by emailing THESE people. I urge you all to, at the very least, email Dangerous Ltd.

Matt is considering legal action, and I don't blame him. Matt, best of luck to you, sir. If there's anything else I can do to help, just ask.

8 comments:

Nima said...

Hey Zach! I may have some more info on this matter. I've been keeping a close watch on the Dangerous Ltd. quote-mining situation.

Here you go:

http://paleoking.blogspot.com/2009/12/disgusting-shameful-dishonest-junk.html

While you're at it, let's remind readers to also write to those same companies to complain about the multitude of basic ERRORS and the overall sloppy and shoddy quality of the theories and scenarios presented as "fact" in the show (the details are in the above URL, highlighted in blue).

Let's demand some QUALITY in the science programs we watch. Their reply will determine our next step.

Raptor Lewis said...

As much as I can honestly admit I don't care for CotD (though, to be honest, parts of it weren't half bad...I rather enjoyed it.), I don't think we should jump the gun here! The truth is that we really don't know the WHOLE story!!!

Besides, you two need to lighten up about the Science! I mean.....what's wrong with hyping things up a little bit to get people interested in the science? Getting people interested in the science is why Museums are thriving and why Paleontologists have funding for fieldwork!


Also, who gives a rat's a** about the accuracy?! Personally, I don't as if we want to teach people the facts, then they can read the multitude of books and journals on there!! So....just chill!!!!

Steven Francis-Coombs said...

I haven't watched the program yet, and haven't really kept up much about this "controversy" over the quality of the show on the blogs and the dml. But I really think that these documentaries should have a level of accuracy when it comes to the science.

It's good to hype science and get people to watch. Us paleo-types who are the ones that take it a lot more serious do want to see accuracy in what's being depicted. To have paleontologists come on to the program and to be quote-mined and to have theories that have long since been disregarded, is unfair to the audience, and damaging to the scientists.

You have to think that the audience that maybe watches this program might not know a whole lot about dinosaurs and paleontology in general. They probably will take everything as fact, and wont go out and read the books and journals.

Doesn't Discovery Channel screen these programs to experts first???

I'm getting tired of these dino docs, I think their growing stale. I tired of always seeing the same dinosaurs battling each other. I hate the way they always got to depict dinosaurs as monsters.

Nima said...

I think dinosaur documentaries should be held to the SAME standard as all other science documentaries - in other words, CUT THE ARM-WAVING and actually present the bloody FACTS for once!

It's not the experts' faults, whatever it may appear like. Their voices are these days often edited, spliced, words omitted... if you don't take care to write out a contract that gives you FULL legal rights to decide what sections of the recording will be aired, you're screwed. It's the TV corporations' fault - once all is signed, and the film hits the editing room floor, say goodbye to any fixes or corrections! They don't have much respect for the field, they only care about making a quick buck, and if they're too dumb to realize the value of the real science, then the voices of scientists WILL be co-opted. Unless they persistently defend their legal rights and refuse any unfavorable contract terms.

The last time there was a REAL DECENT dinosaur series where all sides of the various controversies were presented, was back in 1995 before much of the current generation knew how to spell "dinosaur". It was "PaleoWorld", and though it didn't have tons of cutting-edge computer animation, it DID include sequences of excellent paintings by the top paleoartists of the day depicting ACCURATE dinosaurs, and the experts were NOT quote-mined, they got to say a WHOLE paragraph each time they came on. Nothing was "spliced".

It's thanks to that show that I developed an appreciation for dinosaurs at all (and largely because Bakker was allowed to say whatever he wanted on camera)...

But if I'd been born in 2000, and exposed ONLY to the lame programs that have come out since then, today I'd probably be thinking "dinosaurs? Who frickin' cares... change the channel, pokemon is on!"

For the past 8 years, like it or not, channels like TLC and Discovery have become FOX-ified, superficial, and crazy-sensationalized. With the lone exception of PBS, the TV programming of America has become overall more dumbed down than it was in the 90s... heck, even the sitcoms were more intelligent back then.

Nima said...

So ultimately if the science in the shows is shoddy and bogus (and in the case of Clash of the Dinosaurs, SO MUCH of it is SO OBVIOUSLY bogus!), they you will attract a LOT FEWER young people to the field. And YES, those same people could have bothered to read the books and educate themselves if the TV programs were actually honest and not hyper-sensationalized.

By honest, I mean presenting both sides of an argument, much like PaleoWorld did, to make you think rather than spoonfeed you some fantasy that a non-scientist corporate TV producer invented.

Of course, I admit in the recent past we've had BIG problems with willfully ignorant people who don't like to think, for whom thinking just plain HURTS...

I truly believe that dinosaur fact is more interesting and often stranger than fiction. So these dumb corporate TV broadcasters really have no need to invent phony "facts" for shows like Clash of the Dinosaur while IGNORING the far more interesting REAL FACTS about dinosaurs. The real facts, I think, would actually attract more viewers. As it is, bowlderized shows like "Clash" make the public lose confidence in the credibility of paleontologists (and hence interest in dinosaurs), especially since it SEEMS like every 3 years they reverse their positions on everything... (i.e. T.rex's speed, sauropod neck posture, galloping ceratopsians)...

... but really this is only a struggle between good research and bad research, and woe betide the public that they may EVER know the difference, barring some massive improvement in dinosaur documentary standards.

If "who cares" becomes the norm in our attitudes in this regard, don't be surprised if every year fewer and fewer youth take any interest in the field, and paleontology itself soon becomes extinct in the USA (those of you in Canada and elsewhere, forgive me, for none of this applies to you...)

Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. said...

Nima:

You mean the the same Paleoworld that showed pictures of Burgess Shale invertebrates while talking about Mesozoic marine reptiles? The same Paleoworld that put in pictures of Triceratops while Prothero was discussing rhinoceros history? THAT Paleoworld?

(To be fair, they did tend to clean up their act in their later seasons. But early on, not so much...)

Nima said...

Wait, that really happened?!?!?!

Actually, I'm not familiar with the latter episode... but I'm assuming there was a context/comparison of some sort behind those incidents... I watched as much of the series as I could when it aired, I remember one little screwup with Opabinia, but that was it...

I saw at least these epidoses (that I can recall):

*"tale of a sail" (protomammals)
*"missing links" (Homo Erectus)
*"Carnosaurs" (there were a few mistakes on Carnotaurus but that was it)
*"Sea Monsters" (pretty good except the opabinia... but the plesiosaur fossils they showed were dead on correct)
*"Dino Sex" (mostly speculation but nothing that flat-out contradicted the evidence)
*The Sauropods episode (a bit of controversy, but good show nonetheless).
*"Killer Kangaroos" (didn't notice any real errors there...)
*The Pterosaurs episode (no errors as I remember it)

So I'd say overall there were mistakes in only about 5% of the episodes and even in those, there was usually only one mistake per episode (i.e. one mistake in 30 minutes of otherwise good information). What I really like about the series is they showed a LOT of paleo-art, and had perspectives from both sides of every debate from top experts (sometimes even a third side).

And they didn't quote-mine. They let the experts talk for a good paragraph or two each time. It was obvious what Bakker or Horner or Darren Tanke or Michael Archer or Alan Thorne or Nicholas Hotton was trying to get across.

Thanks for bringing it to my attention though... the thing is, PaleoWorld was a LONG series by today's standards, and there may easily have been more errors in the beginning due to different management, etc... but MOST of the series from what I've seen was next to flawless. It discussed alternate possibilities and theories and let the VIEWER draw their own conclusions. And it didn't make a bunch of crazy claims about super-invincible raptors, iron-melting sauropod stomachs, urine-seeking pterosaurs, or sonic boom-generating duckbills with repeatedly mispronounced names.

And in terms of the interviews they were MUCH more professional than "Clash of the Dinosaurs".

Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. said...

No errors in "The Pterosaurs"? How about extolling the greatness of the Niobrara (Late K of Kansas) fossils while showing Solnhofen (Late J of Germany) fossils?

And Prothero has commented elsewhere (http://scienceblogs.com/tetrapodzoology/2009/12/quote_mining_clash_of_the_dinosaurs.php#comment-2150507) about the Triceratops-rhino incident.

Yes, there was a lot of good in Paleoworld. But there was a lot that wasn't. I think it is the mists of time that make it seem better. I can tell you, I was talking back the screen in frustration at it just like I did in CotD.