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NBC - reply (with attachment this time...)


More than one response has been sent regarding the broadcast "The mysterious
origins of man" by Mr. Todd Schwartz, NBC Entertainment, 3000 West
Alameda Avenue, Burbank, CA 91523.

Mr. Todd Schwartz wrote to Jere H. Lipps,
(Professor and Director
Department of Integrative Biology and
Museum of Paleontology
University of California
Berkeley, California 94720 USA):

"Thank you for your letter concerning our special, 'The mysterious origins
of man'.  This was one of many entertainment programs NBC has broadcast
which speculate about alternative views of our world.  Although the show
did  not contain an opening disclaimer, we feel it was very clear the
people interviewed were expressing their only their opinions.  The progam
established that their writings and studies were 'controversial' and made
extensive use of qualifying language such as 'claims . . . .', 'could be .
. . . ', 'reportedly . . . ', 'seems to . . . ', 'may be . . . ', 'suggests
to some . . . ', etc.

The point . . . was not to discredit or discount the results of established
scientific research, but to consider a provocative 'what if' scenario--a
proposition, if you will, which simply asked if modern man could have
existed long before what is currently believed.  The program was designed
only to raise the question, not to prove the hypothesis.

Other NBC specials have raised questions about the existence of angels, the
fulfillment of prophesies, and the efficacy of alternative medicine, and it
was in this context we expected "The mysterious origins of man" to be
viewed.  We're sorry to hear you were offended by that approach, and wee
hope to more adequately address your concerns should the same issue be the
subject of another NBC program."

Mr. Lipps suggested we reply to Mr. Schwartz'es above letter. 
This is what I sent:

Dear Mr. Shwartz,

'Mysterious origins of man' was garbage and you know it.

Sure, you can pussyfoot around your dishonesty by saying the show
made extensive use of qualifiers ('could be', 'may', etc...) and that
the hypotheses presented were 'controversial', but the overall tone of
the show was clearly supportive of these quacky musings --the mere act
of according these confabulations such extensive air-time gave them a 
patina of richly-undeserved credibility, and just for that you be shamed.

I note that in your reply-to-critics you refer to the show as an
'entertainment program'. What duplicity! The charade was never promoted as
an entertainment program a la 'Friends', but instead as documentary
journalism. And very bad, neon-yellow journalism it was.

Take, for example, the segment on the Paluxi tracks. What kind of team of 
journalists could have possibly overlooked the well-publicized expose of the
hominid print forgery, brought to light by the hoaxer's son himself?
The answer is either:
(a)  Incompetent journalists (somewhat unlikely, for to be that incompetent
     you'd have to be dead) , or;
(b)  A 'We the People, Screw the People'  approach to presenting a story.

Taking into account point (b) above, I now fully realize, Mr. Schwartz, that
your reply is nothing but a damage-control statement. It won't wash.

Incidentally, since the airing of the show, friends and colleagues of mine
have jokingly explained that 'NBC' actually stands for 'Nerf Brain Cretins'.
Nothing short of a penitent apology will kill this revised acronym.
                                                Minimally respectfully yours,

                                                          Frank Habets
                                                     Ottawa Paleontology Club

Frank "Troy Lobbite" Habets.... cm514@freenet.carleton.ca
Murphy's law of fossil hunting: The distance travelled to a site is
inversely proportional to the quality of the specimens found there...