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Donna Laframboise: Polar Bear Dies, National Geographic Lies

Donna Laframboise, No Frakking Consensus

The iconic magazine is now a purveyor of propaganda.

BIG PICTURE: On her blog last week, zoologist Susan Crockford called our attention to a startling admission over at National Geographic. It acknowledges publishing fake news. Or, as it more delicately puts it, we “went too far in drawing a definitive connection between climate change and a particular starving polar bear.”

An “Editor’s Note” explains the magazine added a wholly misleading caption to a video of an emaciated polar bear filmed last August. When it published this video on its website in December, National Geographic declared: “This is what climate change looks like.”

Actually, this is what dishonesty looks like. Neither the magazine nor the person who did the filming knew anything about that bear. It might have been stricken with disease. It might have sustained an injury that impeded its ability to hunt. As the Editor’s Note now admits: “there is no way to know for certain why this bear was on the verge of death.”

Weak and in distress, it was nevertheless made use of. First by Paul Nicklen, who encountered it two days before he took the video. Rather than notifying a conservation officer so the bear could be euthanized and the equivalent of an autopsy performed, Nicklen instead telephoned for video equipment and a team of “storytellers.” 

The next humans to make use of this bear’s suffering were officials at the magazine. What people won’t do for clicks. Deliberately misleading the public, they cast climate change as the villain. The result was a wildly successful piece of propaganda. 

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