Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sea Shepherd - Popular Culture and South Park

When Sea Shepherds plans for a new reality television show with Animal Planet were announced - we had to the following to say about it:

"Perhaps one of the most chilling departures from the entire 40 year global eco movement was this year when Sea Shepherd traded it's last shred of dignity and credibility for the cameras of Animal Planet and thus began Eco-Edutainment Television, where media messaging and outright fabrication of events have subsumed the horrors of actual whaling. Where dead whales and story lines are traded with advertisements for SUV's and laundry detergent. This is a meeting of eco media and horror that never should have happened and now that it has will change the landscape of the global eco movement for years to come."

No truer words have been written about the ongoing embarrassment to the global eco movement that is Sea Shepherds Whale Wars.

We're not the only ones to take notice, popular culture commentators South Park decided to expose Sea Shepherd this week in what can only be described as "Skewering the Emperor with no clothes."

We have been covering Sea Shepherds media rise and mistakes for the past year in an ongoing series of blog posts. In one year Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd have managed to completely redefine the term for "conservation," taking the concept from quantifiable metrics for eco success to a series of often inane talking points and million dollar media spectaculars that leverage main stream media's desire to sell advertising as their conservation vehicle.

Meanwhile whales keep being killed, year after year, while Whale Wars ratings climb. It is high time we discuss and enable real and lasting conservation efforts. Reality television shows are not conservation, and fortunately South Park has just embedded that idea with the next generation of conservationists.

Sometimes the best way to enact conservation change is with a popular culture backlash.

Unfortunately Sea Shepherd is soon to announce a new reality television show with sharks in the coming weeks. We're pretty sure the folks at South Park are looking forward to that announcement as well, while the rest of the shark conservation world cringes at the prospect.

See complete Whale Whores episode here.


SouthernFriedScientist said...

Well said. I'm eagerly awaiting Sea Shepherd's response.

Horizon Charters Guadalupe Cage Diving said...

The amount of spin coming out of SSCS over this South Park episode could, if harnessed, solve the entire planets energy crisis for the next 23 years.

This is the same org who defied logic by depicting the loss of close to two million dollars when their other vessel the Farley Mowat was sized by the Canadian Gov, as "a good thing."

SouthernFriedScientist said...

Have you seen the recent press release where they refer to it as the 'Tar Baby Farley' and implied that having their ship taken by the mounties was all part of their plan?

Thus demonstrating that not only are they willing to say any old bullshit that comes to their minds, but they're pretty damn racist to boot.

Horizon Charters Guadalupe Cage Diving said...

Did I mention they also had "the world's largest certified reserves of media spin?"

Anonymous said...

Ban seashepherd as tag??
Even considering the not acceptable actions taken in WW to keep audience and "stay low",
you should've seen or at least know, that they act completely different on other tasks.

I mean, not many people in the shark conservation world were against their more radical actions as seen in "sharkwater". Of course you can mark that as "attention grabbing", but then you can consider every radical actions kept on film as that.

I don't agree with some their actions or "not going into action" in WW but as seen in other videos or films(as mentioned: sharkwater), they can act properly.

Horizon Charters Guadalupe Cage Diving said...

When you take a larger view of SSCS and WW you begin to see the damage caused by them to the global conservation movement.


We're getting there. They have been fully exposed by popular media. What started as a few blog posts by some concerned industry folks became a distant drumbeat, and is now a full fledged revolt.

The conservation world can not afford to see dollars flow out of serious and lasting conservation efforts and into a group of hysterical media pumpers who "make faked news" not conservation.

SSCS has had no real and lasting conservation metrics for anything in the past 20 years it is not in their DNA.

Faked news, outright media lies, and a series of ongoing and very expensive media shows are.

We need to think differently.

Unknown said...

Just watched the episode - absolutely brilliant.

SouthernFriedScientist said...

Watson responds:

"I have to say that being lampooned on South Park is hardly something to complain about. They spelt Sea Shepherd right and they brought the issue of the dolphin and whale slaughter by the Japanese to a very large audience. I could not really care less how I was portrayed personally, I’m in good company along with Tom Cruise and Sean Penn.

It’s a tough situation we are in. We can’t hurt the whalers and we have to stay within the boundaries of the law in opposing illegal whaling operations. If that makes us pussies so be it, it’s better than being portrayed as killers. The point however that was missed is that we have cut the Japanese kill quotas in half over the last three years and cost them their profits. Our objective is to bankrupt them and we are doing just that.

South Park has however linked Japan to the horrific and senseless slaughter of dolphins and whales and all in all that’s a damn good message in our opinion.

What the Whale Whores episode also achieved was to highlight just how successful Whale Wars has been as a television show and how Sea Shepherd is out on the high seas actually trying to do something about the problem.

Captain Paul Watson
Captain – The Steve Irwin"

This is the first I've seen them beating the drum of "bankrupt the commercial whalers". Hmm, bankrupt a government subsidized fishery that hasn't turned a profit since the 1970's and is straight up a tool for nationalism? That's a brilliant plan if you're totally out of touch with reality. If they could bankrupt it, it would have vanished before SSCS every formed. Obviously the issues are much more nuanced than SSCS cares to grasp.

Horizon Charters Guadalupe Cage Diving said...

This is classic Watson.

The man spins better then Fox News, I have to hand it to him.

Changing the goal posts in the middle of play is another "metric of success" for him and his org.

The game here is not saving whales. His claim to have shut down 50% of harvest is suspect at best.

The real game here is donations, ego, and more donations.

It is a failed strategy clear and simple and throwing more reality television episodes at it will not change that fact.

Watson is in a tight space here and he's savvy enough to know it.

The South Park episode devastated his street cred as a tough guy on the eco front. SSCS entire popularity is based on a thin perception with the 18-34 mostly male demographic...the same one South Park just exposed.

Almost overnight the cool factor of a SSCS t shirt and logo is gone replaced by the reality of South Park.

Kudos to them.