CNN monkeys around

Posted on July 14, 2010 by

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So, CNN decided they need to refute this story about the Taliban training attack monkeys. Because this is the kind of thing that needs clarification.

I mean, seriously CNN? Is it really that slow of a news day? Or do you really think that little of your audience’s intelligence?

I guess it is in keeping with the high journalistic standards we’ve seen from Jeanne Moos when reporting on pieces like the recent North Carolina Bigfoot reports (below) and from Larry King’s various UFO stories. One thing is for sure, I always know when I see a story of Fortean significance on CNN, they are going to make light and ignore any thoughtful witnesses or experts. Call it the trailer park tornado syndrome. If 20 people see something, no matter what it is, CNN is going to pick the one witness with three teeth, one eye, no previous knowledge of events, and a speech impediment.

By contrast, the local news story (video below) contained a much better report, and places the most recent sightings in a historical context of previous sightings. Does the most recent witness still seem somewhat dubious? Sure. But at least we now have a historical context within which to either substantiate his claims, or to look for a source to his delusions.

When we then look at a related opinion pieces asking “Why do we need to look for Bigfoot?” we find the commentator taking a grain of something worthwhile, potential psychological explanations for strange phenomenon, and twisting it all out of context and reason.

Monkey soldiers? Bigfoot? Anomalous animal carcasses? All the same to CNN.

Even at the most basic level, they seem to have a problem getting their facts straight when it comes to Fortean phenomenon. Take the chupacabras for instance (cabras, with an “s”… these aren’t monogamous goat suckers). First they spell it wrong, then they place its roots in Mexico instead of Puerto Rico. Then, after failing to do that basic bit of research about where the term and initial sightings originated, the author proceeds to confuse the quasi-mythic chupacabras (a creature who has now lent his name, as Jon Downes notes, to various boogie men across Latin America) with the hairless canines reported across the southwest. This does a disservice to the rich chupacabras lore of Puerto Rico and the rest of Latin America, as well as diverting serious scientific inquiry from the mystery canines that have been photographed, filmed, and even shot and killed.

If mange ridden coyotes or domestic dogs, they seem to be otherwise healthy and active (see video below). But if they are healthy and hair-free for some other reason, what is that reason? And just what kind of canine are they? These are questions that could be answered relatively easily with a little attention. Even if it turns out they are just mangy coyote. We would know, we could push the data out there, and we could move on to other topics.

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But as long as organizations like CNN and others cast a jaundiced eye at the realm of Cryptozoology and other odd Fortean phenomenon — painting us in the same broad swathes as monkey soldiers and ignoring solid data and serious researchers while trotting out drunken witnesses for silly-season filler — legitimate investigators, and science itself, will continue to suffer by association. News organizations don’t trot out alchemists in lieu of chemists, astrologers instead of astronomers. Yet anytime Tom Biscardi or the local trailer park prophet trot out a magic monkey hand, the cameras are rolling.

It’s enough to make a former newsman sigh.

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