National Geographic Channel, what the hell are you thinking? Today I received an alarming message on the HistArch listserv. It seems like the corporate television channel bearing the National Geographic brand has created another riveting archaeological site looting show for its mouth-breathing audience. This time, they even desecrate human remains for the entertainment of the viewing audience. This show, creatively titled “Nazi War Diggers” (which makes it wholly different from their other site plundering show “Diggers”). Hopefully, this marks a new low for NatGeo.
DISCLAIMER: I don’t have cable and I never watch NatGeo because of the disgraceful way it portrays site looting as a justifiable, financial pursuit. As I’ve said before, I hate site looting shows for a number of reasons (see Why do archaeologists care about looters, Part 1?). I’ve also written about how we archaeologists can create interconnected media cells that will do much to combat the disinformation these shows purvey (see Why do archaeologists care about looters, Part 2?). My commentary on this show is based on photos on the NatGeo website and a small YouTube clip of one episode that used to be on the NatGeo website. For some strange reason, I can’t seem to find the original.
Watching unskilled military memorabilia purveyors and metal detecting looters rip human remains from an uncontrolled excavation was a pretty shocking site. I know NatGeo execs were probably thinking, “Nobody will mind this show. It’s okay to loot WWII battlefields. I mean, they were Nazis. Or, fought against the Nazis. Well, at least they aren’t Native American…” NatGeo execs: It’s still a pretty bad idea to desecrate the mass graves of Nazis. Most people care about digging up human remains. Even the remains of Nazis.
Evidentially, I’m not the only one that disapproves of the show. Other folks are appalled by this show too and NatGeo seems to be pulling down some of the stuff related to the show from their website. Other archaeology bloggers have also jumped on board to urge the network to get rid of this program. Conflict Antiques has an excellent list of questions regarding the huge ethical mistake the network is making by plundering World War II battlefields (http://conflictantiquities.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/national-geographic-clearstory-nazi-war-diggers-ethical-legal-questions/). Conflict Antiques also has amassed a wealth of our responses regarding this travesty (http://conflictantiquities.wordpress.com/2014/03/27/national-geographic-clearstory-nazi-war-diggers-q-and-a/). Even CRM firms are piping up. The Moore Archaeological and Environmental Services blog has also taken a stance against the show http://www.mooregroup.ie/2014/03/nazi-war-diggers/. I’m sure the Society for American Archaeology and Society for Historical Archaeology won’t be far behind.
Social media outlets have been mobilized against NatGeo and the show’s stars. A steady uproar against #naziwardiggers has been raging this week. You can follow the conversation on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/search?q=Nazi%20War%20Diggers&src=typd&f=realtime. It also seems like archaeologists and others have been pouncing on one of the show’s “talents”–Kris Rodgers–for his participation in grave robbing. His personal Twitter feed is pretty full of disapproving Tweets.
Although this show is in such poor taste that even non-archaeologists are appalled, it’s awesome to see so many archaeologists and friends of archaeology ban together against the needless destruction and commodification of archaeological sites. I love seeing archaeologists use social media and the internet to go on the offensive. Get a hint. The show is a bad idea, NatGeo. You’d think the public outcry has convinced the network of that, but it looks like they’re just going to delete the show from U.S. airways (http://conflictantiquities.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/national-geographic-clearstory-nazi-war-diggers-delete-craig-gottlieb-quote/).
Now if only they could delete Diggers too.
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