Following up our recent stories about the National Geographic Channel debunk programme, GARY VAL TENUTA tells us of a similar exercise last year on ‘The Learning Channel’, and of his subsequent correspondence with the TV company…
In response to Doug Rogers’s article re. The National Geographic program…
Greetings from the US. Last year, TLC (The Learning Channel) broadcast (twice) a ‘documentary’ which was titled something like ‘Unmasking The World's Greatest Deceptions’, in which they attempted to debunk several alleged phenomena, such as the so-called ‘psychic surgery’ practiced in the Philippines, and other unusual phenomena. Included in their line up of targets was the crop circle phenomenon. They successfully shot down each and every target in their sights and saved the crop circles for last. That's when it got interesting. I made some notes during the program and tried to get a response from TLC. The following is the chain of events:
MY LETTER TO TLC:
Dear Program Director:
My name is Gary Val Tenuta. I'm a freelance writer. I am assembling information for a possible article to be published in a national magazine (FATE Magazine) as well as for BEYOND Magazine in the UK. The article, which will focus on the relationship between mainstream media and unusual phenomena such as UFOs and crop circles, will feature what I believe was a masterful bit of disinformation on the part of TLC in an attempt to deceive the American public regarding the crop circle phenomenon. I would like to give you the opportunity to respond, point-by-point, to the comments below:
1) The promo for the program seemed to emphasize the crop circle portion of the show, yet that part of the program was left until the very end. One can't help but ask if this was intentional with two main goals: (a) it was a typical ‘hook’ to get viewers to watch the whole program and, more to the point, (b) it set the viewer up, psychologically, for the big finale. How? Simply by convincingly demonstrating hoax after hoax after hoax in an attempt to ‘condition’ the viewer to believe what they would finally be shown regarding the crop circles, ie. that they are unquestionably a scam of some kind. This was, in essence, a confidence building tactic not unlike the same method used by hoaxers such as some of those which the program attempted to expose, as the program inched its way to the big finale: the crop circles.
2) The host exclaimed, "No one has been caught in the act of making one... (dramatic pause) ...until now". That statement, in itself, was a bold-faced lie right off the bat. Your program DID NOT "catch" anyone making a crop circle. Your film crew set up the entire demonstration with cameras rolling! No one was "caught" doing anything! The real truth is no-one (to my knowledge) has ever been "caught" creating a crop circle and the producers of the program most certainly must know that. Otherwise, if this was a fair and balanced report, some attempt would have been made to interview such culprits. Apparently no attempt was made to locate such hoaxers for an interview. Why?
3) The host claimed the hoaxers used [quote] "rope, a wood plank and surveyor's tape, and nothing else." But there certainly appeared to be something else; there seemed to be a considerable amount of light on the field where they were working. This was attributed to natural moonlight. I don't think it was. The lighting appeared to encompass only the area in which the men were working. Still, if it was moonlight (which, again, I doubt), it is not likely that moonlight of such magnitude was available on each of the nights when the thousands of crop circles were formed over the past dozen years or so. Could TLC's band of hoaxers have created their design in the pitch black darkness of night without the aid of the kind of lighting we saw in your program? I'd like to see that.
4) The crop design created by the hoaxers was noted to be similar to the huge formation which appeared near Stonehenge and which has been dubbed the
’Julia Set’ because of its mathematical properties. In fact, the comparison was not a fair one. The Julia Set consisted of something like 189 circles [151, actually; Gary is mixing this up with the Windmill Hill triple Julia Set, which had 194. We have corrected this paragraph accordingly for Swirled News readers – Ed] and covered an area much larger than the design created by the TLC hoaxers. Furthermore, TLC proudly announced it took only six hours for their hoaxers to create their formation, but neglected to mention that the Julia Set may have been created in fifteen minutes or less, according to a pilot who flew over that field. On his first pass over the field, he saw no design whatsoever. Yet, some fifteen to twenty minutes later, the design was fully visible. An interview with that pilot would have been in order. However, no such interview was presented. Why?
5) TLC made no mention at all of the scientific analysis which has been done on the affected crop. The analysis has repeatedly shown anomalous molecular changes within the affected crop and suggests the crop was subjected to very short blasts of high energy heat; possibly microwave-generated. One of the lab researchers is named Dr Levengood. I'm sure he would have been happy to contribute his findings to your program. An interview with him would have been in order. However, no such interview was presented. Why?
6) TLC implied that the video of the unexplained balls of light circling above a field was a hoax but no evidence was provided to support that claim. Other video footage of such anomalous lights exists yet none was presented and there was no interview with the people who shot the footage. Why?
7) Not one crop circle researcher was allowed to counter any of the claims made by TLC. Why? Award-winning investigative journalist, Linda Moulton Howe is considered by many to be one of the world's leading crop circle researchers. She is always available and accessible for interview and comment. An interview with her would have been in order. No such interview was presented. Why?
To your credit, your propaganda program has worked very well. Since it aired once before, several months ago, I can't count the number of people I've talked to who saw it and are now convinced that all crop circles are hoaxes. I have no doubt TLC knew, going into this project, that it would work because you knew most people would never take the trouble to investigate the phenomenon any further. I also have no doubt TLC knew that most people tend to think "Well, if it's on TLC, it must be true".
Along with your reply to these comments, I would also like to know who owns TLC and the Discovery Channel. I would appreciate it if you would supply me with that information. I respectfully await your response.
Gary Val Tenuta
(My mailing address, phone number and email address were supplied for their reply)
Several days passed and I received no reply. So I e-mailed the same letter again. About a week later I received the following:
“We are very sorry our program upset you. We encourage feedback about our shows and will pass your comments on to our program management and executives. This will help them plan for future shows.
By their nature, documentaries express the view of the filmmaker and are their personal opinions. Our network intends to present viewers with a window of the world and to expose people to a wide variety of issues. We'd like our viewers to draw their own conclusions about what they see.
Feel free to contact us for any further information via e-mail or call us toll-free at 1-888-404-5969, Monday through Friday, 8AM to 6PM (ET).
Thanks for taking the time to write. We appreciate it.
So I accepted their invitation and made several phone calls to DISC/TLC (Discovery/The Learning Channel). I got two live people and four voice mails.
One of the two live people showed no real concern in what I was calling about and shuffled me off to another phone number (one of which turned out to be a voice mail). The other live person (in the Communications dept.) seemed rather put off that I was questioning TLC's credibility. She also shuffled me off to another phone number (another voice mail). I made these calls early in the day. By day's end, no one from DISC/TLC had returned my calls…
GARY VAL TENUTA, Everett, Washington, USA
See Carol Pedersen’s current article about the National Geographic Channel (January 2002) for more evidence of just how much television companies really do “encourage feedback”… - Ed.