Saturday, 29 March 2014

Fury over the National Geographic channel historians digging up Second World War graves

Guy Walters and Ryan Kisiel, 'Fury over the National Geographic channel historians digging up Second World War graves' Daily Mail  28 March 2014

Dealer Gotlieb and three UK metal detectorists with spades and suitable facial expressions (Daily Mail).
The Daily Mail informs its readers that the formerly respected National Geographic is under attack for its forthcoming series called ‘Nazi War Diggers’ due to be screened (though initially only in the UK) on May 13, about excavating war graves on the Eastern Front from the Second World War (three ordinary men in a race against time - 'to save this history from being looted or lost’). The article quotes Dr Tony Pollard, the Director of the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology at Glasgow University, as saying the US TV show show is insensitive and a ‘disgrace’:
‘I’m appalled that a major broadcaster has sunk to the levels of exploitation television,’ he said. ‘I’ve been at the forefront of battlefield archaeology for fifteen years, and I have spent much time getting the subject taken seriously. 'This just looks like they’ve gone around digging up bodies, because TV likes a dead body.’ Dr Pollard regards the way in which the programme’s presenters handle human remains as being particularly insensitive. [...] ‘This shows no evidence of even the most basic archaeological principles - this is treasure hunting not archaeology. 'I have seen human remains brandished like trophies before but in dodgy youtube videos. The fact that this comes from a commissioned TV series is quite beyond belief. ‘The trailer on the internet was absolutely shocking, and very damaging for National Geographic.’ 
Other quotes come from Shannon Boomgarden (Natural History Museum of Utah) and Dr Sam Hardy (University College, London, who specialises in research into the illegal antiquities trade). The Mail, being the Mail adds some salacious detail about the production company which hardly adds to the expectation of gravitas* and also mentions the removal of the Gotlieb quote.
Yesterday, National Geographic appeared to back down over the programme, and removed the video and the archaeologists’ comments from their website. They also removed the quote from Mr Gottlieb. A spokesman for National Geographic said: ‘Unfortunately, a video excerpt from our show posted on our website did not provide important context about our team’s methodology. This series operates in direct conjunction with organizations officially licensed to excavate battlefield sites and adhered to their procedures.’ 

* "the same company that made Sex Box - the controversial feature aired on Channel 4 in October where couples had sex in a sound-proofed box before being interviewed about the experience in front of an audience".

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