Friday, 28 March 2014

"Nazi War Diggers" in New York Times

Hoik Hole dug on burial site by National Geographic team note pinpointer
(edited from photo in Daily Mail)

Tom Mashberg ('TV Series Is Criticized in Handling of Deceased', New York Times March 28, 2014) weighs in on the controversy surrounding National Geographic's metal detecting spree on the Eastern Front. Tony Pollard, director of the Center for Battlefield Archaeology at the University of Glasgow (who has appeared on National Geographic programs and other documentaries about the unearthing of war dead) is quoted as saying:
"I have never seen such a casual and improper attitude toward the treatment of human remains [...] It makes me shiver,” [...]  Dismayed archaeologists posted the minute-long video on YouTube and other websites on Thursday. But National Geographic, citing copyright infringement, sought to scrub the clip from unauthorized sites.
However it seems the damage has already been done, critics say the video initially used to promote the show "was enough to convince them that the archaeological work was being done in a “cavalier” and “disrespectful” manner, as Mr. Pollard put it".
In the clip, a cast member is shown pulling hard on a half-buried leg bone, which the team speculates belonged to a German soldier who fought the Red Army in Latvia, on the Eastern Front, toward the end of the war. Once the bone is disinterred, another cast member holds it to his shoulder and speculates that it might be an arm bone. His colleague responds that it is too long and must come from a leg. “So that’s his leg,” the second cast member then says.
Mashberg also describes the thoughtless TV channel's other attempts at damage control. 
Chris Albert, a spokesman for National Geographic Channel in Washington, said in an interview that “we understand and appreciate many of the issues that are being raised,” but he added that there is “a lot of misinformation and gossip.” “Part of it is our fault because we released a clip completely out of context that was not representative of the show,” he said. “But I hope people will withhold judgment until the show starts.” [...] In its initial press materials, the network quoted one of the cast members, Craig Gottlieb, a dealer in military artifacts, as saying, “I feel that by selling things that are Nazi-related and for lots of money, I’m preserving a part of history that museums don’t want to bother with.” By Friday, however, that comment had been deleted from the site. [...] One of the two metal-detecting specialists on the show, Kris Rodgers, said on Twitter that he agreed the show had been promoted with “a very bad clip.” In response to the outcry, however, he added: “Trust me. It was done properly.”
Mashberg correctly reports that the view is that the program is a sensationalist attempt to generate ratings at a time when archaeology-themed shows have become a mainstay of cable programming.

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