The website TV Tropes analyzes something they call “network decay.” This happens when a television network changes over time to the point where it differs significantly or even totally from its initial incarnation.
This is the sort of change that has often happened with the niche cable TV channels that popped up in the 1980s. MTV is a prime example, changing from a network showing videos of pop music to whatever it does today that’s nothing like that.
The transformation of networks with a pretense of educational programming has been more dramatic. It’s hard to remember a time when there was such a thing as The Learning Channel, and it sort of wanted you to learn something.
Sometimes that change has been what TV Tropes classifies as “slipped.” In this category we find The Discovery Channel, which was a network mostly showing documentaries.
By the mid-1990s, they showed an obscene amount of home improvement shows and cooking shows aimed at stay-at-home moms…. Now, they’re being swamped with ‘guys building and/or blowing things up’ shows in the vein of MythBusters and Monster Garage. And about four different shows about ghost hunters.
Americans don’t like science or history, but they do like ghosts and blowing stuff up.
In the worst category, “total abandonment,” we find the History Channel. Not content with the audience of middle aged men, which I assume is the demographic for endless streams of documentaries about WWII, the History Channel branched out into bizarre territory. Here’s TV Tropes’ assessment:
Much of The History Channel’s (now called “History”) programming now consists of docu-soaps (Ice Road Truckers, Ax Men) and semi-documentaries with some (rather lowbrow) historical content (Pawn Stars and its spinoffs, as well American Pickers) focused on roughnecks or conspiracy theory “documentaries” about aliens, the Bible Code, ghosts, Atlantis, Nostradamus, and the end of the world, earning the network the derisive nickname “The Hysterical Channel”.
I’m not a big TV watcher, but I have seen episodes of their show Ancient Aliens. With its orange-faced host spouting a steady stream of non sequiturs, I at first took it for a comedy show sending up UFOlogists and the like. Alas, I think it was meant to be taken seriously by the gullible folks who must constitute a desirable TV demographic.
Why all this on network decay? Because I ran across an instance of what could be called Library Decay, on par with the History Channel’s descent into the bizarre.
No, I’m not talking about the way public libraries have been straying from their core mission of providing books to people. Libraries have long been a mishmash of infotainment.
Lending cooking pans and hosting video game parties might seems strange to the library purist, but at least the educational part of libraries was still there. Libraries are still places to go to get reliable information, and that’s one of the ways they’ve pitched themselves in the Age of Google.
And then there’s this, sent in by a Kind Reader:
UFO and Bigfoot researcher and author, Stan Gordon, will present “Strange Encounters of Pennsylvania,” during a program at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Carnegie Free Library in Connellsville.
Gordon said he will discuss the history of UFOs, Bigfoot, and other strange incidents and phenomena that have occurred in and around this area, as well as statewide. He will also give an update on recent strange encounters that he has been investigating.
When I read that, my heart sunk as much as finding out something called the History Channel was hosting Ancient Aliens.
The area with the “strange incidents” includes Kecksburg, PA, where something occurred in 1965 that has been the object of investigation by all the dubious UFO shows on TV that imply aliens are amongst us.
As Ancient Aliens might put it, there’s no evidence of an alien aircraft landing in Kecksburg, but there could have been one, and if there isn’t one, why is the government trying to cover it up by denying there was one? And how were the Nazis involved?
It’s just the sort of incident that appeals to people who prefer sensational speculation to mundane knowledge. Throw in unconfirmed Bigfoot sightings and you have a perfect blend of dubious “mysteries” to entertain the gullible.
If there was enough available evidence to decide either way, there wouldn’t be any “mysteries.” Then all the conspiracy mongers couldn’t believe that it’s more likely that an alien spaceship crashed and the government has covered it up for decades than in something more plausible.
Where’s the fun in that? Instead, they can tell us that there’s no proof alien spacecraft haven’t landed here, so there.
And this sort of thing is at a library why? It seems to me that when a library is hosting a speaker who wrote Silent Invasion: The Pennsylvania UFO-Bigfoot Casebook, there’s a serious disconnect from the mission of providing reliable information.
That’s the sort of source librarians should be questioning, not promoting. When it comes to information, shouldn’t libraries be a refuge against the sensationalist nonsense that passes for educational TV?
From what I can gather online about the book, it links a rash of UFO sightings with no evidence of aliens with a rash of Bigfoot sightings with no evidence of Bigfoots. I guess the Bigfoots are really space aliens, at least in Pennsylvania.
And before you say, “wait, AL, shouldn’t you read the book before judging it,” I’ll say no. Again, if there was real evidence, endless books and TV shows wouldn’t have to speculate so much.
As further research, I watched UFOs: the Best Evidence on Netflix. The evidence is clear. People have spotted objects that were flying and which they were unable to identify. To go any further, show me an alien ship.
The sort of thing that TV networks start showing when they have abandoned educational TV and want to lure the gullible masses shouldn’t be the sort of thing libraries host to get people through the doors, unless the purpose is to show how gullible people use hearsay and a the absence of proof to support their conspiracy theories.
But hey, I’ll change my mind if any actual evidence of alien spacecraft or Bigfoots actually turns up. Present the public with an actual alien spacecraft or the body of a bigfoot and the matter will be settled.
Until then, I’ll just try to avoid the cult of UFOlogists and Bigfootologists as much as possible. Despite this one talk, libraries are generally a good place to do that.