When media mogul Rupert Murdoch purchased National Geographic back in September of 2015, he marked the occasion by firing around 200 employees of the widely revered science and culture magazine. Many of those terminated were respected writers, photographers, and editors, some of whom had been with the publication for over twenty years.
Almost immediately, issues started showing up on stands with covers that looked like promotions for a cheap documentary on the History Channel. Just two months after Murdoch’s $725 million acquisition, NatGeo published an issue with the title, “Strange but True: Secrets of the Supernatural Revealed.”
Years later we still get to see the fruits of Murdoch’s endeavor, now in the form of New Age pseudoscience. Writing for Gizmodo, Ryan Mandelbaum recounted how he attended a screener for a NatGeo series set to premiere late this March. By his description, the production seemed like just another Planet Earth-type docu-series with lots of “very pretty” nature shots. But his fears of what Murdoch’s NewsCorp would do to the once-esteemed publication were realized when he got a screener’s gift bag containing a $70 glass water bottle and “carefully selected and ethically sourced gemstones representing the building blocks of earth,” including “wood,” “water,” “earth,” “metal” and “fire.” The water bottle also came with an instruction manual.
Why does my water bottle have an instruction manual? It reads: “For the most precious moments in life! Gems raise the energy level of water. That’s been known for hundreds of years and scientifically proven. VitaJuwel Gemwater Accessories are not only Jewelry for Water, they’re a great tool to prepare heavenly gemwater like fresh from the spring.” The instructions are: screw in the gemstone vial, fill with water, and then wait 7 minutes.
Some of the claims are really wild. At one point, the pamphlet says: “Everything in nature vibrates. Gems naturally act like a source of subtle vibrations. These vibrations inspirit water, making it more lively and enjoyable.”
This is not to say the whole of NatGeo’s publishing is starting to reflect David Avocado Wolf’s Facebook page. A glance down NatGeo’s timeline shows much of content that the publication is admired for (although some stuff looks a bit clickbaity), but giving a nod to a rock’s non-existent magical powers makes it look as if Gwyneth Paltrow is popping in as a guest editor now and then.
In an era where fake news and quack science spreads like wildfire on social media, keeping the lines intact that separate magical thinking from reality is proving to be a losing battle. The notion that crystals and gemstones have “healing” properties isn’t a benign belief system — there are people who actually market this scam to cancer patients and other desperate people looking for “alternatives” where they believe modern medicine has failed them.
Giving magic rocks the NatGeo stamp of legitimacy just shows that the era of stupid is going to get worse before it gets better. Thanks, Rupert.
Featured image via Stocksy