Following the surprising news that The National Geographic magazine had sold its soul to the Devil, TOP spoke to the Devil.
TOP: I would have thought that a healthy non-profit with 6.8 million members and a long history of integrity would have been immune to your blandishments.
The Devil: I know, right? But you know, it's the hard ones where I get all the satisfaction.
TOP: How did you manage it?
The Devil: Super-simple. As always. It's amazing how well it works. Just dangle enough dollars in front of anybody and almost all of them will go for it. Somebody [winks] once said 'the love of money is the root of all evil,' but fortunately for me nobody listened. Very few, anyway. As I keep proving with all those evangelical pastors...little private hobby of mine I keep after for my own enjoyment.
TOP: And yet the money means little to you.
The Devil: Nothing. The money I paid for this one is a rounding error to my minions. Money only impresses people who don't have it.
TOP: Didn't the National Geographic Society have enough money already? I mean, I thought they were healthy enough.
The Devil: That's the beauty. They were. But a magazine's a magazine, and they're all scrambling.
TOP: The National Geographic's mission is scientific education. And yet you are rather famously all about about indirection, misdirection, trickery, false appearances, cant, and dissembling. How are they going to reconcile the disparity?
The Devil: During the negotiations, they told me 'This magazine has had soul for 127 years; we've never had any trouble with our soul; we're not going to have any trouble with our soul.' They just don't think it will be a problem, is all.
TOP: Is that common?
The Devil: Absolutely. Almost universal. Nobody takes it seriously. Until it comes time to pay, that is. They focus on the money they're going to get and allow themselves to gloss over what it might cost them. I just tell them, 'don't worry, you can continue to operate completely independently. You'll never know I'm here.'
TOP: Until one day they want to do another story on climate change, and...
The Devil: Oh, I'll let them do a few more. But they'll gradually come to understand just how evil I am, and how completely powerless they are in the face of my overwhelming dominance...
TOP: And then you'll put your foot down.
The Devil: I won't even have to. I'll just clear my throat. They'll back down... [chortles] 'completely independently.' I think the beauty of it is that so few people are really even aware of their soul.
TOP: Until they no longer own it.
The Devil: ...Until they no longer own it. With institutions it's surprisingly fragile, no matter how robust it seems and how much people take it for granted.
TOP: So will we see big changes right away at the National Geographic's magazines?
The Devil: Not right away. I'm evil, but I'm subtle.
TOP: This is sort of off topic, but I'm curious. Doesn't God have anything to say about any of your shenanigans?
The Devil: You know, He's more powerful than I am, granted, but He's just not as interested. How He works is that He's in everybody. He puts an awareness of His goodness and decency in everyone. And then He backs off. Do you ever hear from the guy directly? Never. He's not a leader. He's all about individuals. It's not like He couldn't fight me, it's that He wants you to fight me.
TOP: So He just lets the chips fall.
The Devil: Well, I now own The National Geographic. You've got to ask yourself, did you see that coming?
TOP: I see your point. Well, we could continue this discussion, Devil, but I'm getting an icky feeling. But thanks for talking to us.
The Devil: My pleasure. Been a great week. Onward!
Original contents copyright 2015 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
emptyspaces: "From one of the comments: 'So as long as NG stays away from anthropology, archeology, astronomy, biology, climatology, geology, geography, paleontology, history, religion (other than Judeo-Christian) they should be okay.' Give the Devil his due, I guess."
Jacques: "This one will be a TOP classic...!"
jim woodard: "Great explanation on how God works, Mike! And yes, so sad to see the beginning of the end for National Geographic!"
Ken Tanaka: "I, too, was discouraged but not surprised by this news. Circulation of their flagship magazine, like most magazines, must be fading, perhaps quickly. Their newer Traveler magazine has probably grown and maintained an audience but it must also be rather frail. (I've seen it offered as a freebie subscription with some museum and PBS subscriptions.) NG recently started a history magazine; I've enjoyed through its first the quarterly issues. (Lively McHistory articles!)
But it's clear that National Geographic's future is not going to be in magazines. Its days with a primarily educational research mission are also over. In an age offering few real mysteries about the Earth 'NatGeo,' as it now calls itself, has been slowly edging its way into thrill-o-tainment via its cable channels and other programs featuring Woo-Hoo event coverage.
"I also suspect that they're very concerned about attracting a younger audience. I've had season tickets to the 'NatGeo Live!' lecture series for several years. It's clearly a hit and seems to be growing each year. The good news: it's a quick sell-out here in Chicago every year. The bad: more than half the audience appears to be my age (61) or older.
"So National Geographic has big challenges ahead. I can only imagine the blood on the conference room carpet after their senior management debated this majority sale to Fox. I wish them well."
MikeInMKE: "And with that ignorant, misinformed and hateful rant, you've lost me as a reader."
Mike replies: I take it the intended humor did not make it through?
GKFroehlich: "OMG! I have been a lifetime subscriber to National Geographic magazine, literally—a childless great-aunt gave me a subscription when I was born, and it has continued for ~65 years. The article at the link indicates circulation was dropping. Well, this move just caused it to drop by at least one more! I will be cancelling my membership.
"One has only to survey the unmitigated crap offered by the Fox-controlled National Geographic TV channels to see the future, just as the Devil described it to you in his interview! There's a damned good reason the we used to have laws preventing a majority of media outlets being owned by only a few individuals. It seems most of the people I deal with already get their 'news' from Fox; now we face the prospect of those people getting their 'science' from Fox as well. This news ruined my week."
Mike replies: I'm very much in favor of the traditional U.S. laws—now gone—that once encouraged freedom of speech, healthy competition, and freedom from monopoly by sensibly preventing the centralization of media ownership.
Ed Grossman: "How long before Disney buys the Smithsonian?"
John Bohn: "I also, am a lifetime reader of National Geographic Magazine. That being stated, NG has been dead to me for over fifteen years. NG were among the first major publications to demand that freelance and contract photographers relinquish copyright ownership of work published in NG. Many very well known long time NG contractors separated from the Society over this rights grab.
"The last time that I read the NG masthead, only a single staff photographer was listed. To be sure of this, moments ago I picked up the current issue only to discover that NG no longer has a masthead! Enough said...."