Discovery Communications (NASDAQ: DISCA) has unearthed a new revenue stream: faux documentaries on pseudo-scientific and occulture topics. Slate‘s Chris Kirk observes:
These faux documentaries, which can best be described as anti-educational, seem to have grown more common on in recent years. The Disney-owned History channel, for example, has earned criticism for airing pseudoscience programs like Ancient Aliens, UFO Files, and the Nostradamus Effect instead of programs about, you know, history.
I originally wrote about this for the alternative news site Disinformation when Fox broadcast its Lunargate documentary in 1999. I was skeptical: the main reason for Fox’s decision appeared to be the combination of cost-effective content, a large audience, ratings, and profitable licensing markets. At the time, Disinformation’s founder Richard Metzger was shooting the Disinfo Nation television series for Channel 4 which would later be pitched to the SyFy Network in the United States. The series led to a DVD and book, and to straight-to-DVD and streaming video releases. There’s a long history of these documentaries: Jacques Bergier and Louis Pauwels created the genre with The Morning of the Magicians, and I recall Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World book and television series from the 1980s.
Today, I treat such work as an information and sociological model of rumours, and psychological receptiveness to fringe ideas.