Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Not Finding Bigfoot

New from the "Well, I'm Just Shocked" Department come allegations that Animal Planet's latest series, "Finding Bigfoot," includes faked segments and stories that are hoaxes.

The show, which is billed as a riveting adventure about "four eccentric but passionate members of the Bigfoot Field Researchers," was supposed to be a skeptical look at the whole weird pastime of Bigfoot-hunting.  But as I know all too well, skepticism doesn't sell, but sensationalism does.  And it's damn hard to sensationalize something for which you have no hard evidence at all.  So faced with having hour-long riveting footage of nothing, and doing a little creative editing, guess what the makers of "Finding Bigfoot" did?

The first episode included a segment on the alleged "signalling technique" used by Bigfoots to communicate with each other, in which they knock on trees.  So, we are treated to video footage of a wooded area at night, and lo and behold, we hear knocks.  And then the "researchers" tell us about loud, eerie Bigfoot vocalizations, called "call blasting," and back we go to the woods at night, and egad! we hear a howl.

The knocks and the howl, of course, were added in later.  They are, in fact, some people knocking on wood and a guy going "Awoo."  Of course, nowhere does it say "video recreation" on the show; you're led to believe that it's all real, that the "researchers" actually got good recordings of Bigfoot howls.

Not only was the audio faked; some of the video was, too.  A video clip taken in Lumpkin County, Georgia using a car dashboard camera, alleged to be of a Bigfoot, turned out to be a college kid in a gorilla suit.  Even so, the intrepid "researchers" went to northern Georgia, and the video was used in the show -- without any mention of the fakery.

Of course, now the "researchers" are doing handstands trying to convince us that they knew nothing about all of the hocus-pocus.  The leader of the "researchers," who is named (I am not making this up) Matt Moneymaker, said, "We heard both the scream and knocks in the field, but they didn’t get a good recording of either so they inserted their own simulations during editing, apparently.  We didn’t know what they were going to do in that regard. They wouldn’t tell us whether they actually recorded the sounds we heard, and they wouldn’t let us see the finished episodes either."  Um, sure.  Right.  You recorded a segment about how you had an audio track you didn't have, and you didn't know it?  Allow me, at this juncture, to remind you how well lying about altered tapes worked for Richard Nixon.

As far as the college kids in the gorilla suit, Moneymaker accuses Sheriff Stacy Jarrard of making up the hoax story to "quell any fear that local people might have about a monster in the woods."   "No one from the sheriff’s department went out to speak with any of the neighbors after the incident," Moneymaker told reporters.  "We spoke with the neighbors though when we were shooting the episode.  There was never any college students living in the area, and there was no photo of college kids with a gorilla costume."

Moneymaker stopped just short of saying, "I am not a crook."

Allow me to state for the record, as I've done before, that I don't think that it's impossible that Bigfoot exists.  Of all the cryptids reported, I think it's the one that has the greatest likelihood of being true, certainly better than the Loch Ness Monster, El Chupacabra, or "Mothman."  The lack of any shred of hard evidence is troublesome, but I'm still hoping some will turn up eventually.  Until then, the jury's still out.

On the other hand, no one should be surprised that on increasingly sensationalized networks such as Animal Planet, Syfy, and The Not Actually History Channel, producers rely on cheesy editing to convince the viewers that the "Ghost Hunters" have seen ghosts, the "MonsterQuest" people have seen monsters, and now, that the "Finding Bigfoot" people have found Bigfoot.  Given that no one would watch a show in which nothing happens, we shouldn't expect these programs to be anything but fiction.  If we believe them, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

1 comment:

  1. My criticism of your argument here is that you seem to accept the words of Sheriff Stacy Jarrard at face value. Did he provide any actual evidence of his claim that the incident was hoaxed? No. He only "said" so. It is not beyond possibility that this Sheriff did indeed make up this story about fictional college kid hoaxers -- one possible motivation may be to quell any fears about sasquatch the neighboring households may have. I agree with Matt here. So long as Sheriff Jarrard does not provide a picture -- or any other physical evidence of a hoax -- his claim of it being a "hoax" is just that: merely a claim and nothing more. He has not "proven" it as a hoax without corresponding evidence.