Nazi War Diggers is a new show from NatGeo (formerly the National Geographic Channel but hipsterized to gain a new audience). The premise is similar to recent shows in this country, except that it takes place in Europe. Stars of the show dig up World War II artifacts, and apparently human remains too. I’m not going to explain the show or critique it. I’m also not going to link to the show and increase their page rank.
What I am going to do is talk about the root of the problem by first talking about Wal-Mart and Starbucks.
Why is Wal-Mart in business? They are constantly the butt of liberal jokes because “everyone knows” what kind of person shops at Wal-Mart. Their treatment of employees, both in the U.S. and in factories overseas, is pretty much well know, and yet, they’re still in business. Not only are they in business, but, they are thriving.
So, why is Wal-Mart thriving? Because the people that shop there want them to thrive. For whatever reason, Wal-Mart customers have decided that having a major retail outlet in their small town is preferable to having a number of smaller businesses run by their friends and family.
Cost. It’s the only thing that makes sense. People shop at Wal-Mart because it’s cheap. It’s cheap enough for customers to look past the decline in small businesses that inevitably happens when Wal-Mart comes to town. It’s cheap enough for customers to not concern themselves with the treatment Wal-Mart employees receive.
So, Wal-Mart is a crapy company with questionable ethics, but, people shop there because it’s cheap. Let me restate that: customers make the choice to shop there.
In many respects, Starbuck’s is the complete opposite of Wal-Mart. They treat their employees well, the have environmental programs in place (whether they always work is another matter, but, they’re trying), and, they actively try to have a good relationship with coffee farmers and communities in areas where they get their supplies. They’re not perfect, and, I’m sure many people reading this have objections to what I’ve said. Do the research, though, and you’ll see that it’s mostly true.
One way in which Starbuck’s is similar to Wal-Mart is that they are a corporation that tends to put similar businesses out on the street when they move in. I have a difficult time sussing out why this is. Starbuck’s isn’t cheaper, and in fact, they are usually a lot more expensive than the local places. They are consistent, however. You can go to a Starbucks in New York City, and then one in San Francisco, and have the same experience. The store will look similar, the pastries will be similar, and the coffee will taste the same.
When I’m on the road and just want a soy latte, I go to Starbuck’s. I know what it’s going to taste like and I’m never disappointed. I’ve been to hundreds of local coffee shops around the country and a soy latte at each one tastes just a little bit different. Some are good and some are bad. If I have time to live in the neighborhood and figure out what I like then I’ll do that. If I don’t have time, I’m going to Starbuck’s.
So why does Starbuck’s put other shops out of business? The ultimate answer is that they have what consumers want. Whatever that is isn’t important, unless you own a coffee shop. What’s important is to note that Starbuck’s didn’t put the local coffee shop out of business. The businesses friends, family, and neighbors did. In a capitalist economy, the consumer is king.
Say what you will about big business and corporations. They fact remains that consumers dictate what businesses succeed and which ones don’t. When a corporation eliminates your options they call that a monopoly and it’s illegal. It’s not a perfect system, but, it mostly works.
What do Wal-Mart and Starbuck’s have to do with this show and NatGeo? They didn’t decide to put other stores out of business. They didn’t decide to become huge, evil, corporations. They simply decided to give customers what they wanted and what they wanted was a place that was convenient, sometimes cheap, but always consistent. As soon as that stops, business will slow down and stores will close. Look at Best Buy and Barnes and Noble. They are responding the the growing internet marketplace by closing stores. Eventually all books and electronics will be purchased online. They didn’t realize that soon enough and the consumers made them pay for it.
So why is NatGeo not to blame? Because they’re a business. They’re a business that is in the business of giving their customers what they want. NatGeo was pitched a show that was similar to a few other shows that have been very successful. We’d all like to think that networks are run by people with sound ethics and moral principles. Wake the eff up! NatGeo is run by a corporation that is beholden to their customers and their shareholders. They have a responsibility, not for ethical programing, but for profitable programming.
Everyone seems to be upset at NatGeo, but, the only way to stop NatGeo from airing shows like Nazi War Diggers is to stop watching Nazi War Diggers. Of course, just having us ivory tower, high-minded, NPR-listening, farmer’s market only-shopping archaeologists and environmentalists stop watching isn’t going to work. Our numbers aren’t big enough. What we need to do is tell others why they shouldn’t watch the show.
Your Assignment, Should You Choose To Accept It
Be vocal. That’s it. Pretty simple, really. Tell family and friends why they shouldn’t watch the show. Tell them to tell their family and friends. Eventually, word will spread. It’s a simple theory, but as Wal-Mart shows us, people are lazy and activism is hard.
Don’t blame NatGeo for bad programming. They’re doing what their customers want them to do. NatGeo has a potential to put on some really good shows. We just have to show them that good, ethical, shows about archaeology can be what people want. Maybe we should all get together and pitch them something. Maybe a reality show about CRM archaeologists. Talk about drama…
Thanks for reading and destroy me in the comments!