May 7, 2008

Do Right Wingers Hate Bigfoot?

last supper

Let’s try to follow the logic on this one. If you happen to produce a documentary about Jesus Christ that holds a thesis that right wingers don’t like, you can be almost labeled a near-nutcase because you have also produced the documentary “Bigfootville,” according to two conservative bloggers.

Your ability to be a critical thinker is called into question if you produce documentaries on Bigfoot and Roswell, but if you raise questions about the story of Jesus Christ (demonstrating your critical thinking?) you are merely called “bogus” because of faults in your “background”?


I am not here to defend or even promote Bloodlines, Bruce Burgess’s new documentary. Burgess (on the left, above) can defend himself. What I am challenging is how Burgess’s entire list of past documentaries are being trotted forth to show his “bizarre interests.” First, there is the implied criticism and ridicule against those topics. Then because he has made “those” kind of documentaries, supposedly the thinking goes, his ability to make good documentaries is somehow undermined.


Scott Whitlock (above) in bold font shouts out: “He’s directed and written documentaries on Bigfoot, the Bermuda Triangle, Area 51 and a secretive look at a U.S. government’s supposed cover-up of the alien landings at Roswell.”

Whitlock’s headline captures his complaint in a nutshell: “ABC Ignores Bigfoot, UFO Films of Jesus-Debunking Documentarian.”

Whitlcock asks: “Wouldn’t it be relevant to know that Burgess seems to be fascinated with every weird conspiracy imaginable?…How serious is Bigfoot and the the [sic] subject of the Bermuda Triangle?”

Whitlock’s blog appears on NewsBusters, which is a right wing blog. Its tagline reads: “Exposing and Combatting Liberal Bias.” Does this mean that right wingers hate Bigfoot?

His bio says that Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center, and has been featured in the “Inside Politics” section of the Washington Times, D.C.’s conservative newspaper.

According to Wikipedia, the Media Research Center (MRC) is a conservative media criticism organization based in Alexandria, Virginia, founded in 1987 by L. Brent Bozell III. The MRC has received financial support from several foundations, including the Bradley, Scaife, Olin, Castle Rock, Carthage and JM foundations.

In the summer of 2005, Media Research Center launched NewsBusters in cooperation with Matthew Sheffield, a conservative blogger involved in the CBS Killian documents story. (MRC has accused Wikipedia of a liberal bias, arguing it “habitually delivers unflattering content about conservative media figures while giving liberals a much lighter treatment,” so you should take that in consideration when reading my definition of MRC that I took from Wikipedia.)


NewsBusters’ Mark Finkelstein (above, at right, on his “rightAngle” show) also has blogged negatively about Bloodlines and the interviews Burgess has been receiving at the hands of the “liberal media.” In the NewsBusters’ blog entitled, “ABC Gives Airtime to Documentary-Maker With Dubious Rep Suggesting Resurrection a ‘Trick’,” Finkelstein takes on Bigfoot indirectly.

Finkelstein mentions the ABC interviewer addressed his concerns with Burgess in this fashion: “I do have to point out the fact that some of your other documentary work includes the Bermuda Triangle, Area 51, looking for Big Foot in Oklahoma. Why should we believe you of all people when it comes to something this huge?”

But this wasn’t enough for Finkelstein, who wrote that ABC’s “apologetic challenge fell well short of informing viewers just how bogus Burgess is. After all, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with documentaries about such subjects, so long as they take a hard, critical look at the claims.”

Okay, let me understand this. There is a new documentary, which has been made that takes a “hard, critical look at the claims” for the story of Jesus’s Resurrection. But something is wrong with it because the filmmaker’s newest production seems to not entirely believe the story of Jesus and has to be bogus because the filmmaker has made documentaries on topics like whether or not Bigfoot exists in Oklahoma, right?

Finkelstein, besides writing for NewsBusters, is also the host of “rightANGLE” (yes, it’s spelled that way), which is a weekly public-access Ithaca, New York, conservative television talk show. It was created by a group of local Republicans as “a counterweight to the liberal culture and media.” (Viewership numbers are not mentioned in Finkelstein’s overview.)

Do Whitlock and Finkelstein even know how to analyze and talk about documentary films without showing their own biases so overtly?

I taught a course on documentary film for thirteen years at a university in New England. I can tell you that Finkelstein and Whitlock don’t have a clue when discussing this subject. Every documentary film produced has a bias, a statement, and/or a comment to make about the point of view of the filmmaker.

Believe it or not, a “hard, critical look” at the subject matter being discussed within a documentary is not part of the definition of what makes a film a documentary. This has been true for a long time, and is in evidence from Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph Of The Will (1935) to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth (2006).

As I noted to my students in my course, when discussing the example of Nanook of the North (1922), historically noted as the “first documentary,” even that film is full of bias.

Nanook of the North was heavily biased to show the “normal AngloSaxon” family that Robert J. Flaherty wanted to re-create in the film. It was biased in its film set-ups by having the Inuits, for instance, move towards the already-placed camera.

Flaherty did things like filming inside half a super-igloo that he had the Inuit build so he would have enough light inside it. The reality is that igloos are smaller, darker, and definitely not as you see them in Nanook of the North.

Few knew at the time that Flaherty had a wife back home and two or more Inuit “wives” with him while he was filmmaking. Lost in some documentary courses is the fact that Robert Flaherty left with his film, made big bucks with Nanook of the North, and yet two years later the “star” of the film (Allakariallak, who played “Nanook”) died of starvation while living out the lifestyle that he actually lived in north-central Canada (not the one Flaherty “created” in his documentary).

A documentary film is a nonfiction motion picture produced from the point-of-view of the filmmaker, with his or her capturing of reality based on the filmmaker’s sense of what that reality is.

Bruce Burgess’s filmmaking career shows he likes anomalist films, such as documentaries on Bigfoot. I don’t know if Burgess is merely trying to make a living, in the wake of the financial success of The Da Vinci Code, when he made Bloodlines, or if he really “believes” what he filmed. I actually doubt fully the latter.

Every nonfiction film, every documentary, and actually, every blog should be viewed with a critical eye, “seen” and “read” thusly.

Whitlock’s and Finkelstein’s criticisms of Burgess are illogical, unconnected to any critical look at the material in his documentary, dismissive of Bigfoot without even looking at that evidence separately, and are ad hominem. I would have expected more from a couple guys trying to root out bias in the media.

BTW, I no more think that all “right wingers hate Bigfoot” than I consider that Burgess’s Bigfoot TV documentary, “Bigfootville,” is the final word in hominology.

If you don’t approach all documentaries and blogs with some kind of critical thinking, you’re in big trouble.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

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