If you believe, as I do, that Greenpeace is to conservation what televangelism is to religion, all that would need to be said about Animal Planet’s “Whale Wars” is that the “captain” of the Sea Shepherds’ vessel, Paul Watson, is a co-founder of that organization. Because, however, Greenpeace disputes Watson’s claim, amidst what appears to be a long-running feud between them, perhaps more may be required.
So here's some. As reported on Wikipedia, Watson has, at one time or another, been involved in campaigns on behalf of wolves, sharks, seals, dolphins, American Indians, and now whales. Along the way he has relieved himself of opinions like his belief “that ‘no human community should be larger than 20,000 people,’ human populations should be reduced to ‘fewer than one billion,’ and that only those who are ‘completely dedicated to the responsibility’ of caring for the biosphere should have children.”
Though the fact of it may not have reached Animal Planet, Watson has also developed quite a revealing take on the media. As he says in his book, heroically titled Ocean Warrior: “Survival in a media culture meant developing the skills to understand and manipulate media to achieve strategic objectives.”
But enough about Watson. It’s the show that’s the thing, and a good critique of “Whale Wars” was published earlier this month on the Huffington Post. The author, Richard Spilman, harpooned the series for its approving portrayal of vigilantism and feckless grandstanding.
“So what’s the problem with Whale Wars?” he asks. “The problem is that it is cheap exploitation in praise of what is nothing less than eco-terrorism. It is the glorification of vigilantism on the high seas. And oh, by the way, the Sea Shepherds do almost nothing to protect the whales where they really do need protection.”
Mostly what they do is speed around offending ships in inflatables and attempt to loft stink bombs onto their decks, all the while flying and wearing the skull and crossbones of the Jolly Roger, an amusing choice of insignia considering that they don’t actually fight, or even scare, anybody.
In any contest between whales and whalers I would root for the whales. But if the choice is between whalers and the Sea Shepherds, I’m with the whalers.