Monday, November 17, 2008

Save the Whale Savers!

Gather round children
I’ll tell you a tale
Of some stupid-ass people
Saving the whales

I just don’t even know where to begin when trying to explain the idiocy I just witnessed. I’ve watched the commercials and have to admit, this show actually looked pretty good, but then I watched two back to back episodes and my mouth is hanging open wider than a panting dogs. The show is called Whale Wars and it’s on the channel Animal Planet. And you’ll have to excuse me, but this kind of idiocy, even in today’s world, is just really astonishing.

The show is about a misguided and foolish action nerd (if you don’t know what an action nerd is, you need to read the book Fluke, Or, I Know Why The Winged Whale Sings by Christopher Moore) who puts lives at risk with blatant disregard in order to protect whales in Antarctica. There was just so much idiocy I’m having trouble processing it, but let me try to summarize the first two episodes for you.

This guy named Paul Watson, one of the founding members of Greenpeace has an organization called Sea Shepherds because Greenpeace kicked him out (he seems very proud of this fact) for being absolutely batshit crazy. Sea Shepherds bypass diplomacy and peaceful tactics to stop whaling in favor of what can only be described as terrorist methods.

They fly a skull and crossbones pirate flag from the ship’s mast. The ship, coincidentally, is called the Steve Irwin and based in Australia. The widow Irwin helps dedicate the ship in the opening scenes, at which point you think these people are going to be reputable. You’re wrong for thinking that though.

Let the batshit crazy begin. So, the ship’s captain is Paul Watson. He has a crew of what seem to be a semi-competent two or three other people with experience at sea, and a bunch of green, impressionable kids who want to make the world a better place and have no idea what they are getting into. The idea of actively taking part in whale preservation is one thing. Being pressured to act like eco-terrorists is another.

As they introduce the crew, everyone seems to be a Quartermaster—which doesn’t make a lot of sense. The crew totals 35 and at least half of them are called Quartermasters. They eat all vegan meals cooked by a man named Potsy and all but 4 or 5 people are puking their guts out by day two because they have never been aboard a ship before.

But that’s tame compared to what happens from here. Instead of training the crew a bit, running them through their paces in the warm Australian waters, they decide to sail to Antarctica before doing any drilling. The first drill they do is to try to lower a crew on one of their Zodiac boats into the water. That would be the freezing water. The water you would die in if you were in it for more than a moment or two. They had just given a comical lecture to the crew about how spending any amount of time in that water is a death sentence when they tried to lower these poor untrained schmucks into the frigid water when, of course, a line snapped because one of the ships 1st mate—second in charge to only the Captain, didn’t know what the hell he was doing.

Into the drink go four poor souls. By some miracle, none were injured in the fall and none of them drifted far from the upturned Zodiac boat, so they were all able to clamor atop. Of course, getting a line to them to tow them in, for a group of completely inexperienced and incompetent sailors was much like a horse trying to perform brain surgery. For the record, it’s really hard to hold a scalpel with a hoof.

By another act of God they get the line out to the popsicles and tow them in and no one has any major injuries, but during the clusterfuck Potsy the chef, who had since then been promoted to assistant of the helicopter pilot (his vegan cooking must have sucked) somehow managed to nick the blade of the tail rotor of the chopper. Apparently, that’s really, really, really bad.

The helicopter pilot tells this to Captain Watson, who mostly seems concerned with chastising the shitty vegan chef. In his second absolute boneheaded move that shows an absolute disregard for those under his command, he has the pilot do a test flight to see if there are any problems. Of course, if there are, the pilot crashes into that really cold water and dies. Fortunately, he didn’t, but decides that the helicopter is unsafe for further flight.

So, it’s a bit odd that they have the unrepaired helicopter up and searching for Japanese whaling ships the very next day, but not too odd considering that safety not only doesn’t come first on board the Steve Irwin, it doesn’t even come in last. Safety of the crew just doesn’t even make Captain Watson’s list. He seems almost eager to help the members of his crew become whale martyrs. So, when repeated radio requests to Greenpeace (who kicked Watson out for being batshit crazy) are met with disdain and a refusal to help the Sea Shepherds find Japanese whaling ships, up goes the helicopter once again.

But let me skip ahead a bit because if I cover every bit of idiocy I’ll fall over and die of carpel tunnel somewhere after page 746 of this report.

Captain Watson gathers the crew for a meeting. He wants two volunteers to board a Japanese whaling ship without permission with the express intent of having them held as “hostages” so that he can get their names in the press and force the Australian military to act on their behalf. When the green whale huggers all fail to volunteer, Captain Watson is pretty upset—after all, they all told him that they were willing to die to save the whales!

So, he uses guilt as a means of getting Potsy to go. After all, he ruined the helicopter. And then some English kid named Giles agrees to go too. Woo hoo! Human bait!

Of course, before they send these two kids to board the ship, they attack it first with stinkbombs and attempts at ruining the ship’s propeller. After this, Herr Captain feels it would be a good time to send in the clowns, so off goes the Zodiac containing the hopeful martyrs and to kill time while they are on the way to intercept, they have the only person aboard the Steve Irwin who speaks Japanese insult the people on board the whaling ship.

Surprise! Surprise! The Japanese sailors weren’t happy to see them when they got on board! Who could have seen that coming? When the helicopter pilot (you remember him right? He’s the one flying the helicopter with the nicked up tail rotor, miles from his own ship) radios to tell the command crew of the Steve Irwin that the Japanese are treating their guys roughly. All around good guy Paul Watson wants to know if their getting it all on video so they can send it to the press.

Now is probably a good time to talk about piracy. You see, when you board a vessel at sea without the permission of the captain and crew of the ship you’re boarding, you have just committed an act of piracy. If a pirate is apprehended, he is typically tried in the country of the ship he or she has attacked. Captain Watson neglected to mention that to the lads before he patted them on the back and sent them off.

None of this concerns the good Captain though. The returning helicopter brings back video of the apprehension of the two hostages/pirates (take your pick---really, it probably doesn’t matter unless you consider that they are aboard the ship and in the custody of people who think they are pirates). One particular photo has the crew high fiving! Potsy is in pain and being manhandled by the Japanese crew! Woo hoo! This will definitely make the papers! Nevermind that two kids are being held captive on board a Japanese whaling ship and likely to be kept there for three months until they return to Japan and be charged with acts of piracy on the high seas.

True fact: Some countries punish piracy by death.
True fact 2: The 9/11 attacks were technically, acts of piracy (air ships count the same as water ones)

Sadly, I was left off at this point. I have to wait until next Friday to find out the fate of the two dumb pirates and their idiot, uncaring captain. If history is any indicator, sheer dumb luck will save the crew and bespectacled female action nerds will gush over them when they are returned to the Steve Irwin, but we shall see. Idiocy like this is too engaging to pass up and I’m afraid I must watch next week to see what happens next.

I’ll admit, the only whale I’ve ever seen was at SeaWorld, but still, I can appreciate the plight of people who do their best to save them. I’m all for action nerds. This idiot captain takes it too far though. He rationalizes that violence must be met with violence. He lives by Hammurabi’s code, and sadly, he neglectfully and foolishly risks the lives of people who simply want to make a difference in the world. He seems all too eager to get someone killed for the publicity it would gain. He is dangerous and in my opinion, evil.

Watch the show. Save the whales. But don’t be fooled by this arrogant narcissist. There are lines that people of good intentions do not cross. And a Captain’s first responsibility should always be to the safety and well being of his crew. This man will get someone killed. And like a train wreck, I just can’t look away.


Anonymous said...

I laughed, I cried and then I cried some more at your review. Save the whales but this meglomaniac's tactics are not the way to do it. It amazes me how many people are prepared to give money and support to this man who is mad as a cut snake!

Sorry the less interesting to film but far more useful work behind the scenes through political pressure and legal action is how whaling will stop.

Soulflower said...

Terrorsim huh? Just curious how you regard the US military? Why is it then that Sea Shepard is not being charged with committing crimes? Why isn't Watson and crew being hauled off to Guantanemo? BECAUSE THEY ARE ENFORCING LAWS JACKASS! International laws have been made, but through loopholes and lack of enforcement the oceans are left wide open to exploitation. What Sea Shepard does is perfectly legal...whether you approve of it or not buddy. And you seem to forget, when you call out the Captain for putting people's lives at risk, that noone was forced to take part in the campaign, noone was forced to board the Sea Shepard ship. They are driven by a biocentric perspective that appreciates all life, and recognizes that humanity is only a thread connected to the greater web of life. If we continue to rape our planet, degradating her health and viability, and exploiting her resources, we are putting the long-term future of humanity at grave risks. You may think that this ideology is crazy brother, and I say to very afraid then, because there are a lot more of use out there than you think!

Albert Riehle said...

First of all, I'm not your brother. Second of all, it's no one, not noone. There is no such word as noone...unless that's how they spelled noon in Old English.

What they do is not legal, they get away with it because allowing them to get away with it is better than that Japanese whaling industry calling more attention to themselves.

And sure, no one forced anyone to do anything, but that doesn't mean they weren't coerced.

Read it again Soulflower, I'm not against action being taken against the whalers, I watched the show because I support it, but the captain and his methods are no better than those he fights against.

Soulflower said...

If the worst you can critisize me for is a misspelled word, then my point was clearly inarguable. There is an obvious difference between the actions being taken by organizations such as Sea Shepard, and industry's such as the Japanese whalers. That difference is called ecocide. Sea Shepard is driven by compassion; for our planet, ecosystems, wildlife, and the future of humanity. They are committing the ultimate acts of selflessness...not only for the whales and seals, the last great land of biodiversity, the health and viability of our oceans, but also for the future of our children, the next generation and those that we hope will follow. My children will be left with the world that we leave them. They will be forced to deal with the problems that we are creating. For how many decades now have environmentalists and ecologists been screaming enough? And where have those tactics gotten us? Petitions and protests? Not very far obviously because mass murders of endangered species continue to be committed in a whale sanctuary...despite established laws. And yet we allow it. But we don't have to. The oceans are a commons, and perhaps more so than anything else impact the general health and viability for the rest of the planet. With dead zones covering vast stretches of sea and floating mounds of plastic the size of large US states, the time for direct action is now. As our oceans continue to deteriorate so too will humanity's future.

Albert Riehle said...

Silly Soulflower. You do enjoy the time you spend on your litle soapbox don't you?

As much as I do appreciate your highly educational diatribes, can I just concede the point--as I thought I had in the blog you're commenting on, that I think something needs to be done, that action needs to be taken. I AGREE!

My problem is, was, remains and always will be that these tactics are criminal acts of piracy and terrorism. The captain is a lunatic with no regard for his crew of passionate young people.

How do you separate the actions of the Sea Shepherd organization from those of Al-Quida? They both believe in their cause. They both believe that peaceful means take too long and won't work out in the end, so they choose to use acts of terrorism to scare their enemies, to gain notoriety in the media.

Terrorism is terrorism regardles of whether you are right or wrong. You seem to think that the ends justify the means. So do terrorists. How do you differ? Is it just the righteousness of your cause because if that's it...they'd tell you that you're exactly the same.

matt said...

You left out the one where they were nowhere around, and this Japanese ship of useless sailers hunt a mother whale that was trying to pretect her babies, they eventially caught her and harpooned the shit out of her. She was still alive when they put her on deck and started hacking her apart, cutting her eyeballs out while she screemed for hours. I mean seriously dude, do us all a favor, keep living your ignorant life so you can hurry up and die, cause unfortunately your life as been a complete waste.

Albert Riehle said...

Hey Matt, welcome to the party. You're only 3 years late. That's right. I wrote this in 2008. The scene you reference happened on this past season.

Way to pay attention to what you're reading!

Seriously, how did you even come across this blog? Did you Google irrelevant blogs about pirates from 2008?