Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks to reporters after briefing Senators on the coronavirus outbreak in China on Capitol Hill, January 24, 2020. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters) Deconstructing National Geographic’s propaganda pitch
You might be one of those people who never want to see Anthony Fauci’s face on TV again — or not. But it’s likely that the man himself will be broadcast and rebroadcast continuously, using the power status that Fauci has attained to further the current administration’s COVID protocols. There’s no better insight into this ideological puffery than the publicity campaign for the new documentary Fauci. This fascinating aspect of film culture is crafty and demands close scrutiny.
Presented by National Geographic, the same outfit responsible for Genius, the other Aretha Franklin biopic, Fauci is being sold with similar veneration. It’s not a film about science but about “following the science” of public leadership — as when politicians assert cant such as “Don’t question my authority.” You don’t expect cant from NG. The trust built up from decades of that iconic yellow-framed print magazine, with its vivid photographs of natural phenomena, makes us susceptible. NG’s film division is now the opposite of informative and wide-ranging; its political bias now resembles NPR’s. The Fauci doc typifies the continued narrowcasting of popular media into the congealed “mainstream” perspective.
And the pitch behind Fauci shows how. NG sneaks past old presumptions about the idea of “documentary.” (Blame the genre’s degeneration on Rob Reiner’s fictitious This Is Spinal Tap, where popularizing “factoids” — familiar legends and speculations — rather than truth created that new phony genre of the “mockumentary.”)
The selling of Fauci mocks our credulousness, increased by high-pressure COVID-19 fear-mongering, another advertising phenomenon. Fauci’s press release urges viewers (and media hacks) to accept the doc on the filmmakers’ non-objective terms: “With his signature blend of scientific acumen, candor, and integrity, Dr. Anthony Fauci became America’s most unlikely cultural icon during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Gullible reviewers are unlikely to suspect this seemingly innocuous description: “A world-renowned infectious disease specialist and the longest-serving public-health leader in Washington, D.C., he has overseen the U.S.
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