A call to action or a vehicle for disinformation?


The new Netflix documentary Seaspiracy highlights the harmful effects of fishing on the world’s oceans. The documentary is narrated and directed by British filmmaker Ali Tabrizi as he discovers that fishing is the greatest threat to the ocean.

Although perhaps produced with good intentions, Seaspiracy fails to provide a critical focus to the issues it reveals. Instead, the movie false pedals to encourage outrage. Still, many disturbed viewers take the bait and announce their intention to join the film’s call to action: stop eating fish. But Seaspiracy’s use of lies and half-truths may ultimately push back the ocean conservation movement for attention. After all, sensationalism sells.

A few truths and a lot of lies

Seaspiracy is unloading information at a rate too fast to capture it fully, let alone critically appraise it. The film’s “trust me” attitude runs counter to today’s culture of fact, science and truth. Yet a lot of those who watch come full circle on Seaspiracy’s story: Everything you know about the seafood industry is a lie. Even known environmentalists and conservation organizations expressed their support for Seaspiracy although they held to higher standards of scientific accuracy and building inclusive solutions. Why align with a documentary that does not take great care to paint an accurate portrait of the oceans or the best way to help revitalize them?

Perhaps for these ocean protection organizations, the cost-benefit analysis has been in favor of supporting the film. Even though it’s riddled with lies and half-truths, maybe the documentary is still good overall if it introduces people to ocean issues and inspires a desire to make a difference.

Alternatively, these ocean-focused nonprofits may support the documentary out of fear. Seaspiracy has successfully portrayed a number of nonprofit organizations. The film falsely accuses the Earth Island Institute mislabelling canned tuna as “safe for dolphins” and involves the Coalition Against Plastic Pollution hides the amount of plastic fishing gear that ends up in the ocean. (The film indicates that fishing gear is a leading cause of plastic pollution in many parts of the ocean. Although fishing gear contributes to ocean plastic, it only accounts for about 10% of all ocean plastic pollution. plastic in the ocean).

In many ways, these two groups are ocean conservation giants. Watching two of the world’s largest ocean conservation organizations dragged through the mud for Tabrizi to add to his preordained conclusion – that everything about fishing is bad – is devastating to those who spend their lives fighting for the oceans. Yet the film’s instant popularity may have prompted ocean organizations spared from Seaspiracy’s deceptive cuts to back the film out of fear of being the next accused of anti-ocean malfeasance.

But the damage done by Seaspiracy goes way beyond the movie. high level withdrawals. Seaspiracy and its widespread popularity risk further undermining people’s support for ocean protection. The conspiratorial angle of the documentary may prompt viewers to take an opposite reaction to what it seems to want. With plenty of examples of people not to be trusted, the film does not provide information on who the film believes is being honest about the oceans. Instead of providing people with memorable information and tactics to assess the validity of scientific claims, the film encourages viewers to trust no one but itself and a few organizations, most of which are well known. for extreme views when it comes to animal welfare. It should also be noted that the film was produced by an animal rights activist Kip Anderson which produced the documentary of the same name “Cowspiracy” as well as “The Sustainability Secret” and “What the Health”.

What happened to cancel the culture?

In the age of the “cancellation culture,” many who are plugged into the news cycle or social media have developed a low tolerance for lies. The wrath of the cancellation culture usually only applies to those caught intentionally attempting to cheat for personal gain. In this case, producing a sensational portrayal of the global fishing industry gave an unknown documentary maker access to a Netflix slot machine, electrifying his career. Yet Seaspiracy has hardly been “canceled”.

Michael Moore’s controversial 2020 renewable energy documentary Planet of the Humans received the same criticism as Seaspiracy: It used outdated information and, in the opinion of many climatologists, set back the renewable energy movement. . Yet the anger of environmental and scientific communities arguably succeeded in canceling Planet of the Humans. The film, which was released for free on YouTube, was suddenly removed by the platform after the documentary was flagged for copyright infringement. Planet of the Humans was dropped from this charge without proof, a common practice under YouTube rules. Whether legitimate or not, film takedown was an effective form of cancellation. The documentary was rarely covered in the media afterwards.

Unlike Michael Moore’s Planet of the Humans, Seaspiracy’s call to action may be less controversial for the average viewer. While Planet of the Humans advocated managing the growth of the human population to help reduce our collective impact on the planet, Seaspiracy called on people to stop eating seafood. be criticized, the problems associated with removing fish from the menu are probably less obvious to most viewers of the film.

In the western world, where most Seaspiracy viewers live, seafood is not considered an essential source of protein. In fact, most people prefer to eat seafood In a restaurant too much cooking at home. Yet for many poorer and less developed countries, seafood is essential both source of protein and income. Seaspiracy’s push for a seafood-free future fails to scrutinize the marginalized people who would be affected if such a movement were to take hold. Instead of being canceled for its inaccuracies and white savior perspective, Seaspiracy is canceling seafood and some of those who are working to improve the state of our oceans.

Seaspiracy’s ability to use the culture of cancellation to bring home a deceptive narrative can also undermine people’s trust in ocean conservation organizations and the science behind their efforts. While it is important to scrutinize information, including science from reliable sources, the damage inflicted by widespread distrust of organizations, scientists, and entire fields of study is difficult to comprehend. As we have learned from the anti-vaccination movement, once people lose their confidence, it is incredibly difficult to regain it.


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