The National Geographic Magazine is one of those mags I really like to read and look at. The photography is superb, the writing crisp and tight.
The politics behind this magazine, of course, is liberal-democratic, which is to say, shamelessly capitalistic and biased against societies and regimes that are/were proclaimed to be socialist, anti-capitalist or (erroneously, of course) communist. It seems revealing that the organization behind the magazine calls itself the “National Geographic Society”, even as it covers peoples and societies beyond its (US) national borders. It is based in the US capital, Washington D.C.
Though the group says its aim is “to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge while promoting the conservation of the world’s cultural, historical, and natural resources,” it has, time and again, yielded its pages to political stories, like that of war, famine, political conflicts–from the American, liberal-democratic, viewpoint. Thus, it does not surprise us when the magazine features political conflicts like wars of national liberation, or anti-fascist wars, and presents those who pursue liberation wars with a hint of sympathy. Examples would be its coverage of the Palestinian cause, as well as the Apartheid-era South African cause.
On the other hand, it treats with contempt and distrust nations who were/are labelled “socialist”, from the Stalin-era USSR, Maoist China (1949-1976), as well as North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam (before the neoliberal “reforms” of the ’80s)–even as these countries, before being labelled “socialist”, experienced successes in their bourgeois-democratic revolutions. Of course, the magazine covers with contempt and distrust such ongoing upheavals as that of Nepal, India, and the Philippines. In these countries, revolutions are led by communist parties–their upheavals are aimed not only at achieving national liberation from foreign domination and control, but also wresting political and economic power from the bourgeoisie to install a regime of proletarian “dictatorship” (Simply put, a dictatorship of the proletariat is a dictatorship of the working class — a dictatorship of the majority).
Like most US cultural imports, the National Geographic Magazine has an intractable, almost fundamentalist, view of capitalism, socialism and communism that cannot be subverted. That is this magazine’s tragedy.
For me, however, it is instructive to read and look at their coverage of national liberation wars, whether or not led by socialist or communist parties, like that of the National Geographic Magazine. It instructs us on how the prism of liberal-democratic ideology views the socialist experiments and revolutions, and to what extent it distorts objective reality or represses essential truths to suit its ideology.