Silence is golden started with an interest in the role of photography in anthropology. I knew that oftentimes it was white photographers who had the privilege to enter into a community and document life there as they interpreted it. Cameras are often considered a "neutral" medium, but I think they are tools that are very much culturally informed.
National Geographic is the most iconic example of this phenomena, and I wanted to know more about its roots. What is its purpose?
I learned that National Geographic's roots are deeply tied to US politics. (in 1888) Its founding board were men in government, and the purpose of the magazine was to "keep up" with European exploration and science of the time. The US was funding ships to go "discover" other parts of the world (to advance economic interest in Africa/Latin America, etc), and National Geographic would be its means of distilling that "science" to the public. Uncle Sam was pushing this "young America" after reconstruction to get out in the world.
In the 1930s, Walt Disney started using National Geographic photos as a source of inspiration for characters and environments. (Which, photography from a white mens lens, then further interpreted through a white man's illustrations shows the level of distortion of culture Disney was built on) further reiterating the silence in the cultures who cannot speak for themselves in the process of "exploration" and now entertainment.
A publication that is an extension of US nationalism, white nationalism, economic pursuit, a source of news, a source of "science" and a serious commentator on the world (through US/male/white lens) is now a form of entertainment.
To seal this affirmation, In 2020, Disney purchased National Geographic. In a reading on Walter Benjamin's work, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" (1935) this is exactly what Benjamin warned us about - The line between politics and entertainment becoming blurred.