2012, May 27: Animal Planet's Mermaids

It's always interesting when a predominantly educational and fact based organization decides to throw their self-respect and reputation to the wind. So.

Animal Planet's Mermaids
[Picture source here]

On May 27, 2012, the Animal Planet television channel aired a special called Mermaids: The Body Found, which presented itself as a 2-hour documentary following the efforts of two scientists to piece together the current and evolutionary evidence for a hominid species that had become adapted for aquatic life in the ancient past, and then was only rarely seen or encountered by land based hominids after. The scientists told the story in monologue snippets, mixed with scenes of them finding fossils and investigating them. As the special winds down, we are told that the fossils they were investigating had been confiscated in an apparent attempt to bury their research; the scientists, however, had decided to go public with their findings and theory after a video went viral on the internet that clearly showed -- via a cellphone camera -- the footage of a boy nearly attacked by a stranded aquatic hominid that was an unmistakable match for the fossil hominid the scientists had investigated... so, by implication, the mermaids still existed.

        Exciting stuff, with only one downside... it was all fake.

The Thin Line

        It's a thin line between a fictional presentation meant for entertainment and a purposeful hoax meant to fool people for profit... and Animal Planet has stomped over that line more than once in the hope to reap ratings gold. There was no point in the 'documentary' when it was clearly stated the premise was fictional and the 'scientists' were actors; in addition, the section of the Animal Planet website devoted to the mermaid programs (they made a sequel, see below) also presents the stories as real, with a disclaimer only appearing on the 'about' page in the site... which is not likely to be visited before the various video links, I suspect.

        In the years since this program and its sequel were released, many screenshots and separate claims from the programs have been circulated on the internet separated from the original source and generally presented as true evidence of real mermaids... and I suspect I'll be identifying these snippets for years to come.

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