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2013, May 26: Animal Planet’s Mermaids... Again

In 2012, the Animal Planet television channel released an intriguing two-hour special called Mermaid: The Body Found. Response to this program was so good that on May 26, 2013, they released a follow-up special entitled Mermaids: the New Evidence.

Mermaids: The New Evidence[Picture source here]

Mermaids: The Body Found, presented as a documentary with dramatic re-creations of events, told the story of two scientists who discovered fossil evidence for a branch of the human tree that had become adapted to aquatic life in the ancient past; and it unveiled that their evidence had been essentially stolen from them, and that a viral cellphone video showed these 'mermaids' still exist today.

        The follow-up special, Mermaids: The New Evidence, presented a panel of experts who were on the program both to compare their research and to reveal little known historic events that displayed previous encounters with the aquatic hominids that had been quietly forgotten by science. Among other astounding stories, it was revealed that none other than P.T. Barnum himself had actually acquired a full adult mermaid, in a glass container, which was later lost in a fire... leading to his eventual display of an obvious fake, now known as the "Fiji Mermaid."

        The information revealed in the special was nothing less than explosive... except for one problem.

Ratings and Greed

        Both TV special were, to be generous, fake. In both cases, Animal Planet failed to properly identify the programs as imaginary during their broadcasts; and the channel's website for the two programs presents clips from the shows on the first page with titles suggesting they are actually evidence and discussion... only in the 'About' page of the site does Animal Planet mention the two programs are "a story about evolutionary possibility grounded in a radical scientific theory;" i.e. fictional. Simply put: Animal Planet purposely relied on their existing reputation for educational programming to attract viewers to a spectacular set of claims; they reaped great ratings for the programs, but also sent a lot of people out into the world under the impression that what they saw was true.

        Under the circumstances, it shouldn't be a surprise that clips and images from the shows have been mistaken for genuine evidence of mermaid existence and continue to turn up in social media, separated from the original program that presented them... especially the claims regarding P.T. Barnum.

        Ug.