May 03, 2014

#Cosmos and the commercialism of #NDGT

I blogged earlier this week about how I stacked up Neil deGrasse Tyson's remake of Cosmos on Fox vs. Neil Shubin's documentary version of Your Inner Fish on PBS, both on production quality and, related to a specific issue, how much each show actually challenged creationists and creationism.

Now, I'm jumping head-on into controversy, per the photo at right of a Cosmos-themed telescope with a ripoff price, along with other similar items offered for outrageous overcharges at

I said then that, assuming he's getting a cut, this makes it look like Tyson has entered the world of Brian Dunning marketing. And now, I'm going to head into that in more detail.

For professional or semi-professional "scientific skeptics," or "movement skeptics," or whatever handle we and they use, Shubin isn't one of "us/them" (I'm not an "us" myself) in the same way Tyson is. Such tribalism can lead such folks to hype Tyson. And, to crack open their wallets to pay overcharges for stuff like this. And, yes, overcharges indeed.

I mean, somebody affiliated with the new Cosmos is getting a cut of the sales money, right? That's official trademark and branding on all of this swag.

Yours for just $15!
Some movement skeptics, many of them with a bit of upset, or more, reacted negatively when I first blogged about that Brian Dunning marketing as part of saying that it wasn't a sad day to me. So, some of the Tyson tribalists know how I feel about Dunning.

That would include how I feel about Dunning selling that swag, like what's pictured!

At highly inflated prices, like $27.95 for a T-shirt. Sounds like a guru selling to his cultic followers. Or $15 for the aptly titled rubber stamp; more on it below.

The principle of a man with a sharp eye for a sharp product, whether through "raking" with groupies on his own stuff or defrauding other affiliates with eBay, still stands.

I think that's part of why Tyson went Fox rather than PBS. Oh, a year from now, I may be able, with suitable donation, to get the set of Fish DVDs from PBS. However, it won't be an arm and a leg for overpriced stuff. Crap like a telescope with WiFi only increases my already high level of disdain for, too. Also, I can get another Celestron 90mm telescope on Amazon for almost $200 bucks less, even after's discount. I can buy 8x25 binoculars for less than half of's price even after its fire sale discount. (And, those discounts make me wonder if tribalism has not only failed to translate in ratings as well as Fox hoped, but has been a disappointment in swag, contra — and Tyson? — hopes.) Note: None of this is even close to an endorsement of Amazon.

Anyway, methinks that such branding opportunities would be better with the hope of additional eyeballs watching on a commercial network than on PBS.

Now, I don't think Tyson is Brian Dunning, as in, he's not stuffing cookies on people's computers in an Internet-era version of wire fraud. But, he's certainly eyeballing the main chance on money, isn't he?

For that matter, since production is by the studio of Ann Druyan, the widow of original Cosmos creator Carl Sagan there may be other people with their eyeballs on cash. And, it's moving elsewhere. A humanists/skeptics convention in Omaha is charging $45/per person general admission for people to hear Tyson in September. For just a cool $1,000, you can get into a VIP dinner with him. No, really.

Grantland touches further on the degree of Druyan's involvement, as well as that of both Tyson and co-executive producer Seth MacFarlane. As for who's making how much, teh Google still doesn't have a direct answer for me.

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