Amid all the commentary about Steve “Crocodile Hunter” Irwin that I came across on the Web over the past day or so, one blog post stood out: a post by Weblogs Inc. founder and current AOL employee Jason Calacanis, who is now running the Digg-style Netscape news portal. His commentary — which he cross-posted to Netscape.com — was entitled “The Discovery Channel killed Steve Irwin.” In it, he makes the argument that the network, in its shameless drive for ratings, helped encourage Steve Irwin to do ever more dangerous things, and therefore it is culpable in his death.
As more than one of Jason’s 81 commenters noted, this is a load of bollocks. For one thing, it’s obvious to anyone who has had a look at Irwin’s history that he would have done all the things he was filmed doing over the years whether he had a TV show or not, including dangling his child in front of a crocodile. And two, he died in a freak accident while filming a documentary for a kid’s show, and wasn’t even doing anything that dangerous (stingrays are not violent, and deaths are extremely rare).
The only conclusion I can come to is that Jason deliberately posted his commentary with the inflammatory headline in order to get comments, traffic and votes on Netscape. Isn’t that like insider trading or something?
Jason has responded in the comments, saying he isn’t interested in traffic and that he stands by his point that the Discovery Channel encourages dangerous activity. I should note that he’s not the only one who feels this way: Ray Mears, a TV documentary producer, told the Telegraph that Irwin “clearly took a lot of risks and television encouraged him to do that,” and that “The voyeurism we are seeing on television has a cost and it’s that cost Steve Irwin’s family are paying today.” Cultural figure Germaine Greer also criticized Irwin, saying in her Guardian column that “the animal world has finally taken its revenge on Irwin.”