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History Channel

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You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
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I have a great new tagline for all History Channel shows: "This didn’t happen."
—Steven Toulouse[1]

The History Channel is a US-based cable television channel. While it — just barely — airs a few serious shows that might teach you something (the UK version History strips out most of the gun nut yee-haw type "documentaries" and replaces them with quaint David Starkey-type stuff in between the MOAR HITLER), it also airs some really strange shows that are notorious promoters of woo, sometimes branching out into thinly veiled pseudohistory (and by thinly, folks, we mean "lighter and more transparent than aerogel"). Its newest editions have stretched this even further into outright religious propaganda.

It is sometimes called the "Pseudohistory" Channel by people who are disappointed with its scholarly standards, the "Hysteria Channel" by people who are pissed off by the scaremongering end-of-the-world shows, and the "Hitler Channel" by people who were fed up with its extensive programming covering the Second World War (though they probably regret saying that now — at least that was actual history).


[edit] All Hitler, all the time

The channel had earned the unfortunate nickname of the Hitler Channel, due to its need to fill the schedule with content related to World War II.[2] Military programming has since moved to its sister channel, the Military History Channel, leaving the channel to fill their programming gaps with shows about old stuff like Pawn Stars and American Pickers, utterly non-historical dumb content such as Ice Road Truckers, Ax Men, Appalachian Outlaws, Life After People, and the topic of the next section...

[edit] Pseudocrap and sensationalism

At the end of the day we’re not an education resource. We’re an entertainment brand.
—A+E Networks CEO Nancy Dubuc[3]

[edit] Ancient Aliens

See the main article on this topic: Ancient Aliens

One of their classic intellectual achievements is their incredibly embarrassing series, Ancient Aliens.[4] Sadly, it namechecks huge numbers of our articles (so rapidly as to be difficult to keep up with), such as:

To quote a typical talking head featured on the show, discussing of all things, the 2012 apocalypse, "you would think that had to come from extraterrestrials" (sure, but only for very small values of "think").

Every segment has the announcer saying "could it be that... this is evidence of ancient aliens... maybe!" Near the end of one show, at least, Michael Shermer gets a few moments to call it all rubbish. Otherwise, it is so much non-stop woo, it sounds like a train whistle! So much bullshit, even the farmers are complaining!

At least Ghostfinders is on the Sci Fi channel, where it belongs.

[edit] Parallel universes

An episode of the channel's show The Universe called "Parallel Universes" went so far as to promote parallel universes as being solid scientific fact.

[edit] The Bible

Continuing its recent history of producing programs promoting historical revisionism and mystic pseudohistory, the History Channel has decided to feature a 10-part series called The Bible, covering (watered down, family friendly) events from (wait for it!) the Bible. The series was created by Roma Downey, an actress who played a role in Touched by an Angel, and her husband, "reality" television producer Mark Burnett. The series was launched on March 3rd, 2013 and concluded on March 31st, 2013 (which, by no coincidence, was Easter Sunday). On March 17th, 2013, the series met with a bit of controversy when Glenn Beck (of all people) tweeted:

Anyone else think the Devil in #TheBible Sunday on History Channel looks exactly like that Guy.

"That guy" referred to President Barack Obama. This caused a firestorm on the net. However, Roma Downey and Mark Burnett responded to the criticism by stating:

This is utter nonsense. The actor who played Satan, Mehdi Ouzaani, is a highly acclaimed Moroccan actor. He has previously played parts in several Biblical epics—including satanic characters long before Barack Obama was elected as our president.

Executive producer Roma Downey added, "Both Mark and I have nothing but respect and love our president, who is a fellow Christian. False statements such as these are just designed as a foolish distraction to try and discredit the beauty of the story of The Bible."[6]

Obama later tore the History Channel and Beck's friends a new one at the 2013 White House Correspondents' Dinner.[7]

[edit] Actual fiction

Around the same time as the aforementioned Bible series, the History Channel also aired its first scripted drama, Vikings, based on the semi-historical Viking raider Ragnar Lothbrok. This might actually be a good sign, although historical accuracy is pretty much a lost cause when your source material involves a cow with madness-inducing moos, and your only other source is two lines in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. The show has been rather well-received, with a second series airing in February 2014, and a third season has been confirmed.

[edit] Worth watching?

Perhaps at one time yes, the "History" Channel might have had some intellectual merit. However these days it has quite clearly fallen into a New Age nonsense trap, its shows having long been replaced with the above nonsense and generally boring and/or non-history related content, effectively selling its educational value for short-term ratings and sensationalism. This seems to be a general theme among its sister channels (TLC, the Discovery Channel, etc.) these days. Never before has there been a more powerful argument for American public broadcasting.

At least Animal Planet continues to have a shred of dignity: it still airs animal-related content, at least for the time being. Not to worry though, they have pretty much pushed even that aside for barely/non-animal related content as well. (We might view the 2012 mockumentary Mermaids: The Body Found as a satirical quip at the rampant pseudoscience in the sister channels or as a mockery of the audience's gullibility in an elaborate echo of H. L. Mencken's The Rise of the Bathtub, but it also might be a sign that reality has simply lost its appeal among the viewing public.)

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

  1. "It was aliens."
  2. Hitler, Hitler everywhere. (A viewer of History could be led to believe that nothing of note happened in recorded history outside of World War II and Ancient Egypt. And those were the HC's better days.)
  3. The Duck Whisperer, Businessweek
  4. Yes, this is really on the "History" Channel. Warning: you will laugh hysterically.
  5. No joke, they actually peddle this stuff as "history" now! But really, are you really surprised at this point?
  6. 'Bible' producers: Obama-Satan resemblance 'nonsense,' actor Mehdi Ouzaani highly acclaimed, Newsday
  7. We live in a weird age.
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