Tuesday, March 19, 2013

0 Is The History Channel making us stupid?

I used to give the History Channel the benefit of the doubt. Nowadays, I just doubt its benefit.

As a teen, my began to become increasingly interested in history. I loved to watch documentaries on various historical events and time periods on The History Channel. I was even willing to overlook some of The History Channel's faults because of my love of history.

Its Eurocentric bias in the interpretation of history?  I was able to look past that.

It's extensive, almost obsessive focus on WWII and the rise of Hitler? I could deal with that.

Its tendency to show historical events from a romanticized, myopic, "America's always the hero" point of view? I kind of expected it.

But lately The History Channel seems to be just getting more and more ridiculous with its programming, almost to the point of insulting to the intelligence of its viewers.

I have numerous problems with the History Channel, the first one being that there are far too many reality shows. Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy some of their reality shows. In fact, I was a big fan of the first few seasons of The History Channel's show Pawn Stars. 

Yet, when reality shows which have very little to do with history, such as Ice Road Truckers, dominate the channel that is supposed to teach people about History we have a problem.

Slowly but surely, it seems as if The History Channel is selling out for the sake of entertainment rather than education. This seemingly proved true in one of their more recent "historical" series called The Bible.

First off, the whole idea of having a predominately European cast for a 21st century TV series about biblical history is ridiculous in of itself. Now I already know what my "colorblind" readers are thinking: Who cares what ethnicity the actors are, does it really matter? Well, from a historical accuracy standpoint, it does.

Would it matter if someone made a movie with a Chinese actor playing George Washington? Would it matter if Steven Spielberg made a movie about Napoleon Bonaparte starring Jamie Foxx? Would it matter if someone cast Chris Rock as Christopher Columbus? Of course it would, mainly because it would look silly and historically inaccurate.

Another interesting aspect of this show is that Satan (who apparently just pops up and makes appearances every once in a while) is played by a Moroccan actor, who many believe to resemble President Obama. Yet, the History Channel wrote this off as simply being an unfortunate coincidence.

But one of the silliest shows on History is Ancient Aliens. The show uses the idea of ancient human-extraterrestrial contact to explain archaeological and historical "mysteries."

For example, the show claims that the Pyramids of Giza and other historic structures were created by aliens to be a  "world grid" of electromagnetic energy. First off, if people believe in stuff like this, they might as well believe in the tooth fairy, the boogeyman and the Easter bunny.

Not only is the whole premise of the show "Ancient Aliens" ridiculous, its offensive to the legacy of the work of indigenous cultures all over the world. It indirectly assumes that indigenous people of Asia, Africa, the Americas were weren't sophisticated or intelligent enough to create structures and artifacts which we, the all-knowing western world, can't fully understand.

Therefore the most intelligent theory that the folks at The History Channel come up with is:

Here's my theory: Maybe people were just intelligent enough to build structures that stood the test of time, maybe those indigenous people weren't as primitive and uncivilized as we'd like to think. Maybe people revolutionized science and architecture before America did. (Try Googling: History of science and technology in Africa).

Or maybe we just aren't able to understand EVERYTHING.

But what I do understand is why people are largely misinformed about the world and about each other. We've been taught wrong; from the myopic, whitewashed history textbooks of America's schools, to the ridiculous "historical" programming in the media.

But, in the timeless words of the rapper Nas, “It’s all poison.”

The solution all of this is to learn history independently, we have to pick up the books, do the research and find good historical documentaries on our own.

We must remember, history is a subject which we shouldn't take lightly. After all, a society without true knowledge of the past can never fully understand the present nor prepare for the future.


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