I used to like the History Channel
I’ve been sick the past few days so I’ve been laying around watching the History Channel. And frankly, I’ve been appalled. Like clockwork on any number of documentaries they have confidently stated things that were so wrong and misleading that it made me want to scream. In come cases I got so angry I did yell, just before turning off the TV in disgust. I could easily devote a whole blog to “Silliness told by the History Channel.” Sigh. Then I’d get sued, run up enormous debts defending myself, get thrown in debtors prison (I believe Cheney is planning on bringing that back) and spend the rest of my days racing cockroaches. So I’ll limit myself to one blog post. And I’m going somewhere with this, so bear with me.
Japanese jets. I watched a show about Japanese secret weapons during World War Two. Cool enough, had some nice footage, one of the main reasons I watch the show. Turns out near the end of the war the Japanese were working on copies of the German ME-163 and ME-262. Now this was quite amazing actually, and was something I hadn’t known. Then the show showed this fanciful graphic of a swarm of Japanese jets attacking an American carrier fleet…and claimed that the war could have turned out differently if the Japanese had been able to build fleets of these jet aircraft.
Sigh. And that’s when I start screaming, because what can at best be described as an entertaining childish idea has been presented as some sort of serious historical speculation. Why is this scenario silly? Because Japan had no fuel for such aircraft. They had no pilots for such aircraft, (Japan foolishly lost virtually all of its trained and experienced pilots and naval gunners early in the war, and spent the rest of the war fighting with barely trained gun crews and pilots.) And tactics for how to use jet aircraft had not yet been developed, having a weapon doesn’t mean you know how to use it effectively…something the German’s aptly demonstrated with their jets in World War Two. And even if by some magical means Japan had managed to get a few squadrons of these planes up and forced the USA to curtail its B-29 attacks on Japanese cities, so what? The war was still lost, they had no fleet, Japan was starving and cut off from what little colonies it had. Even if the allies lost 100 planes for every Japanese jet they shot down jet, the outcome of the war would have remain unchanged. I mean, I have no problem with sci fi fantasy scenarios (Dear God no, I mean, I’m a modern Walter Mitty,) but let’s not interject them into a historical documentary without warning labels.
Sigh. So I turn on the TV to see what’s playing on the History Channel and they are doing a special on Nostradamus. More screaming. Short summary: Nostradamus wrote a book full of nonsense poems. After the fact, some people noticed vague similarities between historical events and some of his poems. Nostradamus was hailed as one of history’s great seers ever since. One little problem. Note the “after the fact” in the above sentence. If one connects the prophecy to the event after the fact, no actual prophecy has taken place. Or as Wikipedia puts it “…none of the sources listed offers any evidence that anyone has ever interpreted any of Nostradamus’s quatrains specifically enough to allow a clear identification of any event in advance.” In other words, there’s no there, there. If it were a show about why people believe silly things and the role that myth and mystery play in society, OK then. Sadly it wasn’t, it gave aid and comfort to the idea that Nostradamus predicted the future.
I go to their web site and it’s no better. What’s the big news on the History Channel? Their new show tonight called UFO Hunter. Sigh. You know, more than anyone I would love to believe that aliens are flitting around overhead (as long as they weren’t big alien pigeons I suppose.) Unfortunately I’ve spent years looking at the evidence and concluded what any rational person would conclude, there’s no reason to think that UFOs are anything other than misidentification of known or unknown natural phenomena, there’s no need to invoke aliens and no evidence that suggests aliens. I don’t have a problem with people looking for aliens, whatever, and one may show up sooner or later…but for now there’s nothing to research or hunt. This sort of show panders to the idea, along with a whole ilk of similar shows, that there is scientific and logical controversy and enquiry when in fact there is none.
So frankly this blurring between sober fact and sensational childish fantasy really bugs me, because I think it really hurts people’s abilities to thing logically about issues. It also really annoys me because science and history is rich with real mysteries and amazing events, why the hell can’t they promote those instead of the grocery store check out line variety? Instead we have grown-ups playing silly games in the woods with video cameras, and getting paid good money to muddy people’s brains about what constitutes science and research.
And by no means is the History Channel the only entity that is blurring the line between fantasy and reality these days, but I will leave the gentle reader to ponder that one. And yes, I even still tell people to watch the History Channel, but take what they say with a good dose of salt. Sigh. Coming soon, a post about Cincinnatus, an amazing man who did something truly incredible, and even better…it really happened!
(The above image of the Adamski Saucer is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit, it is a low resolution version, and it is arguably the most famous UFO hoax picture in history. Here’s a hint for telling fake UFO researcher’s from real UFO researchers: A real researcher would use a 16 mm camera or some other device that yielded an image that could be subjected to spectrographic analysis to determine what the object was made of, and they would use two of them carefully slaved together with a clock so that they could use parallax to determine how far away the object is and how big it is. Might just be useful information, ya think? If someone watches the show, let me know if it addresses either of these issues, I’m betting it doesn’t.)