Flash vs. fact on the History Channel
Started in 1995 as part of the A&E Television network, the History Channel has become a cable-television staple. Mr. Mattson describes the channel as "the leading institution that popularizes history in the United States."
But to make history popular, Mr. Mattson says, the History Channel emphasizes scandals and conspiracy theories instead of historical debates and modern relevance. A History Channel memorandum about selecting commentators for shows reveals that the network prefers insights from attractive experts over respected ones, he explains.
"Entertainment over veracity, good looks over good history -- such are the operational principles of historical explanation in an age of entertainment," Mr. Mattson writes.
History becomes bizarre on the History Channel, he says. Without the omniscient narrator's endorsement or judgment, conspiracies and ghost stories share equal time with legitimate theories and real history.
Technology shows like Modern Marvels seem more like infomercials than analysis of technology's effect on society. An episode on air-conditioning, for example, features sound bites from public-relations executives at air-conditioning companies. The actor Tim Allen, promoting his new line of home-improvement equipment, appears on a show about power tools.
Mr. Mattson detects a larger trend in the History Channel's use of facts and trivia. The channel packages history in "bite-sized morsels for a bored and jaded audience," he writes, and in many ways, it's "no different from CNN."
comments powered by Disqus
- Study: Violent radicalism in UK isn't associated with poverty
- CONFIRMED: the Shrine of Jonah/Mosque of Yunus (Nineveh, Mosul, Iraq) has been destroyed
- Chinese President Xi Jinping: Nobody can change history
- Iraq’s Long-Lost Mythical Temple Has Been Found…and Is In Danger of Disappearing Again
- CBS features in-depth coverage of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights law
- Obama to award National Humanities Medals to 3 historians
- Historian Curt Gentry, known for Hoover biography and ‘Helter Skelter,’ dies at 83
- Harvard historian: strategy of climate science denial groups 'extremely successful'
- Curators at Victoria and Albert Museum are pushing the boundaries of collecting
- Ukrainian Leaders Are Using David Barton's Theocratic Pseudo-History To Build Their Nation