2002: January to December

History Grapevine Archive


One other reader comment (also about Bellesiles) deserves a large audience, if only because it is so suggestive:

Subject: FTC, Miss Cleo and AA [Arming America]
Posted By: Thomas L. Spencer
Date Posted: November 14, 2002, 7:05 PM

I was just listening to something on the radio about psychic charlatan Miss Cleo and the Federal Trade Commission. The tarot card operation she was involved in was investigated and the matter, I believe, went to trial. Seems that fraudulent advertising is a matter for FTC investigation. How is B's work being marketed? What claims are being made in the advertising and on the D.J.? Enquiring minds would like to know, is this an avenue to further expose AA for what it is? Legal Eagles, weigh in here. Is the publisher aiding and abetting this through false advertising?

A similar question was raised by a reader when questions began being raised about Ambrose's many books. To date (as far as we know) no one has filed a complaint against either author's publisher with the FTC.


Do you know who STEVE GILLON is? If you don't, there's a sure bet you will if you ever watch the History Channel. Gillon, who always wanted to be a ball player, has hit one of the great media home runs."Yes," he told HNN,"the rumor is true. I am now the 'resident historian' -- whatever that means -- at the History Channel and will be doing more specials and other features for the network." Gillon, who has been serving as the Dean of the Honors College at the University of Oklahoma, says he will continue to work at OU but will only teach several weeks a year. He will have an apartment in New York.


In October Emory University's DAVID GARROW--is there something in the water down there?--was arrested for simple battery after an employee at the school complained he had harassed her for years. Subsequently, he was suspended for six months, an indication that there must have been some fuel in this fire. But has his career been hurt? Maybe at Emory, but he remains a major media figure. In November he wound up on the op-ed page of the NYT. The Times has not seen fit to disclose to its readers that Garrow is currently under suspension. Maybe they don't know.


The American Historical Association describes itself as the"largest historical society in the United States." The Organization of American Historians notes that it is"the largest learned society devoted to the study of American history." But in September, when President Bush unveiled his administration's three exciting initiatives to promote the study of history, both organizations were conspicuously absent from the program. Why? LEE FORMWALT, the executive director of the OAH, recently revealed that"neither the directors nor officers of the OAH or the AHA were invited to participate in the formulation" of the presidential initiatives. Formwalt told readers in the OAH newsletter, this is"deeply disturbing." Are the AHA and OAH just too liberal for the Bush administration? If anybody knows the answer to this question, please contact us by sending an email to editor@HistoryNewsNetwork.org.


Last month we told you about an antiwar petition circulating on the Internet in the name of the United Nations. The petition reads, in part:

Today we are at a point of imbalance in the world and are moving toward what may be the beginning of a THIRD WORLD WAR. If you are against this possibility, the UN is gathering signatures in an effort to avoid a tragic world event.

Historians are among those who have been circulating the petition in the form of an email. The petition is a fake, according to the reliable snopes.com. One historian who signed the petition confessed that the claim that the"UN is gathering signatures" had raised some doubts about the legitimacy of the petition. Since when does the UN circulate petitions? Ah, but it was in a good cause.


You have probably noticed that there seem to be more sensationalistic programs on TV this month. Of course, you're right. It's November--sweeps month! Used to be that just the broadcast stations played this game in a desperate attempt to maintain or increase their ratings. Now it appears that even the cable companies have caught sweeps fever. The newsletter from the History Channel listing November programs began with this entry:

Sex and History: TWIH. From sex scandals to the origin of sex toys, host Josh Binswanger uncovers an hour of steamy history. Burlesque star Dita Von Teese demonstrates the classic techniques of striptease that drove our grandfathers wild. CC [TV G]

In fairness, it should be pointed out that the History Channel also presented the highly acclaimed"History of Britain" in November.


The Defense Department has posted the following announcment:

The contractor shall research and write a volume that will provide a narrative account of the CJCS/Joint Staff and JCS involvement in the development of national security/counter-terrorism policy and counter-terrorist operations for the GWOT during the eighteen months following the attacks of 11 September 2001.



At Stephen Ambrose's funeral rich and powerful people, including Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, mourned his loss. Around the country millions who'd read his books or watched the movies based on them felt a twinge of sadness. Over at Slate they wondered why the media suddenly seemed to have gone soft, noting that most newspaper obits either neglected the Ambrose plagiarism controversy entirely or glossed over it (with the exception of the New York Times, Slate noted, which"delves into Ambrose's wrongdoing early and at length" ).

Should the newspapers have shied away from the controversy? We wondered and turned to the official Ambrose Homepage to see how his family had handled the matter. To our surprise, the homepage includes a wide and catholic sample of excerpts from nearly a dozen obituaries, several explicitly mentioning the plagiarism scandal. The first obit listed is from his hometown paper, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, which Slate criticized for leaving"the plagiarism till the end" and allowing"Tom Brokaw to dismiss it as an 'asterisk' on his career." But the very next obit is the one from the New York Times that Slate rated highly.

"Even heroes have flaws," the Salt Lake Tribune noted in its obituary. The Ambrose family, by the arrangement of the obits on his homepage, acknowledged that Ambrose had his.


At the upcoming annual meeting of the American Historical Association one session is likely to draw more attention than all the others: Session No. 161, which will be held in the Hilton Waldorf Room on Sunday January 5 at 11 AM:"Comparative Legal Perspectives on Gun Control." Two historians will be presenting papers. PETER SQUIRES of the University of Brighton and MICHAEL BELLESILES, who by then will be a former professor of history at Emory University. Bellesiles's paper concerns"The Interaction of Law and Culture: Guns and the Common Law in Early America," a subject he studied during his controversial year-long fellowship at the Newberry Library.

According to the AHA's ARNITA JONES, Bellesiles is still scheduled to appear at the session, which was selected months ago."We expect a vigorous debate among the many scholars who are intensely interested in Mr. Bellesiles' and others work on this subject," she told HNN. Skeptics may wonder if he'll show up. Last spring, when she was on the hot seat, DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN failed to appear at a panel at the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians. She gave her regrets in an email sent just 4 days prior to the meeting.

Note: To get into the session you will have to have your registration badge. Nobody off the street can just wander in.


You may have heard that Congress is deadlocked. This is not exactly true. Over the past few months Congress has been busy passing resolutions in support of history. Just this month the Senate passed a resolution mourning the loss of Stephen Ambrose and the House of Representatives passed a resolution "recognizing the importance of teaching United States history." This was the same House of Representatives which declared last June that the telephone was invented by an Italian-American named Antonio Meucci, a sausage and candle maker. Alexander Graham Bell's claim to have invented the telephone, our representatives informed us, was based on"fraud and misrepresentation."

As ROBERT BRUCE explained in these pages months ago, the Meucci claim is"ridiculous." Meucci's patent was"essentially the same as connecting two tin cans with a string." Fortunately, while the U.S. House of Representatives was busy misinforming the public about history, the Canadian Parliament (Bell lived and died in Canada) was ready with a prompt correction of the record, passing a resolution of its own in support of Bell's claim as the inventor of the telephone. Officially, the U.S. Congress still says it's Meucci.

Politics has nothing to do with this, in case you're wondering. That Meucci was Italian and that lots of Italian-Americans vote, was of no consequence. The House of Representatives simply wanted to set the record straight because it cares about"the importance of teaching United States history."



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