Flash vs. fact on the History ChannelBreaking News
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
- Did Salmonella Kill Off the Aztecs?
- Jewish history is under siege in the middle east and these volunteers are risking their lives to protect it
- 'Amazon should stop selling Holocaust denial books'
- National Museum of African American History and Culture Reaches Milestone of 1 Million Visitors
- What Makes a President Great? Clipping? Sipping? Slashing?
- McMaster knows how national security policy can go wrong. Will that help him?
- Historian and Antiwar Activist Marilyn Young Dies at 79
- Trump Chooses Historian H.R. McMaster as National Security Adviser
- Holocaust Historian Deborah Lipstadt Explains Why People Believe Trump's Lies
- Princeton’s Harold James warns World War Three is now a "serious threat”