Tuesday, October 5, 2010
How to Lower Your IQ: Watch the History Channel
Have you watched the History Channel lately? Seen any history on it? I have this theory that you actually lower your IQ watching it.
I love history, any history, read it all the time. I am especially fond of the late Israeli diplomat and author Abba Eban’s comment that “History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives.”
As you have probably deduced by now, I am very unhappy with the pabulum and low-brow offering of programs aired on the History Channel. I am most irked by shows that have absolutely nothing to do with history.
To wit, “Ice Road Truckers”, “Pawn Stars”, “Swamp People”, “Stan Lee’s Superhumans”, “American Pickers”, along with “Sharp Shooters” and “UFO Hunters.”
These programs are utterly devoid of anything a moderately educated person would deem to be of any historical value.
Most, but not all, History Channel shows have little to do with history, events and personalities from the past. Take, for example, the channel’s obsession with the end of the world. It offers us programs such as “Armageddon”, a biblical, not historical event, along with “Bible Code, Predicting Armageddon.” Then, for good measure, it throws in “Life After People”, a program that describes what the Earth will be like just as soon as the human race goes extinct.
It also dabbles in the stuff usually associated with shamans tossing chicken bones and shiny pebbles on a mat in order to foresee the future. The “Nostradamus Effect” offers to explain his “predictions” which, not surprisingly, have been used to explain wars and other easily predictable events like floods and earthquakes.
Only on occasion does the History Channel actually broadcast history. There is an excellent series, “America—The Story of Us”, that I can recommend, but it is an exception on a channel more likely to air “Sex in the Ancient World” than anything you’d want a younger member of the family to watch.
Years ago in the 1960s, Newton Minnow, a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, gained everlasting fame when he described television was “a vast wasteland.”
Actually, his entire quote from a speech to members of the National Broadcasting Association was as follows: “When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better. But when television is bad, nothing is worse.”
“I invite you each of you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there for a day without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.”
Today, I have well over a hundred channels from which to choose. I clearly do not have to watch the History Channel, but I would like to if it ever gets around to broadcasting anything resembling history.
© Alan Caruba, 2010