As you may know, the former SciFi Channel was renamed "Syfy" because its executives were apparently capable of shame about the fact that they almost never show science fiction - and, of course, because they fell victim to some marketing rat's nincompoopery, but the ethics worked out nicely by coincidence. Well, I think "History" (formerly The History Channel) needs to follow their example since they almost never show anything even vaguely resembling history. My suggestion: "Hysteree" - nicely captures the withering ignorance, nonsensical premises, mysticism, and breathless tone of so much of its content.
First, let me tell you a quaint, heartwarming little story: I was watching a "documentary" about the Dark Ages, and during the narrator's voice-over a number of images of ancient artwork and soft-focus reenactments were playing. During a description of events occurring in (IIRC) 8th century England, one of these visual aids was a mosaic of Alexander at the Battle of Issus created in 100 BC in Pompeii and depicting events occurring in what is now Southern Turkey in 333 BC - not the most pertinent subject for events occurring a millennium later, on another continent, over a thousand miles away. To understand how absurd this is, imagine a documentary about John F. Kennedy interspersing its narration with images of Vikings and Mayan temples.
So, irritated, I emailed the History Channel about the incongruity and got some lame reply - I do credit them with having replied at all - saying essentially that it doesn't matter what a visual aid shows as long as it creates the desired "atmosphere." As long as an image has "historyness" about it, doesn't matter what it is: Ramesses II, Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, what's the difference? They lived a long time ago and they weren't American, so it all just blends together into an undifferentiated mush of some vague, blurry past that isn't worth genuinely exploring. This idiocy just confirmed what I already thought about the History Channel's programming, so I dropped the matter and tuned out. That was five years ago, when it was still producing content largely from this universe.
Now, on the rare occasions I'm channel surfing on an actual TV instead of streaming entire series, whenever I go past the History Channel it always seems to be something utterly ludicrous and outrageous: Shows about "ancient aliens," UFOs, magically advanced lost civilizations, the prophecies of Nostradamus and/or Revelations, Bible mythology presented as credible historical theory, and so on, ad nauseum (and I do mean nauseum). And when it's not ludicrous, it's frivolous and irrelevant: Reality TV shows about pawn shops, truckers, big engineering projects, the US version of Top Gear, and similar programming that belongs on a generic cable channel.
You know how in the paragraph before last I noted that Ramesses II, Julius Caesar, and Charlemagne weren't Americans? This version of "History" probably wouldn't even acknowledge that - it would follow the statement with some mysterious-spooky comment like "...Or were they?" The Parthenon is in Athens, Greece...or is it? 2 + 2 = 4...or does it? Let's hear from Professor Zanius McCrackpot of the Locksmithing Correspondence College of Pocatello, Idaho about how Charlemagne was actually a 19th-century hairdresser from New Orleans, the Atlanteans invented air travel in 2,517 BC with alien technology from Betelgeuse, and arithmetic is a Freemason conspiracy. Let's take you to a roundtable discussion of experts (i.e., a drum circle at Burning Man) about how the Sphinx is really a time machine.
Every single program I've seen on that channel about Judeo-Christian religion has been utter crap, treating Biblical stories not as what they are - what, indeed, pretty much all actual historians treat them as being - but as if the Bible were an actual historical record with its accounts promoted as the consensus view of history. There is always spooky church music and choir notes in the background, with equally spooky angel and demon imagery as visual aids, but there is no logical narration in counterbalance: The stories are treated as an open question with "tantalizing clues" supposedly indicating that they're actually true - the Garden of Eden, Noah's Ark, and various other Sumerian children's fables are presented as historical theories with lots of moronic innuendo on the "or were they?" model.
I don't know how many scholars they have to run through before they find any who will play ball with this kind of crap, but even in those cases their comments are clearly edited to hell. For all we know, they preface even the most timid of statements about the possibility for a historical kernel of truth in myths with paragraphs of caveats and qualifications, all left on the cutting room floor. Suppose this exchange took place: "Noah's flood - do you think it's true there could be some remote historical basis for the Biblical flood?" "Well, you see, the myth of the flood came from the fact that Sumer existed in the Southern region of the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, in what is now Southern Iraq, and these rivers - particularly the Tigris - periodically had catastrophic floods that would wipe out entire cities. Out of that society, it makes sense that a story of a universal catastrophe would arise." This is what would be shown: "Noah's flood - do you think it's true?" "It makes sense that...universal catastrophe would arise."
The fact is real historians place almost zero stock in Old Testament stories set before about the Babylonian period in the 500s BCE, and the non-mythical material (e.g., non-miraculous) afterward including that of the New Testament - names, places, events - is treated as highly suspect, extremely biased, and filled with later institutional interference and censorship. Genesis is a set of myths borrowed from Sumerian pagan religion, the various tribal stories afterward are oral traditions with the usual mixture of real events and nonsense, and Exodus is now considered most likely something made up by state religious authorities under the Kings of Israel to propagandize tensions with Egypt. Like all empires at the time, Egypt used captured soldiers and some part of the people from conquered villages as slaves, but there is no evidence the contingent from Israel was ever significant in size or led any kind of general exodus from Egypt.
In fact, there is no evidence Egypt ever had that many slaves in total, let alone from one group, nor that it ever experienced the catastrophes described in Exodus, or that any significant number of slaves ever departed the country in a short period of time. The empire's labor force largely consisted of Egyptians who worked for the state for food and housing - it wasn't until Rome that slavery really took off as an economic basis. Not that there was that big a difference between being an ordinary Egyptian and being a foreign slave - you got one day off out of ten, a bit more food, religious services, and maybe had the psychological benefit of feeling like you were a part of the society building the things you were making, but ordinary people still had no rights.
Nonetheless, the depiction of Egypt in Exodus is basically the ignorant fiction of a hostile foreign power (the Kingdom of Israel) vying with the pharaohs for control of mutual border territory. It had about as much to do with reality as the depiction of the Communist bloc in The Manchurian Candidate. But that doesn't stop "History" from treating it and every other part of the Bible like some kind of credible historical record, and basically promoting Judeo-Christian religion through dishonest pseudo-history. And we know there is an agenda going on there, because in the far less frequent cases where religious traditions other than the Judeo-Christian are examined, they are not given the same treatment - we don't get the same kind of moronic "or were they?" mystical innuendo if the subject is, say, Hinduism. We're not led to believe that Hindu creation stories could be true, or that there might really have been gods on Olympus and half-humans bred from them, or any other non-Judeo-Christian myth, and yet these things have exactly the same historical status as the central stories of the Bible - i.e., none.
There was another "crockumentary" I saw just a few weeks ago, though I forget the title, about the supposed "scientific search for God" that is allegedly taking place among credible researchers around the world and - of course - they are naturally finding evidence all over the place, the program claims. It's complete fiction, of course, but the audience is supposed to believe that scientists all across the globe are involved in a massive Manhattan Project-level effort to seek and find proof of God, and have made huge strides. Among the "evidence" cited for this taking place is the Large Hadron Collider, because someone called the Higgs boson it was designed to seek the "God particle" as a rhetorical flourish.
Yes, that's right: Because one pop-science writer used the word "God" in connection to a particle being sought by particle physicists, the Large Hadron Collider is really an international religious effort to seek God. And because physicists are on the verge of finding the particle, ipso facto they are on the verge of proving the existence of God! This was an actual program targeted at adults, and it literally did make these claims - I am not exaggerating, and not interpreting. They outright said it.
We should not tolerate seeing humanity's heritage "Foxified" into incoherent gibberish, fantasy, religious mythology, and trivia. This shit being shown under the banner of "History" is just plain false advertising, and not in the harmless way of Music Television no longer playing music or the Discovery Channel becoming nothing but reality shows and big scary animals. Other than funding-starved sources like PBS and NPR, this channel is the closest thing most people come to learning about history outside of college, and its content is often worse than false - it completely seals off a person's understanding of reality in an alternate-universe bubble totally isolated from actual fact and history. Instead of learning about the past and gaining insight into humanity's long, oftentimes horrific, and occasionally glorious struggles - something I know for a fact can be entertaining from the many wonderful documentaries I've seen elsewhere - the audience is dipped into a psychedelic fantasyland of baseless suppositions, mystical religious fables, and trivia-fetish.
It's unacceptable. Sell this shit under the banner of "Hysteree," or "Gibberish TV," or "Ignoramus Maximus," but don't feed people some Frankenstein's monster combination of the 700 Club and a Spinal Tap stage set under the banner of a field of scholarship. Fox "News" has almost nothing to do with news, and "History" has almost nothing to do with history. You are lying to people and making them dumber, you horrible, horrible douchebags.
I leave you with this snippet from a transcript of the Leonard Nimoy intro to the Simpsons season 8 episode "The Springfield Files (a parody of the X-files) - I wanted to find a Youtube clip of Nimoy actually saying it in the episode, but the only versions are unfortunately in other languages for some insane reason:
Hello, I'm Leonard Nimoy. The following tale of alien encounters is true. And by true, I mean false. It's all lies. But they're entertaining lies, and in the end, isn't that the real truth? The answer...is no.
11:21 AM PT: If you want to watch a real documentary and compare it to any of the shit shown on Hysteree, you can't get much better than Apocalypse: The Second World War - it's a very insightful French production shown on The Smithsonian Channel and the National Geographic Channel, and taught me a lot of things I had never known about WW2. You can see it all on Youtube: