I watch history documentaries and docu-dramas quite a lot, so I was interested in the History Channel’s three day mini-series “The World Wars.” The premise of this was that WWI and WWII were basically all one war. They also assert that WWI shaped the personalities of the main players (Hitler, Churchill, etc) of WWII. OK, I thought. That’s an interesting line of exploration. So I watched it and gradually became aware of the Right Wing bias. And it wasn’t just the talking heads they chose.
I know that Bohica posted about this on the 29th and there was a robust discussion. But I’d like to address the weird mindset behind these “errors.” I do give shows the benefit of the doubt. I’m not so naive that I think there will be a bias-less show or book on any historical aspect. In fact, the biases are frequently as interesting as the topic. But the slant in this show in some cases just mystified me. Here are a few things that had me shouting at ye olde boob-toob:
o- Talking heads were almost all right wing politicians - there were two historians and two generals (Powell and McCrystal). The most alarming “pundit” was Dick Cheney. Dick-5 deferments-Cheney. Rummy got a chance to talk, as did Lieberman. The only Democrat was Leon Panetta, former Secretary of Defense and Director of the Panetta Institute. Why were these party hacks (British ones, too) getting a platform? Where were the Democrats? And why were there politicians talking at all?
o- There was a heavy emphasis on how, post WWI, Stalin and Hitler spent all their money on war machines and armies, while apparently clueless America and Britain spent money on domestic spending designed to help their populations in a time of Depression. MacArthur is shown berating FDR for daring to spend money on anything other than preparing for war. Silly them! See how they got caught with their panties down? This seems to highlight the excuse for the Right’s relentless funding of the military while slashing funding for... I dunno, children having food, and useless crap like that.
o- There was no mention at all of the Lend-Lease program, or Roosevelt’s covert build-up of war material. He was not caught flat-footed, as was portrayed. They also completely ignored the “miracle” of America’s switch over to a war footing that produced twice the number of ships destroyed at Pearl Harbor in just two years. You’d think they’d mention that feat. Guess it didn’t fit the narrative above?
o- In fact, Hitler and Mussolini were portrayed as fighting against their governments in rather heroic terms. Maybe they just should have worn tricorn hats with tea bags?
o- Had to admit I loved the observation that Hitler saw the Reich as having to be involved in war all the time. Apparently, folks like Senator John McCain are using the same playbook.
o- An interesting bit of “presentism” - it was asserted the American people voted in FDR because “his spirit seemed to soar above his wheelchair and make them feel better.” Um, no. Few people knew FDR was wheelchair-bound and he went to great lengths to hide it. It was a shock to people when they found out later. Absolute BS on this one.
o- D-Day was portrayed, but Ike is apparently the General/President whose name cannot be mentioned. Not kidding, they said “a general” led the invasion. It was all about Patton being stuck as a decoy in the UK. OK, Patton is a fascinating, divisive figure. But Ike was no piece of flotsam. Wouldn’t the fact that Ike was thwarted in his desire to serve on the battlefield in WWI also have been interesting to cover? But since Ike warned against the “military-industrial complex” and was the last Republican to balance a budget, I can see why he is not well liked by today’s Right.
-o Not one peep is given about Franco’s Spain. Nothing.
-o Where was Charles de Gaulle (whose WWI history is fascinating) or anything about the French? Right - they are “surrender monkeys” so there’s no use covering them.
o- I was totally freaked out that there was almost no mention of the Holocaust - and Hitler’s steps before that (Kristalnacht, the ghettos, etc) - until Patton’s discovery of Buchenwald (It was actually Captain Frederic Keffer who is credited with the liberation). And they skipped Mussolini’s death camps as well. They made mention of Stalin’s horrific programs against his own people, though. Key to understanding Hitler’s rise was his scapegoating of Jews, immigrants and anyone not Aryan while Germany’s economy was in the tank. But according to this docu-drama, apparently the Germans just really liked Hitler’s speeches and parades during the depression. Really. They said that.
o- Fascinated to hear that the Tsar was deposed by Stalin and Lenin storming the Winter Palace in November 1917. Um, no, the Bolshevik party overthrew the Tsar’s government in March of that year.
o- And Churchill was made Lord of the Admiralty the same day Hitler invaded France, AFTER the war began, not to shut him up before the war. Nor was he “elected.”
o- I can’t tell you how many modern pieces of equipment there were, nor how many strange armies and armaments shown in the wrong places. All the generals wear 5 stars... before they earned them.
Sure, there were some interesting points made. But why be so sloppy unless you are trying to re-write history? And to what point? I can tell you the right wing didn’t like it much either (although, hysterically, they think it is a LEFT bias. With Cheney as star????). So who does this serve? History Channel can’t be THAT desperate for content, can they?
Oh, wait. "Ancient Aliens" just came on again.