1. MikeG

    MikeG Senior Member

    For a very long time, History Channel has blurred the line between information and entertainment. Two recent documentaries have exposed the network’s over-the-top sensationalism in ways that are hilarious and extremely frustrating for serious professionals in the discipline.

    Hunting Hitler.
    The first example comes from the History Channel show Hunting Hitler. On the November 2016 premiere of season two, the “investigators” drop a bombshell: a picture of Hitler found in Argentina dating back to the sixties.

    The episode is featured here. The actual picture first appears between 1:26 and 2:08.

    Hitler:Moe Howard.

    If you look closely at the picture, the person’s identity is pretty obvious. It is Moses Harry Horwitz, otherwise known by his stage name of Moe Howard. That’s right, Hunting Hitler has discovered a picture of Moe Howard of the Three Stooges taken in the seventies. I have been a Three Stooges fan for most of my life. It’s him in a picture that dates to the early seventies.

    Funny and really embarrassing.

    More recently, History Channel produced a documentary, Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence. According to the History Channel website:


    This story took a few days to debunk. Vanity Fair, among many other publications, took History Channel to task:


    The actual photo is here along with its original archival source.


    The outright sloppiness of all this is pretty appalling. Metabunk has covered History Channel in another thread, specifically its “infotainment” approach in shows like Pawn Stars and American Pickers.

    What bothers me more is how History Channel handles “popular” history. The lay public deserves way better. And I worry that, at the heart of debates about “fake news” is a growing ignorance of both history and the methods present to understand it.

    Good history, particularly documentaries, can be both informative and entertaining. Ken Burn’s work always comes to mind. I am really looking forward to his upcoming documentary on the Vietnam War.

    Anyway, here’s to a few more years of fighting the good fight in my classes.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 21, 2017
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  2. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer Moderator Staff Member

    It seems to be a growing trend in all forms of media. Newspapers and documentaries in general seem less interested in investigating and informing, and more interested in just throwing speculative material and unfounded claims out there, because "mysteries" generate more publicity than actual facts.

    It seems that I am very much in the minority in finding answers and solutions an order of magnitude more interesting than "unsolved mysteries". The general public apparently prefers the latter, and the media cater for them.
  3. EricL

    EricL Member

    I must admit that when I saw the pre-show hype and then learned that their whole case rested on the assumption that an unidentified woman in a rather grainy photograph, with the only view of her being from behind, must surely be Amelia Earhart and that she must surely have been a prisoner at the time the photo was taken, was pretty absurd. Your comments regarding what's now the normal trend in the making of modern "documentaries" are very good, but I wonder how much worse things need to get before average people start to see the lunacy that's behind such programs, or at least that they start to care about the difference between what's correct and verifiable compared to what's just idle speculation.
  4. MikeG

    MikeG Senior Member

    That's a good question.

    And I honestly don't know the answer.
  5. Whitebeard

    Whitebeard Senior Member

    Humm, there's a bloke who lives near me who is spit of Jerry Garcia. I wonder if I took a few blurry long distance snaps of him outside our local Lidl, then cooked up a story that Jerry isn't dead, but faked that 1995 heart attack and was smuggled out of the Fort Knolls clinic by (say) George Harrison and Mick Ronson (both of whom are dead so can't be questioned directly about it), then got a couple of my music industry buddies to say a few vague things sort of confirming the story; the premise being that Jerry couldn't get clean being Jerry, so decided to fake his own death and start a new life on an English council estate....

    ...how big a check could I get from The History Channel?
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2017
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