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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  6. Jeremy

    Jeremy Active Member

    Network decay. The same thing has happened to NatGeo.
  7. MikeG

    MikeG Senior Member

    I recently finished Matt Taibbi's book.

    One of his main points was the treatment of news as a commodity to be consumed by the public. When information is designed as a product, it is built to appeal to specific audiences, when we are talking about Fox News or MSNBC.

    That, I think, may prevent audiences from seeing through the "lunacy," as you say.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 5, 2017
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  8. Ian McAinsh

    Ian McAinsh New Member

    I was always a sceptic watching Hunting Hitler but the programme is all, could have been, might have been... upload_2018-7-17_19-40-40.
    First alarm a picture of aerials needed to communicate with Germany. The image was in fact the British wartime Chain Home radar and had been lifted from Google images. So no big aerials for communication with the fatherland.
    The heavy water plant in Norway was first attacked by partisans and then bombed to destruction in 1943. The stuff they were shipping back to Germany was sunk on the ferry SF Hydro in February 1944 and when some tanks were recovered in 2005 were found to contain 1/2-1% of deuterium and they would have needed enormous quantities to make a bomb. No mention of the Heroes of Telemark in Hunting Hitler.
    I believe it was known that the Pope was handing out passports to Nazis as they were fighting the communists so why the surprise when they find a Catholic priest in Spain re-baptising Nazis with a new name. My last point is that James Holland, whom I thought was a respected WW2 historian, and another member of 'the team' went to investigate the site of a possible nuclear test explosion and they didn't take a Geiger counter. Or maybe they did and it didn't give any clicks which would have undermined their theory.
  9. BombDr

    BombDr Senior Member

    James Holland blocked me on Twitter after I asked him "Found Hitler yet?"
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  10. Alexandria Nick

    Alexandria Nick New Member

    There's one episode that they're investigating this hotel in the Alps or something for supply caches that ratlines could have used. They're out metal detecting, get a hit, and start digging. They, I kid you not, dig up a buried shovel. One of the guys then gravely states "this proves someone was digging here."

    Well...he's not entirely wrong...
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