I've always loved history--was even going to major in it for a while--and my favorite kind of reading remains "historical fiction"--a term which has always amused me for its oxymoronical overtones. Still, I understand that writers of this genre are "more or less" devoted to adhering to facts when they address actual events that can be documented and proved--i.e., the broad historical outlines and context in which the work is set. But they allow themselves considerable latitude in imagining the words, thoughts and mundane daily activities of the characters they choose to create or "flesh out" in this context. I recently finished reading Wolf Hall, just such a fictionalized account of the rise to power of Henry VIII's chancellor, Thomas Cromwell. No verifiable historical facts have been altered. But since we can never know la petite histoire--i.e., exactly what Cromwell thought of his cat or exactly what he said to either Cardinal Wolsey or Archbishop Cranmer, this novel entertains without straining credulity.
The same, alas, cannot be said for the History Channel and History International, which I fear are not much more devoted to history than is Fox News to "fair and balanced" reporting.
The History Channels, like Fox, seem to think that viewers are primarily interested in rumor, scandal-mongering, titillation and cheap thrills. Hence, their penchant for sensationalist series entitled "Ancient Aliens," or "Armageddon" or "Nostradamus Effect" or "MonsterQuest" or "The Real Face of Jesus" or "How Bruce Lee Changed the World."
Shoot, most of these programs could have been chalk talks by Glenn Beck. Innuendo, opinion, superstition, runestones, folk traditions, incoherent quatrains, ravings from angels and (who knows? ouija board messages?) are all presented as equally valid "evidence" for asininity and melodramatic hyperbole.
Since when are any and all opinions equally meritorious? Is truth really subjective? Just pick whatever truth you find most appealing? That's not just historical fiction--it's fiction pure and simple.
Anyway, here are some "truths" I've learned from watching various "history" channels:
1) Hell is located in the center of the earth because the "bible says so."
2) The world will end in 2012 because that's the end of the Mayan calendar.
3) Jesus had a long, hooked nose, because the Shroud of Turin can be computer enhanced.
4) The pyramids at Giza and at Teotihuacan were both built by extraterrestrials, because both have bases of approximately the same size.
5) Ancient Egyptians knew how to fly, because they couldn't have done the geometry otherwise.
6) Aliens have been experimenting with human genetics for millennia, probably dumbing us down.
7) There is good evidence that we are living in the end times, because we have hurricanes and volcanic eruptions.
8) The god Moses met on Mt. Sinai was probably an alien (you know, from another planet, not from Mexico).
9) The Ark of the Covenant is hidden away in a little mud chapel in Ethiopia, because that's what people say.
10) The "wheel" that Ezekiel saw in the sky was a flying saucer.
11) The Great Sphinx is what certain ancient aliens looked like.
12) Manna was actually algae, distributed by extraterrestrials flying about in a pillar of fire.
Algae is green isn't it? And extraterrestrials are "little green men," aren't they? And the moon is "green cheese," isn't it?
So what about Bruce Lee?