Made Everyday…

This Day in History, from The History Channel:

Hallucinogenic Effects of LSD Discovered

1943: “In Basel, Switzerland, Albert Hoffman, a Swiss chemist working at the Sandoz pharmaceutical research laboratory, accidentally consumes LSD-25, a synthetic drug he had created in 1938 as part of his research into the medicinal value of lysergic acid compounds.”

The Next Day in History, from Fun With History:

Albert Hoffman stripped naked, climbed onto a stack of pancakes at a local cafe, and proclaimed himself King of the Alps.

Ok, this is just me, but…

It infuriates me that what makes the History Channel so popular is the very thing that makes history so boring for the vast majority of the American populace. Their understanding of history is to re-simplify it as transmission, relegating the role of the historian to a vessel– a lifeless, thoughtless instrument through which the past is communicated. To the History Channel, the historian has no values, no personality. Indeed, the History Channel survives and thrives by promoting the widely-held assumption that history is a collection of dates and people that students and adults must memorize. Worse yet for true lovers (and thinkers!) of history, now that we are the age of the internet– heck, even television and radio– it is increasingly easy to document events as they happen, after which they can be stored for posterity or viewed over and over again. The recorded scenes of Hitler, battles from World War II, or  race riots in American history supposedly give the viewer first person knowledge of past events, and prevent non-historians from doing what is inherent to any real examination of the past: Think.

Historians interpret the past, not retell it. Historians look at documents, analyze them, and try to tell you what they mean. The History Channel tells you that stuff happened. Historians tell you why.

But maybe I shouldn’t complain. While the History Channel website is at least somewhat dedicated to talking about the past in an uncritical way, the channel itself actually has gone into logging, driving, pawning, and antiquing.


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