The new History Channel: YouTube, but can the experts be trusted?

For years, due to the seemingly endless stream of World War II documentaries, The History Channel was often dubbed “The Hitler Channel” (and that was long before the pseudo-history series Hitler hunt). For more than the last decade, the channel already had documentaries on the war – some of the most chronicled pre-WWII – but there were also programs on the “history” of all sorts of things, including the wonderful series Modern Marvels.

Today’s “story” as the channel is now known, is filled with series with titles such as Pawn Stars, Counting Cars, American Pickers and worst of all Ancient aliens. At least the latter of the group is actually dealing with something akin to the story, but the others are just bogus reality series where people buy and sell things. In other words, don’t tune into the named channel Story and expect to find a lot involving the story! It shouldn’t come as a surprise that A&E Networks, the parent company of history, had reworked its signature Arts & Entertainment from a high-end network that the arts actually had that is filled with docusoaps and stories. reality TV series.

While there are other channels to get a story fix, with American Heroes channel – a spin-off of The History Channel and formerly known as “The Military Channel” – among the best, but even it’s away, as much of its programming is just the archives of A&E vaults.

The world of history

Here is where the YouTube video hosting site could fill the void.

Last week I noted how YouTube has grown bigger than MTV has ever been for music videos and YouTube already offers more history videos than The History Channel (or its spinoffs) ever could. Thanks to dozens – if not hundreds – of armchair historians, affordable video editing software and a desire for 15 minutes of fame every day there are new and well-crafted videos of a historical nature.

As a form of social media, YouTube has moved beyond tasteless videos of dancing babies and cute animals to something where every topic under the sun can be discussed. While there are endless how and instructional videos, as well as “indie” movies to take in the Google-owned video sharing service, it’s the historical videos that really stand out in terms of production values.

As a history buff by his own accord, I find that there are two kinds of people -. Those who absolutely don’t care about past events, and those who dabble in story-themed YouTube videos are often made by this latter variety for the latter variety, and cover topics rarely if ever covered in the latter. documentaries.

No conflict is too small, no event too trivial. If this happens, chances are someone has created a video about it.

“On the plus side this ubiquitous social media release allows those with an interest in history to find an audience, and that is a good thing,” said Captain Dale Dye, USMC (retired), film and television military history consultant. “This is what we would like to expect from our schools. “

History buffs Vs. Historians

However, there is a downside to this new trend where everyone with a camera, a few books, and an itch to tell a story can tap and tap their “knowledge.” Most of the YouTube story videos look great, but the information presented rarely goes into much depth.

Instead of documentaries with multiple sources we are presented instead of very polite lectures that take to present a person on past events or elements of history. Rarely do these people offer what research they did, or how they came to their conclusions.

In some cases, the information is inaccurate or worse, biased.

“On the negative side, there is a lot of misinformation and amateurism,” Dye warned. “For a true student of history or just a history buff, you have to be more discriminating and recognize the BS when he’s there. There is no BS filter.

Although it has been said that history is written by the victors, when it comes to making a documentary history all too often one for revisionists. This is certainly true with videos on controversial topics from the Civil War to the Holocaust to the recent conflict in Ukraine.

Where the real History Channel would never have broadcast biased documentaries, YouTube provided a platform for conspiracy theorists and worse to broadcast their story.

A good example is the rise of Flat Earth theorists – those who seriously claim to believe that the Earth is in fact a disk floating in space! Rarely, if ever do these videos bother to offer a counterpoint.

It is not history as much as propaganda!

“In an academic environment there would be peer review,” Dye added. “However, with YouTube anyone can establish themselves as a knowledgeable source. Those of us who use YouTube to scratch the itch need to be discriminating in what we watch, and maybe we’ll learn to be. “

Can we trust the experts?

Even in the ‘tough’ story that shares information about an event – like a famous battle, or perhaps the reason the Brits wore Red Coats, the narrators of these videos just speak to the camera as if he / she is the expert of the definitive expert on said subject.

Do we have to accept what they say so easily?

“Throughout history, readers are required to weigh the quality of the research,” said John Adams-Graf, Editor-in-Chief of Military Trader magazine. “In the past, this has been done by following notes and bibliographies. A reader can always check a writer’s sources to determine whether the printed material was accurate or not. This is lost in the history YouTube videos. “

In many cases, the Internet allows people to take shortcuts. Prior to YouTube, it would have been nearly impossible for the Home Chair Historian to do anything resembling a compelling video on the story. Today it is much easier to make video – but worry about what is being done is not enough research on the subject.

“Unfortunately, a lot of political talk show hosts like to use the phrase ‘do research,’ says Adams-Graf. “They’ve created a world where Google’s ‘do search’ equals it. It’s not research, although it’s a facet of business. history and report writing always requires documenting the trail from reason to conclusions. Anything less, no matter how attractive or easy to digest; is not ‘history. “