Beaten Down by All the Hype

The events of the last week have left my head spinning.  It’s almost like God has decided to cast his own version of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.  First you had a washed up ‘B’ movie actor in David Carradine, then you had a washed up variety show sidekick in Ed McMahon, then the washed up model/actress who had not worked in twenty years unless it was on Lifetime in Farrah Fawcett, then we had the freak show that was the washed up life of Michael Jackson (see MC Hammer), and finally we have the guy who was made famous by being in commercials, Billy Mays.  Paulie Shore had better hide.

The confusing thing in all of this for me has been the extreme revisionism that has come with all of these deaths.  Suddenly, people who were fringe at best a few months ago are being hailed for their greatness.  What’s up with that?  Can’t we appropriately honor the accomplishments of these people without all of the hyperbole?

I am always brought back to the year Princess Diana died when these things come up.  Do you remember who died the same week that Diana did?  Most people do not because the press was too caught up in the hype of Diana to properly give Mother Teresa and her lifetime of service to humanity her due.  I guess the explosion of media since then has given us the ability to overhype any number of things at the same time.

It’s the hyper-revisionism that bothers me the most.  Suddenly, Michael Jackson has been elevated to a level just below that of Martin Luther King Jr.  How did this happen?  Here we have a guy that had obvious mental and emotional issues that drove him to try to appear more, for lack of a better term, ‘white’.  He married a white woman, and I don’t ever remember him taking a strong stand on racial issues unless you count his song “Black or White.”  I seem to remember allegations of molestation, but somehow a 22 million dollar broom swept them all away (and, of course he was found ‘not guilty’).  Now, there seems to be confirmation that he was gay, and did like young men.  Has that become a popular stance in the black community?  And, all of the children of his ‘baby mammas’ have turned out not to be his.  Is this the example that so many young men are following today?

Suddenly, however, everyone is rushing to praise his greatness, not just as a singer and dancer, which he was, but all other aspects of his life, and many more that have seemed to materialize after his death.  Here’s a newsflash, you can be a great singer and a great dancer, and still be a freak in the rest of your life.  It’s OK to admit it in Jackson’s case, because it’s the truth.

Unfortunately, it looks like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are going to have to have a monkey knife fight to decide who will preside over the funeral.  The self-promotion of these two guys in this case is almost as nauseating as the self-promoting of Joe Jackson (anybody need a blue-ray?).

The truth is, Michael Jackson was a great performer in the 1980s, and sadly like many people, had a hard time dealing with his fame in the years since then.  The same group of leeches that followed him during his lifetime have turned into a flock of carrion birds whose ranks have been swelled by the likes of Jackson and Sharpton.

Sadly, the exploitation of Jackson and his children is just beginning.  They say he will not be buried at Neverland.  I’ll bet the opposite.  There is money to be made if they can put the body there, so it will probably happen.  Next, you will have the Michael Jackson memorial tour in which lots of washed up singers trying to jump-start their careers will get together and sing their versions of his songs.  And, of course the tribute anthology will be released on which every artist from Whitney Houston to Jamie Foxx will sing Michael Jackson songs.  Then, in a few years when the money has stopped rolling in, and the nostalgic fervor has worn off a little, his family will sell the movie rights to his life, and back up the Brinks truck once again.

Advertisements

Revisionist History Channel

I remember when I went to public school growing up, studying history.  I loved it.  However, I was brought up in a Christian household, and though my parents did not care a bit about history, I began to notice that something was missing in what I was being taught at school.  There was simply no mention of the impact of Christianity on Western history.

Of course, the first college world history class I took wasted no time in properly bestowing credit to Western thought on the Greeks, Romans and the Judeo-Christian Ethic- just as it should have been.  It was refreshing to see Christianity getting its due, but more than that, I began to feel that it was ‘history’ itself that was being cheated by the public schools in selectively choosing which parts of the story to leave out.

I learned a term while I was at college that was easily applied to this situation- “Revisionist History”.  It’s not a complement.  It’s would be more correctly described as a disease.  Don’t get me wrong.  There is room for some revisionism.  This is easily seen when we look back at some recent presidents.  Reagan, Clinton and George W. Bush were all reviled during their presidencies, but as Clinton and Reagan are both now being revised in a positive note (and rightly so), so will George W. Bush in a few years.  This would be why you should not write history until at least 20 years after the fact, but that’s a whole different discussion.

The bad form of revisionist history tends to be agenda driven.  A horrible example of this would be C.A. Tripp’s horrible book, The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln which attempts to turn our greatest president into a homosexual based on the flimsiest evidence.

The History Channel over the past four or five years has begun a shift toward this type of agenda based historical programming.  It, and the National Geographic Channel, have both begun to promote shows that are based on flimsy theories with little or no backing and no refutation.  For example, there are a host of shows based on Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code that are presented as if they are based on real, long-standing historical theories rather than new speculations taken from a single man who himself says they are just made up.  Unfortunately, this type of programming seems to be their trend.

Last night, I watched the first episode of Expedition Africa on the History Channel.  In it, a group of quarrelsome idiots have decided to attempt to follow Henry Morton Stanley’s famous expedition to find David Livingstone.

The show has given some of the back-story of both Stanley and Livingstone.  They were both great men who do not enough credit for their accomplishments today.  Livingstone was easily the greater of the two.  I was taken aback when they referred to Livingstone as basically an explorer who wanted to end slavery.  I went to the History Channel website and read to see if they elaborated on him further.  Here it was much the same, except that they referred to him as a ‘former missionary.’

David Livingstone was one of the greatest missionaries to ever live.  Period.  He was also a medical missionary.  He saw Africa, and realized that there was so much intertribal strife that he could either stay in one place and affect only a few people, or he could change the way the whole continent worked, and reach millions of people.  He was a strategic missionary.  His theory was that by exploring Africa, and opening up trade routes, the people there would end up seeing the economic benefit of supporting these trade routes and working together.  This, in turn, would make it easier for missionaries, like himself, to reach more people.

The problem I had was that this program, and the History Channel blatantly ignored Livingstone’s primary life calling and reason for doing the amazing things that he did.  It’s easily done in this case, because most people were only taught in school that Livingstone was an explorer also.  I am not expecting them to turn this into a religious program, but the truth of his motivations could be presented without it sounding preachy.  In the end, by selectively ignoring essential aspects of a story, it is the history and the History Channel’s reputation that suffer.