Wednesday, March 9, 2016

History's mistorys!!!!

I mentioned a couple of weeks back that I was working on a freelance project that involved research; it was feared that the author may have relied on Wikipedia too much ("too much" being "at all"). But as it was a history book, it got me thinking about history as an academic discipline.

In college I once had a psych professor who hated history, thought it was the most useless subject possible to study. I guess he was unfamiliar with the famous Santayana dictum. At least my prof admitted that he might have had some weird trauma in his past that caused him to hate history.

I love and validate the study of history. But what occurred to me while going through some period sources and academic journals is that telling the truth based on evidence is not the way to fame and fortune in the field. The best way to get fame and fortune is probably to come up with some astounding whopper and hope there's enough doubt to keep you from being exposed until you yourself are history.

For example: While Kennedy conspiracy theorists are usually relegated to the tinfoil beanie squad, Zachary Taylor assassination conspiracists are still taken seriously. Poor ol' Zach, our late 12th president, became a hot topic when historians decided he'd been killed in office not by dysentery but rather by arsenic, administered by a lethal conspiracy of shadowy pro-slavery forces. So they dug up Mr. Taylor and tested him for arsenic, and he did not have arsenic in him. You know what he had? Residency in the fever swamp of Washington, DC, in 1850. It's amazing we didn't lose a lot more presidents back then.

Anyway, using the Whopper Gambit I think I might yet become a famous historian, with my findings published in esteemed journals like the Daily Mail and Gawker. I thought I'd try out some engaging historical lies; which ones do you think might work the best?

1) Shakespeare's plays were not written by dull front man William "Willy" Shakespeare but by Elizabeth I, in her spare time. The sonnets were knocked off by a guy named Harvey Schonfeld.

2) The English never did conquer the Irish, not in the 12th century or at any other time. The English just came and started freeloading and the Irish were too polite to ask them to leave.

3) Chicago-style pizza originated when the city's Italian immigrants, denied the legal opportunity to buy pizza stones, had to steal manhole covers instead.

4) NASA only pretended to put men on the moon, as the math necessary to land on an object in geosynchronous orbit was too difficult with primitive computers. The Apollo missions instead landed on the heliocentric Mars and pretended it was the moon. That's why all those pictures are in black and white---to avoid revealing Mars's red dirt.

5) The term "OK" does not come from slang for "all correct" (or "oll korrect") or even "Old Kinderhook," Martin Van Buren's nickname, as long suspected. It actually stood for Oscar Kinkeldorf, whose restaurant in Cincinnati was just all right.

6) "A Visit from Saint Nicholas" was not written by Clement Clarke Moore, but was in fact written by a strange little woman named Dolly, who was an outcast because of her progressive thinking.

7) Genghis Khan? Actually got his start conquering as a 10-year-old girl.

8) While the Flavian Amphitheater (a.k.a. the Colosseum) was never used for mock sea battles, it was actually used as a giant salsa bowl.

Chips and circuses.

9) All of Edison's inventions were made by his secretary, Phyllis. He never gave her a raise.

10) John F. Kennedy was indeed shot on November 22, 1963, but what really killed him? Dysentery.

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