Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Why you shouldn't believe the History Channel!

By Peter Lemesurier 

The US History Channel recently re-aired a number of its highly alarming (and for the most part misleading) ‘end-of-the-world’ films, originally transmitted in 2009, under the general title The Nostradamus Effect. They included:

Son of Nostradamus
Da Vinci's Armageddon
The Apocalypse Code
2012 Extinction
Secrets of the Seven Seals
Fatima's Lost Prophecy
The Third Antichrist
Doomsday Hieroglyphs
Armageddon Battle Plan
Hitler's Blood Oath
The Rapture
Nostradamus 2012
The Lost Book of Nostradamus
Countdown to 12/21/12: Maya Messengers
Countdown to 12/21/12: Nostradamus
Doomsday 2012: The End of Days
Mayan Doomsday Prophecy




Please see below for details!    

Son of Nostradamus
In 1994 a secret manuscript hidden in the Vatican Library revealed a previously unknown apocalyptic prophesy credited to history's most notorious seer, Michel de Nostradamus’, states the film’s publicity. Unfortunately that wasn't his name, and the ‘secret’ manuscript allegedly discovered in 1994 -- which was not hidden and is manifestly not by him -- has been known to scholars for centuries, its allegedly 'apocalyptic' illustrations having existed since long before Nostradamus’s time. Moreover, it is in the Italian State Library in Rome, and not in the Vatican Library. The film seems in these respects to be a re-hash of the Channel’s lurid The Lost Book of Nostradamus (see below). Son of Nostradamus takes the argument a stage further, speculating about whether the seer’s son Caesar (mentioned in a late annotation to the book) shared his father’s ‘prophetic’ gifts – something that never seems to have occurred to Caesar himself. It also suggests, on decidedly shaky astronomical grounds, that Nostradamus predicted the End of the World for December 2012 (he didn't!). For information on Nostradamus, please see the Wikipedia article on him, or click on the relevant links in the RH column -->.

Da Vinci's Armageddon
Publicised as Leonardo’s Deluge, this is based on the spoof ‘prophecies’ that Leonardo delighted to write for his own amusement by way of describing perfectly ordinary phenomena as if they were apocalyptic forewarnings, and refers to his well-known sketches of The Deluge (i.e. Noah’s Flood) as if they were portrayals of the immediate future. Are the clues Da Vinci hid within his writings, his sketches and his masterpieces, all a secret code pointing to a great deluge that will wipe out all mankind? asks the blurb. Well, no, they're not. Evidently the Channel was successfully hoodwinked. For more details, click on Leonardo’s Deluge in the RH column -->.

[“Da Vinci's Armageddon,” The History Channel website, http://www.history.com/shows/nostradamus-effect/episodes/episode-guide (accessed Apr 24, 2012). ]

The Apocalypse Code
The less said about this film the better, save to say that it takes the perfectly innocent theological speculations and mystical analyses of Isaac Newton, who is known even today as 'the last of the alchemists' and who wrote much more voluminously about such subjects than about science -- and then makes the inevitable meal of them. The Channel's speculations seem to be based mainly on his text Observations on Daniel and The Apocalypse of St. John (1733), which, so far as I know, says nothing whatever about any apocalypse in 2012, though its mathematical calculations do come up with the date 2060. But then Bible enthusiasts without number have for centuries been trying to make sense of Daniel's mysterious figures -- which actually seem to refer to the years 167-165 BC -- in an attempt to establish the date of The End, and have usually come up with the number they first thought of...

[“The Apocalypse Code,” The History Channel website, http://www.history.com/shows/nostradamus-effect/episodes/episode-guide (accessed Apr 9, 2012).]

2012 Extinction
Alas, this is the most notorious of the Channel’s  scare-stories of the last twelve years or so. According to the film's pre-publicity, The Maya, an ancient South American culture [actually they were Central American], predicted that time would end in a violent apocalypse on December 21, 2012 [they didn’t]. They created an elaborate astronomical calendar called "The Long Count," which stops abruptly in 2012 [it doesn’t]. This date, which is also the winter equinox, coincides with an incredibly rare galactic alignment that happens once every 26,000 years [in fact it currently happens every year!]… Nostradamus himself suggests the world is headed toward a coming cataclysm, it goes on [in fact in his book The Prophecies he doesn’t mention the End of the World at all]. For details of the Maya, the proposed ‘galactic alignment’, Nostradamus etc., please click on the relevant links in the RH column -->.

[“2012 Extinction,” The History Channel website, http://www.history.com/shows/nostradamus-effect/episodes/episode-guide (accessed Apr 24, 2012).]

Secrets of the Seven Seals
The Book of Revelation, the most terrifying and controversial book of the Bible, was written by an exiled prophet almost two thousand years ago.... The Antichrist will rise. Pestilence, famine, war, and natural disasters will purge humanity before Jesus returns for the final battle between good and evil. But who is the Antichrist? Who will survive God's wrath? And when will this apocalypse happen? asks the blurb. Fortunately or unfortunately, the Book of Revelation was in fact only one of many contemporary 'apocalypses', both Christian and Jewish, and was written to offer the persecuted Christians of Anatolia of two thousand years ago encouraging 'visions' of the imminent end of the then Roman Empire, not necessarily to provide modern people with an account of future world events! It doesn't mention any Antichrist., either -- the idea of a future Antichrist figure is an entirely medieval concept (compare 'Nostradamus and the Antichrist(s)' in the RH column -->). Moreover, at Matthew 24:36 Jesus states specifically that nobody (including the History Channel, presumably!) knows when these events will happen. Which is just as well, because they didn't -- not as described, at least!
[“Secrets of the Seven Seals,” The History Channel website, http://www.history.com/shows/nostradamus-effect/episodes/episode-guide (accessed Apr 24, 2012).]

Fatima's Lost Prophecy 

In 1917, three young shepherd children from the small town of Fatima, Portugal, claim to be instruments of divine prophecy... Three haunting visions of death and destruction are revealed, but the children are forbidden to give details... The final Fatima prophecy revealed an angel with a flaming sword setting the world on fire. Is this the entirety of the third secret, or is the Vatican hiding something far more sinister? So runs the film's publicity -- perfectly reasonable up to the last bit, but then the Channel resorts to its usual armoury of innuendo and alarmist, suggestive questions, apparently designed to stir up paranoia regarding the supposedly imminent End of the World. Similarly, the videoclip's introduction runs: For thousands of years, prophets around the world have predicted the end of Days. More than one suggests the Apocalypse is fast approaching… The final part of the prophecy may have foretold the ultimate cataclysm... Equally, however, it may not, even if it was correct in the first place (which itself is by no means a foregone conclusion)!

 

The Third Antichrist

This film is devoted to the undoubted, if lamentable fact that Nostradamus is commonly supposed by writers who are apparently ignorant of 16th-century French to have predicted three Antichrists -- unlike the Bible, which, it claims, only predicts one (in fact, the letters of John state that many of them are already around, while the idea of a future Antichrist is an entirely mediaeval concept). Fortunately, though, he didn’t. Still less did he identify Napoleon and Hitler as two of them, as most of these writers are only too keen to suggest. For more details, please click on Nostradamus and the Antichrist(s) in the RH column --> and follow the relevant links.

Doomsday Hieroglyphs
This film purports to base many of its ‘2012’ predictions on the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. As the author of the best-known book on the prophetic aspect of the subject (The Great Pyramid Decoded of 1977), I can only say that if they were basing their film on it, they got many of their facts wrong, not least because it doesn’t mention 2012 at all -- even though, on my reading at least, it does predict a 70-year period of crisis for the world from 2004-7, which I actually described in my next book on the subject (The Great Pyramid: Your Personal Guide of 1987) as 'The Big Crunch'! Moreover, the Great Pyramid contains no hieroglyphs, apart from one or two rough, painted pharaonoic dedications in the topmost chamber and a further set that were somewhat grandiloquently carved at its entrance by a German expedition in the 19th century. And what was the role of the ancient, secret society of Freemasons in creating these predictions and carrying Egyptian knowledge into the new world of America? asks the blurb. Well, the Freemasons weren't founded until the Middle Ages at the earliest! For further information, please click on the relevant title in the RH column -->
[“Doomsday Hieroglyphs,” The History Channel website, http://www.history.com/shows/nostradamus-effect/episodes/episode-guide (accessed Apr 9, 2012).]


Armageddon Battle Plan 

In 1947, ancient scrolls were discovered in desert caves near the Dead Sea, says the blurb. One of the texts, now called the War Scroll, spells out in chilling detail a future apocalyptic war that will end the world. Are modern events fulfilling the prophecy of The War Scroll?… Experts point to an amazing coincidence of events that occurred then and that are happening now. Could ancient horrors herald a warning of terror today that could lead to our annihilation? Well no, the Qumran War Scroll, created during the Roman occupation of Palestine, is about a 40-year military campaign that a future Jewish Messiah (anointed king) was supposed to conduct to bring the whole world under the control of Yahweh (the Jewish national god) in Jerusalem. It describes the various phases of his campaign, and even describes the design of his shield. There is no ‘amazing’ resemblance between this and current events, and no real expert on the subject suggests that there is. 

[“Armageddon Battle Plan,” The History Channel website, http://www.history.com/shows/nostradamus-effect/episodes/episode-guide (accessed Apr 9, 2012).]

 

Hitler's Blood Oath

Hitler's unlikely ascent was spurred by the eerie prophecies of two famed seers, Nostradamus and Erik Jan Hanussen, states this film’s blurb. Hitler would manipulate their work to anoint himself a self-proclaimed Messiah come to save Germany in its time of need (in fact such manipulation as occurred was the work of Josef Goebbels, his Propaganda Minister, and it didn’t specifically attempt to dub him Messiah). Was he the third Antichrist that Nostradamus predicted? Since Nostradamus didn’t predict a third Antichrist, the answer to this question is rather obvious: for more, click on Nostradamus and the Antichrist(s) in the RH column.
[“Hitler's Blood Oath,” The History Channel website, http://www.history.com/shows/nostradamus-effect/episodes/episode-guide (accessed Jun 28, 2012.]


The Rapture

When [?!] millions of people all over the world vanish [claims the blurb, possibly vastly over-estimating the number of the righteous -- as opposed to the self-righteous!], a biblical prophecy that has come to be known as the Rapture will be fulfilled [the Bible doesn't in fact mention any 'Rapture': the idea was invented in the 19th century by a British preacher called John Nelson Darby, who naturally didn't anticipate the consequences of suddenly driverless cars or pilotless aircraft!], and a floodgate of horrors  will be opened on those who are left behind [Rapture fanatics just love to scare non-believers with this expression!]. The Apostle Paul foresaw a moment when all Christians would suddenly be caught up into the air with their Messiah [I Thessalonians 4:17 actually says 'caught up... in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air': this seems to have been entirely Paul's own idea, since it appears nowhere else in the Bible -- so unless people are supposed to believe in the infallibility of St Paul, who nearly two thousand years ago stated at I Corinthians 15:51 that not all his contemporaries would have died by then...!)]. This would occur prior to the final [theoretical!] outpouring of God's wrath upon the wicked. Even Native America Hopi predicted the faithful would be taken off the Earth in advance of a final war between good and evil [there are in fact serious doubts about the origins of the Hopi's beliefs]. Many [who exactly?] claim that all of the events that presage the Rapture have already happened [Paul doesn't in fact list any such events: his sole purpose at this point is to reassure his followers in Thessalonica, who were evidently worried about such things, that the Christian dead wouldn't have priority over the Christian living at the time of the proposed Last Judgment -- and he doesn't appear to have thought it worth mentioning to anybody else]. Does this mean that the Rapture is almost upon us? [in the same letter, Paul makes it quite clear that, even in terms of his own beliefs, nobody will know when the Messiah is about to return -- including, presumably, both 'Rapture' addicts and the History Channel! Thus, the author Edgar Wisenant argued persuasively, on much the same grounds, that it would happen in 1988.... then 1989... then 1993... then 1994...!] If so, we are now on the threshold of an Apocalypse. [There seem to be an awful lot of 'if's here, including the thorny question of just how many present-day Christians are not themselves  'wicked' in some way!]

[“The Rapture,” The History Channel website, http://www.history.com/shows/nostradamus-effect/episodes/episode-guide (accessed Nov 2, 2012)] 


Nostradamus 2012

This film states, among other things, Many ancient cultures from across the world describe startling events that seem to be taking place now. Are they pointing to 2012? Newly discovered drawings  that many [who?] believe are from the famed prophet Nostradamus may hold the answer…[these have in fact been known about since centuries before Nostradamus!]. All seem to point to the fact that in 2012, from the earth’s perspective, the sun will align with the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy in an incredibly rare astronomical phenomenon that occurs only once every 26,000 years… [in fact it currently happens every year! -- cue shot of sun behind a finger of cloud that is decidedly not the Milky Way]. According to an array of ancient cultures [which?], this alignment seems to signify a time of traumatic change [cue shots of various recent disasters]. Further unsupported statements suggest that the Maya’s ritual ballgame symbolised the same event. Alas, almost every one of these assertions is complete nonsense (Nostradamus, who is further portrayed as describing global warming, in fact never mentions the date 2012 at all), including its repeated assertions regarding theories that ‘some experts believe,’ but which are shared by no real Nostradamus expert that I have ever come across.

The Lost Book of Nostradamus

If this two-hour spectacular is meant to represent a factual investigation into Nostradamus and his prophecies, then it is a journalistic disgrace, far worse than any of the other half-a-dozen or so films on the seer in which I have been unwise enough to participate so far. Despite early and no doubt well-meaning assurances by the editing team that it would be entirely factual, the producers seem to have been seduced by the lure of the 'occult' (much, I suspect, as Nostradamus intended!) into producing a film that could scarcely be less factual.


The film's basic theme is that an old book of paintings now in the National Museum of Rome is in fact by none other than Nostradamus, and represents his 'final prophecy' to mankind. No effort is spared to reinforce this impression. Propositions of almost sublime fatuity are ascribed vaguely, in time-honoured fashion, to 'some scholars', 'some Nostradamus researchers', or just to 'many' or 'some', even though no real scholar would countenance them for a moment. Not one of their proponents, so far as I know, is a recognized scholar who has contributed papers to serious Nostradamus academic forums where he or she has been subjected to peer review.  Indeed, one of the most outspoken of them, to my certain knowledge, is not even fluent in French, let alone in Nostradamus's version of it. True, half-a-dozen of the genuine leading scholars are allowed a brief say, but their contributions are either carefully tailored to make it seem that they support the film's general thesis, or treated as if they didn't disagree with it significantly.

Indeed, I myself was employed as consultant for the original, more reputable draft of this film, but it was then totally recast into a form that ignored virtually all my advice, while quoting verbatim and without acknowledgment several verse-translations from my Nostradamus: The Illustrated Prophecies (O Books, 2003) and attributing them to somebody else entirely. It was clear to me that the producers were determined to make Nostradamus seem as lurid as possible, come what may.

True, the film does eventually admit that the book's ink dates forensically from the 18th century, and that its handwriting bears not the slightest resemblance to Nostradamus's (of which we have many examples, dating all the way from his enrolment in the Montpellier Medical Faculty of 1529, through the Orus Apollo manuscript and his various signatures and ex libris inscriptions, to his Last Will and Testament of 1566). Moreover the Rome library, which originally proposed the idea that the book was by Nostradamus, has now changed its mind! About the best that can be said about the film, in fact, is that it is visually and musically dramatic, rather as one would by now expect.

The film, in short, is a complete waste of time. These days, if this one is to be regarded as typical, the History Channel should really be called the Mystery Channel -- if not the Hysteria Channel!
 

After Armageddon

This film describes its alarmist post-apocalyptic montage as a 'theoretical worst case scenario'. In fact most of it is the purest fiction, rather along the lines of a whole range of films from The Tryffids to The Road, interlarded with a range of historical reports from known disasters -- medical, financial, logistical, meteorological, nutritional -- in an apparent effort to make it seem more real. Guaranteed to encourage the worst kind of American paranoia!

Countdown to 12/21/12: Maya Messengers

 

December 21, 2012: a prophetic date delivered in stone by the ancient Maya [says the blurb]. Revered by scientists for their extremely accurate calendars, the Maya are also known for their mysterious ability to predict unsettling events so many are taking the December date seriously [there is in fact absolutely nothing unsettling about the events described]. On this date a rare galactic alignment will take place [so 'rare' that it currently happens every year -- click on the relevant link in the RH column!] and coincidentally, as the alignment happens, our sun will be entering its most violent solar storm cycle [no it won't -- it's a relatively minor one]. And, all of this comes at a time when scientists [which scientists?] believe Earth s magnetic defense shield, which protects us from dangerous solar radiation, may be compromised [no more than usual!]. Our planet may become paralyzed [or, then again, it may not!]. People are heeding the warning and getting prepared, including a group of everyday Americans learning how to fend for themselves and live off the grid [sure, sure -- head for the bunker!].
[“Countdown to 12/21/12: Maya Messengers,” The History Channel website, http://www.history.com/shows/countdown-to-apocalypse/episodes/season-1 (accessed Dec 18, 2012).]

Countdown to 12/21/12: Nostradamus

 

Centuries ago the prophet Nostradamus had visions of the end of our modern world [no, he didn't]. Now, scholars [or are they just nutters with bees in their bonnets?] decipher his mysterious predictions [that'll be the day!] and learn of terrible tragedies and catastrophic events that threaten to annihilate global populations [you mean there's more than one?]. Nostradamus has successfully predicted the rise of Hitler, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the detonation of the atomic bomb, and countless other events [except that he hasn't/didn't!]. Many [who?] fear that the remaining unfulfilled prophecies of Nostradamus will manifest before our very eyes [if only they knew which they are!]. At Radius Engineering in Texas, Walton McCarthy shows state of the art underground shelters to a concerned family and in South Florida, Billy Carson of Fort Terra Nova meets with a prospective client interested in joining an underground shelter community large enough to house over 350 people [if only this had something to do with Nostradamus!]
[“Countdown to 12/21/12: Nostradamus,” The History Channel website, http://www.history.com/shows/countdown-to-apocalypse/episodes/season-1 (accessed Dec 20, 2012).] 
 
Doomsday 2012: The End of Days 

There are prophecies and oracles from around the world that all seem to point to December 21, 2012 as doomsday [says the blurb]. The ancient Mayan Calendar, the medieval predictions of Merlin, the Book of Revelation and the Chinese oracle of the I Ching all point to this specific date as the end of civilization [they do nothing of the kind, unless you want them to!]. A new technology called "The Web-Bot Project" makes massive scans of the internet as a means of forecasting the future... and has turned up the same dreaded date: 2012 [I wonder why?!]. Skeptics point to a long history of "Failed Doomsdays", but many [?] oracles of doom throughout history have a disturbingly accurate track record [really, or only with the benefit of wishful hindsight?]. As the year 2012 ticks ever closer we'll speculate [yes, 'speculation' is certainly the word!] if there are any reasons to believe these doomsayers. In fact the producers devote the film to raking up [albeit with suitable disclaimers!] all the 'evidence' they possibly can to support this preposterous proposition -- be it pseudo-historical, pseudo-mythological, pseudo-religious, pseudo-prophetic or pseudo-scientific. In the process, they completely misunderstand the Mayan calendar (which doesn't end in December 2012), the supposedly rare 'galactic alignment' of December 2012 (which isn't as accurate as often claimed, and in fact currently happens every year!) and the nature of magnetic pole-shift (which happens all the time). Even John Major Jenkins, the arch '2012ologist', has apparently described the film as '45 minutes of unabashed doomsday hype and the worst kind of inane sensationalism'.

Mayan Doomsday Prophecy

The Channel's blurb states: The world is coming to an end on December 21, 2012! The ancient Maya made this stunning prediction more than 2,000 years ago [no, they didn't!] We'll peel back the layers of mystery [it goes on] and examine in detail how the Maya calculated the exact date of doomsday [that would be rather clever, given that they didn't]. Journey back to the ancient city of Chichen Itza, the hub of Maya civilization [well, only latterly, in the 9th century of our era, because most of the other centers had died out by then!] deep in the heart of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula , to uncover the truth about this prophecy [that'll be the day!]. The Maya were legendary astronomers and timekeepers--their calendar is more accurate than our own [no, it isn't]. By tracking the stars and planets they assigned great meaning to astronomical phenomena and made extraordinary predictions based on them [really?]--many of which have come true [which, and in whose opinion?]. Could their doomsday prophecy [the one they didn't make, you mean?] be one of them? In insightful interviews [pseudo-?] archaeologists, astrologers, and historians speculate on the meaning of the 2012 prophecy [the one that 20th-century commentators have made up, you mean?]. Their answers are as intriguing as the questions [I don't doubt they are!].

Apocalypse Island

Does a remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean hold the final clue to the Mayan's apocalypt[ic prophecies]? the blurb apparently asks. Since the Maya didn't make any apocalyptic prophecies, the island would have to be pretty remote -- and in fact the film's premises are entirely fictional.





Thankfully, then, you can happily ignore all the disturbing suggestions made in these films -- which, despite the History Channel's claims of impartiality, manifestly give far more weight to the doom-mongers than to the reputable scholars, not least by constantly wheeling out in their favour such suggestive, meaningless 'weasel-phrases' as 'some say', 'many believe', 'experts suggest', 'it is thought' and so on, together with words such as 'may', 'could' and 'perhaps', and ominous suggestive questions along the lines of 'Does this indicate that...?' and 'Could this be a warning that...?' (if you are foolish enough to watch the films, try counting these phrases -- you'll be amazed!). After all, the unspecified 'some' or 'many' are always bound by definition vastly to outnumber the few academically qualified objectors who are actually allowed to speak -- or who are even mentioned at all -- and almost anything may or could happen, however unlikely it is!

For further information on Nostradamus, see:




(googlable via the links at the bottom of this page and/or in the RH column -->
and complete with CD of actual facsimiles of original texts)

For further information on December 2012, see:

The book that reveals the true date of the Mayan End of the World

  (googlable via the link at the very bottom of this page)

 

For further details, please click on '2012: It Wasn't the End of the World' in the RH column. -->


HOW YOU CAN HELP
Please feel free to count the number of these 'weasel-phrases' in any given History Channel film or online video clip from the series and enter the result under 'Comments' below. If possible, state its length in whole minutes and divide this figure into your result to give its HAQ, or 'Hot Air Quotient' (ideal value = 0). This may be of help to potential future victims.

Example: 
Film or video: Videoclip 'Antichrist Prophecies'
Number of 'weasel-phrases': 6
Length in whole minutes: 3
Therefore HAQ = 6/3 = 2

2 comments:

  1. Great page! This highlights that people need to look a lot deeper than just what is reported in the sensationalised shows the History Channel has been producing in recent times.

    It proves that there is another side to the argument, based on scholary research. I hope others will consider this, when forming their final conclusions!

    ReplyDelete