Monday, July 02, 2007

Nova and history-channel distortions

I just finished watching an episode of Nova called "The Great Inca Rebellion". It was interesting, but I kept being struck by the deceptive way that the show was presented for dramatic effect. The show focused on a graveyard. There were bones of people who were bludgeoned, shot, and stabbed to death. The forensic evidence was used to "prove" that Pizarro had Indian allies when he conquered the Inca empire.

One part of the dishonesty was the theme of the show, that everyone believed the ridiculous story about 200 Spaniards conquering the Inca empire until these bones came to life and disproved the story. One Peruvian interviewed for the show even referred to this ridiculous story as the "official" account, as though there were an Office of Conquistador History that enforces unbelievable fantasies about ancient Spanish adventurers and only the brave grave-robbing archeologists featured on the show had the audacity to disagree.

Another part of the dishonesty was the fanciful tale they told of how these people died. With no evidence presented on the show, Nova decided that these people had died at the Battle of Lima. I noticed that none of the historians or archeologists that they interviewed would supported the story.

I've seen the same lose concern for accuracy on the history channel -accuracy sacrificed for drama. You know, I don't mind it so much in historical fiction because fiction is, you know, fiction. But it seems to me that a show that purports to be a historical documentary owes its audience a best effort at presenting the truth.

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