What's more obnoxious than a history buff in a movie theater? When I was in grad school studying modern Balkan history, my friends and I knew that the answer was two or more history buffs in a movie theater. When one would sneer at the screen, "they didn't have those helmets till 1916," the others would know that the gauntlet had been cast. The title of uber-nerd was up for grabs. The only way to win was to ignore the plot, ignore the performance, ignore the art and focus our proud laser-like attentions on the meaningless and trivial minutiae. Those were the days.
Neither Alan, my best buddy from grad school, nor I found work in history. He's a librarian and I'm a tech writer on the opposite side of the continent. Maybe if we had the outlet of a room full of captive minds to pass our historical wisdom onto we wouldn't still be such annoying uber-nerds in the theater. But we don't, so we are. From time to time we send each other examples of bad history. Alan has several times suggested we start a bad history website, modeled on Phil Plait's award-winning Bad Astronomy website. I always agree, "yup, we should do that." That usually covers us for a year.
This year is different. When Alan suggested doing the site the other day, a little light went of in my head that said "carnival." "A carnival would be perfect," I told him, "All we have to do is be the host/editors. We're saved the pressure and work of finding enough material to keep it fresh and interesting. We'll make new friends, perform a service for frustrated history geeks everywhere, and rake in tons of prestige, status, and respect just like real history teachers."
So, I'm proud to announce The Carnival of Bad History. I'll be your first host. For now, we will aim at monthly issues with the first issue on March 1. If there is enough demand, we'll make it more often.
The world is full of bad history. Best-selling novels are full of it. Nostalgia-dripping reruns on Pax and the Hallmark channel are full of it. Blockbuster summer movies are full of it. Public statements by Condoleezza Rice are full of it (and, yes, Condoleezza Rice herself is full of it). This is your chance to do something about it. If you post on anything related to bad history send me the link and take part in the premire issue of The Carnival of Bad History.