Was there an actual decision whether or not to use atomic bombs in World War II? If not, what were the questions and issues about using the bomb? Why did the US choose Hiroshima and Nagasaki as targets? Did Truman do it to scare the Soviets? Did dropping the bomb actually save lives compared with how many would have died during an invasion of Japan? Professor Philip Nash enlightens us.
There's a great quote and sentiment about sticking with a righteous movement for much-needed change, particularly when it's faced with a big, entrenched and powerful foe. That quote goes like this: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." It's often attributed to Gandhi. That's not very surprising. But we here at the Buzzkill Institute don't call him the Mahatma of Misquotation for nothing, and as we'll see in a couple of minutes, if you were forced to boil down one of Gandhi's very lengthy and sophisticated arguments to a bumper sticker slogan, the "First they ignore you…" saying would fit, more or less. Find out the full story in this episode!
Did you struggle over long division, Buzzkillers? Did your math teacher try to console you by telling that Einstein was bad at math when he was young? Well, I hate to bust one of your cherished childhood stories, but it isn’t true. Einstein rocked the mathematics. Don’t use that excuse when you can’t balance your checkbook.
Professor Phil Nash explains the history of Vietnam in the 20th century, and the very complicated ways in which it was torn apart by war and civil war throughout the mid-century. Along the way, we learn about the deep complications in the history of the Vietnam War that have allowed myths and misconceptions to solidify. In particular, we talk about how post-World War II wars in Vietnam become Americanized. Finally, we discuss the impact of the war in the United States, as well as its impact in Vietnam itself. Listen and learn, Buzzkillers!
Prof. Phil Nash joins us once again to bust US history myths. This time it’s about President Woodrow Wilson. How much of a progressive was he? What were his real attitudes towards race? How much idealism did he pump into his policies on foreign affairs? How effective was he in ending World War I and negotiating things at Versailles? And, finally, did his wife really take over after his stroke in late 1919?
It's our first Woman Crush Wednesday! Professor Marie Hicks tells us the story of Stephanie Shirley, one of Britain's computer programming pioneers. Imagine starting your own company with just £6 (roughly $12) and building it into one of the most powerful programming companies in Europe. That was Stephanie Shirley did, starting in 1961. Later in life, she went on to become one of Britain's leading philanthropists and has donated most of her life to helping good causes, especially those close to her heart. She was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000 for her work in information technology and for her extensive charity work. Listen and admire, Buzzkillers!
Halloween is a demonic holiday chock full of sin and endangered by razor blades in trick or treat candy, right? Wrong. Nothing about the origins of Halloween can be called demonic, satanic, or anti-Christian. And the adulterated candy thing is an urban legend. Get the full story from the Buzzkill Institute.
A Buzzkill favorite! A Viking horned helmet would have been very impractical, and perhaps dangerous, in battle, Buzzkillers. A sword blow to the head might glance off a smooth helmet. But it would surely catch on a horn and send the helmet flying, leaving the Viking bareheaded and highly vulnerable to a death blow to the skull. There is only one depiction of a horned helmet in ancient Nordic art, and it was probably ceremonial. We get the image of Vikings in horned helmets from the 19th-century revival of interest in Nordic culture. Northern Europeans romanticized what they saw as the purest form of medieval culture, as a kind of counter-balance to the glories of the ancient Mediterranean cultures of Greece and Rome. There was a mini-mania for all things Norse in the 19th century. This was nowhere more highly expressed than in Richard Wagner’s operas. Wagner’s costume designer, Hans Thoma, is primarily responsible for the image we have today of horned-helmeted Vikings.
The Russian Revolution of 1917 was one of the most important events in the 20th century. Professor Nash joins us to untangle the extremely complicated history of Russian politics between 1905 and 1917. He tells us what happened and why. Why, for instance, were there so many revolutions (or "state coups") between the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 and the October Revolution of 1917? Why did World War I have such an accelerating effect on the pace of changes in Russia? Why were there so many competing political parties in Russia, and how did the Bolsheviks eventually become paramount? Listen and learn, Buzzkillers.
“Amazing Grace” is one of the most popular songs in Christian songbooks, and one of the most recognizable songs in the world. By one account, it is sung over 10 million times annually. It has also been the font of historical myths and misunderstandings. One particularly dramatic one, and one that has been flying around the internet for over a decade, is that the author John Newton had a Christian conversion after surviving a devastating storm that almost wrecked his ship. True story? Afraid not. Listen and learn from a Buzzkill favorite!
Professor Phil Nash joins us on our very first Man Crush Monday to tell us about the most important American Civil Rights leader that most people haven't heard of -- A. Philip Randolph, labor leader, and founder of the idea for a march on Washington. Randolph started his national career by organizing the first major African-American labor union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, in 1925. His pressured FDR to ban discrimination in defense industries in 1941, and Truman to end segregation in the armed forces in 1948. Perhaps most importantly, his plan for a March on Washington in 1941 set the precedent for the eventual 1963 March on Washington. Listen and learn, Buzzkillers.
Captain’s Quint’s story about the USS Indianapolis in the movie “Jaws” is only the beginning of a gut-wrenching piece of history, Buzzkillers. There’s a lot more to the Indianapolis sinking than most people know. Listen and learn from one of the Buzzkill favorites!
Professor Marie Hicks joins us to talk about gender and employment in the emerging field of computing in Britain, and all the historical myths that surround them. In 1944, Britain led the world in electronic computing. By 1974, the British computer industry was all but extinct. We examine why this happened in the tense post-war world, as Britain was losing its role as a global leader and innovator. Professor Hicks calls this a story of gendered technocracy, and it undercut Britain's flexibility in the technology age. Listen and learn, Buzzkillers!
Introducing the first ever Professor Buzzkill Flashback Friday! Every Friday we'll be re-releasing old favorites. This week we have episode #56 - the Scopes Trial! On April 24, 1925, a high school teacher named John Scopes taught a class in Dayton, Tennessee, using a state-mandated textbook that included a chapter explaining Darwin’s theory of evolution. In doing so, Scopes was in violation of Tennessee’s Butler Act, passed earlier in the year. He was arrested, tried, convicted, and fined $100. The verdict was later overturned on a technicality, but the case has gone down in history as an example of faith against science, ignorance against knowledge, and tradition against progress. But what really happened? Why was the Scopes Trial held? Find out, Buzzkillers!
General Curtis LeMay became one of the most important US military leaders during the Cold Wa. One of the most famous or well-known things about LeMay is that he reportedly said, in the mid-60s, that, in order to win the Vietnam war the US Air Force should, "bomb the North Vietnamese back into the Stone Age." Did LeMay say it? Or, more accurately, was he the first person to say it? And was he the first to present it as the distillation of a wartime policy idea? Oh, it's complicated, Buzzkillers. Find out in this episode!
We're bringing back one of your favorites, Buzkillers!
Hitler storming out of the stadium after Jesse Owens won the 100-meter dash in the 1936 Berlin Olympics is one of most enduring images we have of the tumultuous history of Nazi Germany. Hitler famously “snubbed” Jesse Owens and all African-American athletes because of his ideas of Aryan racial superiority. But did it actually happen? And did it happen the way we usually think? Find out, Buzzkillers!
When asked about being drafted for the Vietnam War, Muhammad Ali is often quoted as saying, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong." This was immediately followed by the now-more-famous quote, “No Viet Cong ever called me n****r,” in a one-two punch of defiance. Ali's "quote" summarized in one glaring sentence the idea that oppression against African-Americans started at home, in the United States, and that, as he saw it, African-Americans were being drafted to fight the wrong fight, against the wrong people. It's one of the most famous sayings from the Vietnam war protest period, but did Ali actually say that phrase, or, more to the point, did Ali coin it? Listen and learn, Buzzkillers!
The Irish slaves myth claims that Irish people were enslaved by the British and sent to the Americas (especially the Caribbean) to work on plantations. This myth primarily appears in emails and Facebook posts, and goes like this: Irish people were enslaved in greater numbers than people enslaved from Africa, and treated worse than African slaves. Irish slave women were forcibly bred with African slaves in order to produce valuable mulatto children slaves. The history of Irish slaves has been buried by our politically-correct world, so the myth goes, and has been replaced by an over-emphasis on the enslavement of Africans in the New World. But is there any truth to it, Buzzkillers? Listen and learn.
As a parting piece of wisdom about generational stewardship of land and nature, Chief Seattle supposedly said to American colonizers pushing west, "we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children." But, like spiritual quotes that get attached to Gandhi, political quips and gibes that get attributed to Churchill, and thoughtful sentiments that drift toward Martin Luther King, there's no evidence that Seattle ever said it. Listen and learn who did, Buzzkillers!
The Lost Cause is one of the most troubling aspects of American history. The ways in which the Confederacy and the pre-Civil War south has been romanticized and fictionalized has done immense damage to American historical consciousness and interpretation. Professor Philip Nash joins us to discuss how the Civil War, the period of Reconstruction, and the Jim Crow era were twisted into an ahistorical mythology that has plagued our national discourse for over a hundred years. Listen and learn.
Sometimes, Buzzkillers, the stars just seem to align. There's a meteor shower and a rainbow on the same day. And a whole bunch of writers, pundits, journalists, and aphorists come up with roughly the same idea at roughly the same time. Or at least they come up with it over a couple of decades, and, in terms of the history of quotations, that's the story of the aphorism and witticism, "life is just one damn thing after another." But it's easier to attribute such a quotation to Mark Twain, and that's what people have done. Did he ever say it? Listen and learn.
Cause. Singular. Not plural. We talk about the cause of the American Civil War because there was one overwhelming cause -- slavery. Not tariff disputes. Not states' rights. The Civil War was fought over the preservation of slavery in the south and its expansion to the west. But, perhaps no other aspect of the history of the United States has been so distorted and mythologized as the causes of the Civil War. Professor Philip Nash joins us to explain why slavery was such a dominant issue from the founding of the United States until 1865.
Anybody who's completed an elementary school education knows that Abraham Lincoln finished his dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on November 19, 1863 by saying that, "...we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." But I thought the background of the quote might fascinate you, and also provide more ammunition for your assault on the ignorance among your office-mates and/or neighborhood pals. Listen and learn, Buzzkillers!
When and why were statues to Confederate soldiers, generals, and politicians put up across the American south? Why is the Confederate Battle Flag so proudly waved and displayed in many parts of the US? Professor Nash joins us to explain why all of this happened, who was selected for commemoration, and what it all means for American history and culture. We expose the falsehoods that are used as rationale for the construction and retention of Confederate statues and memorials. The whitewashing of history, and the myths that support it, are a national disgrace. And we do our best to try to stop it. Listen and learn.
Upon seeing "The Birth of a Nation," the ground-breaking, if highly racist, piece of cinematography in 1915, President Woodrow Wilson is often quoted as saying, "It is like writing history with lightning." Nearly every American Buzzkiller out there has probably heard this in a 20th Century US history class, or a cinematography class, or on the myth-sustaining History Channel. But did he say it?