Alternate History – Spike

Desperate illegals trying to escape from the United States into Mexico? Nazi soldiers patrolling the border? That’s right, welcome to America… if Hitler had won World War II! This is Alternate History on SPIKE! – Spike

Rating: 25 out of 100

We normally don’t waste our time with the silly, albeit guilty pleasure fare of Spike TV for the purposes of the ‘Tastic, however, “the special,” Alternate History (Spike is calling it a “special,” it seemed a lot more like a back-door pilot to us), piqued our interest with the trailers and then so thoroughly disappointed us with the actual production that we felt it was necessary for the sake of historical and intellectual honesty to warn our readers to stay away from this ridiculous crapfest trying to pass itself off as a serious documentary.

On its face, it would seem to be an intriguing idea for discussion.  It is pretty well-accepted by scholars that WWII could have gone either way save for a few key events but the problem is that this dopey presentation doesn’t talk about those key events, per se, it discusses technologies that were researched but never developed to their full capability. Now, if you’re going to have the, “What if the Nazis completed/used [insert technology here]?” discussion, you’d better provide some historical context to back up your speculation.  This mess does nothing of the sort and to make matters worse it is riddled with credible sources providing interviews (Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, historical scholars, military experts, etc.) in an attempt to fool the viewer into believing this schlock is anything more than really bad science fiction.

A fine example of this was the nonsense they presented during the opening of the show when they suggest that D-Day would have turned out differently had the Messerschmitt Me 262 (the world’s first jet fighter which had been in development since 1941) been mass-produced, but “Hitler and his generals didn’t grasp the tactical importance…”   First, this is historically inaccurate as the Me 262 didn’t even go into service to have pilots trained to fly it until April of 1944 and didn’t even see combat until July… a month after D-Day.  It wasn’t an issue of mass-production it was an issue of technological development, and that’s what Hitler (not his generals) didn’t grasp; the importance of focusing efforts on military technologies for future use.

Because of his lack of military command experience and his massive egomania, Hitler didn’t care about scientific advancement unless it gave immediate results to be used in the war effort. Therefore, there weren’t enough resources dedicated to the Me 262 or any other cutting edge technology until it was too late because Hitler allocated all of the Reich’s resources on the mass-production of current technologies that were in use (tanks, munitions, aircraft, etc.).  The point of all of this is that when discussing any of these technologies, the discussion ends right there. These new technologies could never have been used to any serious degree by the Nazis to change the outcome of the war because a cult of personality was running the military, not the military.  Alternate History doesn’t even address that because if they did, that eliminates the rest of this science fiction speculation about what America would be like over the next 70 years.

Speaking of which, we don’t know what’s more stupid, the complete ignorance surrounding the historical and political context or the notion that all of the technological advances made possible by the post-war boom and American innovation would exist under National Socialism… just a little different.  By its very nature Naziism represses innovation due to the fact that all advancement would be controlled by the state for the purpose of benefiting the state.  I.e., no capitalism and that’s what’s pushed the greatest advances in technology and quality of life, post-war.  Of course there’s also the issue of only the racially pure being allowed to participate and there’s also the little problem that Hitler is still in the picture and if he didn’t see the value in pursuing a technology, it wouldn’t be pursued… which is of course the same problem with the technology during the war.  For crap’s sake, if you want an understanding about what life would be like if the Nazis won, read George Orwell’s 1984 (or if you’re too lazy, watch the various film incarnations).  Yeah, we know Orwell intended it as an allegory to Stalinism but there isn’t a whole heck of a lot that distinguishes the two socio-political systems.

We can only recommend Alternate History in so far as you have to see this for yourself to understand just how stupid it is.  If, as we suspect, this is a backdoor pilot and there is an intention to do more of these Alternate History shows, we can only assume that it’s going to be as bad as this first episode.  Below is the entire episode.  See if you can get past the first five minutes.

More thoughts:

To further understand why Hitler could never have succeeded, I refer you the 2004 German bio-pic, Downfall starring Bruno Ganz as Hitler during the last week of Hitler’s life… in the bunker.  To understand Naziism, you have to understand Hitler and if you weren’t a history major with a focus on WWII or just a serious WWII buff, you’d never be able to comprehend the true level of insanity that surrounded Hitler and his cult.  This is just something that they don’t teach in high school or in a level 100 or 200 college course. Downfall  effectively spells it out for the masses.  Here’s the full film, enjoy!

Veterans Day Special: ‘The Pacific’ (HBO – Thursday 11/11/2010 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.)

The Pacific is an epic 10-part miniseries that delivers a realistic portrait of WWII’s Pacific Theatre as seen through the intertwined odysseys of three U.S. Marines – Robert Leckie, John Basilone and Eugene Sledge. The extraordinary experiences of these men and their fellow Marines take them from the first clash with the Japanese in the haunted jungles of Guadalcanal, through the impenetrable rain forests of Cape Gloucester, across the blasted coral strongholds of Peleliu, up the black sand terraces of Iwo Jima, through the killing fields of Okinawa, to the triumphant, yet uneasy, return home after V-J Day. The viewer will be immersed in combat through the intimate perspective of this diverse, relatable group of men pushed to the limit in battle both physically and psychologically against a relentless enemy unlike any encountered before. – HBO

9 out of 10

Well it’s DVR time, folks. HBO is airing all ten episodes of the award-winning and critically acclaimed World War II mini-series, The Pacific on today, Veteran’s Day starting at 11:00 a.m., and it is in your best interest to record it if you haven’t seen it already.

Executive Produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, The Pacific is without a doubt one of the top five events ever aired on television. The number one event would be the Spielberg/Hanks companion World War II mini-series from 2001, Band of Brothers.

The problem I had when I first watched The Pacific is that I expected it to be exactly like Band of Brothers and although, like Band of Brothers, it is extremely combat-heavy and the special effects are amazing and cinema-quality (by the way, this series was MADE for Blu-Ray), it is a much different series.

Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone (1916-1945)

Whereas Band of Brothers focuses on the men of E-Z company as an ensemble but no one specifically, The Pacific focuses on the 1st Marines Division in the aggregate but more specifically on the stories of the three major characters as noted in the description, Eugene Sledge, Robert Leckie and the most famous of all, Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient, John Basilone, who is one of my personal heroes. That alone distinguishes it from Band of Brothers but as significant is the focus on the non-combat aspects of the lives of these three men and the Marines in The Pacific theater. There are two complete episodes that literally have no combat in them whatsoever, focusing on the personal aspects of the character’s lives and their struggles after returning home.

The whole series is magnificently done from beginning to end and as an American who appreciates the history associated with this era, personally having several family members who served in the Pacific Theater, I applaud Spielberg and Hanks for bringing to life the stories of these men.

Over the years, within the media and popular culture, the Pacific Theater, in my opinion, has been woefully ignored in favor of the stories surrounding the European Theater. By saying this, I don’t mean denigrate the sacrifices made by those brave men and women who served in the European Theater against Hitler’s war machine, but rather, I simply want to highlight that both theaters were equally as important in the scope of the war effort and we should never forget that.  Spielberg and Hanks have not.

If I were to have one complaint about The Pacific it would be that it does take a little while for the story to pick up (about four episodes) but when it does, the series is damned near perfect.