History Channel Election Special Fantasizes That Nostradamus Predicted the 2016 Election
The other day I wrote a bit about how the coalition of people who elected Donald Trump seemed to reflect the demographics of the audience for fringe history. I’d like to pick up on that a little bit, both because it interests me and also because comparatively few people read my Sunday blog posts relative to the other days of the week. I’m not feeling terribly inspired today to research something new. But I saw that the History Channel aired a special two days before the election on Nostradamus’ 2016 election prophecies, and I figured it would be worthwhile to look into why they would do such a thing.
The History Channel posted (from standard translation) 22 quatrains it fantasizes Nostradamus meant to apply to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, or at least the current American political situation since 9/11. This is prima facie ridiculous. Wherever did he have the space to prophesy about Hitler and Ronald Reagan and everyone else he supposedly foresaw? Do they want us to believe that Nostradamus really devoted more quatrains to Hillary Clinton than to World War II?
They selected quatrains that they could pretend have Nostradamus calling Clinton the “man-woman” and they apply the label “audacious brawler” to Trump, whom the show bizarrely calls Drumpf, after a John Oliver joke, on its website. Is someone on staff passive-aggressively anti-Trump? The cheaply made show had its “experts” confidently predict a Clinton victory. And then the show backtracked and argued that “some say” other prophecies, which they gave only a second to, predicted a Trump victory. How convenient! Just like the ambiguous prophecies of Nostradamus, History produced a show that could be read in two ways, to cover every eventuality! But the overall message was that the producers expected a Clinton win. That puts in perspective the descent into political violence and global catastrophe they had Nostradamus predict for the aftermath of the election. Hey, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
A few years ago, I reviewed the demographics for the History Channel and the now-defunct H2 spinoff channel. Unfortunately, the agency that provided those numbers has since removed their demographic data from public view. I guess it’s a good thing I saved the numbers. Here’s how I characterized them then:
Nearly 40% of the H2 network’s audience is over 55, though slightly more attended college (43%). Just about half of H2 viewers live in households making more than $50,000 per year (median income $51,000), while the wealthy (above $75,000) make up less than a third of viewers (30%). At the parent History channel, things aren’t much rosier. The same number of viewers are over 55, though slightly more attended college (45%). Median household income is only slightly higher ($58,500), with slightly more wealthy viewers (above $75,000), making up 38% of the audience.
By comparison, just so you know, the Discovery Channel, a competitor to History, has a younger audience (70% under 55), but with fewer college educated viewers (36%) and more household wealth (almost half over $75,000 per year). The college education numbers are probably skewed some by the larger youth segment of its audience who are high school or college students who have yet to earn a degree. I don’t have data breaking down just adult viewers.
Let us throw in for good measure that a Scarborough USA+ study determined in 2012 that History Channel audiences were more likely to be Republican or Independent than Democrat. Reading into the numbers, which come from self-reporting of survey participants, the conclusion is that History Channel viewers are more conservative than the average American.
While the numbers are not broken down by race, the proxies used by the media to suggest race in turn suggest that History viewers are largely white.
Now let’s look at the demographics who voted for Donald Trump: According to Pew Research’s analysis the day after the election, white voters picked him by 21 percentage points. Men sided with Trump by 12 points, white men by an overwhelming margin—63% voted for Trump. Voters without a college degree picked Trump by 8 points. When we combine these demographics, Pew Research found that whites without a college degree backed Trump by “overwhelming” margins—somewhere around 67% voted for Trump. Whites with a college degree also sided with Trump by a smaller 5-point margin. Older adults, over 65, picked Trump 53% to 45%. Researchers did not break down income by race, but Trump seems to have done especially well at the bottom with white voters and at the top with everyone else, winning the majority of voters with incomes over $50,000.
Those numbers look awfully familiar, don’t they? They are within spitting distance of your average History Channel viewer—or Fox News viewer, or any other channel that appeals to the same general audience.
Therefore, when we see that the History Channel supports the same brand of misinformation as Donald Trump—slightly veiled white ethno-nationalism, anti-government conspiracies, paranoia that “they” are rigging the system against “us,” etc.—we should not be surprised. The media know their audiences, and they know what draws viewers. While the History Channel’s viewership (averaging just 885,000 primetime viewers in the week before the election) is a miniscule fraction of the 60 million people who voted for Trump, and we can’t say that most (or even a majority) of Trump voters vote for him because of his conspiracy theories and paranoid misinformation, it doesn’t surprise me to see that the same stew of bad ideas that attracts viewers to History can be scaled up and used to attract voters as well. Paranoid white ethno-nationalists are not a majority of Trump voters or History viewers, but if you are one, you probably voted Trump and plan to settle in this week for Curse of Oak Island and, perhaps especially, Hunting Hitler.
11/13/2016 10:39:58 am
Your partisanship is leading you to association fallacy. What put Trump over the top were former Obama voters in swing states. You also assume viewers of the History Channel buy their fringe shows lock, stock and barrel rather than as pure entertainment and/or escapism. For me, I watch Curse of Oak Island, but only to shout at the screen and debunk it, as I did with the first few seasons of Ancient Aliens until it became a recycling process. Certainly I was hoping for more from such shows initially (not knowing anything about the subjects previously) given past programing that I enjoyed when the channel first came about (Battles BC comes to mind), but that was not to be the case. There are also other popular shows on the network such as Pawn Stars which have nothing to do with the fringe. Unfortunately, that latter show is now the best relative source of history on that channel.
11/13/2016 12:04:40 pm
No, not at all. One needn't buy into the message lock, stock, and barrel. I am only noting that that the message used to appeal to the audience is the same in both cases because the audience is similar. It isn't just "fringe" history, either. History's shows, even when not fringe, rely heavily on the conservative narrative of history--the great man theory, the Eurocentric perspective, and above all America-first. This isn't, by any means, universal: they also (with their corporate cousins) put on a remake of "Roots." But by and large there is one major view presented, and it happens to be the same narrative that animates conservative politics, and the extremes of both also approach the same ends. One could make the case that the narratives that appear in liberal media and liberal political campaigns are also quite similar to one another, though for very different ends.
11/13/2016 02:54:05 pm
Trump's appeal however, was much broader than anyone imagined. You cannot paint those who chose him (given the choices) with such a broad brush, the palate of which you dislike.
11/13/2016 04:00:22 pm
I didn't. Those who accept and believe white ethno-nationalist conspiracy versions of history and culture aren't the majority by any means, but those who accept them gravitated toward one particular candidate who was happy to embrace their views. The others were willing to say that racism and xenophobia isn't a deal-breaker for them.
11/13/2016 05:28:47 pm
The real narrative of the election which the media completly missed is two different virws of america. The melting pot based on individual merit versus the multicultural view of identity politics and croynism. Look at the protesters, they define themselves based on the group or tribe they associate with and demand group entitlement. this is why any non jewish american of european bacground is labeled as white with the little "w". Its code for "deplorable". This crap has been pushed on america since the 80s pushed by the usual suspects. For example what is a hispanic? An italian who immigrated to argentinia then his granddaughter immigrates to US is hispanic yet the grandson of itialian immigrants who came directlyto the US is "white". The real bigotey of theprotesters is showing. Sorry Jason, ur looking for facts to support ur politics.
11/13/2016 05:50:23 pm
Far be it from me to get into a political argument, but while there is certainly merit to the idea that the older America once celebrated the idea of a melting pot of individuals, it has never been the case that America has treated people as individuals. That is a privilege reserved for those with, well, privilege. From the founding, we lumped people into groups and privileged or handicapped them based on group identity: Catholics and Jews and Black and Native Americans at first and then "Latins" (Italians, Spanish, etc.) and Chinese, and then Latinos and Muslims, not to mention sexual minorities. It's fine to complain that people want to be given privileges for group membership, but that argument only holds water when we stop handicapping people for group membership.
11/13/2016 07:00:17 pm
"Older America". That made me laugh. I'm 53 so guess I'm old although I'm still running 30 mikes per week and can still break seven minutes per mile for at least one mile...ha ha
11/13/2016 09:49:23 pm
I didn't mean senior citizens! I meant the older version of America, the one I keep hearing that we want to bring back.
11/13/2016 10:17:54 pm
"The others were willing to say that racism and xenophobia isn't a deal-breaker for them."
11/13/2016 12:02:27 pm
Apparently the History Channel missed Century 1, Quatrain 40:
11/13/2016 12:03:08 pm
All the statistics about who voted for whom are post facto. They tell us characteristics of a candidate's supporters but they don't tell us WHY that person or group voted as they did.
11/13/2016 01:23:38 pm
See, and *I* think that it's a perspective issue, because what *I* heard consistently during the campaign was Trump's utter contempt for everyone who wasn't a white male who agreed with him--and I heard nothing that indicated "utter contempt for ordinary American citizens" at all on the side of "the left."
11/13/2016 02:56:51 pm
We could go back to Obama calling us conservatives a bunch of "bitter clingers," and then carry forward to Hillary's "basket of deplorables." You could look at the Wikileaks emails that show DNC operatives paying thugs to incite violence at Trump rallies for the sole purpose of defining Trump's mere existence of being an incitation to violence. The mocking of a disabled person was shown to be overactive imagination on the part of those who conflated Trump's quirky hand gestures with somehow being directed at a person, when his hand gestures were consistently quirky at many other venues.
11/13/2016 06:57:29 pm
What's a "white male"? I honestly don't know any so called white male that defines themselves as such. They define themselves as American. By using the term "white". With the little "w" you are showing your bias. This idea of group rights driven by the statist religion of do called multiculturalism is the real intolerance today in America. You generalize all so called white males makes no sense. The experiences of say Syrian Americans or Italian Americans was much different in general than say English Americans. It's any easy narrative ti blame white non Jewish males for every problem in the world. It's really no different than the nazis using German Jews as the "problem". Trumps protests really are the result of three decades of multicultural venom. And I didn't vote for trump.
11/13/2016 07:59:37 pm
11/14/2016 01:01:38 am
Wumigren: I will grant you "bitter clingers" and "basket of deplorables." I've met a number of conservatives, not the least of whom is my own father, for whom those labels are in fact quite accurate, but I will still grant you that the terms are not indicating much in the way of respect.
11/13/2016 04:16:43 pm
Adolph Schikelgruuber read Nostradamus and also changed his name to Hitler, possibly to be like Hissler, the character in one of his stories. The false prophet did not predict anything. Hitler naifested his own story. That is not prediction. That is wish fulfillment. In his day, Nostradamus was considered a quack fraud.
11/13/2016 04:52:41 pm
This comments section is beginning to look like my Facebook page since the election: a political battle field. In terms of linking fringe ideas with Donald Trump just ask yourself which candidate appeared on Alex Jones show. The amount of misinformation floating about our media sphere today is chronic and deeply tilted towards the right. And worse, we seem to have lost any agreement on what serves as an authentic source for the truth. Now when I reference Snopes in reply to a conservative friend's post all I get back is "liberal media!" Not only can we not agree on facts, we can't agree on how to test and verify those facts. Is it a surprise that Trump won or that people watch Ancient Aliens? No, not really. It's just very sad.
11/14/2016 01:05:12 am
Gotta be honest, this ain't anything NEW, and it's kind of dumb that we all keep acting like it is. There was NEVER a consensus on what serves as an authentic source for "the truth," or even for "facts."
Not the Comte de Saint Germain
11/14/2016 01:22:07 am
There were always partisan disputes over what was true and what wasn't, but there was a time when political conspiracy theory was less accepted in the general public. Once upon a time, people who listened to John Birch radio were considered a bit weird and out there even in conservative parts of the country. Alex Jones and his ilk are the 21st-century version of the same thing, yet with Trump's victory they're definitively joining the mainstream of the Republican Party.
11/13/2016 06:44:07 pm
Trump's victory was very similar to Jesse Ventura "shocking the world." The day before the election, the local media fabricated polls to make people think he could not possibly win, which they may have hoped would sway the results.
11/14/2016 01:20:30 am
1. Trump's team ALSO "fabricated polls," and well before the election at that.
11/14/2016 03:37:24 pm
" The violent protesters--poor losers--are out of place."
11/14/2016 03:51:50 pm
And I see Trump himself has issued a mealy-mouthed condemnation
11/16/2016 06:59:43 pm
Yes, indeed. It's very hard see someone seeing deeply through the highlights of Media and political point of views.
Your comment will be posted after it is approved.
Leave a Reply.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities, and subscribe to Culture & Curiosities, my Substack newsletter.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.