George Orwell wasn’t lying. “He who controls the present controls the past, and he who controls the past controls the future.”

Anyone who has picked up a history book or watched a “documentary” on PBS or the History Channel gets it.

In fact, every pinko academic taking up space at some Ivory Tower history department knows the impact their interpretation of the past can have on young minds of mush.

That is why they wanted the gig. It also helps that they probably couldn’t do anything else.

As a result, it seems our side is outnumbered and outgunned. We don’t control the academic journals or the university presses, and we are little more than a token hire at any prestigious institution of higher education, if that.

Except we can win. We just have to change the playing field.

Most people will never read an academic history book. Even most academics don’t read them. And why would they unless their Unisom fails to kick in. The writing is worse than bad. It would often be better to read a 19th century book title than the pedantic drivel academic historians produce: A Brief Exposition of the Constitution of the United States with an Appendix Containing the Declaration of Independence, and the Articles of Confederation, and a Copious Index. And that is good by 19th century standards.

I attended a lecture by Shelby Foote in 1999 where he urged historians to learn how to write. If you don’t know Foote wrote a very readable three volume narrative of the “Civil War.” Foote was on to something. Most Americans get their history from popular sources. They watch a documentary on PBS or the History Channel. They pick up a Ron Chernow or John Meacham book at the local book store. They hear “history” on talk radio or the news. Or they read a few history related websites and news opinion articles.

In other words, they don’t care what academics think. They want their history from people like them who speak and write like them.

I figured this out a few years ago. I have never written an “academic” history book or an article for an “academic” journal, but I dare say I’ve reached more people than most academic historians. Why? Because I have a podcast, I teach at a popular online academy, I write articles for popular websites, and I write popular histories that sell hundreds of times more copies than a standard academic history tome.

You can do it, too. If you want to reach more people, ditch academic history and go popular. Start your own podcast. Write for websites. Connect with people.

And the best thing about it? It works. The Internet levels the playing field.

I give you the pep talk you need in the centennial episode of The Brion McClanahan Show.

Brion McClanahan
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