tymshft

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History isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

David Starr shared a cracked.com article entitled 6 Ridiculous Lies You Believe About the Founding of America. For example, one of the “lies” regarded the way in which the Europeans defeated the Native Americans. It wasn’t just our guns, or even primarily our guns:

There’s a pretty important detail our movies and textbooks left out of the handoff from Native Americans to white European settlers: It begins in the immediate aftermath of a full-blown apocalypse. In the decades between Columbus’ discovery of America and the Mayflower landing at Plymouth Rock, the most devastating plague in human history raced up the East Coast of America. Just two years before the pilgrims started the tape recorder on New England’s written history, the plague wiped out about 96 percent of the Indians in Massachusetts.

Cracked.com links to a page on pbs.com.

Within just a few generations, the continents of the Americas were virtually emptied of their native inhabitants – some academics estimate that approximately 20 million people may have died in the years following the European invasion – up to 95% of the population of the Americas.

No medieval force, no matter how bloodthirsty, could have achieved such enormous levels of genocide. Instead, Europeans were aided by a deadly secret weapon they weren’t even aware they were carrying: Smallpox.

The whole story shows how massive changes can occur in the space of one or a few generations.

And no, I’m not talking about how the Native Americans were wiped out by smallpox.

I’m talking about how Cracked magazine became a reputable reference source.

I remember Cracked from my youth. Back then, it was a poor man’s MAD Magazine. (I was unaware at the time that MAD Magazine itself had undergone massive changes in its first few years.) Cracked had its own version of an Alfred E. Neuman-like character, and it printed the same types of TV show parodies and the like.

By 2005, the magazine had switched to a bi-monthly schedule, but in that year it was acquired by a group that decided to change its editorial focus. By 2007, the printed magazine was dead – but the website lives on, producing articles that I never would had seen in my childhood magazine.

But some things never change. Cracked is still perceived as low rent:

The Internet can be a cruel mistress.

Demand Media Inc. found that out the hard way. A year ago the Web company, awash in traffic, was the darling of Wall Street, valued at $1 billion in a Jan. 26 initial public offering.

Three months later,Google Inc., which had sent millions of visitors a day to Demand’s websites, modified its search results to de-emphasize destinations deemed to have lower-quality content. The change throttled the Santa Monica company’s traffic nearly 25% between January and July. Wall Street turned against the company, driving its stock from a lofty $24.57 in March to $5.62 by October.

Kinda like a 21st century version of smallpox – almost. However, if cracked.com becomes reduced to a single Facebook page, perhaps the analogy will work.

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