Thursday, April 24, 2014

Dark Ages, Nazis, and Media Relations

Hey, guess what? I just found out that our campus has a media productions team as part of its public relations team, complete with its own YouTube channel.  I found this out because I was contacted by the head of their team, referred by our Ancient Historian (who I now suspect has it in for me). This is possibly the most amusing inter-campus correspondence I've conducted to date.

First, hir query:

"Hi, Girlscholar. I was referred to you by Joe Venerable.  I would be very interested in talking with you about your research and knowledge regarding Ancient Rome, the Fall of the Roman Empire, and the subsequent Dark Ages.  I’m wondering what caused the Dark Ages? What can be learn from it today?  Is the advancement of technology without the equivalent moral and ethical advancement leading us to a similar end?  Also, is there a tie-in with Nazi Germany?"

For two days, my brain sputtered, trying to formulate a reply. A friend at another (research-oriented) campus suggested a try to turn the opportunity in my favor, so I counter-pitched the most audience-friendly ideas I could think of:

"Dear X, I'm intrigued by the idea, though I'm not sure I know enough about the transition from Rome to the Middle Ages (we don't really use "Dark Ages" anymore) to fill more than 5 minutes or so… However, if you're ever interested, I have expertise in medieval women, as well as the poly-ethnic culture of medieval Blargistan, and all sorts of unsubstantiated opinions about medievalism in popular culture (Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, etc), and I'd be happy to talk to you."

Nice, no? Measured, helpful There were even emoticons.  One will note that I tactfully left out any mention at all of Nazis -- Like a fart in church, I simply could not think of a polite way to address it. 

Then, I received a reply:

"Thanks for your response.  I think the topic is less about the Dark Ages and Rome - specifically…..and more about the reasons behind the fall of Rome and its possible parallel to Hitler’s Third Reich….was there any connection?  Could the demise of both governments be attributed to the advancement of power at the expense of the moral decay of the society?  Joe Venerable referred you, but if you don’t feel this subject would be one that you would be comfortable discussing, is there another member of your Department that you feel could address these kinds of questions?"

::sigh:: Thus endeth my first attempt at being a public intellectual.


Janice said...

Wow, talk about a ass-backwards approach to publicizing faculty research or university engagement. "Let's come up with our own crazy ideas and try to find a faculty member who'll support them, yay!"

That said, if they really want to look for parallels between the fall of Rome and Nazi Germany, tell them to do it via Star Wars and History with our chapter on the rise of dictator/emperors. . . . Nothing to do with immorality, however, sad for your PR person's wild flights of fancy!

Susan said...

So, could you suggest any other faculty members who would follow this cockamamie idea? Maybe Joe Venerable is the perfect person for this!

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Susan, Joe Venerable is the one who referred them to me; this is how I know he has it in for me.

I actually continued the conversation to pitch an idea about the uses and misuses of history in general (and medieval history in particular) to pursue present-day agendas. Planting seeds...