Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Editorial: Why Conspiracy Theories Don't Work IRL

Sorry I haven't been posting much. Work and family and working on other projects has kept me busy.

But today there is something I want to get off my chest, something that has been nagging me forever, namely how conspiracy theories are used in books, TV shows, and other media.

It's a very popular to believe in conspiracy theories. After all, throughout all of time, history has been written by the victors, and they are very insistent on remaining the victors for a long time to come. Conspiracy theories offer possible explanations for events that seemed to happen from left field when you look at history. The very popular President JFK being assassinated in 1963. The Twin Tower's collapsing into a ball of dust and flame in 2001. Possible aliens landing in Roswell in 1949.

All of these have various conspiracies around them that popped up the moment that they happened., Then there are the other ones that have been around for centuries: the Illuminati, the Rothschild's, the Knights Templar. In fiction, you often see these shadowy figures manipulating people, governments, businesses, the whole world for their personal gain. And every story of a business executive who gamed the system and made a fortune, or the politician who could do no wrong, attacking corruption suddenly being brought down. All of it feels like someone is really controlling things behind the scenes, especially in fiction. And in fiction, a well done secret conspiracy makes all the sense in the world.

But I can't buy it in real life. There are too many variables, too much that could go wrong, too much that can be uncovered. Sure, people claim things are happening, that Queen Elizabeth is a lizard (by the way, Happy 90th Birthday, your Majesty) or that the US government is mind controlling everyone. But the thing is, they don't have proof. The proof they claim to have is faulty, or missing, or destroyed or what have you. Frankly, unless it's revealed, it doesn't exist. Besides, most conspiracy theories contradict each other, ruling most of them implausible already.

But, think about it. One organization that controls everything in the world, every government, every big business to ensure it's own goals, such as to a New World Order? How could that be possible? If it was, wouldn't the 193 member states of the UN actually be working together on certain issues, like, say, making the UN more powerful and the member states weaker? Or that they try to screw things up to make a New World Order seem more feasible? The UN and everyone around the world may have their issues, but there are bright spots, like the recent agreement in Syria. I can't buy it. Of course, everyone would claim that secrecy is the reason why you wouldn't hear it. But how can a secret that big be kept for so long? Eventually someone would blab, reveal too much information, Anonymous would get a hold of secret cache of data, etc. etc. Besides, the Illuminati was founded in mid 18th century Bavaria to promote democracy in an absolutist monarchist regime. Not exactly the kind of people back then who would want to unify the world under a totalitarian system, right?

HOWEVER, there is a big caveat here that I want to make clear. Just because something hasn't been revealed doesn't mean it exists, we just don't know it yet. Sometimes it takes decades, centuries for forgotten information or classified documents to be revealed. It took 30 years after World War II for everyone to find out the work of Allan Turing and Bletchley Park to be revealed. It was 100 years before the Bank of England said if there was gold on the Titanic, (and there wasn't much on board, unfortunately, and not shipped by the Bank).

Also, conspiracies happen all the time, but they are much, much smaller, and are more likely to fail than succeed. A small group that believe something, and have the means and willpower to put them into practice. But usually it's for something like overthrowing a dictator (or an elected government with a dictator) or complicated business dealings.

In general, this opinion of mine goes back to when I was studying at university. My history professors made it clear that there are multiple viewpoints and ways to study history: economically, social, "great man" theory, Marxist, etc. etc. And we may not have all the facts, as they were lost or destroyed. But the facts that we do have are there, and can't be ignored. Taking some info that supports your cause, but ignoring the bigger amount of data that doesn't support doesn't make it true, it makes it even more false. And you can't fake all the information out there. People try to edit Wikipedia all the time to push their personal beliefs, and it gets quickly reverted.

So, the way I see it: until evidence comes to light that counteracts information already available, I personally cannot accept things like the Cuban Soviet Mafia Republican Military got together to brainwash Lee Harvey Oswald to kill President Kennedy. If we were to find that evidence, then yes, fine, I'll listen, and maybe change my viewpoint. But history is already so big, so broad, so interesting that I don't have the time, energy, or patience to listen to every bat-shit insane theory.

Of course, if you believe in conspiracy theories, everything I just said would prove to you that I'm part of the conspiracy theory, because that's what a member of the conspiracy theory would say: there is no conspiracy theory.

So, yeah, I wasted my time writing this and your time reading it. Another win for the Freemason Alien Scientology cult.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Short Story: Eleven Forty

Since today is the 104th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, and since it's one of my favourite historical subjects, I decided to share this short story I wrote when I was at university. It's about the only story I've ever written that involves time travel, and I wrote it as a creative writing project after watching a bit too much Doctor Who. Anyway, I haven't touched the story in over a year, but here it is. Someday I plan on making it longer, more detailed, and such, but this will do for now. 




Eleven Forty


The weather was cold. According to some of the crew, the temperature was just above the freezing point, and I couldn’t argue with that. Out in the middle of the ocean, where one couldn’t tell which way was which through the vast expanse of blue water and sky, I almost unconsciously trust the men who control the inner workings of the great steamship Titanic.

I had been on many ships since I was a young boy. My first voyage was on the venerable City of New York before the new century, with my family leaving England for Canada. Now I was on what had to be the epitome of luxury: everywhere you looked, intricate wood paneling and carefully sculpted glass lighting glowed and shimmered, making the interior of much of the ship seem like pure gold.

If my wife Elsie were here, she would have loved to see it all. But she was with child back in Winnipeg, and wasn’t able to join me when I was asked to go back to the Old World on business two months ago. Elsie would have seen all the sights and purchased trunks of trinkets and the most modern fashions while I was in meetings, but then we would watch a show in London or take a driving trip up north to meet with old relatives, and we both would have a joyous time.

Very few people were on the boat deck at this time, due to the cold and the approaching dinner hour. I had been invited to dinner in the Ritz Restaurant, but that wasn’t until 7 PM tonight. Until then, I had the entire deck to walk up and down, admiring how the setting sun of orange and purples contrasted with the ocean and the dark, starlit sky.

I must have been distracted as the last bit of light from the sun was extinguished for the day, for I accidently bumped into a man as I passed the first batch of lifeboats safely nestled on the boat deck.

“Excuse me,” I instinctively replied as I turned around, adjusting my homburg to ensure it wouldn’t fly off. Speaking to the man who I had ran into turn made him turn his head and nod to me. He took a couple more steps before stopping and spinning on his heel.

“Oh, it’s you,” he said, with a faint smile, walking back toward me.

“I’m sorry, do I know you?” I asked. I looked him over, and while at first he seemed like any number of my fellow travellers, something appeared rather off about him. He was wearing a suit, but the cut was different enough to appear foreign. His brown hair wasn’t well combed, and he wasn’t wearing or carrying any hat that I could see. I honestly couldn’t remember the last time any man or woman, in England, America or Canada, would walk outdoors without a hat, so that was vexing to me.

“Maybe not, but I’ve heard a lot about you,” the stranger said, shaking my hand. “So tell me, what do you think about the Titanic?” he asked.

“Well, not as fast as the German or Cunard liners, but beautiful all the same,” I said. “First time I’ve ever had a cabin with a private washroom, too.”

He smiled and snickered, as if I told a funny joke. “Oh, that won’t be a problem soon enough. Every cabin would have their own washroom.”

“Every one? Even in steerage?” I asked.

“Of course, with hot and cold running water, a bath and shower and everything!” he remarked. “Everyone would even get a telephone and a televi-” he trailed off, as if realizing he was telling a secret to someone not in the know.

“Televi?” I asked, though I was just as startled at everything else he said. Why would anyone want to invest that amount of money to ensure the steerage, third class passengers have luxuries that not even every wealthy businessman or royals in Europe didn’t have?

He just shrugged off my question. “Let me tell you, this trip you are on is, quite likely, one of the most important you will have ever been on,” he said with a smirk. “You should come watch what happens at 11:40 PM tonight.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, but he only smiled again.

“You will see history unfold. Events and things that shouldn’t happen will happen tonight, and I want you to see it yourself.” He began backing away, before turning around and walking to the Marconi telegraph office. “You’ll thank me for it!”

“Thank you for what?” I asked, but he had already opened the door to the telegraph room and stepped inside.

I wanted to follow him, but before I could, I heard the ships bell being rung.

Ding ding! Ding ding! Ding ding!

Having been on ships long enough, I recognized the bells as signaling the current time on the crew’s watch. I couldn’t remember the exact number of bells that would be rung, so I pulled out my pocket watch and silently cursed myself as I realized it now said 7 PM. I rushed along the boat deck to get to the Aft Grand Staircase, to take me down to the Ritz, or À La Carte Restaurant.

Dinner passed, as always, with a scrumptious meal and pleasant, if very insubstantial, conversation. A few tables away, a Philadelphia railway magnate and his wife were hosting a party for Captain E. J. Smith. The grandfatherly seaman deserved it, in my opinion; a long and successful career without a major shipwreck was about to be capped off by sailing the glorious Titanic on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic to New York and then back to Southampton. This dinner was just the way for a rich couple to praise him, but I couldn’t begrudge them that honour.

After dinner, as per shipboard custom, all the men would retire to the Smoking Room just one flight of stairs above, while the women would either go to the lounge, one of the many reception rooms, or go to their cabins. Elsie would have enjoyed chatting and gossiping with the women of the Titanic, I was sure.

As stimulating as the conversations in the Smoking Room could become once one had some whisky and no requirement to modulate language for the womenfolk, I eventually decided that I should go outside for an evening stroll. That was one thing about the Titanic that I could go on about, how much walking you could do. It was, according to the clock perched on the fireplace mantle I walked past to leave, almost half past 11. Had I been back at home, I would either be dozing at my desk or already curled in bed with Elsie.

The time also reminded me of the mysterious conversation I had with the stranger earlier today. He was both condescending and rude, as if he knew something that no one else did, and played coy with revealing it. He may also have believed he was smarter than everyone else on the boat, though I don’t buy it.

But it was still intriguing what he was talking about, how destiny and events were malleable, possible to change. I wasn’t one of those blokes in the Raj or elsewhere in the Empire who believed that your life was already set out, and no matter what you do, you cannot escape it. But it just felt wrong that history could be rewritten, if the stranger was correct. History was a linear progression of cause and effect; progress from the past to the present and eventually into the future. If those causes and effects could be changed, then was history a linear progression, or just an accident?

I really didn’t want to find the answer to that question right now. Stepping out onto the Promenade deck that wrapped around this part of the ship was a shock to the system, and one that, no matter how long you lived in Canada, one could never get used to. It was almost spring and maybe the snow in Winnipeg would be melted in the near future, but there was always the possibility of a blizzard this late into the season.

I pulled my jacket higher, turning up the collars of my dinner coat to try to cover my neck, and I walked forward to the bow.

Very few people were out at this time of night. A couple of young lovers walked by, either newlyweds or love struck hopefuls, walked beside, speaking quietly to each other and chortling at the joke only the two of them would know. I nodded to them as I walked by, but they either didn’t notice or didn’t care.

I continued down the deck, past the lounge that had its lights turned off, the First Class Staircase that was crowned by the splendid glass dome, and the few cabins placed for yet more wealthy persons to travel in comfort and luxury.

I leaned up against the railing at the front, feeling the cold wind rushing past my face, hearing the splash and roar of water forced aside by the knife of the bow cutting through the water. Just above where I stood, I could hear the stomp of shoes against the deck as an officer or a crewmember paced through the bridge, giving some order or course correction that I couldn’t hear through the sound of wind and waves.

Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out my pocket watch, and saw the hands pointing at 11:35. I slipped it back into my pocket and stared ahead, but there was nothing but the dark sky, the darker ocean, and a million dazzling stars that reminded me of looking out the window at a snowfall when I was little.

I continued standing and watching where the ship was going, looking around but not seeing anything. It was harder than I thought, as the cold wind made it hard to look forward for too long, and standing in one spot for a period of time made it both uncomfortable and cold very quickly. Looking at the blackness, it was hard to believe that the North Atlantic was the most traveled body of water in the world when you could see nothing but black and a few shimmering stars.

Ding ding ding! A frantic chime of the ship’s bell rang out, startling me from my thoughts. A telephone rang upstairs, and a moment later a flurry of footsteps could be hear, along with a few shouts, muffled by the cold breeze and the wood decking. I whipped my heard forward, and gasped at the sight in front of the Titanic: A large black shape sat menacingly in front of the ship and to the starboard, and towered in the distance like a towering peak in the Rocky Mountains.

As I watched, the Titanic began to slowly, excruciating turn to the left, but it was soon clear that the Titanic was not going to hit the iceberg, but casually ambling around it. I let go of my breath, which I didn’t know I was holding until that moment.

That was rather exciting, I thought. Not that an iceberg would have done much to the Titanic had we ran into it.

I glanced at my pocket watch again, and now it was reading 11:40 on the dot. I was surprised that only five minutes or so had taken place since I came here, as it felt like an hour had in the moment the iceberg was first seen and now passed behind us.

As I began to turn around, I saw the stranger excitedly running toward me. I stopped, and he slid to a halt in front of me.

“Did you see that?” he exclaimed, nearly shouting in my face. “Did you see?”

“Yes, I did. The ship missed an iceberg. Exciting for a moment, but not exactly momentous.”

He smugly grinned then. “I did it.”

“What?” I asked, confused. Was he steering the ship or something?

“I gave a message to the first officer from the telegraph room, one that pointed out where icebergs were, and he must have changed course.” The stranger was so proud of himself.

“Well, that’s good,” I said, now confused and slightly uncomfortable around this man. I hoped he would notice and let me go off and maybe go to my cabin now.

“You should be glad,” he said, that smug grin still etched into his face, before he finally turned around. “Now you can go back home to Winnipeg without a worry in the world.”

Now I was even more puzzled, as I was sure I never told him where I was from, but maybe I had when we first met, and my sleep deprived mind was playing tricks on me. I went down the stairs to C- Deck, to where my cabin was. As I walked down the carpeted hallway, I could hear the deep, solid thump of the engines as I continued walking aft to where my cabin was. Strangely, I don’t remember a single person in the hallways, crew or passengers. Shouldn’t someone be up at this point?

I stopped before I reached my room. I fumbled for the key to my room, but instead I grabbed my pocket watch. I looked at it, and was stunned to see it was still 11:40. It was still doing that half-tick sound, so I tried to wind it up, but the fob refused to turn as I did the familiar motion, as if it was as wound up as much as it possibly could go. I also tried to move the hands, but even though that mechanism moved freely, the hands themselves wouldn’t shift from their spot.

Confused, I walked back down the hallway. Under my feet, the throb of the engines could still be felt, but otherwise the corridor was dead silent. I walked down the white paneled and plush carpeted hallways until I reached the Grand Staircase. Once again, not a single person could be seen.

I took the stairs up, and once I was on the A-Deck landing, I could see that the clock there hadn’t budged either since I saw it a while ago.

By now I was confused. How could this be happening? Wasn’t time still moving forward? Did all the clocks decide to stop working at once?

Bracing for the cold, I walked back onto the Boat Deck. The weather was still freezing cold, and a breeze whistled through the guide wires and railings on the ship. On that breeze, I could hear a soft ding ding ding! I hurried forward, just in time to hear the officer in command give an order. I stopped at the railing that separated the First-class Promenade from the Officer’s deck, and listened closely.

“Damn it! That must be the sixth one we dodged tonight,” someone said. “And they all looked alike to, didn’t they?”

“Should we inform the Captain?” another voice asked.

There was a pause. “Maybe. It might be for the best that we slow down or stop for the night.”

“But what would White Star say?” a third voice asked, chiming in.

“Would they have a broken ship or a slightly delayed schedule? I would think…”

Ding ding ding!
“Hard a starboard!” the officer in charge barked. “And get the captain, I have no idea what to do now.”

There have been multiple icebergs? I was surprised and now very worried. What were the chances that one of them might hit the Titanic? And, perhaps, more importantly, would we be able to emerge unscathed if we did hit one?

“Can I help you?” someone called out to me as I was about to walk away. I turned around again to see an officer looking out of the Bridge at me.

“I was just wondering what was going on. Peculiar things are happening, aren’t they?”

The officer thought about it. “Yes, I would say so. Lots of ice, right now. Also all the clocks seem to be stuck at 11:40.”

“Yes, I’ve noticed that with my pocket watch, too.”

The officer walked up to me. “Have you seen anything strange this evening?”

I was about to reply negatively when I thought about the stranger. “There was a gentleman I met earlier who said he gave a message to the bridge about an iceberg.”

“Oh yes, I remember him. He seemed very anxious and queer to me,” the officer said. “But the message he gave me said there was ice directly ahead of us, so I adjusted our course. Doesn’t seem to mean that we have avoided them though.” As if to underline that statement, the crow’s nest bell tolled three more times.

The officer turned around. “I should go get the Captain. But could you please stay nearby? We may need to talk to you.”

I nodded, and the officer dashed into the nearby doorway. I waited for a few minutes, in the cold wind, shuffling and rubbing my hands together. I looked over the side, and found it hard to see much past the brilliant lighting of the Titanic. I could make out a few twinkling stars, but still no moon. The water itself was perfectly flat, like a sheet of ice that my fellow Winnipeggers would play hockey on.

I looked back to the bridge, where I saw the recognizable image of Captain Smith, with his neatly trimmed white beard and deep voice, talking with a couple of the officers, but too quiet for me to hear. The officer that had gotten me earlier now pointed in my direction, and they all turned to me. I stiffened, and the three White Star Line crewmen all walked toward me.

“Good evening,” Captain Smith said, as he got close to me. “I understand that you have been around to see some strange happenings this night.”

I explained to him about the stranger, what he said, and then what had happened since that point. He listened calmly as I spoke, and he didn’t speak for a while after I finished.

“Something is off about all this. We have to find this man and find out what he has done,” Captain Smith ordered.

“You mean this man?” a gruff American accented voice asked, making all of us look.

There stood three men: two large, tall men in black suits, flanking and holding on to the disheveled and nervous stranger I met earlier.

“Who are you gentlemen?” Captain Smith asked.

“We are, you could say, police officers,” one of them said. “But I cannot say where or why.”

“But then why do you have this young man?

The stranger broke free from the men’s grip and turned to me. “The Titanic was supposed to have hit an iceberg, sink, and kill a lot of people. I was trying to stop that.”

“Wait, sink?” one of the officers asked. “But, it can’t sink.”

“Well, it does. I was trying to stop that.”

“But you can’t change history,” one of the men that the stranger had broken free from said. “Major events cannot be rewritten.”

“Of course they can! We can travel through the multiverse, so in order for those worlds to work, a major event must have changed to allow them to be created,” the stranger said.

“But the multiverse maintains itself, without human interference,” the other man said, very cross.

“I’m guessing you have managed to avoid hitting an iceberg quite a few times now, right?” one the men asked, turning to the captain.

“Well, yes,” Captain Smith said. “It was almost like clockwork when the next one appeared.”

“The multiverse is trying to sink the Titanic. This boat needs to sink,” the man replied.

“Why the hell does it have to?” I asked. “Can’t we just go on to New York?”

The man was getting very angry now. “Look, 1,513 people need to drown tonight, and this ship needs to sink as well. History, the multiverse, depends on it.”

“What if we refuse to let it sink?” one of the officer’s said. “We can get…”

“No! You do not understand! The multiverse will see this ship sunk somehow,” the second of the big men said.

“What do you mean?” I interupted. “What is this multiverse you talk about?”

“It’s different timelines, universes based on a slight difference from each other, usually based on a historical event, like what if this or that event didn’t happen.” The other imposing man said. “The Roman Empire not falling, Napoleon winning Trafalgar, that sort of thing. But people, especially those traveling through time and space, cannot interfere with those timelines.”

“Then why did you do it?” I asked the stranger. “You made sure this ship wouldn’t hit the iceberg. Why?”

The stranger just shook his head, clearly in shock. “I… I didn’t think it would cause this much trouble.” He finally sat up. “I just wanted to see the Titanic reach New York, and maybe…”

“Tear a hole in all of reality?” the second man shot back. “You sonnuva…”

Captain Smith stepped between them. “Alright, all of you be quiet,” he ordered, making the three strangers stop. “How do we stop this?”

“Make the Titanic hit the iceberg,” said the first black-suited man. “Until that happens, you will have icebergs thrown in front of you until this ship sink. If you don’t, the multiverse may begin getting desperate.”

Captain Smith looked at the three men, realizing that they were dead serious and not trying to play a joke on him. “Gentlemen, if you could come with me to my cabin to discuss this issue.”

The two big men roughly manhandled the stranger with them as they went to talk to the Captain. The two officers and myself stood quietly, finally telling each other our names. The First Officer was named Murdoch, while the Second Officer was Charles Lightoller, but we were too nervous to tell each other much more than that. After a few moments, Captain Smith came out of the Officer’s Quarters, glum and depressed.

“When the next iceberg comes, you have to hit it,” he said to Murdoch.

“What?” everyone asked in shock.

“But, sir…” Lightoller interceded.

“That is my order,” the captain said, his air of authority and confidence long gone. He then walked off the deck back to his quarters with his head low in resignation.

Ding Ding Ding! This time the bells sounded more mournful than vigilant; maybe the crow’s nest lookouts were as resigned as the rest of the crew. The quartermaster at the wheel didn’t turn the wheel as far as he could have. I watched in agonizing slowness as the Titanic came closer and closer to the mountain of Greenland ice, my hand gripping around the watch in my pocket.

Moments later the iceberg slid past, a low grinding, scrapping sound could be heard far below, and massive chunks of ice crashed to the forward well deck.

As suddenly as it happened, it was over.

“It’s done,” the first man said quietly. First Officer Murdoch, the officer on duty, could only nod.

“And now many people will die this night,” he said, looking at his hands. The expression on his face reminded me of someone who could see the blood of hundreds of innocents on his hands. I couldn’t blame him, even if it was supposed to happen for history to continue.

One of the temporal policemen pulled out handcuffs and snapped them over the Stranger’s wrist, and began to lead him out of the bridge. I followed after.

“Excuse me,” I asked, before the three men were too far away. “May I ask a question to the man that caused all this trouble?”

The two men looked at each, other but shrugged. “Fine, but make it quick.”

I looked at the young man, his messy hair hanging down over his downtrodden eyes. “Why did you want to save the Titanic?”

“My great grandfather was on the ship, and died before my grandmother was born. I wanted to see if I could save the ship, maybe meet my grandfather.” He looked up with a faint smile. “I’m glad to have at least done that.”

I blinked, and watched as the two men pushed a button on their fancy wrist devices, and they flickered out of sight, as if they had never been there.

I stood there in silence for a moment, before a massive, loud, deep piercing screech filled the air. I looked up to see white steam billowing from the funnels, and it was clear that the boilers were venting steam to prevent the cold water from touching the boilers and exploding.

I pulled out my pocket watch, and watched as the hands had finally moved, the clockwork inside ticking away. It was now reading 12:05 PM.

In two hours and fifteen minutes, I, along with 1,513 other men, women and children from all walks of life, breeding, class and status, would be fighting for their lives in the ice-cold water as 705 survivors looked on in half full lifeboats, too few to save even half of those on board. The great ship, at one point called unsinkable, foundered, split in half in the dark, moonless night, and sunk beneath the North Atlantic like a fabled monster of pride and vanity, vanquished from this earth by humility: Icarus flying to close to the sun.

The last few minutes of my life were spent trying to stay afloat, even as the cold descended on me. The enormous cacophony of noise of which I was just one part filled the ocean around me. Then it started to fade. I lost my energy to yell, even to mumble. Then I closed my eyes, imagining my wife, our unborn daughter… that stranger.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

AltHistory Scenario #18: What if Hitler Never Came to Power?

Lately I finished reading The Politics of the Prussian Army 1640-1945 by Gordon A. Craig, which helped show just exactly how much the Army of Prussia and Germany before Hitler was the so-called "state within a state," to the point that even Bismarck had to tread carefully around them, and the army virtually held the Weimar Republic hostage. It's an interesting book, with a lot of footnotes and a very literary style of writing, so I would recommend reading it, if you can find it.

But I digress. Today I'm going to talk about a topic I really haven't talked much about, namely an Alternate History about Hitler. The man with the weird little moustache has dominated the history of the past 70 plus years that it's understandable why Alternate Historians spend so much time thinking about what if the Nazi's won the Second World War.

We just can't let it go.

But here's my question: What if, at the moment when Hitler was on the cusp of getting the power the craved, it all came crashing down?

Point of Divergence

The politics of the Weimar Republic are horrendously complicated, especially when the Great Depression tossed everything into confusion. But one figure who managed to survive the storm was the elderly Paul von Hindenburg, the Field Marshall turned President of Germany. Hindenburg was always distrustful of Hitler, going so far as to claim "that Austrian Corporal" will never be named Chancellor so long as he held power. In OTL, he was finally convinced in January 1933 to do so, under pressure from his son Oskar and his closest military advisor, Kurt von Schleicher. In this alternate history, he stuck to his promise to not appoint Hitler.

The November 1932 elections saw the National Socialist Party as the largest party in the Reichstag, but not a majority. By this point, the current Chancellor Franz von Papen was trying to find a coalition, either with or without the Nazi's, to stay in power. However, Hitler would settle for nothing less than being named Chancellor, so the talks broke down, as they did with the Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, the German Social Democratic Party (SPD). Papen, who had the personal support of Hindenburg, kept trying to form a coalition, as Schleicher tried to find a solution to his long standing goal of dismantling the democratic state and set up a government of "strong men," which eventually turned into getting named Chancellor himself. Eventually Hindenburg agreed to name Schleicher Chancellor, but after his negotiations with the Nazis also proved fruitless, Schleicher decided that maybe it was time for the Nazi's to come to power.
Kurt von Schleicher... honestly, did not a single German in the 1930s have a decent moustache?

Hindenburg would have none of it. Despite the pressure by Schleicher, Oskar von Hindenburg (who was convinced by Schleicher despite his antipathy to the Nazis) and Papen, who was offered a post in the eventual Hitler cabinet, Hindenburg refused to yield.

Immediate Effects

The political crisis in Germany continued to grow, with Schleicher unable to do anything in the Reichstag, but the only alternative that could be reasonably considered was Hitler, who was unacceptable to Hindenburg. Hitler himself was growing tired and furious by these delays, and eventually, as January 1933 turned in February, his patience wore out. Impetuously, he met with Hermann Goering and Ernest Rohm, and resolved to us the SA and the SS to overthrow the government, get rid of "the old reactionary," and have Hitler named Fuhrer.

On the night of February 13, the SA and SS began to erect barricades, and tried to take over major government buildings. Schleicher was caught by surprise by the Putsch, but was willing to lay down his office after a sufficient period of resistance was displayed. In his previous role as Minister of Defence and leader of the army, he was sure the Reichswehr, the army, would not get involved in the fight, especially if it's a right-wing force that was rising up, and not get involved in the fighting. As his predecessor as chief of the Reichswehr, Hans von Seekt said, "Reichswehr doesn't fire on Reichswehr."

After all, this was the only machine gun Germany got to keep after World War I.

But Hindenburg would have none of it. While he was personally a monarchists and would have wanted to see the Hohenzollern dynasty restored as King's of Prussia, he was loyal to the constitution he swore to uphold. Hindenburg's son Oskar, though he once pushed for Hitler to be named Chancellor, was now scared of the Nazis trying to take power, so it was decided to fire Schleicher, and use the Presidential emergency power, which Schleicher had been using to govern without the Reichstag for months, to order the suppression of the Nazi's.

The Reichswehr, in turn, as divided. The higher command, under Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord, was a known anti-Nazi, and proceeded to organize the army to suppress the revolt. Schleicher tried to stop Hammerstien-Equord, but the now civilian Schleicher was kicked out of the High Commanders office. However, many of the junior officers were highly influenced by the Nazis, and in some cases purposefully disobeyed orders that the High Command sent down. But a large percentage of the officers followed their duties, as they saw the army as the protector of the "German Reich," and they saw the illegal take over of the government as against that sacred tradition, even if it would have destroyed the republican government that many of the officer's hated. Many other's feared the growing power of the SA, which Ernst Rohm was determined to replace the professional army with.

Hitler had taken over Berlin, and Nazi uprisings took place all over Germany. But Hindenburg, von Papen (the renamed Chancellor, even if he had no personal authority at the moment) and Hammerstein-Equord, along with social democrats and centrists in the Reichstag had withdrawn from Berlin to Potsdam, and were planning on marching back into Berlin as soon as the Reichswehr was ready. Hitler declared himself Chancellor and President, and Schleicher was doing what he could to support the Nazis, but the SA quickly undermined the call for order that Hitler was giving. The bullies and brutes of the SA went around beating political opponents and Jews, killing hundreds in the areas they controlled, and soon began to fight each other and the other paramilitary groups, such as the social democrats and the communists. Papen decided to get the social democrats and the communists on board to reclaim Berlin and Germany, and Hindenburg, becoming very ill from the stress of the situation, reluctantly agreed. After negotiations with the Social Democrats (the communists refused to work with Papen, instead trying to overthrow the entire state), where Papen was forced to agree to a new constitution and to suppress both the Nazis and the Communists, a general strike was called on February 19, which ground Berlin and most of Germany to a halt, much like the Kapp Putsch in 1920.

Okay, von Papen had an alright one. And, as the Doctor would say, bowties are cool.

On February 21, with the approval of Hindenburg and Papen, General Gerd von Rundstedt lead his forces into Berlin to restore order, arrest Hitler, Goering and Himmler, and disarm the SA. Although he was outnumbered, the general strike, the disorder, and the sight of fresh, disciplined troops caused the SA to retreat. Hitler, Schleicher and Goering were arrested and imprisoned. Himmler shot himself and died at the end of the month, and the rest of the high ranking Nazi's melted back into the crowd.The SA was ordered to disband, and except for a few loyalists to Rohm, the order was meekly accepted. The rest of the revolts in other parts of Germany were quickly put down or fell apart. The Hitler Putsch, also known as the Second Hitler Putsch, was over. The Nazi party was totally discredited, Hitler, Goering and Schleicher were tried for treason and all were sent to prison for the rest of their lives. Rohm's band was eventually hunted down by the Reichswehr in Selesia, and in a fire fight was killed in April 1934.

Hindenburg returned to Berlin to the cheers of the crowd, but by now Papen realized he couldn't hold onto his position, so after having Hindenburg sign the presidential decrees to disband all paramilitary organizations and revealing what he had to agree to in order to get the Social Democrats to support the resistance to the coup, he resigned his position. With few other's to turn to, Hindenburg turned to his son, Oskar, and named him Chancellor of Germany, with the express goal of organizing elections to rewrite the constitution.
Hands down, Hindenburg had the best moustache. Look at it! It's just AWESOME!

The stress of the past three months took a toll on the President, and at the start of April 1933, he suffered a stroke. On May 5, 1933, Hindenburg died in Berlin.

Oskar von Hindenburg had his father's will published, which advocated increased democracy, renunciation of Hitler and other "rabble rousers," and the rule of law.

Combined Presidential and Reichstag elections were held on June 4, 1933, and the Social Democrat
Otto Braun won the election, becoming the third President of Germany. The SPD party managed to get 289 seats of the 661 seat Reichstag, which wasn't enough for a majority, but by far the largest party. A committee was established to write a new constitution by the end of the year, with the main goal being to promote some semblance of stability in the government. Therefore, a system closer to the British Westminster system was proposed, with a majority of the seats being elected in electoral districts, and the rest being named from lists of candidates political parties would draw up and chosen on the basis of percentage of total votes given, and seats being reduced to 445. The Chancellor would be responsible to the Reichstag, while the President, elected every seven years by the nation, was made more-or-less a figurehead, but was given the power to dissolve the Reichstag and replace the Chancellor if he didn't have enough political support.

The new Constitution was approved in a referendum in December 1933, and the first elections under it, held in March 1934, gave the SDP another plurality, but they were able to form a coalition government. Otto Braun held his post as President.

Aftermath

The Second Hitler Putsch destroyed the Nazi Party. Hitler died in prison in 1945, having been classified insane after years of ranting and raving against the Jews and Communists. However, the far right fascist ideas would continue to have a role to play in European politics right up to the present day.

Got to hand it to Marvel... that is pretty much most of Hitler's speeches.

The Reichswehr, under General Hammerstein-Equord, eventually had their "state within a state" status revoked, especially as questions about the army's reliability, their efforts to avoid the Treaty of Versailles, and their political moves in the 1920s and 30s were revealed. Those officers that opposed the reduction of the Reichswehr's position were sacked, and eventually a politically neutral army was established, and it was completed in 1937 when the General Gerd von Rundsedt, the new chief of the High Command, formally swore off the ability of the army to mount a coup d'etat or interfere in domestic or foreign politics without orders from the President. In 1939, Germany was finally able to get the military clauses of the Treaty of Versailles rescinded, but more due to the growing threat of the Soviet Union, which eventually lead to the Second Great War in 1943 over the Soviet backed coup in Hungary that brought the western capitalist nations to war with the massive communist juggernaut. 

The German government that was established in the aftermath of the 1933 Putsch was slightly more stable than before, and without the army interfering, and far left and far right paramilitaries trying to overthrow the government, and economic recovery eventually brought most German's around to a democratic government, though not insubstantial groups still push for an authoritarian dictatorship.

But what do you think? How would Hitler have reacted if never named Chancellor? Or if you have a topic or idea you would like me to talk about, please leave comments below, email me at tbguy1992@gmail.com, or tell me on Twitter @tbguy1992.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Editorial: The Life and Times of Augustus Fredrick Dale

Admittedly, I often use this blog to talk about something that I just randomly made up AltHistory wise. However, today I want to talk about someone I found out while doing some research for other topics, a man that should have never been lost to history. I’m going to tell you a short version of the story of a man named Augustus Fredrick Dale.

Put your mind back 150 years, to a small town in Northern England called Great Smeaton. Born at the beginning of April, 1866, Augustus Fredrick Dale (nicknamed Gus by those that couldn’t properly pronounce his name) was born the middle child of 17, all who helped his father, Julius Dale, on his small farm in a country that was quickly becoming more industrialized. But Augustus had a desire to be noticed, and this became clear at a young age. At the age of three, he managed to climb the tallest tree in the nearby communal pasture (and then fell, but somehow didn’t have any broken bones or injuries). It was said he started to drink ale at the age of four, and was almost never without some form of alcohol after that for the rest of his life.

“Reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmatic were not his strong subjects,” a fellow classmate wrote of Augustus years later. “If anything, forcing him to sit in one place for a long time was like trying to tell a rabbit not to burrow a hole or a candle not to burn.” One no-nonsense teacher often had to liberally apply the strap to the young Gus, but one time, at the age of eight, he not only caught the strap before it smacked his hand, ripped the leather to shreds and tied the teacher to his desk before anyone could blink an eye.

In 1878, at the age of 12, Gus left school, and the farm and the town, and traveled to Liverpool and stowed away on the first ship sailing out of the port. For two weeks, in one of the biggest storms the Atlantic Ocean had ever seen, Gus hid from the crew and passengers, sneaking food from the kitchen and killing rats to eat. He was only found as the ship docked at Halifax. Before he could be caught, he leapt off the deck, landed in the harbor, and swam to the city.

Life for Gus was hard and tough, as a young teenage boy in Canada in the 1870s. But he was clever and quick (lying about his age whenever it suited him), and packed a mean punch, and he soon made a name for himself as a boxer, fighting in bars and pubs throughout the Maritimes and Quebec. He made hundreds of dollars, most of which he spent on beer and drinking. There were stories of a drunk Gus, glass of beer in one hand, being recognized in a bar and challenged to a fight, and then winning in just a couple minutes with only one hand, and not spilling a drop from his mug in the other.

Fighting and drinking got old soon, and when Gus arrived in Toronto at the age of 18 in 1884, he tried to settle down and make something out of his life. But after several months, and being fired from seven different jobs ranging from blacksmithing to stock trading, he joined the Canadian Army being raised to put down the North-West Rebellion. He served with distinction, managing to fire his rifle only once, and with that one bullet injuring five Metis fighters. Even the British regulars were astounded, and one of the Metis fighters called him the “Little Black Devil” that was later used as the name for an entire army Regiment based in Winnipeg.

Ordered back to Ontario when Louis Riel was captured, Gus instead resigned the army when he got back, and joined the Canadian Pacific Railway, and helped to build the railway across Canada. With his incredible strength, he managed to lay down ties, fasten plates and rails and drive spikes; building an entire seven miles stretch by himself when the rest of the crew he was working with became ill with Dysentery. When his team reached Brandon, he left the CPR, and walked south, and found himself a place to settle on a quarter section of land near what would one day become the town of Melita. But his exploits didn’t end there: he began to drink again, once drinking the entire Metropolitan Hotel dry in one spell in 1893. Stories differ on what happened next that night; either he wrestled a bear that had wandered a bit to far south into submission, or managing to build an entire dam on the Souris River like a beaver in a single night, and nobody knew until water was flooding the valley the next morning.

Over time, the stories of Gus Dale spread across the area, including that he once walked to Brandon, in the middle of a four day snow storm in 1902, to pick up a keg of whiskey for one of the hotels in town and carried it on his back to Melita, but he refused to have the stories written down. The Melita Enterprise, one of the predecessors to the current New Era, once wrote a tell-all story about Gus in a 1916 issue of the paper, but Gus hunted down every single copy of the paper and burnt them, and forced the editor to not tell another story about him in the Melita paper for as long as he lived, and then, not until 86 years after he died.

Legend says that when Gus finally did die, at the age of 64 in the farm he built with his own hands, that Death had to take him when he was sleeping, because if Gus had been awake, he would have put up a fight.

Stories about Augustus Frederick “Gus” Dale are, because of his refusal to have them written down, rather lacking. These stories are the only ones that I could find, and there are most likely many other stories that could be told about who could have been one of the most notable people to have lived in a time when many amazing, incredible men and women lived.

Or I just made up this story for an April Fools Day joke. You choose!