5 Famous Modern Events You Won't Believe Happened Before

#2. The Energy Crisis Started in Medieval Times

George Bouverie Goddard

While you sit there avoiding work by stocking up on emergency dick jokes, governments are planning wars over the meager amount of oil we have left. We've known for years now that there's an energy crisis going on, and if we don't start seriously investing in alternate energy sources pretty soon, our awesomely vulgar cars and cheap porn-enabling electricity will be a thing of the past.

MarcelC/iStock/Getty Images
Sure, there's plenty of moon oil, but transport just isn't practical.

But It's Been Happening Since ...

Ironically, the discovery of coal and oil saved us from an energy crisis that started back in the medieval era. We are referring, of course, to the wood shortages. It makes sense if you think about it: Of course there were wood shortages! It's not like trees just grow on ... oh.

Back in the Middle Ages, wood was as important to people as oil is to us now. In a world without electricity and piped gas, burning wood was the main energy source for heating houses and cooking. And just as we use oil to create plastic and build pretty much everything, wood was the stuff that made awesomely vulgar ships and cheap porn (hey, there were some pretty graphic wood cuts back in the day) possible.

Photick/Matthieu Spohn/Photick/Getty Images
Splintery wooden dildos were standard.

Deforestation had become a huge issue by the 1500s. In England alone, the price of wood tripled, and their forests were reduced to only 10 percent of the country's area in the following century. Apply that to the whole of Europe and you've got a whole continent bracing for a winter deadlier than on Game of Thrones.

Although it seems like a pretty boring reason for such a grand adventure, wood procurement (tee hee) was one of the main motivators for the exploration of the new world. The North American Atlantic coast, the Caribbean, and Brazil proved to be excellent sources for much needed timber, and in many cases the natives were reasonably happy to be rid of those pesky trees in exchange for weapons, tools, and whatever the 16th century equivalent of an iPhone was. Whale oil, coal mines, and the Industrial Revolution finally put a stop to (some of) the forest genocide, and that's the only reason we even know what a tree is today.

Ingram Publishing/Ingram Publishing/Getty Images
Keeping the Ents from ever having to declare war on us.

So if there's a lesson we can take from history, let it be that we'll find a crazy new resource, like shark cartilage or something, just in time to avert a total disaster, and everything is going to be fine. Until we deplete the shark cartilage; then it's time to panic.

#1. The PRISM of the American Civil War

McClure's Magazine

In 2013, we discovered that, under the auspices of a program known as PRISM, the NSA was spying on the telephone and Internet communications of millions of people around the world. This revelation came out thanks to the actions of whistleblower Edward Snowden, a man who would later be nominated for Time's Person of the Year, as well as Cracked's own prestigious Famous Figure Most Likely to Be Down for a Pick-Up D&D Game award.

Alan Rusbridger/The Guardian
He'll nail you with his Gauntlets of Transparency.

But It's Been Happening Since ...

The American Civil War. One Edwin M. Stanton (suspicious time-traveling alias of Edward Snowden? You decide.) was elected to the illustrious post of Secretary of War. As you'd expect from someone who willingly applies for a position with that job title, he turned out to be the supervillain amalgamation of Mark Zuckerberg and Josef Stalin.

His first act was to write a letter to President Lincoln asking for unrestricted access to the country's telegraph lines for the purpose of gathering information about the war. Incredibly, Lincoln agreed with this proposal, and soon every telegraph line in the United States found itself routed through Stanton's offices. As silent partner in this vital piece of infrastructure, Stanton was able to read everything sent via telegram, be it military, diplomatic, or domestic. If your great-grandparents ever used the network to sext, you can be damn sure that Stanton tapped one out to it.

Cardiff Council Flat Holm Project
Telegrams charged per word, which was why Great-Grampa Pete always finished quickly.

Sure, some of the information he gathered was relevant to his job, but he didn't stop at just observing. Since he controlled the fastest flow of information, Stanton was also able to censor any and all journalism correspondence that he didn't want going public. When reporters started to rightfully complain, he had several detained on charges of spying -- which is something we're apparently still doing today. Eventually, the higher-ups realized what they'd done and hauled Stanton in front of a judiciary committee, where he was flogged and hanged like a dirty pizza-sock thief. Oh wait, no, he was urged to show "greater restraint" on the matter of "telegraphic censorship." Careful you don't cut yourself on the keen sword of justice there, America.

For more from Adam, you can follow him on Twitter or check out his website. Ruy Platt's website isn't fun, so he usually hangs out on Twitter. Go there to say hi and pay him a beer.

Related Reading: Nothing in today's age is original. Night vision? Nope. Sitting under the A/C in your undies? the Persians were doing that shit way before us (maybe not the undies part). Hell, even LOLcats predate the Internet.

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