<![CDATA[Jason Colavito - Blog]]>Sat, 28 Nov 2015 18:38:41 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[Horace Walpole, Fringe Historians, and the Patagonian Giants: A Copy and Paste Mystery]]>Sat, 28 Nov 2015 16:07:58 GMThttp://www.jasoncolavito.com/blog/horace-walpole-fringe-historians-and-the-patagonian-giants-a-copy-and-paste-mysteryThis is one of those obscure issues that isn’t really important per se, but which speaks to the broader incuriousness and lack of research in the fringe world. This past week I reviewed Jim Vieira’s and Hugh Newman’s Giants on Record, and in so doing I noted that the two authors plagiarized nearly verbatim (one word differed) a 2010 passage from the Princeton University Library on Patagonian giants:
Horace Walpole, the English historian and gothic novelist, published An Account of the Giants Lately Discovered: In a Letter to a Friend in the Country following the return in 1766 of Captain John Byron, who had circumnavigated the world in the HMS Dolphin. Word leaked that the crew had seen nine-foot giants in South America.
When I reviewed the book, I pointed out this passage primarily as an example of plagiarism, since the authors added but one word in turning it into part of their own text. But today I’d like to show how our authors have dishonestly used it to suggest the reality of giants that the actual sources in question don’t support. To do so, I need to back up and explain Vieira’s and Newman’s plagiarism a little more clearly.
In the passage, the two authors are discussing giants in chronological order. They just concluded discussing a sighting from 1670 and then moved on to one from 1704. Next, they paste in Walpole’s document from 1766, before weirdly announcing that “then in 1741” more were seen. Obviously, 1741 occurs after 1766, and the authors were paying no attention to their own chronology. But what’s clearer is that they were also actively ignoring their own sources, both secondary and primary.
The Princeton website makes quite plain Walpole’s Account is intended as a satirical piece of humor: “In his thirty-one-page pamphlet, Walpole satirizes the whole idea and facetiously suggests that a limited number of the giant women could be imported ‘for the Sake of mending our Breed.’” It goes on to say that when Byron’s official account was published in 1773, the “giants” shrank from nine feet down to scarcely seven, and even then they were not measured scientifically but were estimated from comparative observation. Our authors chose to ignore all of that, omitting Byron’s official account in favor of Walpole’s satirical report.
What’s interesting is that Newman and Vieira appear not to have read Walpole’s Account at all, even though it is readily available in their favorite resource, Google. A moment’s reading should have made quite plain that Walpole’s intent was humor, from his references to Jonathan Swift’s satirical works down to his references to the city of Gigantopolis. He speaks derisively of the fact that all the sailors who supposedly saw the giants kept entirely silent on the matter, and the Spaniards to whom the giants had allegedly been known for two centuries similarly spoke not a word about the giants for hundreds of years:
So they you see can keep a Secret too. But the Reasons given why we know so little of the Matter, are, that few ships ever touch on that Coast, standing more out to Sea, in order to double the Cape, and that these Giants are a roving Nation, and seldom come down to the Coast, and then I suppose, only to bob for Whales.
Our authors, having neglected to read Walpole, also miss his attestation (meant satirically, but never mind) that based on a single syllable of Giant language remembered by Captain Byron, the Giants were speaking Phoenician! Since Newman and Vieira are diffusionists, their incurious copying caused them to miss “evidence” toward their own claims!
The remainder of Walpole’s satire, and its true purpose, is to criticize British colonial policy and the lack of rights and freedoms afforded to those whom the King pretended to protect, particularly in the American colonies. The anti-authoritarian Walpole was in 1766 a Member of Parliament, serving as representative of King’s Lynn for the Whig party, so the political nature of the document is hardly secondary to the color of gigantology with which he cloaked his opinions. He, after all, classed giants alongside ghosts, witches, and werewolves as fraud.
Now, before I conclude, I want to mention that almost no one in the fringe history field manages to look in an original way on this material, or even to read Walpole’s text. While Newman and Vieira copied verbatim from Princeton, Roy Bainton, writing in the Mammoth Book of Unexplained Phenomena (2013), improves upon Newman and Vieira by copying almost verbatim, but without citation, and clearly derived from the same text:
When in 1766, Captain John Byron returned home after circumnavigating the world in HMS Dolphin, the historian and writer Horace Walpole published An Account of the Giants Lately Discovered. Stories abounded that the crew of the Dolphin had seen nine-foot (2.7 m) giants in Patagonia, South America.
I invite you to compare the remainder of Bainton’s passage to that of the Princeton University Library so you can see for yourself that he follows the whole thing from beginning to end point for point and almost word for word. Bainton, at least, is more honest in his coping insofar as he kept in the part about Walpole making fun of the giants.
<![CDATA["Hunting Hitler" MMA Fighter Tim Kennedy Hopes to Make Fringe History His New Permanent Career]]>Fri, 27 Nov 2015 15:53:03 GMThttp://www.jasoncolavito.com/blog/hunting-hitler-mma-fighter-tim-kennedy-hopes-to-make-fringe-history-his-new-permanent-careerYesterday was the Thanksgiving holiday, and that means that it’s a relatively quiet day for fringe history. Most of the major fringe historians tend to be Americans or Brits, and both cultures devote this day to an orgy of pre-Christmas discount shopping. I thought it would be a good time to check in on the ratings for the History Channel’s two currently airing fringe history shows, Curse of Oaks Island and Hunting Hitler. Unfortunately, due to the holiday this week’s ratings aren’t being reported until next week, but last week the two shows continued to perform on par with their averages, with Curse coming in at 2.56 million viewers (800,000 of whom are 18-49), and Hitler doing significantly worse, with just 1.66 million viewers (500,000 of whom are 18-49). Those numbers remain stubbornly unchanging, and it seems that 1.7 million is the cap on anything that History airs after Curse of Oak Island.
I can’t help but agree with Variety TV critic Brian Lowry that something is amiss: “while TV remains fascinated with history, the assumption lingers that straightforward presentations of such fare won’t appeal to the demographics that advertisers covet. Small wonder that History has been on the leading edge of those cable networks that feel compelled to stretch confining brands that are deemed too stodgy in an effort to reel in younger viewers.” Advertisers target young idiots, ill-served by schooling and suspicious of facts, and we all suffer for it.
But if you really want to get depressed about the History Channel’s insidious influence, you only need to look at one of the hosts of Hunting Hitler, Tim Kennedy, a mixed martial arts fighter for the UFC who went into the production convinced that Hitler died in 1945. “Everybody knows this. This is ridiculous, and I don’t want to waste my time with some stupid conspiracy stuff,” Kennedy told MMA Junkie. “But the more involved I got, and the more research they sent me, the more questions it raised.” Kennedy told the website that not only had producers successfully made him question history, he discovered that pursuing fringe history on TV is both fun and lucrative. Kennedy said that he had such a good time and made so much money from the series that he hopes to turn fringe history into his permanent profession and retire from mixed martial arts. “This is a blossoming career for me,” he said, adding that his family feels it is better than being punched in the face in exchange for cash.
In short: Producers convinced Kennedy of a lie, sent him on a fun working vacation, and gave him a lot of money. Of course he’s happy to become a permanent fringe historian.
I couldn’t help but be struck, though, by the coincidence of two series about alternative Hitler stories airing near simultaneously. The History Channel offers the cheaply produced, pointless conspiracies of Hunting Hitler, which posits that the Führer escaped Germany to live on in South America or elsewhere, while Amazon.com released The Man in the High Castle, a sumptuously produced alternative history drama about a victorious Axis and their occupation of America. The first season climaxes with an encounter with Hitler himself, who is apparently a huge fan of the Nazi version of the History Channel, since he spends his days watching conspiracy theory films about “what might have been” in various alternate realities.
I enjoyed The Man in the High Castle quite a bit, particularly in the careful thought that went into the exquisite production design, which carefully visualizes the aesthetics of occupation, from flags and banners right down to lapel pins and consumer goods. I own a copy of the book Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics, and I have always been interested in how visual design is used to communicate nonverbal messages. It’s one of the reasons I harp on the production design of fringe history shows. The drama in High Castle, however, was a bit inert for the first five episodes, really only coming together as a compelling narrative in the second half of the ten-episode series. By the end, though, it really came together. I know that a lot of Philip K. Dick fans are upset by the changes from the novel the series is loosely inspired by, but I’m not. An adaptation should find something new to say about the material, or else there isn’t much point of adapting it at all—just read the book.
Anyway, if the History Channel had really wanted to find a new approach to Hitler, imagine how much prestige they might have gotten had High Castle aired on their network instead of Hunting Hitler. (They already air the drama Vikings, so it’s hardly a stretch.) In a better world, they might follow each episode with a Talking Dead-style talk show in which historians discuss the actual history behind the series and create a learning opportunity that Amazon can’t provide. There is precedent: History used to do just such a thing with its old Movies in Time series with Sander Vanocur. Instead, the History Channel has itself become like the Hitler of the Man in the High Castle by collecting films of histories that never were—but somewhat reversed, forcing all of us to watch rather than hiding them away.
<![CDATA[Review of "Giants on Record" by Jim Vieira and Hugh Newman (Part 4: Psychics, Atlantis, and Earth Energy!)]]>Thu, 26 Nov 2015 17:04:19 GMThttp://www.jasoncolavito.com/blog/review-of-giants-on-record-by-jim-vieira-and-hugh-newman-part-4-psychics-atlantis-and-earth-energyChoosing Turkey Day to conclude my review of Jim Vieira’s and Hugh Newman’s turkey of a book, Giants on Record, only seems appropriate. These are the authors, after all, who admit to being familiar with my work and yet repeat the same lies about the supposed double-toothed “giant” Benjamin Bucklin that I comprehensively debunked a year ago through the extraordinary measure of reading the original sources rather than secondary retellings. Shocking, I know.
The ninth chapter of the book is given over to out-of-place artifacts, and the authors take for their sources Barry Fell and other diffusionist authors, offering little to nothing in terms of original content. As a result, they present material like the Grave Creek Stone long dismissed as hoaxes. But since the authors feel that “forces gathered” at the Smithsonian to suppress the true history of America, they feel comfortable accepting hoaxes as real because they do not trust anyone with a degree or a job to evaluate what an amateur might better declare evidence of the amazing. And amateur they are: In double-checking their transcriptions of various accounts from books (many copied secondhand from Ross Hamilton’s first copies), I found transcription errors and missing words, which doesn’t inspire a great deal of confidence in the “best” newspaper and curiosity-book excerpts of about copper breastplates, ceremonial axes, and other weaponry the authors feel that giants once wielded. My favorite has to be a piece they quote from the Newport Miner of March 17, 1910, but which had been circulating in other newspapers earlier. It tells of a 10-foot skeleton found in Boise with the remains of a shotgun! The authors take this seriously, but because they did not read the complete article, such as appeared in the Sunday Oregonian—only an excerpted version—they miss the paragraphs in which the journalist describes that ancient man having been sealed alive inside a volcano! Anyway, the journalist reports that the story is known only from some hunters who claimed to have seen the bones.
The tenth chapter is perhaps the weirdest of all, for in it our authors admit to consulting Theosophical literature to develop their ideas about the early history of giants. This, in turn, leads them to conclude that the giants lived on the lost continent of Atlantis, and for information about the same, they turn to “two of the most gifted clairvoyants in human history,” Edgar Cayce and Rudolf Steiner. The authors fail to recognize the Biblical and fringe history origins of the two men’s visions, and they assume that their references to the giants of Atlantis were independent of the broader fringe history world, exemplified by Ignatius Donnelly, that identified Atlantis with the “antediluvian world” of the Nephilim before Noah’s Flood. However, the authors say that they do not intend to prove whether Atlantis existed, and therefore this chapter is meant only as an entertaining amusement, “a rare glimpse into a secret world, a mystical realm where giants were once said to have existed.”
They also accuse the Rosicrucians and Freemasons of having secret knowledge of the lost race of giants and present excerpts from Rosicrucian magazines in which authors put a Rosicrucian spin on news stories from other papers. The authors feel that these societies would not have reported information that did not comport with their doctrines, and therefore (since they cannot imagine a secret society would believe a Biblical claim that isn’t literally true) the reports must be factual and Genesis 6:4 giants real. Here, though, our gigantologist friends evince an unwavering incuriosity. They write that in 1917 the Rosicrucian magazine Rays from the Rose Cross reported that Judge E. P. West discovered a giant skeleton “about 2 weeks ago,” and they blithely note that Helena Blavatsky reported the same incident in Isis Unveiled. However, they aren’t at all curious why that would be, since Blavatsky wrote 40 years earlier, in 1877. Indeed, the incident isn’t just the same, so is the wording. Even without having access to the full article, it’s clear that the 1917 account is a copy, but Blavatsky wasn’t the ultimate source. She herself wrote that she was quoting from The Kansas City Times from circa 1876 (the exact date isn’t given). This is no Rosicrucian-Theosophical mystery; it’s just a bunch of hacks repeating a newspaper story in order, as Blavatsky said, to “corroborate the statements of the […] Bible.” Our authors, through incuriosity, have turned it into a mystery at the heart of secret societies—secret societies that published it for everyone to read!
The eleventh chapter takes the mystical notion still further and halfheartedly starts to ask whether giant hunters suffer from a curse, with material drawn from S01E04 of Search for the Lost Giants about the curse imposed on those who seek giants. They use David Childress as a source, including for claims of the imaginary platinum coffins of Nan Madol, a story which I previously showed could not have occurred as Childress, following Erich von Däniken, gives it. Then they sort of drop the whole curse thing. They also accept at face value, again from Childress, the unproven claims of Beverly Hills physician Bruce Russell that he discovered the ruins of a lost civilization of giants in Death Valley in 1931. Childress assumed that there was a “cover-up” of the non-existent civilization since no trace can be found, and our authors inform us that Charles Manson was someone involved (they aren’t sure how) since he was arrested near the site in 1969. Manson, you see, felt that the nearby Devil’s Hole aquifer was a portal into the hollow earth, where he could ride out a race war. Sadly, though, Manson was not a gigantologist, and the literature on the Manson Family’s beliefs make plain that Manson believed that he was looking for the entrance to the underground civilization from which the Hopi emerged in their creation myth. Manson even claimed he had descended into this hole and found a river running underground to the north. But all this is a different species of fringe history, one tied to New Age beliefs derived from Frank Waters’s Book of the Hopi (1963) and therefore not really relevant to gigantology. Our authors might have discovered some of this had they a more generalized understanding of the fringe history milieu in which they work.
The twelfth chapter focuses on Sonora in Mexico, where a lost city of giants supposedly exists, based on a single 1930 report of a single skeleton measuring a whopping 6’8” found by Byron Cummings, one of the most important early archaeologists of the American desert southwest. The chapter, though, descends into a continued recap of Search for the Lost Giants episode S01E04 (linked above) about the alleged discoveries of Paxson Hayes, and they provide no additional evidence in favor of the lost city of giants in print that they did not provide on the show, which is to say, they have a sum total of a few inconsistent anecdotes that changed markedly over decades of telling. Hayes, for example, originally claimed to have found Asiatic mummies with slanting eyes, bushy beards, and tiny feet, before changing his story to make them blond Near Easterners who built mosque-like homes of cement! A great deal of space is given over to obsessing over the Smithsonian’s noninterest in these “discoveries,” not a single one of which was ever photographed or presented to the public.
The thirteenth chapter contains newspaper clippings from Alaska, Hawaii, and California, and a recap of the same material presented in the remainder of episode S01E04 in regard to the “giants” of Catalina Island, California. Again, the authors add nothing new.
The fourteenth and final chapter claims to seek the “origins of the tall ones” of America which the authors attribute to a mixture of “enigmatic Denisovians, Nephilim, and visitors from other ancient cultures.” It is an iron rule of fringe history that Nephilim-Watchers must always be involved somehow. Anyhow, the authors follow Ross Hamilton in arguing that Native Americans had “protocols” for selectively breeding giants as their leaders They say the first giants in America may have Denisovians.
This chapter is long, and throws a lot of bad science at the reader. Frankly, my eyes glazed over at all the faulty logic and bad assumptions, and I can only touch on some of the major problems. We begin with the fact that the authors rely on Andrew Collins, Michael Tellinger, Michael Cremo, and Graham Hancock for their information—all of whom have credibility issues in terms of their shaky relationship with facts. That said, they present Tellinger’s interview with Francis Thackeray, a South African anthropologist who claims that a fragment of femur found in 1960 is anatomically modern and larger than any he had ever seen. The bone is quite a bit more robust, but there is no indication in the video whether it represents a pathological individual (such as one suffering from gigantism) or something else entirely. I have no idea what to make of it.
The authors next identify giants as carrying specific traits: red hair and “European” haplogroup X, but they seem unable to identify this as separating their conclusions from those of Ross Hamilton, their mentor, who had taken pains to play down the Caucasian traits of the giants in order to cast the Smithsonian scientists as the real racists. They freely mix fragments of science (haplogroup X, while a real scientific thing, doesn’t necessarily imply a European connection) with outright mysticism and propose, based on the work of a Lemuria believer (!), that Edgar Cayce was correct to place the origins of the red-headed super-giants on lost Atlantis. They argue, after Greg Little, that the Portsmouth Works, a circular earthen set of concentric mounds, is meant to be a model of the rings of Plato’s Atlantis because they find it hard to believe Native Americans could draw circles for any other reason.
They claim that these giants, once living in America, maintained the “purity of their bloodlines by interbreeding only with others in the elite royal class.” They feel that inbreeding would produce stronger and more robust red-haired European-derived giants who would have ruled over normal Natives as supermen, übermenschen if you will.
It’s clear that the authors are more comfortable with Atlantean supermen than Biblical Nephilim, for their section on the latter is more confused than usual and emphasizes the differences that various Nephilim theorists like L. A. Marzulli and Steve Quayles have with one another. Unlike previous sections, this one doesn’t seem to endorse the Nephilim theory, and the authors criticize Nephilim authors for looking for Biblical monsters in any unusual bones, giant or not.
They are much more excited by Jeffrey Goodman’s 1981 claim that human beings actually evolved in America. Goodman, who has a Ph.D. in anthropology, was a longtime advocate of psychic archaeology before embracing creationism and biblical archaeology. He has recently advocated the idea that comets prove the existence of God because God used a comet to create Noah’s Flood. Our authors see Goodman as evidence that Caucasians, giant and regular-sized, are indigenous to America. They also collect what they read as skeletal evidence for Caucasians in America going back to the Stone Age, either indigenous or diffused from Europe. I guess that would make white people the true Native Americans and thus reconcile our authors with Ross Hamilton, albeit in a more racist way than Hamilton would have liked. They do take pains, however, to note that Caucasians don’t have to be pale white, essentially begging readers not to see this as racist.
As the chapter comes to a close, they speculate on whether the alleged Younger Dryas comet killed the giants (based on Graham Hancock’s Magicians of the Gods), whether the giants mastered advanced technology, and whether electromagnetic frequencies made dinosaurs and humans grow to enormous heights by altering their DNA. “Could this have somehow been known by the ancient shamans? Were mounds deliberately designed and constructed to replicate or enhanced these energies—and even create an artificial ‘growth’ environment for the elite to live within?” Since we don’t have any giants popping up among those who continued to live and work on and among the mounds in modern times, I will say no. A group of monks lived on top of Monk’s Mound at Cahokia for generations and somehow failed to see their DNA change. Oh, wait, I’m sorry: The authors specify that the energy is “spiritual” so only believers will have their DNA altered with appropriate shamanic rituals that were lost over time.
The authors eventually throw up their hands  at such a range of ideas, some of which they concede are “bizarre,” and conclude that America was home to multiple races of giants, drawn like a magnet to America from all of the world’s giant populations, hybridizing with indigenous giants until a comet killed most of them, leaving only a few to inbreed as the ruling elite of Native Americans. They claim that increased carbon dioxide levels produce more robust and larger humans (a claim they cite to Vine Deloria, but which the National Center for Science Education called “pseudoscience”), so climate change is ultimately going to lead to the return of the giants as humans grow taller and rediscover “earth energies.”
So, in sum, this “book” is a hybrid, luring readers in with the promise of documentary accounts of giants but tricking them into reading a New Age confabulation of crazy ideas revolving around mysticism and “energy.” On the plus side, this reveals some of the motives hiding behind an interest in archaeological “mysteries.”

<![CDATA[Review of "Giants on Record" by Jim Vieira and Hugh Newman (Part 3: Getting Around to Attacking Me!)]]>Wed, 25 Nov 2015 19:59:58 GMThttp://www.jasoncolavito.com/blog/review-of-giants-on-record-by-jim-vieira-and-hugh-newman-part-4-getting-around-to-attacking-meThe next set of chapters of Giants on Record by Jim Vieira and Hugh Newman contain proportionally less original text and argument. These chapters primarily exist to loosely frame a collection of excerpts from books, journals, and especially newspapers, with the overarching theme that readers should give credence to the stories through their sheer volume. To illustrate the seriousness with which the authors contemplate ancient legend we need only turn to their statement in chapter 3: “Why such tales, if it was not a folk memory of some sort?” To illustrate the silliness of such a conclusion we need only remember that most folklore also includes dragons, which do not exist, and magical powers, which similarly are unreal. Oh, right: In the same chapter, the authors talk about how legends say the giants had magic powers!
As always, the authors’ sources range from untrustworthy to dubious, with only a handful of primary sources scattered among the detritus of Google searches, including Wikipedia pages and discredited nineteenth century lost white race texts. How does one review a set of reprints of Victorian versions of Native American legends? Yes, fairy tales and myths exist, but so what? They are no more reliable than the story of the Thunderbird is a literal account of giant birds or pterodactyls. The authors, in discussing the Lovelock Cave “giants” (unknown to archaeology and the product of exaggeration and sideshow promotions), reprint the infamous image of a dental cast set inside a normal human jaw and made into a comparison of modern and ancient jaws. Our authors, like Melba Ketchum and David Childress before them, aren’t able to understand that a dental impression is not, as they claim, “a cast of a modern human jaw” but only an impression of the teeth. The jaw, as you can adduce from your own face, is larger than the arc of your teeth within it.
From various legends—ranging from the Lovelock cannibal giants to the “slant-eyed” giant of Judacullah Rock—the authors follow Ross Hamilton in concluding that there was a continent-wide genocidal war in which various Native groups deployed giants as special forces. However, they differ from Hamilton in embracing old claims that the giants were either Caucasian (“pale white”) or East Asian (“slant-eyed”) and thus of a different race altogether, most being red-headed white cannibals. But because they don’t quite recognize their differences with Hamilton, they also claim when working directly from Hamilton’s book that the giants were Native Americans and selected for special positions of political authority.
The authors devote a chapter to the Mounds, which they consider to be earthworks devoted to giants and the giants’ zodiacal religion. Newman says that he experience tremendous earth energy when near to a mound, something the authors claim is common near the graves of giants. The town where I grew up, Auburn, New York, has an old Native mound at its center, in Fort Hill Cemetery, and there are folktales of ghosts and such surrounding it, but in all the years I lived there, I never felt any “energy” emanating from the mound. On the other hand, dowser David Yarrow insisted in the 1980s that he felt “high energy” coming off of it, so I imagine that the “energy” is tied to the expectations of the beholder, or else I am immune to mystic energy.
The authors present a variety of excerpts from newspapers, academic journals, and popular books, each reporting the discovery of a “giant” of around seven feet in height from within a mound. They conclude that “the sheer number of these accounts” proves “the validity of this theory” that Native Americans selectively bred giants to be their ruling class.
The following chapter is a “comprehensive selection” (whatever that oxymoron is supposed to mean) of newspaper reports and other literary excerpts about giants from New England. It contains nothing more than a couple of dozen excepts, none of which offers much by way of evidence that any of their claims are true, for the usual reasons, particularly the inaccurate height estimation formulas used in the 1800s.
The sixth chapter contains newspaper accounts of “anatomical anomalies,” again with almost nonexistent commentary and no attempt at critical analysis. These anomalies range from skulls six times (!) human size (which I’d wager, if the account has a basis in fact, is likely that of a young mastodon or mammoth) to skulls with horns.
The seventh chapter covers the infamous “double rows of teeth,” which Andy White has shown does not mean what Vieira and Newman think it does. In a blog post yesterday White broke down all of the accounts pasted into this chapter and explained how each refers either to worn front teeth that resembled molars, known as “double teeth,” or to the colloquial expression referring to the skull having a complete (and normal) set of 32 teeth, in other words, a full “double row.” Rather than repeat it, be sure to read his post. (Disclosure: Andy White lent me his copy of Giants on Record, which is what I am using for this review. Thanks to Andy, I think...!)

I will note, though, the authors mined the Talmud for references to teeth, but they missed the part (Talmud Bavli, Chullin 60b) where the ancient rabbis claimed that giants actually had sixteen rows of teeth! If they really knew their material (which of course they don’t) they’d have been better off citing folio 147 of the Book of Howth (c. 1485-1540), one of the earliest English language applications of the phrase “double row of teeth” to a giant.
Unlike previous chapters, this one includes summaries of material presented on Search for the Lost Giants, and the authors have clearly learned nothing from my extensive criticism and investigation of their “evidence” since they repeat the same misinformation and misinterpretations. My reviews are linked above, and I have no interest in repeating them again here.
The eighth chapter regurgitates Smithsonian conspiracies, which they weirdly link to the Institution’s “agenda of manifest destiny and the new theory of evolution” (emphasis in the original), and they assert that the Smithsonian controlled all mound and skeletons in America, which is patently untrue. However, since evolution became a major scientific theory after 1859 and Manifest Destiny a slogan in 1845, they instead locate the conspiracy not in the Smithsonian in general but in the Bureau of American Ethnology, founding in 1879. Of course, that leaves decades in which they Smithsonian was promoting lost white race nonsense, so the authors celebrate that early, racist era as honest and true, while blaming John Wesley Powell for ruining everything by founding the BAE in 1879 to suppress the truth. Sadly, the authors cite their conspiracy only to David Hatcher Childress, who fabricated it from lies in 1993 article (as I showed in 2013), but our authors know this and dismiss my criticism by saying that “Online skeptics [that’s me!] have ridiculed this article as the genesis of the Smithsonian conspiracy theory, but as we delved into these upcoming accounts, we quickly found it may prove to be relevant to gigantology.” Note: They seems to admit to being familiar with my website and therefore are actively choosing lies over the facts I have used to dispute those claims. What is especially sad is that the blog post they dismiss as “ridicule” was in fact based on much more solid literary analysis and research than their own fact-free insults aimed at “online skeptics” like me. I will remind you that I am an author published by Prometheus Books and McFarland, two respected houses, and who has been cited as an authority in dissertations and by major news outlets, while Vieira and Newman self-published this plagiarized monstrosity through a website affiliated with Newman.
Newman, who seems to believe the claim by Childress that the Smithsonian dumps boatloads of artifacts into the sea by night, says he knows a conspiracy is afoot because he visited the Smithsonian in 2014 and didn’t see anything ancient on display in the “cold, unwelcoming atmosphere.” He, of course, didn’t ask to see anything that isn’t currently on display. Most of the time, you can see things by making a request, and if that fails, a letter from one’s congressman’s office will usually suffice. The reason, I suspect, that news accounts say that “giant” bones were shipped to the Smithsonian but Smithsonian records found none is that the bones that were received were more accurately measured and, at times, correctly classified as animal upon receipt in Washington, as I discussed before.
The chapter then degenerates into newspaper articles and book clippings, and in places the authors’ screen grabs in the images of articles are so crude they neglected to remove the Google newspapers and/or newspapers.com highlighting on key terms and paragraphs before copying the article.
Since this chapter ends the “evidence” for giants and the remaining chapters begin a death-spiral into diffusionism, OOPARTS, and Atlantis I think I will reserve the final silliness for tomorrow, when no one will be reading my blog anyway.
<![CDATA[Review of "Giants on Record" by Jim Vieira and Hugh Newman (Part 2: Bad Research and Plagiarism!)]]>Tue, 24 Nov 2015 15:59:33 GMThttp://www.jasoncolavito.com/blog/review-of-giants-on-record-by-jim-vieira-and-hugh-newman-part-2-bad-research-and-plagiarismYesterday I started reviewing the new book from Jim Vieira and Hugh Newman, Giants on Record, and today I’m going to continue the agonizing slog. I will likely surprise none of my regular readers if I offer a couple of spoilers: the book is chock full of bad research and contains several obvious instances of cut-and-paste plagiarism from the internet. 
The authors’ joint preface to the book begins by recounting the silly saga of the “satirical” article from earlier this year that claimed that the Smithsonian admitted to destroying giant skeletons. The two authors recognize this as a hoax, and they argue that the willingness of readers to believe it speaks to a real problem in gigantology. To that end, they summarize a few of the most famous fakes, ranging from the Cardiff Giant to recent creationist Photoshop hoaxes, and then leave it to the reader to determine whether the accounts they adjudge to be true are worth considering.
This leads to the first of two introductions, this one by Hugh Newman. It isn’t directly relevant to the book since it describes the legends of giants prevalent in Great Britain in the Middle Ages. Newman wants us to take medieval legends at face value, though without providing any reason we should do so, and as always with fringe figures, he has no interest in doing the work of finding the primary sources he claims to use as evidence if they are even a little difficult to work with. To wit, when he claims that King Arthur’s skeleton was that of a giant, he sources a quotation about it to this website rather than to the original medieval account of Giraldus, Liber de Principis instructione, Distinctio I, folio 107b (c. 1193). I mean, at least make an effort.
The most important takeaway from this introduction is Newman’s description of his convoluted path to gigantology. According to his telling, in 2008 he toured the United States by couch-surfing from New England to California and spent some time in Arizona housesitting for David Childress (!), in whose library he read Ross Hamilton’s Tradition of Giants, which in turn inspired Newman to organize a conference on ancient mysteries to which he invited Hamilton. Jim Vieira was there, too, and the group of men developed an intense bromance centered on their mutual obsession with other very large men. It really is a small world in fringe history.
The second introduction is Jim Vieira’s, and he picks up on the theme of developing a monomaniacal obsession, likening his growing mania for giants to Alice falling down the rabbit hole. “I was never able to think the same about the past,” he writes. He describes his journey as moving from his professional work as a stonemason to an interest in Native American stonework, to an obsession with lost giants. Interestingly, he does not describe critical thinking in his account of rummaging through old books and newspapers and thrilling to various accounts of large skeletons, particularly those found in George Sheldon’s archaeological scrapbook, a collection of newspaper and book clippings about giant skeletons now in the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association Museum and the prototype for all future gigantology newspaper collections. Vieira describes how Hamilton and Newman turned him into a full-time giant obsessive following their meeting at Newman’s conference.
Vieira is not a strong writer, and his introduction is at times clunky and confusing, particularly when he lists a mound as “dated to 7,500 years” without indicating whether the missing word at the end of the sentence should be B.C. or ago. It makes a difference. The mound, a child burial at L’anse Amour, Newfoundland, dates to 5,500 BCE, just to be clear.
After all of the various front matter and introductions, we finally hit the meat of the book, which is a disappoint repeat of the material from all the standard gigantology sources, give or take a few newspaper articles. It’s a set of newspaper articles and book excerpts wrapped in some brief commentary. The first chapter covers “Early Explorers” and is based primarily on secondary sources which the authors have data-mined for references to giants. It’s disappointing because at times the authors do reference primary sources (primarily those they can access online), which makes it all the more baffling that they seem to prefer to use pre-digested quotations run through other people’s work. Why might that be? Oh, right: It’s because the authors are plagiarists and are happy to cut and paste their way to a book.
I don’t make that accusation lightly. The fact is that the text changes voice from time to time, and it made me wonder why the authors seem to have trouble with consistency of language and syntax. I wondered if it were due to the two authors’ styles being insufficiently married, but not: When I checked, it was just copy and paste plagiarism. Consider this example from Chapter 1, compared to text that appears on this website:
Newman and Vieira
Horace Walpole, the English historian and gothic novelist, published An Account of the Giants Lately Discovered: In a Letter to a Friend in the Country following the return in 1766 of Captain John Byron, who had circumnavigated the world in the HMS Dolphin. Word leaked that the crew had seen nine-foot-tall giants in South America.
Patagonian Giants Webpage
Horace Walpole, the English historian and gothic novelist, published An Account of the Giants Lately Discovered: In a Letter to a Friend in the Country following the return in 1766 of Captain John Byron, who had circumnavigated the world in the HMS Dolphin. Word leaked that the crew had seen nine-foot giants in South America.
Now, granted, the authors provide an endnote giving the URL from which they have stolen the text, but they never indicate that these are not their own words, freely running the text within their own paragraph.
Anyway, the material in the chapter is your standard mix of Spanish chronicles and early English sources, explored with all the critical thinking you’d image that two gigantologists can muster. For example, they repeat nearly verbatim the claim of Richard Thornton and “People of One Fire” that the otherwise unattested Duhare area of the Carolinas appearing in Peter Martyr’s De orbe novo 7.2-3 is named for people who are Irish, despite the fact that I documented in great detail why the claim could not be true back in 2013. A moment’s familiarity with Latin and Spanish, along with reading the primary source in its original language, would have made this clear to our authors, who actively choose to avoid engaging in the depth of analysis needed to support their own claims.
As the chapter progresses, it breaks down from a narrative into a scattershot collection of excerpts from texts, gradually becoming a set of newspaper excerpts, largely without evaluation or narration. The authors (along with Ross Hamilton, who makes a guest appearance as the compiler of some of the accounts) seem to take it as settled that the measurements the conquistadors provided for Native Americans are equivalent to American standard measurements in use after the eighteenth century, whereas units like “palms,” “spans,” and even feet and inches were not standardized to a scientific degree.
The fact of the matter is that the Spanish conquistadors used Spanish customary units, which don’t match British imperial units (or American standard, which are close enough to call the same, both deriving from English standard units) except in a rough way. So, when a Spaniard of the time used the word “feet,” he was referring to the pie, which was a fraction less than 11 British inches in length, though with variants by time and place. Now, while that doesn’t seem like a major difference, if a Spaniard were to report a Native American as being siete pies (seven feet) in height, as our authors note many did, in British imperial units, that is actually around 6 foot 5 inches. Given that the Spaniards were not using measuring tapes and merely estimating based on their own feet, the chances are good that the relatively short Spaniards overestimated. At any rate, once the history of metrology is taken into account, the “giants” vanish into human-sized Native Americans whose size matches known Native American skeletons of the era, more or less, and are in line with basketball-player-sized people encountered as late as the nineteenth century. In sum: You can’t assume that the same word has the same meaning from culture to culture, and ethnocentrism creates illusionary “giants.”
Our authors, of course, scorn academics and therefore lack the background to recognize differences in measurement units and what those using them meant by them.
The second chapter, on presidential interest in giants, is similarly poor in its research. They report, for example, that during the French and Indian War George Washington discovered seven-foot-tall “Indian” skeletons at Fort Loudoun (the one in Virginia), but they cite no primary source, only Mac Rutherford, author of Historic Haunts of Winchester (2007), who gives no source. I am unaware of the source, if there is one, but it may be related to nineteenth century claims of seven-foot skeletons found in the area in the years before 1850. The authors similarly report that Thomas Jefferson “was said to have opened an Indian burial mound,” apparently oblivious to the fact that the excavation was reported in Jefferson’s own words in his Notes on the State of Virginia. They also accept without question J. Houston McCulloch’s claim that Thomas Jefferson requested that a specific mound in Ohio—one alleged to resemble a menorah—be surveyed as proof of Lost Tribes of Israel in America, a claim that rests solely on Jefferson’s request for information on “those works of Antiquity,” the mounds in general, even though, as Anthony F. C. Wallace points out in Jefferson and the Indians, Jefferson loudly and vociferously decried any claim that the earthworks were non-Native.
Our authors, in discussing this, cut and paste from McCulloch’s website, plagiarizing verbatim the following paragraph in which McCulloch actively ignores Wallace’s book, his acknowledged source: “Jefferson's Presidential interest in these specific earthworks may explain why the Corps of Engineers would have taken the trouble in 1823 to map structures that had no conceivable contemporary military value. The fact that the 1823 map depicts precisely those earthworks surveyed by Lytle c. 1803 strongly indicates that there was a more than coincidental link between the two surveys.”

And that was about all of the plagiarism, poor research, and outright misinformation that I could handle for one day.
<![CDATA[Review of "Giants on Record" by Jim Vieira and Hugh Newman (Part 1)]]>Mon, 23 Nov 2015 18:17:05 GMThttp://www.jasoncolavito.com/blog/review-of-giants-on-record-by-jim-vieira-and-hugh-newman-part-1Jim Vieira has made a career out of imagining that old newspaper stories about giants are true, and Hugh Newman has done just as well by attaching his name to other people’s fringe theories, whether it be the ancient astronaut theory on Ancient Aliens or gigantology on Vieira’s History Channel series Search for the Lost Giants. The pair have teamed up for Giants on Record: America’s Hidden History, Secrets in the Mounds and the Smithsonian Files, a book that is nearly identical in form and content to Richard Dewhurst’s Ancient Giants Who Ruled America (with one notable exception discussed later), and it made me wonder who exactly would need more than one collection of similar newspaper reports about giants interspersed with conspiracy theories about the Nephilim and Atlantis.
Before we begin discussing the text as such, I want to make a few notes about the production of the volume, which is officially credited to Avalon Rising Publications (not to be confused with the band or the erotic romance novels), a website affiliated with Hugh Newman. The book is poorly produced. It looks like it was laid out in Microsoft Word by someone who wasn’t entirely familiar with the conventions of book publishing. For example, paragraphs are indented a full half-inch, for example, a standard Word tab, instead of the industry-standard quarter inch. The copyright page informs me that Newman did the interior layout himself. The typeface is overly large, perhaps size 12 or so, and the pages are a riot of fonts, lines, italics, and other stylistic tics, with too little white space. One page alone featured three typefaces, two divider lines, and blocks of boldface and italics. But Newman also appears to either have produced his interior layout with images below the recommended 300 dpi for clear reproduction, or else used crappy internet images and/or an inferior print-on-demand service, as most of the photographs were heavily pixelated, blurry, or had digital artifacts from where they were scanned and reduced to black and white without compensating for the effects of the conversion. Some images, such as the book page reproduced on page 171, seem to be screen grabs from archive.org scans of old books.
I’m sure the History Channel is thrilled that Vieira and Newman have placed the History Channel’s name and the trademarked Search for the Lost Giants logo on the cover of their book. There is no acknowledgement in the text that they had permission to do so, and the lack of a ® sign beside the Search logo suggests they don’t have it.
The two men open the book with acknowledgements in which they both cite Graham Hancock as their inspiration and offer their thanks to Ross Hamilton, Micah Ewers, Greg Little, and a host of other fringe figures. They then proceed to inform us that they refuse to use “modern forms” of dating, such as the Common Era system and years Before Present, preferring the BC/AD system. They also explain that they define a “giant” as “anyone 7 feet tall or over.” These note precede the Preface, which precedes the Forward, which precedes the two Introductions. In an unusual move, this front matter is numbered inconsistently, with each of the four pieces carrying a Roman numeral sort-of chapter identifier, but the page numbers switch from Roman numerals to Arabic at the first introduction. Newman also hasn’t learned how to create a section break in Word to allow him to omit printed page numbers from mostly blank pages, such as the dedication (appearing, weirdly, on a left page) to “all Indigenous Americans” in honor of their legends of giants.
The opening foreword by Ross Hamilton, the godfather of gigantology and the first to apply David Childress’s Smithsonian conspiracy to giants, offers a very interesting reversal of the typical criticism of gigantology as recycling racist claims, such as when Richard Dewhurst declared giants to be a “pre-Indian Caucasian culture.” Hamilton says that when we consider “the dark aspects of racial prejudice and the understanding that Native people were without rights, alive or dead, and you have a mojo cocktail of white sectarianism that would disorient the most sober and reliable jurist.” He goes on to say that Washington elites conspired to impose a racist view of Native Americans and to use those views to make it impossible to believe in a superior race of giants that would have outstripped the Aryans. He even cites the Native American activist Vine Deloria to support his views and says mainstream scholars as enforcing “Jim Crow” mentalities when it comes to Native American history. In other words, Hamilton would like to cast the giant deniers as the true white supremacists by aligning the imagined North American giants with the Native Americans, despite repeated evidence that those who believed in giants back then specifically claimed that the giants were racially distinct from Native Americans and were affiliated with a lost white race of Mound Builders. It’s a clever rhetorical trick, and one that might be convincing to anyone not intimately familiar with the literature in question.
Well, I can’t say it’s good rhetoric in a literal sense since Hamilton’s writing is often confusingly obscure: “Such conditions coupled with their believed hierarchically structured village systems giving leeway to an overall egalitarian vision, may have stayed the grand stature resulting in so many such skeletal remains being witnessed by the European settlers in the Eastern U.S.” Or when he claims he is using “giant” “in the spirit of, though not as, a homonym; i.e., having more than one aspect,” which isn’t the definition of “homonym” at all.
Hamilton argues for the Biblical theory of degeneracy, and suggests that the reason that the giants became less common over time due to the running down of the earth, prompting Native Americans to turn to selective breeding to try to keep the giants alive. This is why, he suggests, there are so few giant skeletons from historic times—simply inbred members of a dying race, whose compromised immune systems (!) led to smallpox killing off the last giants.
Anyway, the reversal of the historic norm on who the “giants” were and how they fit into American racism was an interesting development, and one that almost seems purposefully designed to absolve the gigantologists of the accusation that they are perpetuating Victorian-era imperialist and colonialist ideologies, particularly after Dewhurst laid them bare with his emphasis last year on the Caucasian might of the white giants who ruled America. I’ll be interested to see if the theme plays out in the rest of the book.
I have only just started the book, and I’m not sure if I’ll be posting the rest of the review in sequence or if there may be a couple of days’ gap between sections. It will depend on how fast I can read it.
<![CDATA[Graham Hancock: Buy My Book to "Put One Finger Up to the Mainstream"]]>Sun, 22 Nov 2015 15:17:07 GMThttp://www.jasoncolavito.com/blog/graham-hancock-buy-my-book-to-put-one-finger-up-to-the-mainstreamThis week Graham Hancock appeared on The Joe Rogan Experience for a three-hour discussion of fringe history, which is the length of two feature movies. If you made it through the entire three hours in one sitting, you have much more patience than I do. It’s a mind-numbing slog through Hancock’s id, and it was one that came complete with his now-frequent claim that attacks on his work hurt his feelings. “I’m human,” he said, “and it hurts.” Over the course of the three-hour discussion, Hancock discussed attacks on him and how archaeologists are working to discredit him almost a dozen times that I counted—and I skipped over some parts. The pity party overshadowed pretty much everything else in the discussion.
This interview differs from Hancock’s others in that he is joined by Randall Carlson, another a fringe theorist whose work on geology Hancock used in his new book, Magicians of the Gods, even though Carlson has no education or credentials in geology. Both Hancock and Carlson admit that their views on ancient history (human and geological respectively) are shaped by psychedelic drugs, as we shall see. Both Hancock and Carlson had some trouble understanding that The Joe Rogan Experience is a podcast, primarily accessed as audio (though there is a video version), and so they came with a PowerPoint presentation and some photos that Rogan told them that most of the audience can’t see.
Hancock has trouble perceiving irony, and he did not recognize that he was describing himself when he announced that scientists are not objective but instead identify their personalities with their theories, and thus “any attack on that idea becomes an existential attack on you yourself.” Since a half-hour earlier Hancock talked about how he found attacks on his ideas personally painful to his ego, I am dumbfounded that he is unable to see his own reflection in the mirror.
Joe Rogan agreed with Hancock wholeheartedly, and he endorses that idea that “academics” are refusing to investigate or teach material that disagrees with their paradigms. “It makes your education look like shit,” he said after pausing to think about how college professors use what Hancock calls a “knowledge filter” to impose orthodoxy. I am not a regular consumer of the podcasts of Joe Rogan, so I was not aware that he was a full-fledged anti-academic conspiracy theorist and not just a goofy fringe/New Age proponent.
Hancock says that archaeology is “ideology” that follows the view that civilization moves from the primitive to the sophisticated in linear format, leading to use as the apex and pinnacle of a teleological evolution. This was the view of the Victorians, after Henry Lewis Morgan proposed in 1877 that humanity moved from savagery to barbarism to civilization in linear form, but that hasn’t been the case in anthropology or archaeology for many decades. Claude Levi-Strauss was a notable opponent, arguing that barbarism was primarily the province of those who would describe others as barbarians. Modern scholars, as usual, have a number of competing views.
The other important takeaway is that all of these characters are essentially stuck in the 1990s. Joe Rogan talks about how he gained his information about these ideas from the 1993 Mystery of the Sphinx documentary, and that he read Fingerprints of the Gods in the 1990s. Hancock talks at length about the various battles he fought against archaeology in the 1990s, and he seems to be attributing to archaeology Clovis-first paradigms also not supported since the 1990s.
Carlson, who says that he got many of his ideas from nineteenth century catastrophist textbooks, claims that global elites are trying to suppress the truth about asteroids and their role in climate change in order to promote a political ideology of social control that they can blame on global warming. Carlson also denies that human beings could cause the extinction of megafauna, and based on this he concludes that humans are not able to cause mass extinctions; ergo, climate change-driven mass extinctions are a political hoax used to impose global control. Carlson returns to the idea that climate change is not caused by human beings over the course of the three hours, and the more he talks, the more his politics leak out around the edges. (Carlson has expressed similar views for several years.)
In a new claim, Hancock denies the Bering Strait hypothesis of the peopling of the Americas and speculates that the ruins of his lost civilization were destroyed by a comet that crashed into North America, where it was located, perhaps remembered as Atlantis. No trace of this civilization exists, but he speculates that the comet simply destroyed it all.
In the second hour, Hancock returns to his hatred of archaeologists, to which he adds climate scientists, and announced that he believes that astrology is “an ancient science” that he thinks, based on a book he read, may have a real impact on human consciousness. Hancock says that elites use “ideological tools” and “arguments from authority” to make it impossible to “think outside the box” by imposing beliefs about astrology, climate change, and ancient history that all right-thinking people must believe. This leads to a lengthy discussion of altered states of consciousness and Hancock’s belief that modern society does not sufficiently recognize and reward imagination, creativity, and dreams, the last of which he suggests may be actual messages from another dimension.
Carlson spends his part of the hour endorsing various catastrophist views of how the end of the Ice Age created what is essentially Noah’s Flood.
The third hour begins with Hancock, now becoming hoarse from speaking, blasting archaeologists again for authoritarian tendencies and exposing his own uneasy relationship with the middle decades of his life by explaining that authority figures have failed us and lied to us at every level, especially in politics, which is why we must therefore question human history. In short: Nixon was a crook, so archaeology is also a fraud.
Rogan wonders why Hancock writes books, which he says are an inefficient way to change public attitudes. “There are a lot people that won’t read a book,” Rogan said. “Documentaries are so easy. All you do is open your stupid mouth, lay down, turn on Netflix, and bam! You know, you can absorb it. People are lazy.” And there in a nutshell is the problem! Even a lengthy documentary will contain a fraction of the words of a long-form magazine article, let alone a book, and they rely more on emotion than logic.
Hancock, however, says that he needs the audience to go out and buy the book that he says archaeologists don’t want you to read: “That is the best way to put one finger up to the mainstream,” he said. Hancock claims this is the first time he has ever begged a show’s audience to go out and by a book. He would like it to be a rallying cry against authority of all stripes.
There was almost another hour after that, but that was really the climax of the show. The remaining time Hancock spent summarizing various claims from his book about supposedly anomalous archaeological sites covered in Magicians, including his claim that Atlantis can be found worldwide, including in Indonesia. Hancock denied being a Freemason and said that he wouldn’t join the Freemasons. Indeed, Hancock denies that there is a Masonic global conspiracy. (“Most of them are in it for the beer. Freemasonry is mostly a male drinking club.” – He specified that’s after hours drinking, not during meetings.) However, Hancock did assert that Masons have “ancient knowledge,” and all three men can’t understand why dollar bills have a pyramid on the back (“Why can’t it just say ‘one dollar’?” Rogan asks), none of them recognizing that the image is the Great Seal of the United States, which is, I imagine, what they mean to question. Rogan feels that the all-seeing eye represents the pineal gland while high on drugs. Meanwhile Carlson babbles on about how the Masonic statue of the weeping virgin is a catastrophist drug metaphor based in the resurrection of Osiris. He argues that Father Time’s sickle is really a representation of a comet and that the virgin weeps for the destruction of the antediluvian world before the comet destroyed it. In quick flash of some slides that Carlson didn’t mean to be seen, there were references to Enoch, and this is (sigh) yet another Watchers story, filtered through Masonic conspiracies.
​In actually, the image was created by Amos Doolittle to illustrate a book by Jeremy Cross in 1819 as an allegory for the death of Hiram Abiff and the discovery of his body, the key narrative of Masonry’s Third Degree. This is not a secret, or at least hasn’t been since the original texts slipped into the public domain more than a century ago. (There was a late Victorian conspiracy theory that it was an astrological allegory, which I imagine is the source Carlson is ultimately reliant upon.)
The show concludes with Rogan, Carlson, and Hancock discussing the drugs they enjoy taking and praising voters for legalizing marijuana in several U.S. states. Hancock says he looks forward to visiting each state where pot is now legal, and he is positively giddy about continuing to use the marijuana he previously identified as causing extreme paranoia in him. I don’t disagree with his assessment that adults should be able to make their own decisions about drugs. but I disagree that such drugs help to produce better evidence for ancient history. Carlson, who said he did acid and peyote for months on end, claims that his acid trips are what inspired him to oppose mainstream geology and embrace catastrophism after he realized that the land is, in its own way, alive. 
<![CDATA[The Real Source of a Fake Einstein-Oppenheimer MJ-12 Document on Space Alien Law]]>Sat, 21 Nov 2015 17:40:13 GMThttp://www.jasoncolavito.com/blog/the-real-source-of-a-fake-einstein-oppenheimer-mj-12-document-on-space-alien-lawRegular readers of my blog know that I don’t think much of the research prowess of Ivan Petricevic, the proprietor of Ancient Code, an ancient astronaut “news” site. This week Petricevic recycled an old ancient astronaut and UFO claim and in so doing started yet another round of reader excitement over what is almost certainly a lie. 
On Ancient Code Petricevic presents what he claims is a draft document written in in June 1947 by Albert Einstein and J. Robert Oppenheimer making a complex legal argument about how extraterrestrials would fit into the framework of international law. According to the scan of the document, it was classified as “top secret,” and Petricevic claims its contents were unknown until recent declassification. If a legal discussion of the position of aliens vis-à-vis res nullius and res communis seems like a very strange thing for two physicists to be opining on, there is a good reason for that: They didn’t write it.
The document in question is a rather crude hoax. The text is copied mostly verbatim from Cosmic International Law by Modesto Seara Vázquez, published by Wayne State University Press in 1965, a translation of his 1959 Sorbonne doctoral dissertation, Études de Droit Interplanetaire​Compare the opening lines, including a copy-editing number agreement error in the first line of both:
Relationships with extraterrestrial men presents no basically new problem from the standpoint of international law; but the possibility of confronting intelligent beings that do not belong to the human race would bring up problems whose solution it is difficult to conceive.

Relationships with extraterrestrial men presents no basically new problem from the standpoint of international law; but the possibility of confronting intelligent beings that do not belong to the human race would bring up problems whose solution it is difficult to conceive.
Crucially, we cannot support the argument that Vázquez may have copied without credit from a genuine document since the author wrote in French and the Wayne State edition was translated from the French by Elaine Malley. It would be an impossible coincidence to translate material back perfectly into the original, unless we would like to pretend that not only is Vázquez a plagiarist but that he provided Malley with the original documents for her to abate the plagiarism, along with Wayne State University, all while weaving the scientists’ absurdly detailed legal arguments seamlessly into a dissertation for the Sorbonne!
Both Einstein and Oppenheimer are name-checked in the book, but not in the section used to forge a document under their names.
Incidentally, Modesto Seara Vázquez, who is considered the founder of space law, is still alive and serving as the rector of a university in Oaxaca, Mexico.
The hoax document uses large blocks of text from Cosmic International Law, though in places it has adapted the text by adding or removing a few words, as in the section halfway down page 4, where the words “such as the moon” were added to a sentence on res nullius to mask where several lines were omitted from the original.
What’s somewhat surprising is that the document is still being touted as legitimate despite how easy it is to find the textual source of the document. This is mildly surprising, but not entirely unexpected. The document appears to have first made the rounds on the UFO websites in 2013 after it was posted on The Majestic Documents, a website run by Robert and Ryan Wood and devoted to promoting the Majestic-12 conspiracy. However, it had been published much earlier, at least as far back as 2003 in a book by Nancy Red Star called Life with a Cosmos Clearance ​(where it was misidentified as a letter from Oppenheimer to Einstein, despite carrying both their typed signatures). Unfortunately, the Majestic webpage hosting the document is no longer accessible, a mirror site laughably informs us that “a considerable amount of investigation and testing has been completed and their (sic) are strong signs of authenticity.” The Majestic Documents claims that the text was first obtained by Tim Cooper from Salina Cantwheel as part of a batch of “new” Majestic 12 documents in 1996, and not to go into too much detail, but both skeptics and major ufologists conclude that Tim Cooper forged the “new” MJ-12 documents (and that Cantwheel is likely not real). When even Stanton Friedman is certain that someone was forging and plagiarizing documents, it’s pretty clear that the document is extremely dubious. However, as you can see from this link Wood has been promoting the authenticity of the documents since at least 1999 despite strong evidence of forgery.
So, Tim Cooper is the likely origin point for the hoaxed Einstein-Oppenheimer document, which was posted to Ryan Wood’s The Majestic Documents and from there spread to sites like Above Top Secret and Before Its News. Once it entered those websites, it cross-pollinated from UFO conspiracy sites to ancient astronaut sites on account of the similarity of the content with conspiracies about Oppenheimer and Einstein that appear on Ancient Aliens and in other ancient astronaut media. From there it was reposted and repeated with regularity between 2013 and 2015, when Petricevic recycled it as grist for his ancient astronaut click-bait site.
<![CDATA[History Channel Releases Official "Ancient Aliens" Guide for Children, Teaches Kids Aliens Are Behind Everything]]>Fri, 20 Nov 2015 12:58:15 GMThttp://www.jasoncolavito.com/blog/history-channel-releases-official-ancient-aliens-guide-for-children-teaches-kids-to-aliens-are-behind-everythingI don’t always get outraged by the terrible choices that cable TV makes. Cable channels have always done terrible things in the name of profit, but yesterday I learned of a horrible new product that flew under the radar when it was released a few months ago. Just seeing it made my blood boil, and I hope you’ll agree that it symbolizes pretty much everything wrong with American education and popular history in the twenty-first century.
That product? The Young Investigator’s Guide to Ancient Aliens: Based on the Hit Television Series, a book tie-in to the Ancient Aliens TV series, which carries the History Channel’s official endorsement and authorship and was released by Roaring Brook Press, a division of Macmillan, one of America’s largest book publishers. The volume is aimed at readers aged 8 to 12, though after skimming the book I’d think it’s perhaps a bit too ambitious for an 8 year old. (I wonder if grades 8-12 was what was meant instead.)
Although the book was released in July, it received no reviews on Amazon as of this writing and no mainstream media coverage that I could find. That is perhaps a good thing because the book itself is more horrifying than you’d imagine. As the book description explains:
Spanning history, from the earliest of human civilizations to the modern period, this book exposes evidence of the presence of extraterrestrials in some of our most triumphant and devastating moments.
And lest you think the existence of this book is an idle danger: According to the Toronto Public Library’s website, they purchased an astonishing 31 copies of the book to ensure that 23 branches of the library had one or more copies on hand. WorldCat reports that 97 libraries currently stock the book in their children’s sections. Indeed, the Youth Services Book Review blog, run by librarians in Massachusetts, gave the book a five star review and recommended it for all libraries serving children and teenagers. I would like to posit this question: If the History Channel promoted a book of “Creationism for Kids” or “Why Vaccines Will Kill You,” would anyone consider it a trusted resource or stock it alongside serious nonfiction for educating kids?
I’ll give the Youth Services librarian Katrina Yurenka one small bit of credit, though: She recommended the book be placed in the Dewey decimal system’s 000 section for general nonfiction rather than in the science section.
The bright, colorful, and well-designed volume opens with an explanation of the ancient astronaut theory that claims it is a legitimate field of study, explaining “ancient astronaut theorist” as a job description, and canonizing Chariots of the Gods as “a major text in the field of Ancient Astronaut theory.” The volume suggests that children can aspire to grow up to be ancient astronaut theorists, and it makes use of bastardized popular anthropology to do so, referring to ancient and non-Western peoples as “primitive cultures.”
The volume, credited online to author Don Steinberg, an author of disposable nonfiction of no great seriousness, informs young readers that NASA is engaged in a conspiracy to hide the truth about aliens from the public and that Neil Armstrong helped to cover up evidence of aliens on the moon. And for a book that pretends to be a science text, it’s unusual that it stops to note that “many of us are taught to believe that God is everywhere,” just like a creationist text might. However, this book does so in order to suggest that humans associate heaven and God with the sky due to memories of ancient spaceships. The book informs readers that “it’s important to remember that myths come from somewhere, often from events that witnessed by people who invent stories to explain what they don’t completely understand.” This gross oversimplification is wrong even as an explanation for the preteen audience the book targets.
I could go on all day about the faulty claims that the History Channel foists onto children, but all of them are recycled from the Ancient Aliens TV series, with extensive quotations from Giorgio Tsoukalos but precious few references to primary sources or any way for children to learn the real story behind ancient astronaut claims. Oh, and Tsoukalos is selling autographed copies at a 100% markup.
What angers me is that the book is clearly the product of significant financial outlay. It is handsomely illustrated with gorgeous photography, which does not come cheap. It is laid out beautifully, and the pages are carefully designed to be visually attractive. Again, this kind of care doesn’t come cheap. What’s infuriating is that this is the History Channel’s only book of ancient history for children, according to an Amazon listing of their (very few) official books. This is how History employs resources that a decade ago it used to “provide teacher training sessions, grants/scholarships, public service announcements and classroom materials for New York City public secondary school teachers and students” as part of an effort to improve history education, and two decades ago used to take educating children seriously as part of its mission statement?
When the History Channel started a college course at the University of Oklahoma last year, professors objected at the pop network invading academia, but the head of the American Historical Association, James Grossman, said this spring that there was no cause for concern. 
Different venues, whether they be television, commercial tourist attractions, children's books, national parks or classrooms, offer people different kinds of history. I am pleased that Americans are so eager to engage history, and fully recognize that they will engage different kinds of history in different ways. The AHA maintains standards for professional historical work. But we don't license. History Channel and other purveyors of popular histories play a vital role in stimulating and nourishing American's interest in the past. This is a good thing.
(Grossman’s organization, as he is the first to note, takes money from the History Channel, which sponsors an event at the AHA annual conference.)
Would he therefore argue that Ancient Aliens on TV and in educational books for children are simply “different kinds of history” and ultimately good? I asked him yesterday via email, but as of this writing I haven’t heard back yet.
<![CDATA[Review of "America: Nation of the Goddess" by Alan Butler and Janet Wolter (Part 3)]]>Thu, 19 Nov 2015 19:45:08 GMThttp://www.jasoncolavito.com/blog/review-of-america-nation-of-the-goddess-by-alan-butler-and-janet-wolter-part-3I regret to inform you that after I posted my review of the first half of Alan Butler’s and Janet Wolter’s America: Nation of the Goddess, the publisher, Destiny Books (an imprint of Inner Traditions), deleted the galley proofs from their online review copy page on Scribd. As a result, I lost access to the text before I had a chance to finish writing my review of the book. (The text was only accessible online and could not be copied or saved, as per the publisher’s security settings.) However unlikely a coincidence it is that review copy access was revoked the moment a bad review was posted, the galleys may have been taken down because the book was about to go on sale. Unfortunately, that means that I am not able to go back to the book for specifics in reviewing the sections I had previously skimmed in preparation for writing about the book in sections.
The following discussion is based on some notes I made and my skimming of the chapters. If it should happen that I get access to a copy of the book sometime in the near future I may revisit this with additional details, if any of the claims deserve further discussion.
Part Two: Washington, D.C.: The City of Isis
Chapters 10-14 of the book discuss Masonic symbolism in the city of Washington, and this material is exceptionally familiar since it is the same set of claims that Alan Butler discussed with Scott Wolter on America Unearthed S02E07, and the same material that Butler had previously explored in previous books on Freemasonry and conspiracy theories. Accordingly, Butler and Wolter reiterate claims that Washington, D.C.’s layout was based on the imaginary prehistoric unit called the Megalithic Yard and then offer conspiracies about the Washington Monument, which they see as having astronomical and astrological significance. The duration of the section covers claims that various buildings in Washington are aligned to astronomical events that symbolize important dates. Even if we accept all of these claims at face value, they would only suggest that Freemasons who were involved in the construction of these buildings used astronomical knowledge known at the time to symbolize dates important to them in that era. There is no evidence that this has any genuinely ancient connection to prehistory, any more than Caesar’s Palace and the Luxor in Las Vegas imply Roman and Egyptian cults in Nevada.
Again, this material was all discussed on America Unearthed, and I explained back then why it was wrong. Before that, the material had appeared in Butler’s earlier books, and before that in Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval’s Masonic conspiracy book, and before that in dozens of earlier Masonic conspiracy volumes. There is nothing new here.
Part Three: New York: The City of Osiris
Chapter 15-21 shift the focus to New York City, where material from America Unearthed is again recycled in order to suggest that Manhattan is aligned in the sacred geometry of Egypt. This is based on the (very) rough correlation of three obelisks in the city with the belt stars of Orion. As I showed in my review of America Unearthed S03E10 when the show proposed this “correlation,” the math doesn’t work. The obelisks do not exactly align with the belt stars, and the obelisks chosen are not the only obelisks to be found in Manhattan.
But the real centerpiece of the book is the two authors’ efforts to tell us that the all-American sport of baseball is actually an occult effort to worship the Earth Goddess. According to the authors, the baseball diamond is an outgrowth of the threshing-floor, a known location of occult worship. This gets a little complicated, and it’s a shame that the publisher deleted the galley proofs so I can’t use the authors’ own words. The argument is essentially this: Solomon built his temple atop an ancient threshing-floor (2 Chronicles 3:1), beneath which Enoch deposited hidden wisdom, according to the Masonic rite of the Royal Arch of Enoch, a claim ultimately derived from the Watchers myth. (Butler proposed earlier this year that Oak Island was a threshing-floor Masonic temple, too.) So, because the threshing-floor symbolizes the Temple, and Europeans may have played some of the precursors of baseball on threshing-floors, then the baseball diamond is, by the transitive property, symbolic of Solomon’s Temple. Now, since the authors believe Solomon was a goddess worshipper that makes the Temple and baseball diamonds sacred spaces of the Goddess. Oh, and the threshing-floors became Greek theaters, so Hollywood is in on the Masonic/Venusian/goddess conspiracy, too. The threshing-floors, they claim, similarly were the model for Grange halls, in order to enact pagan goddess worship rites that Butler ties to Neolithic worship ceremonies at various Western European stone henges.
The authors assert that the baseball diamond is square because it evokes the Masonic square and compass. Both, in turn, they assert, represent the Goddess herself, with legs spread to expose her fecund vagina, which is being pulled open by her grasping hands. (They add that the “G” in the Masonic symbol doesn’t stand for God by Gaia, the Earth Goddess.) The Venus Families are apparently quite big on fertility symbols, hence their love of phallic obelisks, symbolically impregnating the Goddess wherever they thrust. This makes the Venusians about 70% less honest than the ancient Greeks, who carved statues of giant penises (herms), and the Romans, who decorated with metal and ceramic penises.
The book concludes with speculation on the role of the Venusians (identified as the Illuminati) and the importance of the Two Pillars in Venusian and Masonic thought. Butler and Wolter link the Two Pillars from Solomon’s Temple to the two pillars of wisdom carved by Enoch and assert that all of them are the same as the obelisks that sat outside Egyptian temples. This might have been mildly useless speculation until Butler and Wolter assert that the old World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in Manhattan were meant to evoke Freemasonry’s pillars, which is why evil Muslims tried to attack Freemasonry through flying planes into the “Enochian” or “Solomonic” constructions. I will repeat this: The authors assert that Al-Qaeda attacked New York because of an occult anti-Masonic agenda tied to the Watchers and the Pillars of Wisdom. Butler and the two Wolters (Scott joins in the speculation here) heavily imply (but never state explicitly) that Muslims are trying to suppress the Goddess out of patriarchal gender politics that have aligned them with the Catholic Church and set them at odds with the Freemason-Venusians, for in their view masculinity and oppression are as firmly linked as femininity and freedom. All three authors point-blank assert that One World Trade Center, popularly called the Freedom Tower (which they wrongly say rose up “almost as soon as the rubble could be cleared”—you know, 2006-2014, right after the 2001 attacks), is a symbol of the resurrection god Osiris and “looks uncannily like a modern version of an obelisk.”
Thus, for them Washington, D.C. is an image of Isis laid out on the ground, and New York the god Osiris. Consequently, Freemasonry’s occult origins in Egyptian religion are recapitulated in the United States—a “shocking” conclusion that Butler already laid out (by his own admission) in the book he recycles here, City of the Goddess: Freemasons, the Sacred Feminine, and the Secret beneath the Seat of Power in Washington D.C.
In sum, the book is a steaming pile of recycled material from Butler’s previous books and from Wolter’s husband’s TV show and books, and adding to them only two new claims: that the Grange, being modeled on Freemasonry was actually the purest expression of prehistoric goddess worship in the modern world, and second that baseball diamonds are occult temples to the Earth Goddess. The books is Robert Graves’s White Goddess rewritten by idiots who literalized its evocations of the poetic and are so consumed in their paranoid conspiracies that every symbol becomes sexual, and every sexual symbol evokes the primacy of the feminine. The authors even compare monotheism to an abusive marriage, and they conclude that the Goddess is reasserting herself again, to the benefit of all humanity: “She is once more coming into full focus in the minds of humanity.”
Weirdly, they don’t seem to have much more to say about the feminine or the sacred, or to care much about it beyond the smugness of thinking one has discovered a thrilling truth that will overturn dictatorships and religions and right the wrongs of history. “The time is out of joint,” Hamlet says in Hamlet 1.5, “O cursèd spite, / That ever I was born to set it right!” Our authors think themselves a sort of Hamlet, destroying the old order by threatening to bring down the Church, but our happy warriors are no band of brothers shedding blood for a gallant cause. Instead, to evoke yet a third play, theirs is “a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing.”
But don’t take my word for it. Butler and Wolter write that they are very concerned about how patriarchal powers will take their revelations about the Goddess: “The evidence of such a great conspiracy as is proved by our findings will not find favor everywhere, and it is certain that it will be used by pressure groups as supposed proof of devil worship and subversion of humanity that suits their purposes to propose.” Imagine how much power and influence they imagine themselves to have. I shudder to think of what they see when they look in the mirror.