A little more than a week from now Jon Stewart will broadcast his last Daily Show, and the media are eulogizing his tenure on the program the way they would a departing head of state. Amid all of the rhapsodizing about the comedian, it’s easy to forget that his show rarely attracted more than 1.3 million viewers, and a typical episode was closer to 1.1 million. What made the show so influential wasn’t the number of viewers but who they were, largely young adults and media and political insiders who liked watching a show about themselves. Almost half of viewers have a college degree, and most of the rest are in pursuit of one. The average Daily Show viewer is well off, with more than 40% earning more than $75,000 per year. The show’s combination of demographically desirable youths and upper class elites helped it punch above its weight. I mention this because Ancient Aliens attracted 1.392 million viewers last Friday, of which 300 thousand were in the adults 18-49. The difference is that Ancient Aliens has the wrong kind of viewers: older, poorer, less educated, and non-elite, indeed even anti-elite. In real terms, though, Ancient Aliens has a broader reach across a wider range of people than the more homogenous Daily Show audience. It’s sad, but true.
This week Periklis Deligiannis, a Greek civil engineer and writer on historical themes, posted a two part article to his blog (here and here) in which he attempted to analyze the myth of Jason and the Argonauts, and in so doing borrowed one of the graphics from my Argonauts book’s webpage. Deligiannis, who has written several books on Greco-Roman history, concludes that the myth of the Argonauts represents a pre-Mycenaean social order and that it records a trade voyage launched from Iolkos in Greece to Colchis on the Black Sea coast, and that this particular mission remained in Greek memory because the rising power of Troy soon cut off the trade route, prompting the Trojan War. The trouble is that he’s wrong for a number of reasons.
An anonymous former employee of Sinclair Broadcast Group told Hopes and Fears that he (I assume it is a male) hid Illuminati and Masonic symbolism in graphics packages meant for the conglomerates more than sixty local television stations out of a combination of boredom and disagreement with the company’s right wing politics.
On Friday’s episode of Ancient Aliens, the ancient astronaut theorists inadvertently brought up an interesting issue, and one that they, typical for them, failed to consider in any detailed way. The ancient astronaut theorists became momentarily interested in the question of pre-Adamite races and whether the Biblical account of creation tells the entire story. This question is interesting, but not for what it says about aliens. Spoiler alert: It’s tied to Victorian-era racism.
Ancient Aliens has been on for eight seasons over five calendar years, plus the original pilot episode from the year before the show’s launch. That’s a long time for any TV show, and an exceptionally long time for a show that is still recycling material that first aired in its 2009 pilot episode. (See: This episode.) At a certain point, though, you’d have to think that any ancient astronaut theorist or TV producer with a conscience would come to realize that the show’s greatest influence is reflecting and ratifying delusions by giving them the illusion of authoritative endorsement.
Regular readers will remember that back in May adventurer Barry Clifford, 70, announced that he had discovered the wreck of pirate Capt. Kidd’s Adventure Galley in the territorial waters of Madagascar and presented a large chunk of what he claimed was Kidd’s silver as proof. Now a new report from UNESCO conclusively demonstrates that Clifford’s claims are false. UNESCO investigators determined that the “silver” was actually a chunk of lead from some long-ago ballast, and no evidence of a shipwreck appeared at all. The remains identified as a ship are in fact broken parts of the old port. Clifford, they said, provided no evidence that anything he found was related to Kidd, or even from the same time period. This, however, is not the interesting part.
Too often I tend to criticize Nick Redfern for all the things he gets wrong, but today I’d like to praise him for an article in Mysterious Universe that offers a thoughtful, though incomplete and probably incorrect, analysis of how popular culture influences claims about extraterrestrials. You will recall that one of my articles looked at the ways that particular episodes of the Outer Limits and the Twilight Zone exactly paralleled the claims Barney Hill made about his alien abductors under hypnosis a few days after those episodes aired. Redfern suggests that something similar happened with the Men in Black phenomenon. I give him credit for trying, though I think he went beyond the evidence in citing a specific source from what was probably a more generalized influence.
H. P. Lovecraft is coming to television. The Hollywood Reporter says that Romark Entertainment and Markerstone Pictures have purchased the rights to the comic book Herald, which follows the adventures of Nikola Tesla and Lovecraft as they travel through time to battle Mythos monsters. No network or air date has yet been announced. I guess it makes sense, in a way, since Tesla famously thought that he was in communication with space aliens when he heard odd beeping in a radio signal.
Tablet magazine published an exposé of skeptic Al Seckel, a longtime stalwart of the skeptic movement, whom the magazine accuses of misrepresenting or allowing others to misrepresent his credentials since the 1980s, among other unethical activities, including (they imply) bigamy. According to author Mark Oppenheimer, Seckel has described himself or been described as a physicist, a cognitive neuroscientist, and a molecular biologist, despite holding no advanced degrees in those subjects, and as the president of various organizations that appear to have existed only on paper. He used these credentials to hobnob with the academic elite and gain international fame as a lecturer and skeptic. “In Seckel’s case,” Oppenheimer writes, “the illusion is driven, I think, principally by a fantasy of the intellectual salon, of being at the center of a vibrant conversation among great brains.” It will be interesting to hear whether those who have accused me of various levels of evil in reporting on fringe authors’ exaggerated or false credentials will express similar outrage that Seckel has been exposed for his unearned degrees as well.
Our long national nightmare is over, ladies and gentlemen. After nearly three months of lightly repackaged reruns, Ancient Aliens returns with a new season this Friday, July 24. There had been some confusion over the episode numbering, and I guess everyone involved gave up trying to keep it straight. The History Channel and H2 aired seventeen episodes under the banner of Season 7, of which 12 were retroactively declared Season 7 episodes for the DVD release, in stores tomorrow. I guess the other five were made part of Season 6, which runs anywhere from 19 to 28 episodes, depending on which count as “official.” However, according to the production company, Prometheus Entertainment, the original Season 7 episode order was for 20 episodes. Perhaps the “Ultimate Evidence” reruns counted toward the 20 for broadcast, but not DVD. (This only really matters for the confusing DVD marketing. Prometheus changed the latest DVD from “Season 7: Volume One” to “Season 7,” and I’m sure you don’t care about that.) Anyway, on Friday we’re starting fresh with Season 8, at the conclusion of which Ancient Aliens will be within spitting distance of In Search Of…’s record 144 episode run for the most episodes of a fringe history show in American television history.
I'm an author and editor who has published on a range of topics, including archaeology, science, and horror fiction. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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