From Russia with Love: How Old Fringe Claims about Bible "Mysteries" Became a Global Media Sensation
Most of you reading this will be aware that there are a number of British tabloids whose online editions produce what might generously be called clickbait about UFOS, ancient astronauts, and historical mysteries. We might less generously call the stories recycled garbage that barely rises above outright plagiarism of old material, which they pass off as new. Sites like The Express, The Mail Online, The Daily Star, and so on generate a lot traffic this way, but produce absolutely terrible journalism. Usually, though, their crappy material rarely makes much impact beyond other bottom-feeding websites, which piggyback on the stories for clicks. Today’s example, however, demonstrates clearly and depressingly how fringe pseudo-history goes through a laundering process as it moves from Russian sources to British clickbait websites to mainstream British papers and eventually American media.
It was exactly as I predicted when I broke the news of the show’s return last week: The 25% spike in the network’s average Monday ratings for the reruns of the show currently airing on Travel are indicative of the expectations for higher ratings for new episodes. The only saving grace is that almost no one watches the Travel Channel, whose viewership rarely surpasses 500,000 viewers. In its H2 run, America Unearthed drew around 1.2 million viewers. If even half show up for a new season, Travel will see a huge ratings spike—by their standards.
Tampa-Area Man Wonders If Roman Coins Found on Beach Prove Pre-Columbian European Presence in Florida
On Sunday, the Science Channel premiered America’s Lost Vikings, a show in the mold of History’s Curse of Oak Island following the misadventures of two former History Channel archaeologists, Blue Nelson and Mike Arbuthnot, as they explore real and imagined Viking exploration in pre-Columbian North America. The first episode was rather dull, with little left for me to say that hasn’t been said by Sara Head of Archaeological Fantasies in her review posted on Adventures in Poor Taste. I strongly recommend that you read the review. But I do want to highlight one of Head’s key points, about the particularly masculine bent of this genre of programming:
Before we begin today: For the record, the Travel Channel’s rerun of America Unearthed this week returned 421,000 viewers, consistent with the last few airings, and beat out the original series Lost Gold that aired immediately after by 4,000 viewers. Project Blue Book fell to 1.39 million viewers against the State of the Union address, while Curse of Oak Island shed viewers against the same competition, clocking 3.12 million viewers. And now, for something slightly different.
Regular readers will remember Jeffrey J. Kripal, a professor of philosophy and religious thought at Rice University, because a few years ago he declared that a Renaissance painting depicted a genuine flying saucer, and more recently, because he held a UFO symposium. In a recent interview, Kripal has made a surprising new claim that finds further parallels with the pseudo-religious ramblings of latter-season Ancient Aliens. Kripal says that he believes the human imagination does not necessarily generate its own ideas but instead may be a conduit for receiving supernatural messages from the outside. This is surprisingly similar to the claim made on Ancient Aliens that geniuses do not have original insights but instead have their thoughts beamed into their heads by superior space aliens.
Avi Loeb Doubles Down on New Status as Ancient Spaceship Guru; Plus: Joe Rogan Says Tom DeLonge Can't Recognize UFO Hoaxes
Last week, I wrote about the way that Harvard astrophysicist Avi Loeb, who suggested that the interstellar object Oumuamua might be an alien probe, seems to be using his speculative hypothesis to engage in pseudo-religious philosophizing about morality and ethics. In a profile published on Monday in the Washington Post, he basically confirmed everything I gleaned from his recent Scientific American blog post, and he added an extra dollop of a cult of personality. It seems as though he wants to use the possibility of ancient astronauts to make himself the astronomical version of Jordan Peterson or Steven Pinker. The key passage of the article features Loeb discussing how he can parlay the publicity over his ersatz kumbaya cosmology into greater fame and fewer work responsibilities:
David Wilcock Issues Apology to Gaia TV, Claims Conspiracy by "Dark Alliance" to Destroy Conspiracy Media
Former Ancient Aliens pundit and Gaia TV host David Wilcock issued a public apology to Gaia TV for the alleged resignation letter that circulated under his name last July. In the letter, Wilcock expressed dismay over his financial situation and domestic violence he said he had experienced, and he accused Gaia TV of unethical behavior, including poor treatment of employees and deceptive editing of programs to make it appear that Wilcock endorsed “Luciferian” beliefs, potentially exposing him, he said, to violence from conservative Christian fans. In his apology, he took back the claims.
Australian Government Facing Mounting Pressure to Ban Conspiracy Theorist David Icke Over Anti-Semitic Claims
The Australian government is under increasing pressure to ban conspiracy theorist David Icke from the country following complaints from Jewish groups and the opposition Labor Party about Icke’s anti-Semitic views. The Anti-Defamation Council raised the alarm last week, but the issue rose to national prominence after the Labor Party sent a letter to the immigration minister, David Coleman, decrying Icke’s “extreme antisemitic views, including campaigning for Holocaust denial to be taught in schools” and asking for Icke’s visa to be revoked ahead of his planned five-city Everything You Need to Know tour next month.
The medicine I’m taking for my sinus infection has left me drowsy, and I have to choose between being able to breathe or being awake. Right now, I’m choosing breathing, but it has left me with less energy for writing than I would like.
Since it’s been a slow 24 hours in the world of fringe history—and a rather slow month overall, truth be told—I thought it might be worth checking in on this past week’s Nielsen ratings. Project Blue Book sank a bit more this week, declining to 1.7 million viewers. This is significant because for the first time it lost more than 50% of the viewers from lead-in Curse of Oak Island, which drew 3.55 million viewers this week. The Travel Channel’s new “mystery” series intended to replace Expedition Unknown similarly made little mark. Legend Hunter with host Pat Spain, a grandnephew of Charles Fort, examines “mysterious” and “anomalous” phenomena and sensational crimes with an eye toward “questioning mainstream science.” It unintentionally answers the question of whether a mystery still exists if no one is around to observe it. The 10 PM series spent this week hunting for the Irish Crown Jewels, which interested only 377,000 viewers. But the Travel Channel—one of the Discovery Networks properties—can at least take heart that it isn’t fellow Discovery network Destination America, the rural-themed paranormal channel. That network’s Paranormal Lockdown series attracted only 120,000 viewers at 9 PM and 127,000 at 10 PM.
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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