Janet Wolter and Alan Butler Make False Claims about Templars, Pyramids, Gothic Architecture, and More in Podcast Interview
If you can believe it, this is my 3,000th blog post. What better way to mark this milestone than with an episode of a cable TV pseudohistory show featuring ancient astronauts, lost civilizations, Nephilim, the occult, and glowing descriptions of Nazis? It’s everything we have criticized and debunked over the past ten years in capsule form.
During the nineteenth century, a craze emerged for claiming the medieval Norse as the first Europeans to visit the Americas, long before Columbus. The core of the claim turned out to be true. Vikings reached eastern Canada around 1000 CE, though the Victorians had no real physical evidence of this, only a few medieval texts and some hoaxed stones. But advocates soon expanded the claim beyond the evidence and beyond logic, turning the Vikings into an early version of European imperialists, imagining them colonizing both North and South America and bequeathing European culture to the natives. The French writer Eugène Beauvois was perhaps the most extreme advocate, imagining the entire civilization of ancient Mexico the work of the Norse. In South America, the twentieth century Nazi sympathizer and Peronist collaborator Jacques de Mahieu pushed a narrative that Vikings were the first Aryan colonizers of South America, and their early efforts paved the way for the Knights Templar.
The Nielsen ratings held mixed news for Ancient Aliens in its second Saturday broadcast. The show’s viewership remained steady at 1.046 million, but the composition of the show’s audience is changing. Steep declines in the number of younger viewers have pushed it out of the top 50 broadcasts in the advertiser-favored 18-49 demographic for the day it airs. When the show aired on Fridays, it typically cracked the top 10 and to the best of my knowledge was always in the top 20.
Perhaps more than any year in recent memory, 2019 was the year in which fringe history stopped being fringe and went completely mainstream. This year, we saw pseudohistory and conspiracy theories top the literary bestseller lists, multiply across cable channels like mushrooms on a rotten log, and attract record crowds to traveling carnivals masquerading as pseudohistory “fan” conventions. It perfectly captures the tenor of the times for the post-truth era that the very notions of fact and fiction ceased to have meaning. This was a long, hard year, both for the world and also for me personally. After dealing with family health problems, buying and selling a house (and still not being able to close on selling the old one until early 2020, nearly half a year after the sale), writing two books, and a knot of lawyers for many different developments, I am ready for this unpleasant year to end. Let’s look back in anger:
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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