A few days ago, the Ohio State University Center for the Study of Religion held its 4th Symposium on Religion, Narrative, and Media, and the topic was “Taking the UFO Phenomenon Seriously, that is, Religiously.” The symposium was made up of two presentations, one on aliens as gods by Jeffrey Kripal of Rice University and the other on the use of UFO mythology to replace traditional religion by Diana Walsh Pasulka, a professor at UNC Wilmington. The symposium is built around the forthcoming release of Pasulka’s new book American Cosmic: UFOs, Religion, Technology, due out in December or January from Oxford University Press. It’s sure to be an interesting book, reflecting as it does themes we often discuss here about the use of aliens as substitute gods, but I have reservations about the author and her approach to ufology.
Friday Roundup: ABC News Endorses Ancient Astronaut Theory, King Arthur Identified (Again), and More!
It’s been a busy week in the world of the weird, so today I thought I’d do one of my periodic news roundups. Let’s begin with ABC News—the U.S. one, not the Australian one—and a horrid clickbait article I came across yesterday. The article was published over the weekend under the byline of Morgan Winsor, one of ABC’s digital breaking news writers. The piece purports to be a report on the many ways that UFOs have captured the human imagination since ancient times. Instead, it’s poorly researched clickbait cobbled together from reruns of Ancient Aliens (a corporate cousin since the History channel’s parent company is partly owned by Disney, the parent of ABC) and Google searches.
L. A. Marzulli Claims "Groundbreaking" New Documentary Has "Smoking Gun" Proving Fatima Apparition Came from Satan
Yesterday, Nephilim theorist L. A. Marzulli announced that he had discovered the smoking gun proving that the apparition of the Virgin Mary at Fatima in 1917 was actually the work of Satan as part of a carefully orchestrated plot involving the Catholic Church, UFOs, and demons. The announcement coincides with the beginning of his publicity campaign for Fatima 2: Electric Boogaloo, er, Fatima 2: Strange Phenomenon, a new documentary he is selling to evangelical Christians.
Vice's "Motherboard" Explores Ancient Astronauts, Claims "2001" as Spiritual Ancestor of "Ancient Aliens"
Vice Media is partially owned by A+E Networks, the parent company of the History Channel, the network which broadcasts Ancient Aliens. A+E and Vice also are partners in Viceland, a cable channel featuring content produced by Vice, including a talk show in which substance abusing stoners comment on History’s Ancient Aliens. Vice is also the owner of Motherboard, which ran an interesting article attempting to give Ancient Aliens an artistic pedigree in the runup to its April 27 thirteenth season premiere. Writer Becky Ferreira, who specializes in reporting space news, ties Ancient Aliens to the fiftieth anniversary celebrations for 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Scientific Analysis Concludes "Atacama Humanoid" Is Stillborn Child Suffering from Unique Genetic Conditions
The journal Genome Research published an article yesterday which concluded that the so-called Atacama skeleton, a six-inch fetal skeleton from Chile’s Atacama region resembling a “Grey” space alien, is in fact fully human but suffered from disease. The skeleton’s cone-shaped skull gave rise to claims that it was a representative of the extraterrestrial species responsible for South America’s elongated skulls, and it featured prominently on the internet and on cable television as “evidence” for an extraterrestrial presence on Earth ever since the remains were unearthed in 2003. Its most famous appearance was in the 2013 documentary Sirius, a mystery-mongering UFO film by Steven Greer.
"Alien" Mummies Actually Desecrated Human Bodies; Plus: Ashley Cowie's Confused Article on Vandalism and the Destruction of Monuments
Live Science paid up to view Gaia TV’s exploitative Unearthing Nazca streaming TV show in order to learn more about the supposed three-fingered “alien” mummies that Russian researchers allege are somehow both genetically and biologically human while also being inhuman morphologically. After viewing the documentary and examining broadcasted images of the mummies’ bones, experts consulted by Live Science determined that the most likely explanation is that the bodies are genuine Andean mummies that have been desecrated, with parts removed or rearranged to appear “alien” before a coating of a white, plaster-like substance was applied to hide the crude taxidermy.
Live Science found that Russian state media, the Russian propaganda channel RT, and other Russian outlets were heavily promoting the story—despite the fact that many of the credentials Gaia assigned to the lead Russian researcher, Konstantin Korotkov, could not be verified. The schools where he claimed to work, for example, either had no record of him or did not exist. It’s almost like the whole story was set up just to see how gullible American audiences could be, and how servile the media.
Russians Push "Alien" Peruvian Mummy Narrative; Plus: Forgery Scandal Calls Ancient Luwian Inscriptions into Question
A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post outlining Russian efforts over the past sixty or seventy years to use UFO and ancient alien ideas as political weapons to undermine the West. I therefore read with interest reports coming out of Russia this week that scientists in that country identified a set of three-fingered mummies from Peru as being non-human. The story ran in Sputnik News, a Kremlin-backed propaganda publication, before being picked up by one of Rupert Murdoch’s tabloids. The FBI and Scotland Yard have investigated Murdoch’s companies for their questionable Russian connections for years, including Murdoch’s interest in companies with ties to Russian Pres. Vladimir V. Putin’s United Russia party. Murdoch has also used his media businesses to support U.S. Pres. Donald J. Trump against allegations of Russian collusion with a soft line on Russian propaganda efforts.
I would be remiss if I were to let this month go by without marking the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of the seminal work of the ancient astronaut theory, Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods?. The book was published in February 1968 as Memories of the Future, retailing for 16 marks, and it would soon become synonymous with the idea—long discussed in UFO and ancient mystery books—that space aliens came to Earth from the skies. While in Europe, readers quickly took to the book and it became a bestseller within months of its release, in the United States, the book did not become a byword for countercultural archaeology for a few years, starting when the National Enquirer serialized it in 1970 and even more so in 1973, when an NBC-TV adaptation of the book, lightly reedited from an Oscar-nominated European movie version, introduced von Däniken’s ideas to a mass audience, who went on to buy millions of copies of the book, which had been released in English translation in Britain in 1969 and America in 1970.
IMPOSSIBLE TRUTHS: AMAZING EVIDENCE OF EXTRATERRESTRIAL CONTACT
Erich von Däniken | 208 pages | Watkins | 2018 | ISBN: 978-1-78678-083-6 | $24.95
For the second time this year, the godfather of the ancient astronaut theory has released a new book promising to be the latest and greatest sequel to his Chariots of the Gods, which turns fifty years old this very month and will be celebrated with sumptuous hardcover reissue in July from Berkley Books, a division of Penguin RandomHouse. I won’t lie. I’ve seen the book design for that edition, and from the cover design on down, it is simply beautiful—a gorgeous aesthetic carefully gilding a half-century-old turd. But that book is for another time. Instead, today I am looking at Impossible Truths, a book that was published last month but which I have not had the time to review due to the growing number of high profile releases in the fringe history category this winter—the most active publishing schedule in the field in years. Frankly, I blame the whole alt-right, “alternative facts” complex for making these books mainstream again. But more to the point: Two von Däniken books in two weeks is two too many.
Last Friday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted more than a dozen Russians and Russian-linked interests, laying out a compelling and chilling analysis of how the Russian government sought to create discord in the United States through propaganda efforts to manipulate American public opinion about the 2016 presidential election, including efforts to inflame racial tensions. Officials including the assistant attorney general and the sitting national security advisor said that these indictments provided “incontrovertible proof” of Russian election meddling. Shortly after the school shooting in Florida, which occurred just two days before the indictments, thousands of Russian and Russian-linked social media accounts began spreading memes designed to inflame mostly conservative opinion about gun rights and gun control.
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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