At least seventy artifacts at Berlin's Museum Island museums, including paintings and Egyptian sarcophagi, were sprayed with an oily substance earlier this month in what officials describe as the largest attack on museum artifacts in postwar German history. The attack occurred on October 3 but was only made public this week. While the attacker is unknown, German police tied the attack to social media posts from Attila Hildmann, a conspiracy theorist with fringe ideas about COVID-19, who claimed that the famous Pergamon Altar of Zeus, on display at the Pergamon Museum on Museum Island, was the "throne of Satan." The altar is currently undergoing conservation and is not on display. A digital recreation of it was attacked, however.
Time magazine carried a disturbing article yesterday about conspiracy theories and their growing impact on the 2020 electorate. In the article, voters described a variety of beliefs derived from Q-Anon conspiracy theories as well as the occult fringe of YouTube, including a number of references to former Ancient Aliens star David Wilcock’s “cabal” of parasitic blood-drinking liberal extraterrestrial elites who have long been a staple of Q-Anon culture under other names. I hate saying I told you so, but how many years of warning did we have about this coming intellectual apocalypse from the History Channel’s parade of shows stoking panic about demons by other names? How many years of warning did we have watching Wilcock build an underground following of millions of believers absorbing his snake oil about secret government blood-drinking extraterrestrial liberals?
In the Atlantic on Monday, Kaitlyn Tiffany has an interesting article about the use of aesthetics to spread the Q-Anon conspiracy theory on Instagram. Tiffany typically associates radical, alien-inflected conspiracy theories with bad graphic design, masculine colors, and in-your-face visuals with large, loud typography. However, she was taken aback by the subtle inclusion of Q-Anon conspiracy references in more aesthetically pleasing and more feminine graphics associated with lifestyle influencers who more typically offer homemaking tips and fashion advice:
Weekend Omnibus: Younger Dryas Volcano, Elon Musk's Ancient Astronaut Tweet, Steve Quayle's Plagiarism, and More!
Yesterday was an extraordinary day for news of interest to my readers. Let’s take a brief survey of just some of the things that happened.
I’ll put the science first. A new study in Science Advances concludes that the global cooling triggered during the Younger Dryas was not the work of a comet or meteor but was instead brought on by volcanic activity. From the press release announcing the study late yesterday:
On the Narratively website, California college student and journalist Reed Ryley Grable provided a poignant and thought account of his father’s gradual slide into Q-Anon conspiracy madness. Grable describes his father’s growing paranoia and social isolation, and he talks eloquently about how his father’s strident conspiracy theory advocacy has alienated him from his family and his friends. While I am not particularly interested in Q-Anon conspiracies, I was neither shocked nor surprised to read Grable’s account of how Ancient Aliens served as a gateway drug leading his father from a nebulous interest in the mysterious and the bizarre to a raving world of online conspiracies.
This week, Vice and The Atlantic published two important articles outlining the growing religious fervor behind Q-Anon conspiracy theories. They make interesting comparison reading. In The Atlantic, Adrienne LaFrance traces the origins of the Q-Anon conspiracy theory and explains why faith in the unreason behind its patently false claims has the makings of an incipient religion. Leading figures in the Q movement openly declare that the conspiracy has divine sanction. One of the Q movement’s biggest names, David Hayes (a.k.a. PrayingMedic on Q forums), alleges that God has personally called him to Q-Anon. the Q-Anon conspiracy imagines an apocalyptic End Times when the blood of liberals will run in the streets and Donald Trump will usher in a new Great Awakening as the angels sing choruses of Kid Rock songs and clouds of sanctifying soot rain from a million coal-burning factories.
Last week I receive a request from someone who is consulting on a documentary to take a meeting with a producer who works with Netflix about adapting one of my books into a documentary or potential documentary series. Normally, I don’t let this sort of thing get very far because it is always a huge waste of time, but since I have been stuck in quarantine, I figured it would serve as a bit of a distraction. So, we set up the meeting, and before the appointed day, I suggested that the producer should probably be aware that my work is not pro-alien. Regular readers of this blog can guess the rest. There was no meeting at the appointed hour. It wasn’t unexpected, but even so, it is disconcerting.
Do you remember David Wilcock, the erstwhile ancient astronaut theorist from Ancient Aliens and Gaia-TV, who unceremoniously parted ways with both? Wilcock’s right-wing patter turned out to be too extreme for Ancient Aliens, which prefers a softer rightist message, as with Saturday’s praise of Republicans for their supposed special access to extraterrestrial truths. Well, during a live chat in which Wilcock asked his followers to give him cash money to hear him rant—up to $100 a pop—Wilcock showed once again why he is the world’s worst cam-boy.
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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