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:
The FBI has officially designated belief in conspiracy theories as a domestic terror threat, according to a previously unreported document discovered and publicized by Yahoo! News this week. The FBI intelligence bulletin was published in May and specifically identifies fringe conspiracy theories such as Pizzagate and QAnon as potential terror threats for the first time in the Bureau’s history. “The FBI assesses these conspiracy theories very likely will emerge, spread, and evolve in the modern information marketplace, occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts,” the document states. The document lists conspiracy theories regularly featured on cable television and social media, such as the New World Order and HAARP mind control beams, as potential threats.
David Wilcock hasn’t been having a very good couple of years. Only a few years ago, he was the third most prominent ancient astronaut theorist on Ancient Aliens, behind Giorgio Tsoukalos and David Childress, and he was one of the biggest stars of the Gaia TV streaming service, which featured hundreds of hours of programming from him. He also had a lucrative line of books and DVDs and a speaking tour. But then Wilcock made the critical error of turning subtext into text. With the exception of Tsoukalos, nearly all of the Ancient Aliens crew and their colleagues are right-wingers, but they manage to keep their conservative ranting mostly confined to short asides in YouTube videos and tweets. Wilcock, on the other hand, has been outspoken in his embrace of the most extreme pro-Trump conspiracy theories, including both Pizzagate and Q-Anon, and he has proudly declared himself a recipient of Russian propaganda, which he repeats uncritically. Between this and his contentious departure from Gaia, even the brain trust behind Ancient Aliens finally cut ties with Wilcock, who has not appeared on the show since Wilcock refused to participate in their episode interviewing John Podesta, whom Wilcock considers part of an anti-Trump, child-raping alien death cult.
Due to prior commitments this week, some of my blog posts are going to be a bit on the short side. Today I want to discuss a recent presentation discussing the results of interviews with Flat Earth believers at two conferences in 2017 and 2018. Speaking Sunday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting, researchers who spoke with more thirty attendees placed the blame squarely on YouTube for creating a community of Flat Earth believers and providing the means for Flat Earth leaders to propagandize a credulous audience. An article in the Guardian summarized their findings:
America’s Lost Vikings didn’t make quite the splash that the Travel Channel had hope for. The debut of the series starring two ex-History Channel hosts hunting for evidence of Viking incursions into North America attracted just 457,000 viewers in its plum Sunday 10 PM timeslot, losing more than 150,000 viewers from its lead-in, a years-old rerun of Expedition Unknown. The next day, six-year-old reruns of America Unearthed, newly renewed by Travel for a fourth season, held about steady at 421,000 viewers. On Tuesday, over on Travel’s competition, the History Channel, The Curse of Oak Island drew 3.7 million viewers, while Project Blue Book, recently renewed for a second season, brought in 1.6 million viewers, losing more than half of the Curse audience.
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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