An article in Salon magazine reports that Glenn Beck has started a training camp to indoctrinate incoming college students in fringe views of history. Working with pseudo-historian David Barton, Beck plans to hold a two-week, $375 per student camp to teach students a fundamentalist Christian version of American history so “they can then set their ignorant professors straight on the ‘real’ history of America.” Beck, as you will recall, is a Mormon who has used his media outlets to promote hyper-diffusionism and fringe history views about Mound Builders and other “mysteries” of ancient America in a bid to support the fantasies of the Book of Mormon. Barton believes that the Founders were fundamentalist Christians who ensconced creationism in America’s founding documents because they somehow intuited the theory of evolution and rejected it as ungodly before it had even been proposed. Both men prefer a version of history that places white men at the center of events. Beck’s camp seems to hit all the fringe history sweet spots: fundamentalism, anti-elitism, white nationalism, etc.
Meet the Russian Political Scientist Who Wants to Restore Proto-Indo-European Social Castes and Is a Darling of the Alt-Right
In a case of some fake chickens coming home to roost, the author of the 1980 book The Demonologist, a supposedly true-life account of Ed and Lorraine Warren’s paranormal investigations, is suing Warner Bros. for almost $1 billion, claiming that the Warrens had signed over their rights to the author in 1978 and Warner did not have legal permission to use their tales in The Conjuring and its sequels. Attorneys for the author, Gerald Brittle, further claim that Warner is wrong to alleged that the movies are exempt from copyright infringement because they are based on true events rather than the book about them since the Warrens made up their stories, which Brittle claims to have added to and embellished for the book. In short, the court case will include efforts to expose yet another long-running set of fringe claims as a big scam designed to fool audiences. There are no winners here. Brittle was, by his own account, complicit in what he admits to be the promotion of false claims (which he continues to advertise as real for profit), and his moral problem is that he wasn’t paid enough for lying.
Washington University in St. Louis publishes a magazine called The Ampersand, and last week it offered up an interesting article in which archaeologists from the school discussed the archaeological fantasies and hoaxes that lead the public astray. It should surprise no one that the leading bit of fake history was none other than the ancient astronaut theory. Among the other usual suspects were the lost continent of Atlantis, the myth of the Mound Builders, Indiana Jones, and Eurocentrism, or, in other words, the entire line up of cable TV “history” documentaries. I encourage you to read the whole thing, so here I will highlight one particularly interesting point.
Shaquille O'Neal Believes Europeans Colonized the Pre-Columbian Americas; Plus: Why So Much Time Travel on TV?
As reported on the Patheos blog, former basketball star Shaquille O’Neal, who holds a doctorate in education from Barry University, announced that he is a flat earth conspiracy theorist during his podcast this week, but what’s worse is that he also came out as a hyper-diffusionist who seems to have spent too much time watching cable TV “history” shows. He claimed that the Americas had already been colonized by white people long before Columbus reached the Caribbean:
New York Legislators Seek to Censor Online Debate; Plus: L. A. Marzulli Attacks Judges and Peter Levenda on Hitler's Legacy
Remember how a few weeks ago an Arkansas state legislator introduced a bill to ban books by Howard Zinn from the state’s schools? Well, Eugene Volokh reports that two New York state legislators have done her one better. Democratic assemblyman David I. Weprin and Democratic state senator Tony Avella introduced a bill that would require all online publishers, including me, to remove any and all content about any given individual upon that individual’s request if the individual feels that the discussion contains statements that are “‘inaccurate’, ‘irrelevant’, ‘inadequate’, or ‘excessive’” or when the individual feels that the discussion is “no longer material to current public debate.” The ostensible reason for this blatantly unconstitutional law is to promote the “right to be forgotten,” but as written the proposed law would give individuals carte blanche to censor any and all discussion about them online, forever, and to wipe clean the historical record as soon as a 24-hour news cycle has turned over and the “current” debate has moved on. The bill would also forbid those receiving takedown notices from indicating that material had been removed for that reason, on pain of a $250 fine per violation. The bill provides no mechanism other than the individual’s feelings to judge whether material is germane to the public discourse.
Before I talk about Nazis today, I wanted to bring up an unrelated issue. Regular readers will remember that last month, a team of scientists concluded that the hypothesis of a comet hitting the Earth during the Ice Age and thus starting and/or ending the Younger Dryas period could not be supported because the evidence put forward for it, the existence of nanodiamonds in a particular layer associated with the comet, could not be confirmed. Graham Hancock ignored these findings, but on Facebook this week he’s praising two new papers that argue in favor of a cosmic impact around 10,800 BCE. The first claims that features known as the Carolina Bays were caused by a cosmic impact, and the second argues that a thin layer of platinum dating to the same period is evidence of a cosmic impact. I don’t know enough about geology to have any opinion on the evidence, but what I do know is that regardless of whether a comet hit, it implies absolutely nothing about the existence of Atlantis. None of the scientists involved in the research has claimed that the comet smashed into Atlantis or destroyed a technologically advanced human civilization.
Yesterday marked the twentieth anniversary of the WB/UPN series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003), but due to my review of Sekret Machines I wasn’t able to mark the occasion. Because the show was a seminal part of my adolescent years, I feel like I should have more to say about than I do, but somehow I find that the barrage of media coverage has approached the anniversary from every possible angle. Instead, I’ll just talk a little bit about the show. I need a bit of a break anyway after devoting so many hours this past week to Peter Levenda’s pretentious drivel.
From Sci-Fi to Alt-Right: Extremists and Conspiracy Theorists Using Lovecraft to Attack Feminism and L. Ron Hubbard to Take on International Bankers
A controversy arose this past week when anthropologists discovered that white supremacists had manipulated Google’s page ranking algorithm to make a racist and anti-Semitic hate site the snippet chosen for Google’s instant answer to queries about the definition of Boasian anthropology. “Boasian Anthropology is a pseudo-scientific Jewish assault on White European racial consciousness and identity,” the Google info-box informed its readers, taking the text from a white nationalist blog. Google expressed regret over the situation but said that the company had no responsibility to evaluate the content they excerpt: “The feature is an automatic and algorithmic match to the search query,” a Google spokesperson told The Verge. This is disingenuous, of course, since Google knows full well that many users cannot distinguish between a third-party snippet and an “official” Google-endorsed definition, particularly since Google offers similar-looking info-boxes for dictionary definitions, mathematical calculations, and other facts it presents as its own. Within hours of the controversy erupting, however, the anti-Semitic result disappeared from the Google top results.
Why Did Betsy DeVos Attack College Education at CPAC? Creationist Anti-Education Tactics Might Provide the Answer
Expertise is a devalued commodity in today’s world. Once again Fox News got caught using an expert with exaggerated credentials, this time an immigrant with a criminal record whom they identified as a “Swedish defense and national security advisor.” But that’s par for the course on cable TV, where anyone can be an “expert” if the chyron on the screen says so. After all, you know it’s true since both Giorgio Tsoukalos and I have been equally identified by cable TV as experts in ancient history. But this is only part of the general degradation of expertise. At the Conservative Political Action Conference this week, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos issued a cri de coeur for college students to rise up against elitist professors. She could be a talking head on Ancient Aliens! “The fight against the education establishment extends to you too,” DeVos said to the college students in the audience.
Stephen K. Bannon Believes We Are Heading Toward a Global Cataclysm Because of a Pseudo-Historical 1990s Book about Cyclical History
From the world of alternative facts, a fake news story going viral on social media claims Giorgio Tsoukalos of Ancient Aliens appeared on L. A. Tonight, a local Los Angeles talk show, and alleged that space aliens used a brainwashing device that deploys sound waves to reprogram human brains in order to elect Donald Trump president. The program doesn’t exist, the screenshots of his appearance are actually from his guest spot on a 2011 episode of The Mo’Nique Show (with Mo’Nique misidentified as “Latifa Johnson”), and Tsoukalos had to take to Twitter on Saturday to deny that he claimed an alien space ray reprograms voters’ minds with pro-Trump propaganda.
If only every intersection between Trump and fringe history were so humorous.
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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