I read a fascinating article at Ars Technica this week, originally published on The Conversation, about Flat Earthers and why people embrace obviously inaccurate scientific claims. Harry T. Dyer, a sociologist at the University of East Anglia, argues that the core issue at stake isn’t the shape of the Earth but rather who controls knowledge. Advocates for the Flat Earth theory are standing against what they perceive to be the tyrannical control of science and government over the creation and distribution of knowledge. He relates this to the work of the postmodernist philosopher Michel Focault, who argued that knowledge is created and controlled to legitimize those in power. For Dyer, Flat Earthers are expressing their rejection of the legitimacy of elite scientists and academics as holders of social prestige and power.
Thursday Roundup: Megan Fox Hunts "Mysteries and Myths" on TV; Plus, Two Weird Claims about Freemasonry
Today, I have three quick stories to share. Regular readers will remember that actress Megan Fox is an Ancient Aliens super-fan and had expressed interest in either joining that show or hosting her own version of it. Well, the brain trust at the Travel Channel, recently added to the Discovery Networks’ roster of channels, have awarded Fox her own mystery-mongering show. According to a press release, the network has greenlit a new four-episode series called Mysteries and Myths with Megan Fox, in which Fox will travel the world in an attempt to rewrite history.
Last week TruTV launched a six-part animated series from the team behind the debunking series Adam Ruins Everything called Reanimated History in which self-described “ruiner” Adam Conover takes a whirlwind tour through historical myths in order to expose the false facts that pass for history. The first episode focused on the American Revolution, and this week’s second episode was devoted to the history of Native Americans before Columbus and during the early colonial era. Overall, the series is cute, and generally a good rejoinder to the rosy stories we tell ourselves about the past, but it’s equally clear that the people behind the series are much less comfortable with history than they are with their regular beat of debunking bad science and pop culture.
Ufologist Robbie Graham wrote the book Silver Screen Saucers, a book about UFOs in the movies, and regular readers will remember that he holds a bizarre conspiracy theory that musician Tom DeLonge is a disinformation agent acting at the behest of the Deep State as part of a vast mind-control experiment. Anyway, Graham has a new article at Mysterious Universe where he attempts to argue that Vox magazine was wrong to attribute the way modern American culture imagines space aliens to their depiction in science fiction. He believes that the influence goes the other way around.
THE SECRET TOKEN:
MYTH, OBSESSION, AND THE SEARCH FOR THE LOST COLONY OF ROANOKE
Andrew Lawler | June 2018 | Doubleday | 448 pages | ISBN 9780385542012 | $29.95 USD, $39.95 CA
A recurring theme in fringe history is anger at the scholarly establishment, which tends to manifest as the conviction that academics have something to hide about history. But the roots of that rage are more frequently found in the difference between what the public wants to know about history—stories of triumph and tragedy, grand historical narratives, and the actions of sainted heroes and ancestors—and what academics want to study about history—the holy trinity of race, class, and gender; the minutiae of daily life; and anything that calls grand narratives into question. Neither approach is prima facie wrong, but the difference produces an uncomfortable tension between what popularizers want to write about and what scholars think they should be writing about.
"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.
China's Hunt for Zheng He's Treasure Fleet Seen as Effort to Appropriate History for Political Propaganda
At the beginning of the century, British writer Gavin Menzies wrote the bestseller 1421: The Year China Discovered America (2002), in which he alleged, without sufficient evidence, that the Chinese admiral Zheng He had crossed the Pacific Ocean and reached the New World. While archaeologists dismissed the claim as fantasy, there was a widespread suggestion at the time that Menzies was inadvertently doing the work of Chinese propaganda, and that the country’s Communist regime would use the claim to support its growing role on the global stage by inventing a historical precedent. China secured Menzies’s cooperation by making him an honorary professor at Yunnan University, despite the fact that he does not speak Mandarin. He continued to write about supposed Chinese primacy over Europeans in various ventures for the next decade and a half.
THE SLENDERMAN MYSTERIES
Nick Redfern | 2018 | 288 pages | New Page Books | ISBN: 978-1-63265-112-9 | $15.99
In 2009 a man named Eric Knudsen created photo art of a thin, mysterious supernatural man in a suit, and he posted these photo illustrations to Something Awful, where they became the fodder for countless online stories of a creature soon known as Slender Man, sometimes stylized as Slenderman. In this, it was not entirely different from the fictitious Blair Witch of 1999, or the Cthulhu Mythos of H. P. Lovecraft’s fiction. In each case, a fictitious creation came to be embraced as “real” by fans who should have known better. The story of Slender Man is important, however, because in 2014 two 12-year-old girls lured a third into the woods in Waukesha, Wisconsin and stabbed her 19 times in an effort to impress the Slender Man. The victim survived, but the perpetrators were found not guilty by reason of insanity. Each was sentenced to decades in a mental health facility. The incident undercuts the collective “fun” to be had from pretending a fictitious thing was real.
History Channel to Launch New "In Search Of..."; Plus: Scott Wolter Marks Three Years Since End of "America Unearthed" with Radio Interview
The History channel has greenlighted a ten-episode revival of In Search of… starring Zachary Quinto, taking over the hosting role originated by Leonard Nimoy in the 1977-1982 original. Quinto was selected because he, like Nimoy before him, played Mr. Spock in Star Trek. In announcing the decision yesterday, the network said that the revived series would explore “dynamic” subjects “such as alien encounters, mysterious creatures, UFO sightings, time travel and artificial intelligence.”
"Aeon" Article Claims Racism and Nationalism Are the Driving Force Behind Good vs. Evil Sci-Fi and Fantasy Stories
In Aeon magazine, freelance writer Catherine Nichols has an interesting but flawed essay speculating on the reasons that modern pop culture narratives are “obsessed” with the conflict between good and evil, while ancient and medieval myths, legends, and folktales lack a recognizable locus of evil. It’s a question that is good for generating discussion, but Nichols only identifies some of the reasons for the difference between ancient and modern approaches, leaving out one of the largest and most important.
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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