History Channel Executive Boasts: Templar and Alien Conspiracy Shows "Continually Worked for Us," Will Inspire More of the Same
Last night the History channel debuted its new series about the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail, Knightfall, a series designed to capitalize on the momentum generated by the network’s hit series Vikings and its core audience’s fascination with Da Vinci Code conspiracy theories. While critics offered mixed reviews of the series, many complained that the show was either dramatically inert or overly generic. Nevertheless, it is the first entry to build on Vikings to create a multipronged programming strategy designed to turn History into a full-service entertainment destination, where scripted shows provide an entry point for documentary features on the (quasi-) real history behind the story.
A few months’ time will mark the 25th anniversary of the end of one of my favorite childhood TV series, Count Duckula, which ran on ITV and Nickelodeon from 1989 to 1993. The Cosgrove Hall production was a spinoff of the popular Danger Mouse series, but for me it was the funnier and more informative series. It was my first exposure to British humor, and also to many of the tropes of imperialist science fiction, fantasy, and Gothic horror, setting the stage for many of my later interests. It also featured a magnificent art style that was also highly influential on my own art style
This week the Screen Junkies team returned from a month of crisis following sexual harassment allegations against Andy Signore, and they released a parody trailer for Stranger Things. In the trailer, the overriding argument is that the show is basically nostalgia porn, a program hand-crafted for 40-somethings to relive their childhood. It’s funny, as they say, because it’s true.
So, you will remember Jason Reza Jorjani, the so-called alt-right “intellectual” who loudly pretended not to support Nazism. I read his book, Prometheus and Atlas, and identified not just fringe history themes (including ancient astronaut claims) but an underlying pattern of Nazi and Nazi-adjacent material in it. Now, the New York Times reports on a Swedish student’s encounter with Jorjani when he thought no one was looking. The Swedish student went undercover as a member of the alt-right and caught Jorjani making exactly the kind of statements that I knew that Nazi-loving weasel would make as soon as he thought that he was speaking only to a sympathetic ear:
This season, Ancient Aliens has given one ancient astronaut theorist per week an episode spotlight. The talking head gets to go on an all-expenses-paid vacation to a tourist destination, and gets to be the featured on-location contributor discussing his favorite pet subject. While this might seem like a cute way to revitalize an aging franchise by shaking up the talking head formula a little bit, it is also an efficient way of squeezing more money out of the fringe history circus.
So… at a news conference yesterday the president of the United States defended the Confederacy and said that “very fine people” attended the Charlottesville pro-white rally last weekend, earning praise from David Duke and other racist leaders. Media images showed crowds of torch-wielding Neo-Nazis shouting Nazi slogans (“blood and soil”) and anti-Semitic rants (“Jews will not replace us”), but Trump told us to “believe me” that the majority of attendees were there solely to express support for a statue of Robert E. Lee that was scheduled for removal. “There are two sides to a story,” Trump said, implying that the media narrative about white supremacy was liberal propaganda.
"The Atlantic" Chronicles American Unreason, Including Ancient Astronauts; Plus: "The Week" Condemns Americans for Eschewing "Realist Fiction"
I want to start by pointing to an excellent article by Kurt Andersen in the forthcoming edition of the Atlantic in which he traces the roots of American irrationalism back to the founding era, placing blame for our current explosion of insanity on the 1960s and the rise of the counterculture and postmodernism. It’s not entirely that simple—the weakening of elite institutions as part of a general hollowing out of civic culture in the name of capitalist profit plays a role too—but overall he is quite right. For our purposes, this paragraph is probably the most important, tracing the rise of conspiracy and even Trump to the forces unleashed by the spread of the darkest forms of UFO belief:
Congressman Asks NASA Panel about Ancient Martian Civilization; Plus: Creationists Chide Flat-Earthers for Taking the Wrong Parts of the Bible Literally
In Congress, another depressing scene took place yesterday when Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) stopped a House Science Committee hearing cold by asking a NASA representative if Mars had an ancient alien civilization. Rohrabacher seemed to think that Mars was capable of supporting humanlike life within the past few thousand years (i.e. during the “ancient astronaut” timeframe) and at one point started to speak of “some people” who believed in a lost Martian civilization, but the NASA representative cut him off before he could offer a complete thought allowing us to judge how deep Rohrabacher’s involvement with the ancient astronaut theory really goes.
Wednesday Roundup: History Channel "Investigating" "Earhart" Photo; Plus: Gaia Claims New Alien Mummies and Marzulli Claims Demons Pretend to Be the Virgin Mary
According to a new poll from Pew Research, a clear majority of Republicans, 58%, now view higher education as bad for America. While the poll did not distinguish between Republicans who view education itself as bad and those who are angry at colleges and universities for being too “liberal” and therefore bad, the results are overall disturbing for anyone who cares about education and scholarship.
Before we begin today, I would be remiss if I did not mark today as the anniversary of Kenneth Arnold’s famous sighting of unidentified flying objects, later wrongly identified as flying saucers, seventy years ago. In honor of this important anniversary, I will direct you to my page on the U.S. government’s investigation into the origins of the flying saucer myth, which outline how Arnold’s sighting became fodder for Raymond Palmer, editor of Amazing Stories, a man who was responsible for turning a minor flap into the foundation for legend of flying saucers, mostly as grist for his ongoing promotion of the Shaver Mystery.
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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