I’ve had a rather busy week, so I am going to keep today’s post short by directing you to an interesting video that Cracked produced last week about the misuse of history among rightwing pundits. The video examines, especially, claims about Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, and the Civil War. While I don’t agree with every claim made in the video—since a couple are presented as established fact when they are actually interpretative—the general thrust is correct. As Cracked explains, a certain branch of rightwing American pundits bend history into pretzels in order to, essentially, justify racism. The video gains cumulative power as the number of false, misleading, or grotesque interpretations of history pile up and reduce one by one back to racism
Today I thought I would share some historical material about a controversy that blew up over Atlantis in 1911. Regular readers will remember that a New York newspaper published a hoax in 1912 claiming that Heinrich Schliemann’s descendant had uncovered a trail of clues leading to Atlantis. One reason that the hoax seemed superficially convincing is that the previous year the New York Times had published a serious article announcing that another German, Leo Frobenius, had indeed discovered Atlantis, in Africa.
There is no new episode of Ancient Aliens tonight due to the History Channel’s car-focused programming week. (What, no “Aliens and Automobiles” episode?) So, it looks like I get the night off! That would be great, except that I am bombarded with work today. Therefore, I’m going to keep today’s posting short.
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.
Classicist Claims White Marble Statues Lead to Racism; Plus: Scott Wolter Refines His Templar Claims
Last week Vice News ran a segment about ancient statues and racism in which the HBO program discussed a controversy that arose when Classicist Sarah Bond published an essay in Forbes this past spring, and another in Hyperallergic, describing the fact that Greco-Roman statues were once brightly painted and not stark white as they currently appear now that the paint has rubbed off thanks to the ravages of time.
I saw a meme a few times on social media this week in which it was claimed that the Mormons believe that Bigfoot is actually Adam’s son Cain. This was weird enough that I thought it was worth looking into. Apparently the claim goes back at least to a 2001 novel by Shane Lester called Clan of Cain: The Genesis of Bigfoot, which more or less equated Sasquatch with the Nephilim and pretended to present secret truths under the guise of fiction. (Gee, where have we heard that one before?) According to some Mormon websites, there was talk of Cain as Bigfoot among Mormons in South Weber, Utah as early as the 1990s, but I am not aware of much by way of published evidence for a larger belief in the Cain-Bigfoot connection at that time. The novel, however, is founded on an actual but obscure bit of Mormon lore tied to the Church’s early history of racism.
Last night the CBC’s Toronto-set period detective drama Murdoch Mysteries featured H. P. Lovecraft. It was … different. Set in the early 1900s, when Lovecraft was a young teenager, the episode imagined Lovecraft as a Goth youth spending a season with his Canadian aunt. In Toronto, he became something of an autistic necrophiliac (presumably in the manner of the story “The Loved Dead”) who had an obsession with a rotten corpse. The show also implied that he had the psychic power to project monstrous fantasies into women’s minds. While it was not the be most accurate depiction of Lovecraft, it does lead me to today’s topic.
A Shockingly Blunt Admission from Theosophy That Hyper-Diffusionism and Atlantis Theories Are Racist
Most of the world paused yesterday for the inauguration of Donald Trump as the first post-fact president. In coverage of his grim inaugural address, many pundits focused on the portrait of what Trump called “American carnage,” in which he described “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation,” among other horrors. The pundits, ranging from George F. Will to Stephen Colbert, in their quite justified shock that Trump would paint such a doom-laden picture, took issue with the idea of a run-down, decaying America. But that is the privilege of people who live in expensive gated communities and tony condo towers. I couldn’t help but think of the long series of decaying post-industrial towns that dot upstate New York, where I live, peeling paint and untamed lawns scattered around the giant hulks of old factories, most shut up and falling down. A former factory burns down or collapses quite regularly around here. It may not be visible in Washington, or New York City, or most of the newly built postindustrial cities of the South and West, but where there once was industry but no longer, it can look a bit like a wasteland.
I guess there is a theme to my blog posts this week. Over on Live Science there is an interesting article on the cultural debate that arose after the BBC aired a documentary alleging that the terra cotta warriors unearthed near the tomb of China’s first emperor were the work of a Greek artisan, or produced under the influence of Greek sculpture. One of the archaeologists involved, Li Xiuzhen immediately backtracked in the face of criticism, distancing herself from art historian Luckas Nickel, who made the claim that the sculptures were directly created by Greek artisans or by Chinese workers under a Greek supervisor. Li alleged that the BBC had misrepresented her and made her out to be a believer in the Greek origin of Chinese sculpture. “The terracotta warriors may be inspired by Western culture, but were uniquely made by the Chinese,” she said. Other Chinese scholars were even more dismissive, with the official in charge of the emperor’s tomb, Zhang Weixing, bluntly stating that there was no evidence for contact with Greece at all.
White Nationalist Richard Spencer Uses Diffusionist Fringe History in Speech Praising Trump, White America
Cast your mind back to that far-off distant year of 2009, when conservative thinkers were outraged that an elementary school teacher in Chicago led her students in a chant praising Barack Obama. Fox News pundits decried what they alleged was an incipient communist cult of personality, and Sean Hannity devoted several segments of his various programs to red-face outrage. Then-GOP chairman Michael Steele said at the time “Friend, this is the type of propaganda you would see in Stalin’s Russia or Kim Jong Il’s North Korea. I never thought the day would come when I’d see it here in America.” Yesterday white nationalists held a meeting in Washington, giving fascist salutes and shouting “Hail Trump!”, led by the man that Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, through his Breitbart website, hailed as a great “intellectual” of compelling brilliance. You get no points for guessing that Fox News downplayed the event, or that Ann Coulter dismissed it as merely thirty people in a room, or that Sean Hannity devoted his time instead to praising torture and begging Vice President-Elect Mike Pence to use the power of his office to silence criticism.
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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