Like me, Vito is a blogger who writes skeptically about fringe history, knows Latin, searches out primary sources in obscure languages, and was educated in Ithaca, New York. He also lives around 500 miles north of Washington, D.C., in New Hampshire—a comparatively short drive from Albany, N.Y., where I reside, and coincidentally where my aunt and cousins live near Mystery Hill in Salem. Vito, like me, covers “various alternative history shows and documentaries,” and exposes the underlying racism of particular claims that reassign Native Americans achievements to white Europeans. Similarly, he launched his web debunking during his educational adventure in Ithaca. Like me, he also has readers who thank him for “debunking” television programs, as well as a group of fringe researchers who are upset with him for challenging their livelihood and bringing up racism.
So far, so normal. But Brody is a novelist for whom subtlety is an undiscovered country, so in creating his fantasy version of me, he piles on one stereotype and insult after the next, not content to let one stand for all. In fact, in his grievous literary fault of telling rather than showing, he spells out each insult explicitly; rather than letting his villain act contemptibly, he tells us every reason why we should dislike Vito:
- He’s a shut-in: Vito is at his computer “at least one hundred hours every week.”
- He lives at home with his parents, “in his childhood bedroom.” (Not the basement!?)
- He’s the subject of bullying from his step-father and unnamed “people” who “laughed at him,” which caused him to seek out online ego boosting.
- He’s socially awkward and unable to interact confidently in person, even to make eye contact.
- He smells: “Maybe if you took a shower once in a while you’d find a girlfriend. […] You smell like old bologna.” His hair is also “greasy,” and he is a “loser.”
- He looks down at his readers for not being as smart as he is, and he is obsessed with who has the right advanced degree to comment on history.
- He doesn’t care “about things like science and logic” when it comes to defending mainstream orthodoxy.
- He’s nasty: “His audience wanted name-calling, passion, maybe some blood. As long as he didn’t libel anyone, he could say pretty much anything he wanted.”
Then, to top it off, Brody has his anti-fringe blogger controlled by a cabal of conservatives operating out the Heritage Foundation (depicted here as a front for the CIA), who pay him $1,000 per week to debunk specific cable television documentaries for a readership of “one thousand” as part of a conspiracy to suppress the truth about North American prehistory.
In his attempt to render Vito an unlikeable caricature, Brody actually ends up describing a undiagnosed high functioning autist, apparently without realizing it, and certainly without sympathy for what he seems to be describing. Whatever his opinion of me, Brody has created an insensitive portrayal of someone with what used to be called Asperger’s and asks his readers to view this figure as a creature of contempt as well as a villain.
So, what becomes of Vito? Well, on orders from the CIA Vito launches a vicious attack against Brody’s Scott Wolter stand-in, crusading hero Cameron Thorne, by exposing his suspended law license, implying that Cameron is a racist, and hinting at sexual misconduct with a child. The words Brody attributes to Vito are so outlandish and vile that I hesitate to quote them. Brody, however, pretends that the angry screed he writes for Vito would be taken seriously as a debunking despite the text’s lack of facts, research, or evidence. Brody can’t bring himself to make even a fictitious case against his own pet theories, and so he pretends that all the world would be blinkered by angry adjectives (e.g., “a laughable compilation of random and unrelated occurrences”) rather than a reasoned analysis of a supposedly factual claim.
Cameron stoically weathers the attack and explains that he is used to the slings and arrows of critics:
But I think there’s more going on here than just some jerk with a blog deciding to take shots at me. As far as I know, I never even met the guy. So why come after me? There are plenty of guys who register higher on the crazy meter than I do—I’m not the one claiming reptile aliens populated the earth.
Cameron, or as Brody calls him, Cam, pays a visit to Vito to confront him about his blog post, but Brody whiffs at his last at bat. He chooses not to stage a dramatic confrontation. The best he can imagine is Vito (i.e. me) telling Cam (i.e. Wolter) that he sincerely believes Cam is wrong, while Cam asserts that Vito is part of a conspiracy. Since Brody has cast Cam as the hero, Cam is of course right. He is abducted by the CIA during their confrontation even as Cam’s lover frantically calls the police, worried that due to the “bad blood” between Vito and Cam violence has erupted. Eventually, it’s revealed that Vito is part of a plot that involves the CIA and a Mormon parody video of the real-life Scott Wolter, because actual opposition to Wolter is also proof of the same conspiracy. The details beyond this aren’t really important—it’s your standard-issue convoluted sub-Da Vinci Code conspiracy.
I am genuinely surprised that a brief blog post I wrote in January 2013 about Scott Wolter’s claim of having received an honorary master’s degree served as inspiration for a full-length novel proposing a vast conspiracy behind the whole flap. Sean-David Morton’s friends didn’t write a novel about me, even after my piece on his misrepresented Ph.D.-equivalency certificate seemed to contribute to his being booted from Ancient Aliens. And Ancient Aliens also managed to demonize me the right way: with menacing music and full-on Satanic imagery. Up your game, Brody!
It’s a bit surreal to read a version of oneself created by another person. I’m more insulted, though, that my villainous turn should be so mishandled by an author of limited talent like Brody; surely, a character as rich with nefarious potential as I deserves the full Dan Brown treatment.