I’ll be frank: I find podcasts to be excruciating. I read much faster than people talk, and waiting as they slowly…slowly…slowly dribble out their words to fill time annoys me to no end. At more than an hour, Wolter’s appearance on Shaw’s podcast tested my patience. The first fifteen minutes were about Wolter’s background, and then he discusses the Kensington Rune Stone, with Wolter complaining (again) that he became “pissed” that opponents were “attacking me personally” for his work on the Rune Stone. He asserts that “they” (an undefined group) were defending a “paradigm” by launching attacks on Wolter as a person rather than on the evidence.
His next claim makes an interesting point: Wolter asserts that when people need concrete analyzed, they turn to him, “but somehow when I work on this stuff [archaeology] I’m an idiot, I’m not qualified, and it’s like they question everything, and I’m like ‘Oh, my gosh.’” No fooling: That’s how expertise works. A Shakespeare scholar is not automatically an expert in F. Scott Fitzgerald, and a concrete analyst is not a prima facie expert in medieval archaeology. Both men later claim that historians are “just like organized religion” (in Shaw’s words) because they propose a dogma and defend it against heretics, as though the history books from c. 1960 laid down the unchanging TRUTH for all of time. Shaw believes that historians are trying to “control” knowledge.
Wolter must have a stock set of talking points he uses because, for being a new interview, I’ve heard so much of this before…word-for-word. Wolter repeats the same claim he has made repeatedly that in his work as a concrete analyst he has to testify under oath that he believes what he says is true. Since it’s good enough for court, it should be good enough for everyone. “That standard isn’t good enough for academia?” he asks. Well, no. Just because you believe something is true and have collected selected evidence does not make something true; you propose a claim that others then examine and either accept or reject. Wolter forgets that even in his own analogy the court doesn’t simply accept his testimony; the jury decides whether to believe him, and in his case, the jury of his peers rejects his evidence as inconclusive or wrong.
His attacks on “academics” continue for most of the middle of the episode, repeating his greatest hits about the academic arguments against the legitimacy of the Kensington Rune Stone—which I will again remind you on its surface does almost nothing to affect the story of American history given that we know that Vikings crossed the Atlantic centuries earlier. Lord, I don’t care about the Kensington Rune Stone. He also reviews the “amazing alignments” of the Newport Tower and the fake claims about tons upon tons of missing copper, based on decades-old lies. (The details are all in my Unearthing the Truth book, with references and citations.)
Another classic Wolter bit, repeated from other interviews: “What accountability does a tenured professor have? I would argue none.” There is genuine anger at the very process of the creation of knowledge. Shaw chimes in that people with “pure book learning” don’t hold a candle to those with “experience,” as though archaeologists never leave their cubbies or historians their hovels. The two men believe that academia has excluded everyday Americans from the process of creating knowledge, and it is sad when Wolter and Shaw cannot understand why archaeologists feel that a dilettante proclaiming their decades of experience worthless is laughable while simultaneously arguing for the acceptance of claims based on his own decades of experience. Could Wolter identify a culture by shards of its pottery?
Both men, however, reveal their nationalistic pride in noting that Wolter is doing “amazing” work convincing real Americans that they don’t have to travel overseas to find European artifacts and that we have a powerful ancient history right here in the U. S. of A. This argument was first used in the post-Revolutionary period to bolster American pride and national identity by imagining a lost white race of mound builders co-equal to the Celts of hated Britain.
Wolter says that he is investigating the Serpent Mound and the Decalogue Stone (a Victorian forgery), which he plans to discuss at length on his program. He isn’t able to tell us his findings until they air.
Now, let’s get to the good stuff. Wolter has obviously seen my criticism that his program seems to be explicitly denying the accomplishments of Native Americans. I can do no better than to transcribe his attempt to turn this on his head and blame political correctness for denying white Americans dibs on North America. Wolter claims that he is “fighting” against
…the post-Manifest Destiny period where, you know, I mean, let’s be honest, you know, we committed genocide against the Natives because they were not Christian, they were pagan, and not worthy of owning this land, so we took it from ’em, and, I mean, you know, it’s virgin land, right? It’s basically free for the taking. And when they were finding evidence—cause you know they did—of previous contact with all kinds of cultures, some of them land claims like the Kensington Rune Stone, what would this do to Manifest Destiny? [Shaw (cross-talk): “Exactly, exactly.”] It would create a problem, wouldn’t it? So what do you do? You just make it go away. I mean, it was the simplest, it was the easiest explanation. And some people would say, well, you’re talking about a major conspiracy. In some ways, I think there is a conspiracy going on until people can explain to me things like the Bat Creek Stone.
Let’s count his errors:
- The Kensington Rune Stone is not a land claim, unless you agree that Wolter has found a secret code made of dots, which is useless as a land claim since nobody stumbling across the stone could read it.
- The “post-Manifest Destiny” period would have been after the Civil War, at which point many Native groups had already become Christian and most had been deprived of their land. Christianization of Native peoples began with Columbus and continued down to the present.
- Wolter identifies himself as part of “we,” by which he apparently means Euro-Americans. He is apparently unaware that Native Americans are also U.S. citizens (though they were not automatically citizens prior to 1924), and he implicitly views himself and other white people in opposition to the Native “Other.”
- Previous colonization by European groups would not have affected Manifest Destiny (U.S. expansion) in any way, shape, or form. In fact, in the 1700s and 1800s, the U.S., British, and Spanish governments assumed that Welsh, Phoenician, and other peoples had come to North America in the past, and the Spanish government even sponsored an expedition to search for Welsh Indians in the Louisiana Territory back when they owned it—hardly the behavior of people quaking in their boots about legitimacy.
- U.S. president Andrew Jackson specifically cited the lost white race of the mound builders as a reason for deporting Native Americans, yielding the Trail of Tears: “In the monuments and fortresses of an unknown people, spread over the extensive regions of the west, we behold the memorials of a once powerful race, which was exterminated, or has disappeared, to make room for the existing savage tribes.” Therefore, Jackson said, Native Americans were illegitimate possessors of white land and ought to be removed from American soil. If the president could make that claim in the State of the Union Address of 1830, it was not a secret and he did not fear evidence of this lost race.
- The existence of a lost white race of mound builders was official U.S. government policy for several decades (Pres. William Henry Harrison was an active believer), until Cyrus Thomas’s archaeological work made the claim untenable. While it was U.S. policy, it was widely assumed that this race had contact with the Jews, Phoenicians, and other ancient peoples.
Wolter now asserts that the Native Americans “know something” about the Templars since he has come to recognize that they were present during the period of the alleged Templar voyages. However, “we tried to kill them [so] maybe they’re not exactly in the mood to talk.” Funny, though, that many Native Americans (who are individuals, incidentally, and not a homogenous group) are happy to talk to Ancient Aliens, Skeptical Inquirer, and me. Perhaps some Natives aren’t too excited about reliving the racist old claims that white people reigned over them as gods and bequeathed their superior genes to them, as Thomas Sinclair asserted in a lecture widely-cited in Templar conspiracy literature and later repeated by Frederik Pohl, the godfather of Sinclair conspiracy literature. Native Americans know where this kind of conspiracy-mongering tends to lead.