I read Signs about twenty years ago, but I admit that I haven’t returned to it as frequently as von Däniken’s other books because it lacks an index, making it hard to look things up. It turns out I should have reviewed this one more carefully because it contains some of von Däniken’s most appalling race-based claims. Here’s a sample from those passages found by Fitzpatrick-Matthews:
“The evolutionists say that man descends from monkeys. Yet who has ever seen a white monkey? Or a dark ape with curly hair such as the black race has?”
“Were the extraterrestrials able to opt between different races from the beginning? Did they endow different human groups with different abilities to survive in different climatic and geographical conditions?”
”Today it is assumed that primitive men had dark skins.”
“Was the black race a failure and did the extraterrestrials change the genetic code by gene surgery and then programme a white or a yellow race?”
“Nearly all negroes are musical: they have rhythm in their blood.”
“I quite understand that I am playing with dynamite if I ask whether the extraterrestrials ‘allotted’ specific tasks to the basic races from the very beginning, i.e. programmed them with special abilities.”
“I am not a racialist… Yet my thirst for knowledge enables me to ignore the taboo on asking racial questions simply because it is untimely and dangerous… why are we like we are?
“Once this basic question is accepted, we cannot and should not avoid the explosive sequel: is there a chosen race?”
I’d like to add to Fitzpatrick-Matthews’s list the following paragraph, which is, I think, even worse, both for being racist and for completely lacking any understanding of the subject (evolution) he claims to discuss:
A black family emigrates from its home in the tropical zone of the earth and settles in a cooler region. Pigments change down the generations, dark skins become light, perhaps so light, the negroids become white. Dark skin, say the racial specialists, no longer being necessary as a protection against the sun. OK, but in his new environment the black man would also have to lose his curly hair, his prominent dark eyes and protruding lips, otherwise he could never become a white man. But it’s all quite simple, someone will tell me. The black breeds with a white and there you are...
Fortunately, von Däniken exempts himself from charges of racism by acknowledging that such questions can spark cries of racism but that he is being brave in refusing to sweep under the carpet uncomfortable questions. However, he says that “understanding” what goes on “in the heads and ‘hearts’ of members of another race” is “so difficult.” He explains that Europeans cannot fathom why black people attend funerals with “tomtoms,” thus conflating (purposely) cultural and biological variation, and he says he is deeply interested to learn whether there are “races which are obviously endowed with higher intelligence than others.” The use of “obviously” suggests that he has an answer to that question, despite his next sentence asserting that he does not ascribe to racist theories. He follows this by reflecting that the Jews are the Chosen People, but since Judaism isn’t a race, the chosen race must therefore be the one to which the Jews belong: “the European race.” The “outstanding achievements of Jewish scientists,” von Däniken wrote, are the result not of Judaism but their membership in the European race.
Von Däniken asserts that the “extraterrestrials did choose a specific race.” He won’t say what that race is, but he leans heavily on Jewish claims to be the chosen people, which we have just seen him connect to the white (European) race. There can only be one conclusion, even if unstated. He then advocates eugenics, suggesting that modern genetic research will advise which combinations of races “are beneficial and which should be eliminated.” He seriously asks whether the aliens want “strict segregation” of the races, and he advocates human cloning to perpetuate the very best superior specimens in the event of disaster.
We know from documents I obtained from the National Archives that in these years von Däniken secretly tried to influence the U.S. Republican Party to use his alien theories to energize voters to support conservative politics, particularly in opposing creeping socialism. We also know from his recent books that he remains uncomfortable with changing gender norms, writing as he did in 2009’s Twilight of the Gods that if Islamic prophecy were correct the world would have already ended because “women act like men and the men act like women.”
Also in that 2009 book, Erich von Däniken decried efforts to link him to racism: “And suddenly Erich von Däniken is associated with idiotic racists, as if the ‘heavenly seed’ were my idea and I had made up the ‘chosen ones’ myself.” Well, I think that the racism claim has a bit more to it than that.
And remember, folks: Cable TV gives a frequent platform to a man who openly wondered if the black race were a failure and whether white people are the aliens’ chosen master race.