Extremists tend to see what they want to see, but there are times when what extremists see shocks and surprises even me. That was the case today when I discovered some recent and shocking reactions to America Unearthed that point toward the contradictory ways fringe history claims can be woven into political ideology.
The Stormfront white supremacist discussion board has an ongoing discussion on archaeological excavations at Treblinka, which predictably the posters assumed was part of a Zionist conspiracy to frame the Nazis. Many Stormfront members are Holocaust deniers, and I trust you will understand why I have chosen not to link directly to the discussion, which you can find easily enough at their website if you are so inclined.
Early this morning Stormfront member “Catherine Grace” wrote that she believes that the Smithsonian is helping to fabricate the Holocaust as part of a liberal-leftist effort to rewrite history to deny the accomplishments of the white race while celebrating those of ethnic and racial minorities. Here is what she had to say about how America Unearthed helped her to see the “truth” about the Smithsonian, and she provided her fellow racists with a link to Scott Wolter’s blog:
Not to change the subject totally but since the Smithsonian, a prestigious and trusted institution is involved in this holyhoax [i.e., Holocaust] quackery, I want to say something that I never realized about the Smithsonian before.
A viking archeologist in the usa, Scott Wolter, who is an expert on runic artifacts has found evidence for vikings being far into North America before Leif Erikson and the Smithsonian is trying to discredit him.
He says if you ever find anything that looks to be an ancient artifact, never send it to the Smithsonian or it will never be seen again.
He has a show "America Unearthed" on the History Channel, which they will probably cancel unless he does a holyhoax episode to kiss their arse. Just something to be aware of.
Other actions of the Smithsonian that show it just to be a political tool of the leftist agenda driven regime is that they put Trayvon Martin's hoodie on display. Now that's an American legacy. Scary they are.
This is exactly the outcome I feared when I told a television producer for the Science Channel a few months ago that doing a documentary about the non-existent Smithsonian “conspiracy” invented by David Childress in 1993 would only serve to give aid and comfort to those who are predisposed to extremist conspiracies. Here we see evidence that such claims easily become fodder for extremist beliefs, and it is especially shocking that “Catherine Grace” sees the Smithsonian as virtually all-powerful but does not wonder how, then, America Unearthed ended up on H2 in the first place—with the cooperation of the Smithsonian, which gave Scott Wolter permission to test the Bat Creek Stone (twice!) and access to Smithsonian collections with Dr. Dennis Stanford. It is also worth noting that “Catherine Grace” failed to understand who Scott Wolter is, mistaking him for an archaeologist and an expert in runes, and also overlooked his claims about Jews in prehistoric America (unless, as seems likely, she follows British Israelism or Christian Identity and denies that modern Jews are related).
It bears repeating: When irresponsible programs imply nefarious conspiracies, audiences read this as a coded effort to convince them that the implications are true and respond in kind.
This kind of reaction to America Unearthed is hardly confined to the racist extreme of the political right, but it does seem to have a strange connection to concerns over Judaism, even among the most steadfast supporters of Israel. Zahal.com is a website devoted to covering Israeli military affairs, so it was somewhat strange to see a long article posted to their blog about America Unearthed earlier today. It turns out that the piece is actually an uncredited reprint of an article Richard Thornton published last year on Examiner.com in which Thornton, who appeared on America Unearthed in 2012 but fails to disclose this fact, accused right wing conservatives of trying to suppress the program before its 2012 premiere:
A multi-pronged attack was executed. While the History Channel team was filming in Mexico, neighbors, landlords, Georgia universities, local law enforcement, even people on the street, were contacted by right wing federal law enforcement officers and told that individuals associated with the new Track Rock site study were Obama-lovers, home burglars, gay, atheists, devil-worshipers, insane, sexual predators, Marxists, owned dangerous, killer attack dogs . . . or whatever lie seemed appropriate at the time. These law enforcement officers were all former military personnel, who had learned their psych-ops skills in the Middle East.
The “Middle East” connection is also very vague, and I’m not sure what Thornton was trying to imply. A few paragraphs later he states his belief that the Cherokee are the descendants of Anatolian Jews, as well as Muslims who converted to Judaism (!) in America, and he seems to imply that Muslims are secretly trying to suppress the truth to avoid revealing Muslim apostasy in favor of Judaism in early America: “The horse of a prominent Georgia Cherokee warrior was named ‘Al Baraq’ which means ‘Lightning’ in Arabic. It was the name of the horse that the Quran says took Mohammed to heaven, and also President Obama’s first name.” Of course! Obama is a secret Muslim who is working with Middle Eastern dictatorships to hide the fact that America had been colonized by Jews! It’s so obvious!
Apparently no matter your view on Jews, if you are a conspiracy theorist you’re sure that America Unearthed is somehow the victim of a conspiracy to either promote Judaism or suppress it, by left wing or right wing government agencies, who somehow control all of the levers of power in America except for the programming department at H2.
It’s strange to me that programs like Ancient Aliens, America’s Book of Secrets, Unsealed: Alien Files, Unsealed: Conspiracy Files, Brad Meltzer’s Decoded, Codes and Conspiracies, and many others fail to elicit the same types of reactions. To take a clear example: Ancient Aliens and America Unearthed both did nearly identical episodes on Smithsonian conspiracies in the Grand Canyon just weeks apart, but one is routinely cited as “evidence” that such conspiracies are real much more than the other. Partly it might be because many of these programs present themselves as tongue-in-cheek or only semi-serious; another part must be that the other shows fail to present a consistent narrative whose material easily dovetails with “conspiracy culture” and its particular preoccupation with reflecting concerns about racial, religious, cultural, and ethnic identity issues. By choosing to explore North American history in terms of ethnic groups and their various voyages, rather than a generalized conspiracy or alien Other, America Unearthed makes its claims that much more attractive to those who would use them in support of ideological ends.