Nationally syndicated columnist Tina Dupuy, who in her childhood was a member of a cult, wrote against charlatanism and anti-science in America culture in a recent column. Dupuy singled out the History Channel and its corporate owners, Disney and the Hearst Corporation, for making money from what she called the television equivalent of homeopathic scam remedies:
The History Channel, a joint venture between Hearst and Disney, has fed into this fevered fetish with their programming: “Ancient Aliens,” “UFO Hunters,” “Decoded,” “The Bible Code,” “Cities of the Underworld,” “Mystery Quest,” “Nostradamus Effect,” “Armageddon.” We effectively have an ahistorical History Channel.
Although not everything she wrote seemed to make complete sense from a writing perspective, the sentiment is spot-on. Dupuy concluded that from fake history documentaries to fake medicine “charlatans are indicative of simple economics: supply and demand. As long as we demand manure, someone will step up to shovel it. And business appears to be good.”
And it’s only going to get better if Post Star blogger Martha Petteys is to be believed. Petteys was selected to report her television viewing to A. C. Nielsen to calculate TV ratings. Petteys announced on her blog that she plans to watch Ancient Aliens. Every viewer is extra money in Disney’s and Hearst’s pockets!
Further evidence can be found in the recent distribution of Giorgio Tsoukalos’s In Search of Aliens on cable and satellite channels around the world. You may have seen some of the Spanish and/or Portuguese promos for the show that have popped up online in which the Ancient Aliens star promotes the series to Latin American viewers. I found interesting this Spanish-language article from Costa Rica that discusses Tsoukalos and the role of the History Channel in making the ancient astronaut theory mainstream not just in America but around the world. (All translations are mine.)
“History Channel is one of the major contributors to the debate [over alien visitation] thanks to its many programs, documentaries, and specials that look up at the sky and wonder what else is up there,” writes Danny Brenes of La Nación. “The new series, In Search of Aliens, is the latest piece of History’s interstellar puzzle.”
It’s probably hard to deny that you’re a purveyor of pseudoscience when even the puff pieces promoting your programming describe you as the loudest voice promoting ancient astronauts.
Brenes goes on to describe Tsoukalos as one of the driving forces behind the ancient astronaut theory before wrongly describing him as a writer. Tsoukalos has never produced a book, and so far as I can tell his literary output is limited to a handful of forewords to ancient astronaut books and occasional pieces in his irregular ancient astronaut newsletter, Legendary Times.
Brenes, though, does make one very astute comparison that rarely shows up in English-language media coverage of Ancient Aliens and its ilk: “This hypothesis says that the development of human cultures, technologies, and religions is due to visits from aliens to our planet throughout history. Something like an alien creationism.” Here in America, where creationism is a political football, it’s rare to see the media equate the belief system of high ranking politicians and their constituents to the obviously fantastical belief in aliens, as though to imply an equivalency. Creationism and ancient astronaut theories are mirror images of one another, rely on very similar “evidence,” and serve similar purposes as part of their respective cultural revitalization movements. One just happens to command more cultural respect in America due to its close association with powerful political and religious interests.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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