Aaron Rodgers Discusses His Love for Fringe History, Says Conspiracy Theories of History Give Him "Hope"
Microsoft launched an artificial intelligence modeled on a teenage girl and set her loose on Twitter to learn from interacting with real people and studying social media. In less than a day she was spouting Nazi rhetoric, praising Hitler, and condemning the Jews. While a chunk of that is due to idiots intentionally trolling the robot, that seems a fair appraisal of what pop culture is like in 2016. Microsoft took the robot offline, presumably to de-Nazify it. Unfortunately, though, the insidious influence of popular culture can’t be simply coded out of real human beings. Today’s example is kind of depressing.
The internet is abuzz talking about how Green Bay Packers quarterback and television pitchman Aaron Rodgers admitted to seeing an orange UFO in 2005 during an appearance on the You Made It Weird podcast. He linked this sighting to nuclear power plants, which he considers to be magnets for UFOs. This wouldn’t be too interesting to us except that in the unreported part of the discussion, which lasted ten times longer, Rodgers also admitted to being a huge fan of (you guessed it) Ancient Aliens, joining a chorus of celebrities who have embraced the History Channel’s fraudulent series and its claims:
That got me into the whole Ancient Aliens… I like the History Channel and the History Channel 2 [= H2]. I’ve been a, I studied history in college and have always been a fan of what happened in the past, the near past and also the ancient past. And, there’s some, you know, great shows on there that talk about the… Brad Meltzer’s got a show on there about whether the history that we’re told is actually how it happened, based on artifacts found all over the world that kind of tie it back to similar places and the fact that there’s pyramids all over the place, and the fact that in general history is usually written by the winners.
He is presumably referring to America Unearthed in that final section rather than Brad Meltzer’s Decoded, but six of one, half a dozen of the other. Podcast host and semi-famous comedian Pete Holmes (from Best Week Ever and elsewhere) then agrees with Rodgers and adds that history is written to “keep people in the dark” before going on to question the theory of evolution. Both he and Rodgers invoke the Anunnaki and the Watchers (by name!) to better explain the origins of humankind, and I felt very sad, both because the Watchers made it into a conversation between a quarterback and a comedian, and also because even though I am the least interested person in the world when it comes to football, even I know more about the Green Bay Packers off the top of my head than Holmes did in this interview, even after allegedly researching Rodgers. His lack of preparation for interviewing Rodgers was just embarrassing.
Rodgers said that he believes in most major ancient astronaut claims, including the discredited allegation that a lotus blossom and serpent carving in the temple of Denderah in Egypt represents a light bulb, and that a partially effaced hieroglyph in a temple at Abydos represents a helicopter and a submarine (or, as he put it, a spaceship). Both men agree that the past is essentially unknowable and that they would have loved to see what the aliens were doing in Egypt in the time of Akhenaten (whose name they could not remember). “I think about that all the time,” Rodgers said, completely serious.
Rodgers, though, admitted that some of the Ancient Aliens hypotheses are “a little past where I’m at,” but he said that he finds aliens to be a plausible alternative to creationism, which he seems to believe is the consensus viewpoint on history. Given the well-known evangelical Christian presence in pro sports, it’s perhaps understandable that Rodgers would view ancient astronauts and creationism as the only two binary choices, but holy crap how can anyone, even a professional athlete, go through a college education, study history of all things at UC Berkeley, and still think that Ancient Aliens makes a good argument? Rodgers is only two years younger than me, so he can’t use “young and stupid” as an excuse. Of course, Holmes is two years older than me, so he can’t well use “old and cranky” as an excuse.
As the podcast went on, some of the undercurrents that drive Rodgers’s beliefs manifested. He described realizing at one point that there must be more to his life than just football, no matter how great football seems now, and this suggests that his worldview projects the same search for a broader meaning on a larger stage. Indeed, he describes believing in conspiracy theories and aliens as being a kind of “hope,” a hope that “what I see every day is not all there is.” Rodgers said that he feels that ancient astronauts and conspiracy theories provide a spiritual satisfaction for him that vaguely defined authorities aren’t telling us all that there is to the world and that a greater spiritual reality can be discovered through contemplation of cable TV mysteries, from diffusionism to psi phenomena. He added that he came to view these mysteries as a path to spiritual answers because he rejected the harsh, condemnatory evangelical Christianity he encountered among his friends and teammates going back to his college days, repeating a mistaken belief that Christianity is equivalent to the biblical literalism of the fundamentalists, which he rightly rejects as contrary to fact. He does not like being told that he will go to hell for not following some arcane biblical verse literally.
It doesn’t take a psychologist to make sense of this, nor to see how the aliens are replacements for a God that failed. This makes me sad because I feel for him in terms of seeking greater meaning in life and looking for the underlying philosophical truths that animate spirituality, but ancient astronauts are just not the way to fight one’s way out of existential despair. Rodgers strikes me as someone who has genuine curiosity and a real interest in history and philosophy, and also someone who has been led down the garden path by popular culture in general and the History Channel in particular. This is about as good an example of the failure of our culture at every level (educational, scientific, religious, and popular) to provide the tools to create meaning in life as one might want to find, and I am glad, at least, that Rodgers is articulate enough to provide a thoughtful and even complex analysis of how these interlocking cultural systems simultaneously failed.
“Let’s be wrong, let’s be weird!” Holmes proclaims at one point in the podcast. Mission accomplished, Pete Holmes. Mission accomplished.
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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