Remember that (still ongoing) discussion about why it was wrong for Scott Wolter to claim an honorary master’s degree? Well, this morning I received an email from a clinical psychologist who told me that “with a BA in Fine Arts, your opinions on Scott Wolter have marginal weight […] your posting of scientific opinions and judgments is […] inappropriate.” I informed the psychologist that my BA is in archaeology, just like Wolter holds a BS in geology, and if it’s inappropriate for me to render judgment, then so too must it be wrong for Wolter. As you might gather, the assumption of legitimacy through appearances in the media and claimed credentials turns into a cudgel to stifle opposition—which is frankly amazing to hear from a supporter of Scott Wolter given Wolter’s own repeated claim that any interested amateur should be given equal standing in rewriting history.
But that wasn’t the worst part of the morning: I also learned that shortly before his death last year the late Philip Coppens was planning a children’s show to “educate” children on ancient mysteries and extraterrestrials!
I discovered this on the Intrepid Magazine blog where it was discussed in the context of a three-decade-old French children’s cartoon that explored ancient astronaut themes. Called Once Upon a Time… Space, the show featured planets where ancient Earth astronauts mated with and fathered alien races, where Greek gods were actually aliens, and where ancient astronauts, Atlantis, and psychic powers sit uneasily together. The Intrepid blogger credited this show with inspiring his love of ancient history, and he took to task skeptics who express outrage at the bizarre ideas of Ancient Aliens:
…as an adult I can appreciate how this old French cartoon & its predecessor infused in me a fascination with ancient history at an early age, by teaching me to apply a long-view perspective to cultural events; all this while expanding my horizons with the promise of what the future had in store for us, if only we entertained the notion of “What if…”
I find that a false notion. Are we seriously to believe that ancient history can only be fascinating when it is cloaked in lies? When I was eight, I developed an interest in ancient history and world cultures because of Count Duckula, which sent its hero to the pyramids of Egypt, lost cities in African jungles, medieval castles, etc.—but Count Duckula didn’t ask us to believe in the Loch Ness monster or risen mummies or Tarzan; they were presented as literary and mythical situations—a fantasy.
It’s the same argument I’ve heard over and again: There is no harm in alternative history so long as it “inspires” people to learn more. But this is the lazy person’s way out. It suggests that there is no way to make history interesting on its own, that awe and wonder come from the supernatural and not the real. Yet children (and let’s be frank here—we’re talking about boys, since no one ever thinks about girls’ interest in aliens) love pirates and castles and cowboys and dinosaurs without the need to spice them up with aliens or psychic powers. The argument from boredom is the cynical soul of world-weary adults projecting onto children their own longing for a touch of the divine in a world of taxes, work, obligation, and struggle.
Which brings us to Joe Rogan, whose Syfy show I thought was poorly assembled and somewhat boring, but who has something useful to say about alternative history. He spoke in an interview with i09 back in July but which I only found out about today:
You see, they’re not just looking to find out if UFOs are real. What they’re looking for is something magical and something mysterious that hasn’t been discovered yet. They’re looking for some excitement in their boring lives. One of the ways that I describe these people — and it’s really quite unfortunate — is that they’re a bunch of unfuckable white dudes. I haven’t found a single black guy looking for Bigfoot. I’ve look[ed] high and large, and it’s all white dudes in their late forties and fifties. It’s all midlife crisis people. They’re not the happiest people in the world — and no disrespect — but they’re looking for things to be real that aren’t necessarily real.
This exaggerates somewhat, of course, and perhaps more applicable to UFO and Bigfoot hunters than alternative historians. Giorgio Tsoukalos is only three years older than I am (and I’m 32), and both Scott Wolter and Philip Coppens have wives. I think the age issue has more to do with these beliefs attracting a greater number of people from groups that have the free time to march out in the woods spending their days looking for mysteries, and that tends to fall into three categories: college students, the marginally employed or unemployed, and retirees. Not surprisingly, these are also the key audiences for alternative speculation. Joe Rogan notes as much when he mentions the “despair they have in their communities” as one reason the economically disadvantaged embrace anti-elite conspiracy theories:
The more you talk to people about UFOs or Bigfoot or psychic phenomenon, the more you start to realize that the same sort of thinking exists almost across the board. And it almost stops being about the subject — it’s more about the idea of mystery than anything else — this recurring theme of someone trying to figure something out, and trying to find something that makes their otherwise mundane life more interesting.
Rogan espoused a number of conspiracy theories, including the idea that the moon landing was a hoax, before his “investigations” into the details of the paranormal claims led him to discover how much of paranormal advocacy is actually the working out of social and cultural anxieties. This is one reason that Ancient Aliens for Kids is such a terrible idea, and another reason to gawk in wonder at the unresolved contradiction in the alternative community whereby academic opinion and academic elites are ridiculed and accused of all manner of horrors but academic honors and scientific authority are so desirable that people like convicted scammer and ancient alien theorist Sean David Morton take on unaccredited “Ph.D.-equivalency” degrees and John Ward claims a “full honorary Ph. Doctorate” in archaeology awarded by a Knights Templar fan club.
9/14/2013 05:35:07 am
"...it’s more about the idea of mystery than anything else — this recurring theme of someone trying to figure something out, and trying to find something that makes their otherwise mundane life more interesting."
9/14/2013 07:06:02 am
"The burden of proof falls to the poor skeptics, the academics." Naturally, when they fulfill this requirement, they receive ballyhoo such as this:
9/14/2013 11:12:15 am
Some of the quotes sound familiar and of very good substance, while others are quite distracting.
9/14/2013 12:51:33 pm
At last, Gunn, you finally figured it out. I have, indeed, hounded and attacked you....just to prove a point. You needed a taste of your own vile medicine. Your words and attitude, of late, reek of the cyber-bully, stained with hypocrisy. Most of those quotes should sound familiar, as they were your own; there's no need to interpret any of them, as given the context in which their found, your intent is clear.
9/15/2013 03:21:28 am
Well, anyone is welcome to read back through the blogs and see that you have attributed quotes to me, falsely, then based a charge of hypocrisy on your lack of ability to correctly follow communications.
9/15/2013 04:08:38 am
Oh, Gunn, if it weren't for you I don't know how I would fill my daily quota of heavy sighing and head shaking.
9/15/2013 04:30:23 am
Isaac: I welcome you to butt-out and mind your own business. Get the board out of your own eye, dude.
9/15/2013 04:35:00 am
The pot calls the kettle black....
9/15/2013 04:42:33 am
Isaac, you, yourself, are the epitome of a hypocrite. I insult? Yes, I kick back against the pricks. I insult the hypocrites such as yourself and Only Me, who love to start problems here. Look back at the genesis and continuation of my communications and you'll find that I never give the first kick to the pricks. I respond to the pricks here, otherwise known as the Blog Rat Collective. I don't have to lay down and consume the crap pushed at me by religious hypocrites such as yourself, Isaac. You are an established attacker, not a mild-mannered Christian. Isaac, you are a hypocrite.
9/15/2013 08:42:01 am
I apologize, Gunn. When I composed my response to you, it was very late and I was tired. I should have worded it more clearly, so allow me to explain, for the benefit of all those visiting.
9/15/2013 12:00:53 pm
No problem, Only Me. I'm sensitive about folks coming here to sow discord, expecting no repercussions; but I have an abnormal capacity for forgiveness, too.
9/15/2013 12:23:12 pm
No, Gunn, your capacity is not abnormal. It is both noble and Christian.
9/14/2013 11:34:40 am
>> The burden of proof falls to the poor skeptics, the academics. Truth is their responsibility, and they deserve this burden.<<
9/15/2013 04:59:03 am
You are correct, Thane. We should all be looking for the truth in history. Yet, the responsibility falls to the professionals.
9/16/2013 04:47:31 pm
I'd just like to take a moment and point out one small thing and I hope I don't come off sounding rude.
9/14/2013 12:33:11 pm
I have to side with only me on this one. Skeptics and Academics spend a lot of time proposing ideas, arguing details and discussing finer points in an effort to find the truth. Along the way a lot of ideas are disproved and dismissed. The skeptics and academics recognize when the evidence does not support their theories and either move on to new areas of research or work to supplement the existing body of knowledge.
9/16/2013 11:19:53 am
"In short, they want to feel special."
"I also learned that shortly before his death last year the late Philip Coppens was planning a children’s show to “educate” children on ancient mysteries and extraterrestrials!"
9/14/2013 11:38:44 am
I loved Johnny Quest...no strike that, I loved Race Bannon..... which probably explains why I adore Brock Sampson now.
9/14/2013 01:27:28 pm
Oh yeah, I remember that- perfect spheres, monkey-men, sound waves...although that's all I remembered until I googled it just now. Infact, I thought I remembered it taking place in South America (sans the Moai, of course).
9/14/2013 02:21:19 pm
The Other J.
9/14/2013 07:46:42 am
I thought there already was a n English-language children's TV show about ancient mysteries and extraterrestrials. It was called Land of the Lost. It even had reptilians and pyramids (okay pylons).
9/14/2013 11:35:54 am
I watched Star Trek: Into Darkness last night and I enjoyed the opening sequence very much. The crew of the Enterprise were on a planet called Nibiru and they were trying to save a primitive humanoid species from an erupting volcano without revealing their presence. Well, they were not able to conceal themselves and the primitive inhabitants of Nibiru saw the Enterprise and drew a pictogram of the space ship and it was implied that the ship and/or its cew would be worshiped as gods. I thought that was a nice twist on the "theory" that primitive humans were visited by inhabitants of Nibiru. I laughed out loud, in fact.
9/14/2013 11:43:54 am
What a coincidence: I watched it last night, too. The scene, though, echoes the opening of Chariots of the Gods, where von Daniken asks us to imagine just such a scenario!
9/14/2013 01:02:01 pm
Is that what that movie is about? Maybe I won't watch it, then. The seriousness with which Ancient Astronaut cultists--er, I mean, theorists--take their hypothesis already soured my experience with the film Prometheus. Well, that, and the whole "we'll communicate with the aliens by synthesizing a perfect reconstruction of the pan-human proto-language, which we will do by letting our robot watch tutorial videos" thing.
9/14/2013 01:08:46 pm
The Nibiru scene is only a few minutes at the beginning. The rest of the movie I read as a meditation on Bush-era War on Terror tactics, culminating (I hope I don't give anything too serious away) with a reenactment of 9/11 in which a terrorist hijacks a spaceship and flies it into skyscrapers.
9/14/2013 01:32:14 pm
Oh, I see now, Jonathan even called it "the opening sequence." Sorry, I misunderstood.
9/14/2013 04:16:08 pm
Then again, judging by the comments online, that whole 9/11 subtext somehow seems to have gone over the head of a lot of fans, who are still fuming against the movie for being an empty action movie without any sense, purpose or message, and for a certain reveal that seems to haved "raped their childhoods".
9/16/2013 03:37:56 am
Saw it in the theatre and thought it a waste of time; the first JJ Trek was better. This one borrowed heavily from Wrath of Khan and ignored gravitational physics.
9/14/2013 06:55:04 pm
It would not have just been old French cartoons pushing Ancient Astronauts, the last completed Tintin story "Flight 714" has Ancient Astronauts, Contactees & a UFO at the end to whisk the heros to safety and take the villains to an unknown fate.
The Other J.
9/15/2013 05:13:28 am
Hey, "Flight 714" was one of the source influences for "Lost."
The Other J.
9/15/2013 08:40:20 am
Maybe 'inspiration' would be a better term. In both, you have a plane heading to Australia that gets brought down on some mysterious tropical island; there are secret tunnels and hidden bunkers on the island; sci-fi and surreal aspects; a temple on the island; and the flight number two number sets off from the Lost flight number, 7 (8) 14 (15).
9/15/2013 01:30:48 pm
Interesting, though I still cannot bring myself to watch "Lost." Fortean Times did an article on all the occult references in Herge, though I cannot remember the issue.
9/16/2013 02:25:12 pm
"The burden of proof falls to the poor skeptics, the academics. Truth is their responsibility, and they deserve this burden."
9/16/2013 05:23:22 pm
Well, I believe elements of the Gov't knew 911 was going to happen and let it occur. Coincidentally, I believe elements of the Gov't knew Kennedy was going to get whacked, too, and let it happen. Of course, this is a far cry from believing the Gov't did it...or is it?
9/17/2013 07:11:10 am
If you haven't seen it yet, check out my post under the blog about the French Normans and the KRS. You might find it interesting.
9/17/2013 02:38:41 am
I agree that if a group of academics says a thing is true, they should provide proof, I also think academics would agree with that statement as well.
9/17/2013 04:17:30 am
Yes, we agree.
Rev. Phil Gotsch
9/17/2013 02:28:01 pm
9/17/2013 05:12:14 pm
I take it you've missed all the times he's mentioned having a job that allows him to have this blog...at no profit?
9/17/2013 11:27:52 pm
Only Me is quite correct; this is just a hobby. I have an actual job. It's why there is no advertising here.
Rev. Phil Gotsch
9/20/2013 04:10:43 pm
Seems like a REALLY expensive hobby ... writing and giving away all those "books" ...
9/20/2013 11:34:20 pm
The books are for sale, and the money goes to subsidize the website and putting together additional books.
Rev. Phil Gotsch
9/22/2013 01:30:42 pm
9/22/2013 01:36:24 pm
I wasn't aware that hobbies were required to turn a profit. Is that something you got from your lobbying work or from your church work? Ah, I remember the passage well: "Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true... as long as they make money."
william m smith
9/19/2013 02:29:58 pm
9/21/2013 04:35:36 am
william m smith says: "There is sound evidence that this tool was used to place the builders mark at the top of the Newport Tower in R.I. as well as to locate the Kensington Rune stone in Minn."
9/21/2013 11:41:35 am
The Mandan may have originated in the upper- to mid-Mississippi River region, before migrating to the Missouri River Valley and, eventually, the Heart River in N. Dakota. That's where Europeans made first-contact with them.
9/21/2013 11:21:58 am
My question would be, how big of a compass are we talking about? This *mystery stone* is four inches long and two and a half inches thick. It's roughly the size of an egg, so how big would the compass holding it have been? Were compasses of the time really the size of, say, an alarm clock with the bells and ringer on top?
9/24/2013 05:56:54 pm
There's a few inconsistencies with the Portuguese building the Newport Tower. I'll try to keep them as brief as possible, for easier reading.
10/2/2013 05:38:39 am
10/2/2013 06:50:13 am
I have never met Scott Wolter, so I have no personal feelings about him. He has come to this blog in the past and accused me of being part of a conspiracy against him, so that certainly colors my views some. As for what he does well, I'm afraid I'm not able to offer you a false equivalency and pretend he's making good points. He is peddling a conspiracy that has no factual foundation, accuses people left and right of being stupid, evil, or arrogant, and throws tantrums when his mistakes are pointed out to him. If you'd like falsely fair and balanced, try Fox News.
10/2/2013 07:28:24 am
Haha, no thanks on Fox News. That is understandable and no need to falsify anything. I was just curious and wondered if past confrontations with Scott Wolter some how fueled your negative reviews in any way. So, basically nothing, other than the camera crew as professionals hahah, had to laugh at that lol, is good about America Unearthed in your opinion?
10/2/2013 07:34:45 am
I can't lie, Jay. I have a hard time finding anything good to say about a show that present fiction and pretends it's fact. I went into the series with an open mind, and as I researched each claim, I discovered that almost literally *nothing* the show says is true. I won't pretend that there is a way to say fake facts are good.
10/2/2013 07:51:21 am
I agree with you 100%. There isn't an ethical way to push fiction as fact. Now that I think on it, I do notice that he gives next to no credit to mainstream scholars during the show, actually watching it now on HC lol, and he does show contempt towards them. Never listened to him on the radio, so can't comment on that.
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I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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