Greg Bearringer is a graduate student in medieval studies at the University of Tennessee, and he confessed last week to an undying, if somewhat humiliating, love of H2's Ancient Aliens. He has some interesting things to say about Ancient Aliens and the value of truth over at the UT Daily Beacon. You can read the whole thing here, but here's the meat of his argument.
Ancient astronaut theorists work hard to give themselves the trappings of authority.
It's why Giorgio Tsoukalos presents himself as an "author," though only of a PowerPoint presentation, since it carries the residual prestige of a time when publishing bestowed legitimacy.
It is why David (ex-Hatcher) Childress described himself (falsely) as an "archaeologist" in his pre-Ancient Aliens days despite never having worked as one or holding any degree in the field.
It is why Sean David Morton claims a dubious PhD from a nonexistent school.
And it is why "Professor" Robert Temple brags about his "academic affiliations" with the Royal Astronomical Society and the British Schools of Archaeology at Athens and at Rome. The RAS is, like the National Geographic Society, open to anyone with £98 for a membership fee; similarly the British School at Rome is open to anyone with £50. The British School at Athens, while more rigorous in membership, is open to anyone pursuing Hellenic studies at the graduate level, and, by dispensation of the director, to independent writers. But this isn't important because according to the BSA's membership rolls, he isn't a member. He was in 1989 and again in 1998, for "contributing to the Penguin Classic 'Complete Fables of Aesop,'" not for any original research. Similarly, Temple's claimed title of "professor" is equally dubious, resting on the shaky foundation of a visiting lecture series at a Chinese University. He holds no regular academic appointment, a usual prerequisite for claiming the title of professor.
So why do ancient astronaut theorists want to pretend that they are real academics? Bearringer is right; they seek to cast themselves in the role of academics to absorb some of the legitimacy they see accruing to those who have actual degrees and who do real research.
Just as every snake oil salesman called himself a "doctor," so too does every historical revisionist want to wrap himself in the borrowed finery of the authorities they seek to ape.
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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