Since I went above and beyond my usual time and effort in preparing yesterday’s exhaustive examination of why Oannes is extremely poor evidence for ancient alien contact, I’m going to take a bit of a breather today and instead talk a little bit about why I write this blog and the importance of engaging audiences online.
I’ve noticed an uptick in comments, tweets, and email messages asking me why I examine ancient astronaut and lost civilization theorists’ claims. Some are genuinely curious. The angry ones that offer death threats and sick psycho-sexual hypotheses I try to keep from my readers so they don’t have to be subjected to that kind of trash.
Many fall into the category of asking why I have a vendetta against alternative ways of knowing and whether I am hiding a shocking background of anger and rage. I made my background perfectly clear in the introduction to The Cult of Alien Gods, and because I felt it was worth knowing, I placed it online so even those who did not buy the book could read it. I have also discussed my encounters with Giorgio Tsoukalos and David Childress, and how they worked to build an attack on me into the History Channel’s original Ancient Aliens movie.
But this is not why I write about alternative theories. If that were all there was to it, I would have contented myself with expressing my displeasure at Ancient Aliens’ use of my materials.
Instead, I write about alternative hypotheses because I genuinely love history, and it pains me to see it being misused and twisted on the random whims of ignorance and profit. You may not know this since this blog and this website focus primarily on xenoarchaeology, lost civilizations, and other such topics, but I actually have a wide ranging interest in history well beyond this limited area. I love reading about the history of Imperial Rome and nineteenth century Europe, especially the baroque tragedy of the House of Habsburg. But such topics rarely intersect with the work I am best known for, so I made choice to focus my blog on a single topic. The best blogs build their audience around an area of expertise, and for better or worse this one’s mine. I’m not obsessed with alternative history, but it’s my brand and I’m stuck with it.
Another criticism I receive is that I’m attacking details instead of the big picture when it comes to ancient aliens and alternative history. I have made a conscious choice to examine claims individually rather than in broad, philosophical terms. Let’s get something straight: Science doesn’t work by proposing a broad, overarching idea and demanding other people prove you wrong. Instead, theories are built up from a body of observations. We can never “prove” that aliens didn’t come to the ancient earth. Instead, I examine each piece of evidence one by one and evaluate which, if any, withstand scrutiny. So far none has. There is no reason to bother discussing the philosophical value of ancient aliens or nebulous questions about “alternative ways of knowing” if, taking these pundits at their word, their evidence evaporates before facts.
In reviewing the analytics breaking down visitors to my blog, I have found that a steadily increasing number are coming here as a result of Google searches for specific claims made by ancient astronaut hypothesizers and alternative history writers. (There must be a shorter way of saying that.) And that is truly amazing because, in working backward from the search terms, I’ve found that my blog is outranking the writers themselves for specific keywords related to their claims. This is not entirely due to chance.
I’ve worked in the internet marketing field off and on over the past decade, and I’m aware of search engine optimization (SEO) and its potential for reaching audiences. Obviously, I don’t engage in “black hat” operations, but I do use standard techniques for building the search engine ranking for my site. I focus on a specific topic and produce frequently-updated content with a rich array of links to recognized, high-value content. I added an entire wing of my website, the “Library,” to boost my website’s credibility and rankings through high-quality content, and I’m not shy about linking my materials to relevant pages in Wikipedia. (For example, as of this writing, my translation of The Xipéhuz is linked on the Wikipedia page for the J.-H. Rosny.) I also am careful to include the keywords readers are searching for in my blog posts, making them more visible in Google rankings.
Consider this: My little website, produced on a budget of nothing, with no media support and no cable network behind me, routinely ranks in Google searches right behind or equal with ancient astronaut writers, even when searching for their own names! My site ranks on the first page of results for Giorgio Tsoukalos’s own name! (Results may vary depending on whether you have personalized your Google page. My tests were done from a standard Google search without personalization.) For specific ancient astronaut claims, I sometimes outrank them. For a few keywords, I am the top match.
This isn’t rocket science, and I’m sure that I could be doing a lot more. What amazes me is that alternative theorists aren’t doing this. Have you visited many alternative writers’ websites or blogs? They are, by and large, terrible—and I’m not referring to the content. Giorgio Tsoukalos, for example, still doesn’t have a dedicated website, and his marketing site, Legendary Times Books, is pretty much just a giant catalog of books with little or no original content. Philip Coppens is better; he has an infrequently updated blog, and he posts articles on his site, but these almost never contain links out to supporting content (because there isn’t any, I’d imagine), and don’t allow for comments or social media sharing. Graham Hancock was once upon a time a leader in using the internet, hosting discussion forums and posting articles and book reviews. But his site froze in place around 2001 and hasn’t changed much since.
Consider what happens when you try to engage Giorgio Tsoukalos or Philip Coppens on Twitter: You'll either be ignored or receive a stream of angry invective (a Tsoukalos specialty), but you won't get facts or any real or substantive discussion of the material.
The fact is, these pundits aren’t producing the type of content that would help them to engage with an online audience, which, given the decline of publishing and the limits of TV air time, is the only area where the audience is growing. It amazes me that Ancient Aliens has no dedicated website (only a page on History.com), no blog, very few articles, etc. The easy answer is that they have too few ideas and too few facts to support consistent audience engagement. Consider, for example, how frequently David Childress and Erich von Däniken recycle whole chapters from earlier books because they have no new material.
What this means is that alternative writers are failing to control the conversation about their own ideas. They have a closed echo-chamber of alternative media where they can talk to one another unmolested, an iron quadrangle of alternative radio, alternative conferences, small-press and self-published books, and cable documentaries. But outside of this, they’re failing to engage with their own ideas and, more or less, let me dictate how people perceive their speculations because I produce the most, the longest, and the richest content related to these ideas.
Far be it from me to offer alternative writers advice on how to spread their false beliefs, but it really shouldn’t be this easy for me—with no resources to speak of—to be so competitive online and draw the attention of so much of their audience with skeptical views. Imagine if there were a dozen others doing the same thing. And, from a purely selfish perspective, if alternative writers start producing more quality content, there will be so much more for me to write about!
11/8/2012 08:49:02 am
Jason,I have the feeling I`m somehow responsible for this post?.(You do now understand the downside of having young female readers like myself?;) arrogant attitude but enough maturity to have a mutual respectful conversation.... Be aware of the critics & please do respond to your readers from time to time, but dont change anything to the nature of your blog,you`re damned good at what you do.
11/8/2012 08:55:41 am
Thank you for the compliment!
Great blog here Jason. It is thanks to my close friend Tara Jordan that I know about your work now. She has a tremendous interest and grasp on the subject of what I term as 'ancient alien fan fiction' which its' advocates tend to believe a bit too much on.
11/8/2012 09:12:13 pm
I find websites like this useful because they make easily accessible information that can be hard to find otherwise. I first stumbled across it after reading about the two American Indians shipwrecked in first century Europe. I was intrigued by the idea but obviously suspicious and, as usual with this sort of claim, it was just stated as fact with no information on what the evidential basis was. Google revealed a mass of pages simply repeating the same information over and over again - yours was the first I found that had actually looked for the source of the claim and examined it.
11/9/2012 07:21:13 am
I am always puzzled by ancient astronaut theorists. Not only do they seem unconcerned by the fact that all of their half-hazard claims fail to construct anything resembling a cohesive narrative, but their hypotheses routinely contradict each other. Ancient Aliens Season 4 Episode 10, "Aliens and Dinosaurs", is a perfect example of this. Watching this episode vacillate between the mutually conflicting "theories" that aliens eradicated dinosaurs 66 million years ago to clear the way for humans while simultaneous claiming that dinosaurs also survived into modern times to coexist with humans is enough to make you dizzy. Perhaps the aliens first destroyed the dinosaurs, revived some later to live alongside modern man, but then changed their minds again and destroyed them a second time. Everyone knows how fickle these aliens can be, so I guess this does make sense after all...
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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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