For a while, I took heart that the gradual decline of Ancient Aliens from pop culture phenomenon to niche program signaled that the ancient astronaut “theory” was once again on the wane. The program, after all, has shed about half its viewers for original episodes from its peak in season 2, when 1.5 to 2 million people watched each week. I appear to have misjudged the situation.
The decline in the program’s viewership is attributable solely to the lesser distribution of the H2 channel, on which original episodes now air, not to any lessening of the ancient astronaut hypothesis’s popularity. H2 is available in only 60% of television households, while the parent History Channel is available in 86% of households with televisions, according to Nielsen Media Research estimates.
Although Nielsen has measured ratings for H2 since 2005, History has not made these available, and Nielsen releases only the top 100 cable program ratings to news outlets. A&E Television Networks, the parent of History and H2, states only that H2 grew 31% in 2012, thanks in large part to Ancient Aliens. A review of the Nielsen ratings figures indicates that first-run Ancient Aliens episodes on H2 do not rank in the top 100 programs airing on Fridays, and therefore must have ratings of less than 1 million total viewers and less than a 0.3 rating among adults 18-49, the lowest figures for the top 100 programs that aired Friday, December 28, 2012.
However, the most recent date for which full Nielsen cable ratings of Ancient Aliens are available (November 15, 2012) indicates that reruns of Ancient Aliens broadcast as a special presentation on the parent History channel continued to draw 1.2 to 1.5 million viewers in prime time, nearly matching the ratings for the last original episodes to air on that channel in 2011. For comparison, this puts Ancient Aliens in the company of cable programs such as FX’s American Horror Story (2.2 million viewers), Bravo’s Top Chef (1.2 million viewers), and Comedy Central’s Colbert Report (1.1 million viewers) in their most recent outings, according to Nielsen figures.
This continued popularity has not gone unnoticed by other media outlets. In February, the William Morrow imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, a division of News Corporation, the parent of Fox News, is set to become the first major publisher in years to release a new ancient astronaut book. (Most ancient astronaut books of the past decade have been published by small presses such as Element or New Page Books, the publishers of Erich von Däniken and the late Philip Coppens.)
The book is Our Occulted History: Do the Global Elite Conceal Ancient Aliens? by Jim Marrs, a frequent guest on Ancient Aliens. Obviously, the subtitle was chosen as Google bait for consumers looking for reading material tied to Ancient Aliens. (That said, the cover design is really beautiful, and I love the teal color scheme.)
In the book, Marrs will assert that human civilization originated with extraterrestrials who continue to guide civilization today through a conspiracy of global elites, according to a description provided by the publisher.
According to an advance excerpt posted by William Morrow, the book will cover such familiar topics as the “Sumerian” (Babylonian) creation myth, the Florida’s Coral Castle, elongated skulls, Baalbek, the Orion Correlation Theory, Atlantis, pole shifts, the Nephilim (as aliens), ancient atom bombs, and Nazis. All of this material will be familiar to readers of the 1990s-era “alternative archaeology” books by Graham Hancock, Robert Bauval, David Childress, and others. Marrs will claim, falsely, that the Greeks borrowed their gods from Egypt (the opinion of Herodotus and endorsed by the Black Athena crowd), and thus “borrowed” a culture created by extraterrestrials. He will also assert that Zecharia Sitchin’s “translations” of Sumerian texts are accurate and being suppressed by “traditional science, wedded to its own texts and dogma.”
Relying on Sitchin, Marrs will claim that the Sumerians accurately recorded the positions of the planets Uranus and Neptune, and the planetoid Pluto, all claims that rest solely on Sitchin’s eccentric “translations” as well as his falsified drawings of Sumerian cylinder seals. (See here and here.) Marrs will also claim that the Babylonian Enuma Elish (as translated by Sitchin) provides “a most plausible explanation for the present composition of our solar system.” Marrs, following Sitchin, will identify the Babylonian gods with specific planets and then claim that their interactions represent collisions of these planets during the formation of the solar system. The text itself, however, clearly describes a geocentric universe in which the sky is a dome covering a flat earth, a far cry from the dynamic cosmos Sitchin imagined.
But what pisses me off most is that Marrs will begin the book with H. P. Lovecraft’s famous opening lines to “The Call of Cthulhu.” Lovecraft would roll over in his grave if he saw his work used to support the ancient astronaut theory, which he specifically called “crap” and “a subtle charlatanism” when asked to comment on the Theosophical version of it. Lovecraft believed ancient aliens were meant only for fiction, though I suppose that is what Marrs wrote, even if he doesn't know it.
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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