As much as I don’t want to waste more time on this, the state of the comments section on my blog has degenerated to the point that changes have to be made. For the first ten years I ran this blog, I kept comments open to anyone, for close to real-time conversations. However, the toxic, combative nature of the comments on nearly every blog post have driven away dozens of people who used to make substantive, thoughtful comments. I have tried culling toxic comments, but the flood of them comes faster than I can handle them, given that this is not my actual day job and I can’t spend hours each day reading aggressive, inane, or abusive posts. I have tried IP blocking, but many posters simply generate a new IP address and continue on, while Weebly, which provides my blogging software, has restricted my access to IP addresses in their latest redesign.
Note: An earlier version of this post noted Brandon Fugal's connection to a Utah-based Ancient History Research Foundation, which listed him as its director on its website. The AHRF, which explored giants, hyper-diffusionism, and other fringe topics, was also affiliated with Wayne May, the patron of infamous figure Frank Joseph, and house Joseph's writings. These references have been removed because Fugal informed me that his affiliation with the foundation ended in 2005, he was not part of the organization when it began housing May's and Joseph's work, and he is not actively investingating anomalous archaeology. I regret the error.
This week, MJ Banias revealed the name of the new owner of Skinwalker Ranch, real estate investor Brandon Fugal, who came out of the shadows four years after purchasing the paranormal property from billionaire Robert Bigelow, just in time to promote his ranch’s new History channel series. But, as always, there is more to the story than meets the eye—and it is weirder than you might imagine.
It was not a good week for ancient mysteries on TV. Ancient Aliens suffered a massive tumble in the ratings, losing around 20% of its viewers as its total viewership fell to just 881,000 for Saturday’s episode, ranking at the seventy-fifth most watched show that day. By contrast William Shatner’s The UnXplained, airing an hour later, cracked the top fifty with 946,000 viewers. Once again, a greater number of viewers under 49 tuned in to Shatner, giving his show the edge. Neither, of course, could hold a candle to Food Network’s 11 AM showing of The Kitchen, which trounced both in total viewers and in the demographic.
This week, Sophie Gilbert writes in the Atlantic about the trend for Netflix teen dramas to “reject modernity” by embracing a retro aesthetic deeply at odds with contemporary teen culture. According to Gilbert, this aesthetic choice, seen in shows as diverse as The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Sex Education, and I’m Not Okay with This, isn’t just a creative decision but symptomatic of a cultural psychosis that refuses to deal with our fractured reality and instead wants to escape into an idealized past. However, Gilbert’s conception of history stretches no further than her own lifetime, so she sees the shockingly postmodern and new in cultural trends that have always been with us.
On Tuesday, Sarah Scoles published They Are Already Here: UFO Culture and Why We See Saucers (Pegasus, 2020), and to promote the book, which I have not yet read, she published an excerpt in Wired magazine. Mostly the excerpt is a fairly standard description of the first two decades of the modern UFO era, from the Kenneth Arnold sighting to the Air Force efforts to investigate and debunk saucer sightings. I am, however, interested in Scoles’s sociological approach to the question of flying saucers. In the excerpt, she asserts that even without Kenneth Arnold, UFO culture would have emerged anyway:
Many of you may have seen the sensational headline running this week in The Daily Star, a British tabloid whose priorities lean more toward entertaining readers than informing them. The ridiculous headline proudly proclaimed a world exclusive: “Bigfoot is ‘evidence humans were created from ancient alien slave DNA’.” Aside from being yet another example of the supernatural and the pseudohistorical becoming fodder for the pipeline stretching from the lunatic fringe of the internet through British tabloids to Russian propaganda sites and the mainstream media, there is actually a claim about ancient texts and history underlying the seemingly ridiculous excretion from Ancient Aliens’ infamous Bigfoot episode.
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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