Who says that watching cable crap is a waste of time? According to an article in the Sarasota, Florida Herald Tribune, my coverage of the premiere episode of Hangar 1: The UFO Files last year helped prompt a showdown between MUFON and the History Channel when my discussion of fabricated documents producers created for the program without disclosing they were fakes had MUFON executives scrambling to save their credibility—or at least that’s the implication of an article discussing a feud between MUFON and Robert Hastings, who cited me in discussing the show’s missteps. The newspaper says that MUFON’s executive director, Jan Harzan, told them that “as a result of season one’s accuracy problems, he told History he needed a MUFON review board to preview each episode to minimize mistakes.” Harzan added, though, that the program isn’t meant for people who value accuracy. “If you’re a stickler for details like Robert is, then it’s just not going to work for you.”
Bad television tends to reveal more about the zeitgeist that quality TV, if only because its effort to appeal to a mass audience rather than a niche one necessitates reflecting popular attitudes and values. That’s one reason that Ancient Aliens is fascinating to think about, if only for what it tells us about popular attitudes toward faith and science. On the other hand, I was rather dumbfounded by some of the underlying assumptions animating the shambling CBS adaptation of Stephen King’s Under the Dome, now in its third season.
Yesterday I discussed the newest evidence for a comet impact around 10,800 BCE, which in turn triggered the Younger Dryas Boundary event, the start of a period of profound global cooling and the last Ice Age. I related this to Graham Hancock’s recent advocacy of this event as part of his lost civilization hypothesis (he posted about it this week), and I thought it was worth expanding on this a bit to take a look at Hancock’s promotional materials for his newest book, Magicians of the Gods, which is due to be published in Britain in September and the United States in November. The description clarifies that Hancock has found a way to mesh together many of his previous ideas to try to hide their contradictions behind a new, scientific veneer.
A little more than a week from now Jon Stewart will broadcast his last Daily Show, and the media are eulogizing his tenure on the program the way they would a departing head of state. Amid all of the rhapsodizing about the comedian, it’s easy to forget that his show rarely attracted more than 1.3 million viewers, and a typical episode was closer to 1.1 million. What made the show so influential wasn’t the number of viewers but who they were, largely young adults and media and political insiders who liked watching a show about themselves. Almost half of viewers have a college degree, and most of the rest are in pursuit of one. The average Daily Show viewer is well off, with more than 40% earning more than $75,000 per year. The show’s combination of demographically desirable youths and upper class elites helped it punch above its weight. I mention this because Ancient Aliens attracted 1.392 million viewers last Friday, of which 300 thousand were in the adults 18-49. The difference is that Ancient Aliens has the wrong kind of viewers: older, poorer, less educated, and non-elite, indeed even anti-elite. In real terms, though, Ancient Aliens has a broader reach across a wider range of people than the more homogenous Daily Show audience. It’s sad, but true.
This week Periklis Deligiannis, a Greek civil engineer and writer on historical themes, posted a two part article to his blog (here and here) in which he attempted to analyze the myth of Jason and the Argonauts, and in so doing borrowed one of the graphics from my Argonauts book’s webpage. Deligiannis, who has written several books on Greco-Roman history, concludes that the myth of the Argonauts represents a pre-Mycenaean social order and that it records a trade voyage launched from Iolkos in Greece to Colchis on the Black Sea coast, and that this particular mission remained in Greek memory because the rising power of Troy soon cut off the trade route, prompting the Trojan War. The trouble is that he’s wrong for a number of reasons.
An anonymous former employee of Sinclair Broadcast Group told Hopes and Fears that he (I assume it is a male) hid Illuminati and Masonic symbolism in graphics packages meant for the conglomerates more than sixty local television stations out of a combination of boredom and disagreement with the company’s right wing politics.
On Friday’s episode of Ancient Aliens, the ancient astronaut theorists inadvertently brought up an interesting issue, and one that they, typical for them, failed to consider in any detailed way. The ancient astronaut theorists became momentarily interested in the question of pre-Adamite races and whether the Biblical account of creation tells the entire story. This question is interesting, but not for what it says about aliens. Spoiler alert: It’s tied to Victorian-era racism.
Ancient Aliens has been on for eight seasons over five calendar years, plus the original pilot episode from the year before the show’s launch. That’s a long time for any TV show, and an exceptionally long time for a show that is still recycling material that first aired in its 2009 pilot episode. (See: This episode.) At a certain point, though, you’d have to think that any ancient astronaut theorist or TV producer with a conscience would come to realize that the show’s greatest influence is reflecting and ratifying delusions by giving them the illusion of authoritative endorsement.
Regular readers will remember that back in May adventurer Barry Clifford, 70, announced that he had discovered the wreck of pirate Capt. Kidd’s Adventure Galley in the territorial waters of Madagascar and presented a large chunk of what he claimed was Kidd’s silver as proof. Now a new report from UNESCO conclusively demonstrates that Clifford’s claims are false. UNESCO investigators determined that the “silver” was actually a chunk of lead from some long-ago ballast, and no evidence of a shipwreck appeared at all. The remains identified as a ship are in fact broken parts of the old port. Clifford, they said, provided no evidence that anything he found was related to Kidd, or even from the same time period. This, however, is not the interesting part.
Too often I tend to criticize Nick Redfern for all the things he gets wrong, but today I’d like to praise him for an article in Mysterious Universe that offers a thoughtful, though incomplete and probably incorrect, analysis of how popular culture influences claims about extraterrestrials. You will recall that one of my articles looked at the ways that particular episodes of the Outer Limits and the Twilight Zone exactly paralleled the claims Barney Hill made about his alien abductors under hypnosis a few days after those episodes aired. Redfern suggests that something similar happened with the Men in Black phenomenon. I give him credit for trying, though I think he went beyond the evidence in citing a specific source from what was probably a more generalized influence.
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.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter, The Skeptical Xenoarchaeologist, for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities, and subscribe to Culture & Curiosities, my Substack newsletter.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.