Alien Metal Update: 2009 Harry Reid Letter Released as To the Stars Launches "Project ADAM" to Study Supposed Extraterrestrial Metals
If you have ever wondered why exposing the lies and the fraud of fringe history matters, just consider the alternative. We learned recently, as I reported this Sunday in my newsletter, that a teacher in the Miami-Dade Public School system posted to the official school district website a lesson plan [UPDATE: since removed from the internet] endorsing Ivan Van Sertima’s claim that the Olmec came from Africa, along with Gavin Menzies’s claim that the Chinese reached America before Columbus, and Islamic claims about a Muslim presence in pre-Columbian Cuba. (That last one was endorsed by Turkish Pres. Erdogan.) The lesson plan asks students to research fringe history claims and then write a persuasive letter to the publisher of their social studies textbooks asking for pseudo-historical ideas to be included. Both Andy White and Carl Feagans wrote about this, and I recommend their posts. The story was first shared on Facebook by Pablo Benavente, whom I thank for calling our attention to this travesty.
One of the most frequent refrains I receive from my critics is that it is inappropriate to discuss the connections between fringe history and broader social and political trends, particularly where they overlap with alt-right and white nationalist politics. Patrick Iber, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, recently dealt with this problem by explaining that history and politics cannot be separated.
Today I thought it might be interesting to profile the ancient city of Akhmim, also known as Chemmis, and Panopolis, mostly on account of the fact that this now-obscure outpost of Egyptian culture has been revealed as the secret source of the collection of Hermetic myths that would give rise to many of the ideas we collectively know today as fringe history. That’s because the stories told at Akhmim about Hermes building great buildings to save knowledge from the Flood transferred over into medieval stories about the scientific wonders of the pyramids of Giza and their supposed antediluvian age, stories that ended up in Victorian pseudoscience and modern fringe history books, like those of Erich von Däniken and Graham Hancock. At least, that’s where I started. I ended up getting side-tracked into a weird, but ultimately quite interesting, discussion of the development of the myth of Hermes Trismegistus from Late Antique syncretism.
The New York Times Runs Major Feature on "Ancient Aliens," Casts Ancient Astronaut Theorists as Friendly, Lovable Rogues Searching for God
The New York Times ran a major feature online on Saturday which will appear in print in the July 22 Sunday print edition covering Alien Con and the Ancient Aliens television show. While the article by Steven Kurutz pays lip service to the problems with the ancient astronaut theory, the overall thrust of the article is a celebration of the community that has formed around the Ancient Aliens television show. This was especially disappointing to me because Kurutz interviewed me at length several weeks ago for the piece, and he had told me that he planned to use my interview in the article to discuss the dark side of the ancient astronaut theory, including its ties to racist ideas and white nationalism, as well as the racist, anti-Semitic, and paranoid statements made by the show’s talking heads, including Erich von Däniken (who called Blacks a “failed” experiment), David Wilcock (who blamed the Jews for trying to kill him), and the late Jim Marrs (who alleged that the Jews and Obama were working together to destroy America).
When I published The Cult of Alien Gods thirteen years ago, expanded from a Skeptic magazine article I had published the year before, I was genuinely surprised that a lot of people, mostly fans of H. P. Lovecraft, were outraged. Several critics found absurd my conclusion that Lovecraft had taken ideas about prehistoric extraterrestrial contact articulated by Theosophy and Charles Fort and transmitted them to the midcentury UFO and ancient astronaut writers. Still others were deeply upset that the book discussed—in 2005, two years before the housing bubble burst—the argument the great historian Jacques Barzun had made that the West had grown decadent and faced a long period of stagnation and decline, something I mentioned because it echoed Lovecraft’s pessimistic view that similar envisioned America in a spiral of corruption and decline.
As most readers know, I have collected what is probably the most voluminous compendium of medieval myths about the pyramids of Egypt available in English. There are a few texts, however, that even I had not yet read and translated. One of them belonged to the Syrian cosmographer al-Dimashqui, who died in 1327. His Cosmography is quite similar to the Akhbar al-zaman, though tending toward the geographical rather than the historical, and with much less interest in Egypt. Nevertheless, it contains an interesting section on the pyramids of Giza that is clearly a derivative of the earlier pyramid stories known from the Akhbar on down.
It’s no secret that I have devoted considerable space to discussing the close connection between the collection of topics loosely grouped as “fringe history” and the alt-right and other extreme right groups. These connections were comprehensively documented by the sociologist Michael Barkun in his book A Culture of Conspiracy (2006, rev. 2013), a volume that made the case that extreme rightists had purposely and purposefully infiltrated ufology and related fringe fields in order to use them as a recruiting tool for extremist ideology. These connections became only more obvious in wake of the rise of Donald Trump, with Trump supporters such as Alex Jones, Jason Reza Jorjani, David Wilcock and others spouting a range of ancient astronaut and anti-government conspiracy theories that circle around white nationalism, anti-Semitism, and extreme conservative politics.
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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