I’ve related more than once that my efforts to get the History channel and its H2 spinoff to comment on the distortions, illogic, and rampant fakery on their programs have often come to naught. It is not exactly heartening to know that I am not alone. Business Insider tried to get comment from History on Ancient Aliens and its ilk, and they were rebuffed. (Discovery refused comment on its fake shark documentaries, too.) It’s hard to blame them; who would want to talk about the fact that their programming is overflowing with scientifically and historically insupportable half-truths and lies? Or that so much of their output is recycled material sent through yet another round of fringe history follies?
Tristan (he goes by one name online) produces the new Anarchaeologist podcast and holds a degree in archaeology, though he is not a professional archaeologist. He believes that archaeology needs to engage with the wider public in order to remain useful and relevant, and he is particularly interested in how the public perceives archaeology and how archaeology as a field presents itself to the public. After producing a podcast on archaeology in new media, Tristan decided to take a look at what happens when the public tries to find information about archaeology on YouTube. It shouldn’t surprise anyone what he found using the keyword “archaeology,” but it was nevertheless amusing that Tristan was taken completely by surprise by the overwhelming number of videos advocating the existence of a conspiracy to suppress the truth about Bible giants.
Today I have an interesting piece of history to share. Much of the following information comes from Dove Menkes’s 2007 article “Giants and Dinosaurs in the Grand Canyon” in The Journal of Arizona History. Ken Feder directed my attention to this article after he and I discussed on Monday Greg Little’s attempt to rehabilitate the 1909 Grand Canyon “lost civilization” hoax.
You will recall that many of the researchers into the “giants” like Little have decided that ancient giants must have been between 6 foot 6 inches and 9 feet tall. However, the Victorian sources used to support claims of such giants do not discriminate quite so clearly. Below you’ll find an October 2, 1896 Los Angeles Times article written by Samuel Hubbard, the nephew of the first president of the National Geographic Society, a banker, corporate director, and later a director of the Oakland Museum. Hubbard had returned from the Grand Canyon in 1895 to report that he had discovered the remains of a 20-foot-tall human giant. Hubbard’s article, reproduced below from the August 15, 1901 edition of Christian Knowledge, was widely reprinted in newspapers across the country from 1896 to 1903, with most reprints occurring between 1900 and 1901, largely without the editors’ understanding that the piece was already five years old.
It’s the moment we’ve been waiting for, seemingly for weeks. Last night The Unexplained Files “Lost Giants of Georgia; Bridge of Death” went in search of giants in the Republic of Georgia with Bruce Fenton, the fringe figure who does not want to be referred to as an expert in giants but does admit to being a psychic tempunaut in contact with ancient aliens. As always, I am skipping the half of the show devoted to the supernatural, in this case a haunted Scottish bridge that allegedly drives dogs to suicide, to focus on the ancient mysteries portion of the program.
Disclosure: I filmed a segment this week for Codes & Conspiracies, which airs on American Heroes Channel, a corporate cousin of Science Channel.
Scott Wolter has a very unusual way of trying to make controversies go away. He chooses to devote one of his rare blog posts to complaining about my January 2013 blog post questioning whether Wolter had received an honorary master’s degree. Apparently this issue has either stuck in his craw or has created problems for Wolter since he has chosen to deliver yet another statement about the issue, this time in a forum which he controls. He threatens me with potential legal action and asserts that I am creating a false myth about his honesty.
This is all your getting for a blog entry today because I am spending the day shooting an interview for the American Heroes Channel’s Codes and Conspiracies for an upcoming episode covering the history of the ancient astronaut theory. I am scheduled to appear alongside archaeologist Ken Feder, who is here in Albany shooting his segment today as well, and ancient astronaut theorist Erich von Däniken, who shot his segment previously.
Codes and Conspiracies is produced by Flight 33 Productions, the studio behind History’s Big History and The Universe, as well as lesser fare like NatGeo’s Rocket City Rednecks.
This episode of Codes and Conspiracies is produced by Arthur Maturo, who formerly worked on Ancient Aliens for Prometheus Entertainment and produced the Codes and Conspiracies episode on U.S. government UFO cover-ups. It is written and directed by James Goldin, the Big History writer who wrote two episodes of Ancient Aliens in 2011.
Dr. Greg Little has released yet another article attacking me for his own version of what he thinks I said. Little, who has attempted to debunk my analysis of the development of the ancient astronaut theory as well as the alleged Smithsonian conspiracy to suppress the existence of giants, has now attacked me for concluding that the 1909 Arizona Gazette article asserting the existence of a Tibetan-Egyptian civilization beneath the Grand Canyon is not true. Little claims that in his newest article he will refute me by (a) demonstrating that the article is based on facts and (b) showing that I am wrong about David Childress’s role in developing the idea that the Smithsonian was involved in a conspiracy.
As far as H2 is concerned, one of the great benefits of In Search of Aliens is that the series already feels like a rerun even when the episodes are new. Combining the format of America Unearthed with the content and personalities of Ancient Aliens preserves a clear sense of familiarity even while pretending to offer “new” explorations of the unknown. This episode of In Search of Aliens, S01E07 “The Mystery of Puma Punku,” is particularly egregious in this regard. It shares an almost identical title to Ancient Aliens S04E06 “The Mysteries of Puma Punku,” and uses content that Ancient Aliens has been recycling since including it as a lengthy segment of the 2009 pilot episode, skillfully deconstructed in Chris White’s Ancient Aliens Debunked.
But this time we get unintentional endorsements of Nazi archaeology and completely intentional endorsements of creationist geology, which is... an improvement?
Like many of you, I read with dismay BuzzFeed’s article about allegations that Skeptic magazine founder Michael Shermer raped skeptic Alison Smith in 2008 after plying her with alcohol at a party during The Amaz!ng Meeting (TAM) in Las Vegas. Shermer released a statement denying the allegations but admitting to having had consensual sex with Smith. He points out that there is no evidence for the accusations and that the accuser continued to correspond with him happily years after the event. Other women speaking to BuzzFeed reported unwelcome sexual advances from Shermer, including an incident where he was allegedly “playing with his crotch” while hitting on a young woman at an atheist event. Shermer denies this as well, noting that the allegation of several minutes of indecent display in the midst of a crowded event is hard to credit.
Because I have criticized fringe authors for their involvement with former American Nazi party president and convicted pedophile Frank Collins (in his Frank Joseph publishing persona), it would be hypocritical of me not to take note of these very serious allegations since Michael Shermer has published many of my articles, including my very first, “Charioteer of the Gods.”
I have never met Michael Shermer in person, nor have I exchanged more than a few lines of email with him over the years. All of my Skeptic magazine articles were published before allegations against Shermer became public knowledge, and certainly before I became aware of them today. Apparently PZ Myers wrote a piece about the allegations last year, but this came after my last Skeptic appearance and was not known to me.
If the allegations are true, it is truly disturbing. For the time being, I don’t see myself returning to the pages of Skeptic until this sorts itself out. Also: These skeptic and atheist conferences sound like absolutely awful bacchanals. I am glad I have never been to one.
Infamous Memoirist James Frey Pens New Ancient Astronaut Novel for Teens Inspired by "Ancient Aliens"
Before we begin with our regular discussion of ancient astronauts, I have brief notice about the ongoing debate over H. P. Lovecraft’s racism and the World Fantasy Award. Last night Salon’s Laura Miller published a bland summary of the issue. There isn’t anything new here, but it’s good to see Miller point out S. T. Joshi’s remarkably puerile behavior (“a remarkable combination of the pompous and the grotesquely arch”) and myopic illogic. I’m not sure, though, that I agree with her assertion that Lovecraftian prose is enjoyable due to its “camp appeal” and “silliness.” I suppose there is an argument to be made there, along the lines of the excesses of the Gran Guignol, but unless you’re the Evil Dead, I’m not sure I’d be praising a horror story for being “silly.”
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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