As we saw last week, Pirate Treasure of the Knights Templar is a really crappy show, one that doesn’t make much sense unless you come into it believing in crazy conspiracy theories about how Knights Templar somehow carried on secretly after the destruction of their order, preserving heaps of treasure for 400 years, until they lost it when their fleet of pirate ships sank in Madagascar. These world-historical actors somehow were powerful enough to defy the Catholic Church and the secular kings, to hide in plain sight, to master the seas, but not to dredge their priceless booty from where it sank in apparently shallow waters, not when it first sank and not anytime thereafter, despite being the global masterminds behind all world history. You’d think one of them would have bought some scuba gear in the last half century or so.
Word came down at the end of this week that Stellar Productions had signed a deal to turn Stanton Friedman’s and Kathleen Marden’s 2007 book on the Betty and Barney Hill abduction into a credulous movie examining whether the aliens were interested in them for being an interracial couple in the Cold War era. “The film will examine the birth of modern UFO lore, and place the events in a context of both Cold War paranoia and the country’s struggle over race relations,” Deadline reported. Presumably this involves a cash payment to Friedman. I will hereby make an offer to any film producers looking to make a competing movie to undercut Friedman’s rates by 10% for an option on my article on the real story behind the Betty and Barney Hill abduction. You won’t get a better rate on a Hill abduction piece this season!
Sadly, there is nothing half so interesting on Ancient Aliens, which is covering “Circles in the Sky” this week. Yes, crop circles, those flattened areas of cereal grains that almost everyone except for ufologists recognizes are hoaxes created by people using ropes and planks.
Last night during Donald Trump’s town hall meeting in Rochester, New Hampshire, a man shouted a question to the candidate that encapsulated much of the prevailing nativist sentiment driving the Trump bubble, a native sentiment we frequently find expressed in fringe history claims as well: “We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims. We know our current president is one. You know he’s not even an American.” Here Trump seemed to agree. “We have training camps growing when they want to kill us. My question: When can we get rid of them?” Although Trump’s handlers later walked back the candidate’s agreement with the questioner, saying only that Trump wanted to eliminate terrorist training camps, not all American Muslims, the comments were merely a blunter version of the same anti-Islamic sentiment Glenn Beck is currently promoting in his newest book, It Is About Islam: Exposing the Truth About Isis, Al Qaeda, Iran, and the Caliphate. We saw this notion that Muslims are somehow alien last week on Pirate Treasures of the Knights Templar, where Muslims were indirectly equated with being non-Western and non-American.
Yesterday I discussed the strange case of Miquel Pérez-Sánchez, a Spanish writer who earned a Ph.D. in goofball pyramid mysticism by studying Egyptology in the architecture department of his university rather than as history or archaeology. This reminded me of Sam Osmanagich, the man who believes that some natural hills in Bosnia are actually 30,000-year-old pyramids. He, too, holds a Ph.D., and his came from the University of Sarajevo, where he studied the history of civilizations. Under the guidance of sociologist Prof. Dr. Hidajet Repovac (to use the European titling system), Osmanagich successfully earned a Ph.D. by writing a dissertation claiming that “quartz head skull technology” (i.e. the crystal skulls that actually date to the modern era) “proves” that the Maya predate all known American civilizations, including the Olmec. “There is no scientific precedence that could serve as an example of this pioneering research and analyses,” he wrote. He also denied that Postclassic Maya were in fact Mayans, and he denies any connection between modern Mayans and their ancient ancestors.
Spanish Man Earns PhD for Fringe Pyramid Claims, Tells Scientific Council Pyramid Honors Noah's Flood
There is a website called Jews News that publishes a lot of click-bait crap that straddles the line between real news and outright fiction. So, when I read today on Jews News that a researcher alleges that the Great Pyramid was once topped with a large golden sphere, I was skeptical that the article had any basis in fact. I was stunned to discover that not only is there really a researcher claiming this, but that it’s apparently a widely discussed idea about the pyramids in Spanish-language fringe literature.
On Pirate Treasure of the Knights Templar newly minted “Knights Templar historian” Scott Wolter described what he asserted were the initiation rites of the Knights Templar, which involved arches and keystones and were quite clearly a description derived from the initiation into the Masonic Knights Templar, a modern organization that is as much a continuation of the medieval order as Civil War reenactors are a continuation of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. (I think, from my limited knowledge of Masonic initiation, that he was actually describing a Royal Arch Mason initiation, or something similar.) There is nothing to do with arches and keystones in medieval initiation to knighthood—laboring was the antithesis of chivalry—but it did make me a bit curious about what we know of Templar initiations. In researching it, I learned why fringe theorists don’t direct us to the primary sources on this issue.
During the last new episode of Ancient Aliens on September 4, I noted that Flonase, a product of GlaxoSmithKline, apparently paid extra to be a “proud” featured sponsor of the show. It was the first time I had seen a “proud” featured sponsor on the series, so I thought I would ask GSK why they chose to endorse the ancient astronaut theory. I contacted GSK’s press department, and I asked them if they were aware of the positions advocated by the show and its stars, from their anti-science views to their seeming advocacy of Satan worship. GSK officials determined that I did not qualify as a journalist in their eyes, and therefore they referred my inquiry to their customer care team, which did not seem to understand that I am not a GSK customer. Anyway, this is how they explained (or rather, failed to explain) their ad placement:
The Curse of Oak Island is technically the name of a TV show, but it is also a description of the albatross the History Channel has hung around its own neck. After that reality series about two brothers’ obsessive search for a fictitious treasure on the titular island garnered record ratings, officials at History misread this as the audience embracing bonkers historical conspiracies when instead they were reacting to the brothers’ personalities, however much they failed to affect me. In short, Oak Island was secretly closer to American Pickers than Ancient Aliens. But due to its misreading, History and its dying spinoff H2 tried to duplicate the success of Oak Island with a slate of zany pseudohistorical reality shows that doubled down on the crazy and failed to replicate the character-based storytelling that audiences apparently embraced. Thus, we ended up with Search for the Lost Giants, Legend of the Superstition Mountains, Missing in Alaska, and now Pirate Treasure of the Knights Templar. The first three were, to judge by ratings and press coverage, failures. The last is being burned off in double-run episodes on the least-watched night of History’s week. In other words, they seemingly have set it up to fail.
Tonight is the premiere of Pirate Treasure of the Knights Templar, the new show starring Barry Clifford and Scott Wolter modeled on the Curse of Oak Island, itself home to various Templar conspiracy theories. History is burning off the series UNESCO condemned for media-driven bad research, double-running episodes on Saturday nights. Believe it or not, I am not available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so I won’t be able to review the show immediately after it airs. Two hours is a little much to take, even if I were. My plan is to try to watch the show tomorrow, and I hope to have a review posted tomorrow afternoon. It will depend on how long it takes me to make it through them.
Yesterday I posted my massive, 10,000-word review of Graham Hancock’s new book Magicians of the Gods. I wanted to pick up on something that I thought was a bit interesting in Hancock’s posturing because a blog post linked through the Daily Grail today about pseudoscience and pseudo-criticism echoed the same point. That point, namely, is Hancock’s anger at mainstream scholars for not agreeing with him, and abstracting from that a conspiracy to suppress the truth.
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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