I’ll briefly mention that the Mirror has an article claiming that the first ever UFO sighting occurred in Kingston upon Hull, in Yorkshire, England, in 1801, which is clearly untrue since strange things have been recorded in the sky for thousands of years. Anyway, city historian Mike Covell uncovered newspaper reports from July 1801 describing a large “moon” with a bar across it that divided into five smaller orbs and then seven still smaller and fainter lights before vanishing. It sounds like a textbook case of a meteor breaking up in the Earth’s atmosphere (not to mention a close cousin of other premodern UFO sightings), but Covell, who feels that ancient astronaut claims for earlier sightings are too ambiguous to use as evidence, is pretty sure it must have been an alien spacecraft. “This is real evidence,” Covell said.
My general position has always been that fiction should be exempt from the requirement to stick to facts, and therefore ancient astronaut theories, lost Atlantean civilizations, and anything else that makes for bad science can, by contrast, make for good fiction. Over time, though, I’ve started to wonder whether the permeable barrier between fact and fiction has made it more dangerous to use conspiracy theories and bad science that many in the real world believe to be true as the basis for fictitious stories. It seems that many people have a hard time separating fact from fiction, and fiction serves as a touchstone for how many understand facts. When former Florida governor Jeb Bush responded to a question about whether he would go back in time to kill baby Hitler (“Hell, yeah!”), he reached for “that Michael [J.] Fox movie,” Back to the Future, to explain his understanding of chaos theory and the Butterfly Effect as it applies to time travel.
This is one of those obscure issues that isn’t really important per se, but which speaks to the broader incuriousness and lack of research in the fringe world. This past week I reviewed Jim Vieira’s and Hugh Newman’s Giants on Record, and in so doing I noted that the two authors plagiarized nearly verbatim (one word differed) a 2010 passage from the Princeton University Library on Patagonian giants:
Yesterday was the Thanksgiving holiday, and that means that it’s a relatively quiet day for fringe history. Most of the major fringe historians tend to be Americans or Brits, and both cultures devote this day to an orgy of pre-Christmas discount shopping. I thought it would be a good time to check in on the ratings for the History Channel’s two currently airing fringe history shows, Curse of Oaks Island and Hunting Hitler. Unfortunately, due to the holiday this week’s ratings aren’t being reported until next week, but last week the two shows continued to perform on par with their averages, with Curse coming in at 2.56 million viewers (800,000 of whom are 18-49), and Hitler doing significantly worse, with just 1.66 million viewers (500,000 of whom are 18-49). Those numbers remain stubbornly unchanging, and it seems that 1.7 million is the cap on anything that History airs after Curse of Oak Island.
Review of "Giants on Record" by Jim Vieira and Hugh Newman (Part 4: Psychics, Atlantis, and Earth Energy!)
Choosing Turkey Day to conclude my review of Jim Vieira’s and Hugh Newman’s turkey of a book, Giants on Record, only seems appropriate. These are the authors, after all, who admit to being familiar with my work and yet repeat the same lies about the supposed double-toothed “giant” Benjamin Bucklin that I comprehensively debunked a year ago through the extraordinary measure of reading the original sources rather than secondary retellings. Shocking, I know.
Review of "Giants on Record" by Jim Vieira and Hugh Newman (Part 3: Getting Around to Attacking Me!)
The next set of chapters of Giants on Record by Jim Vieira and Hugh Newman contain proportionally less original text and argument. These chapters primarily exist to loosely frame a collection of excerpts from books, journals, and especially newspapers, with the overarching theme that readers should give credence to the stories through their sheer volume. To illustrate the seriousness with which the authors contemplate ancient legend we need only turn to their statement in chapter 3: “Why such tales, if it was not a folk memory of some sort?” To illustrate the silliness of such a conclusion we need only remember that most folklore also includes dragons, which do not exist, and magical powers, which similarly are unreal. Oh, right: In the same chapter, the authors talk about how legends say the giants had magic powers!
Yesterday I started reviewing the new book from Jim Vieira and Hugh Newman, Giants on Record, and today I’m going to continue the agonizing slog. I will likely surprise none of my regular readers if I offer a couple of spoilers: the book is chock full of bad research and contains several obvious instances of cut-and-paste plagiarism from the internet.
Jim Vieira has made a career out of imagining that old newspaper stories about giants are true, and Hugh Newman has done just as well by attaching his name to other people’s fringe theories, whether it be the ancient astronaut theory on Ancient Aliens or gigantology on Vieira’s History Channel series Search for the Lost Giants. The pair have teamed up for Giants on Record: America’s Hidden History, Secrets in the Mounds and the Smithsonian Files, a book that is nearly identical in form and content to Richard Dewhurst’s Ancient Giants Who Ruled America (with one notable exception discussed later), and it made me wonder who exactly would need more than one collection of similar newspaper reports about giants interspersed with conspiracy theories about the Nephilim and Atlantis.
This week Graham Hancock appeared on The Joe Rogan Experience for a three-hour discussion of fringe history, which is the length of two feature movies. If you made it through the entire three hours in one sitting, you have much more patience than I do. It’s a mind-numbing slog through Hancock’s id, and it was one that came complete with his now-frequent claim that attacks on his work hurt his feelings. “I’m human,” he said, “and it hurts.” Over the course of the three-hour discussion, Hancock discussed attacks on him and how archaeologists are working to discredit him almost a dozen times that I counted—and I skipped over some parts. The pity party overshadowed pretty much everything else in the discussion.
Regular readers of my blog know that I don’t think much of the research prowess of Ivan Petricevic, the proprietor of Ancient Code, an ancient astronaut “news” site. This week Petricevic recycled an old ancient astronaut and UFO claim and in so doing started yet another round of reader excitement over what is almost certainly a lie.
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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