Last night on The Curse of Oak Island, the program name-checked “forensic geologist Scott Wolter” as one of “a growing number” of “scholars” who allege that the “so-called ‘hooked X’” is a Templar symbol. The team examined a piece of sandstone with an X with a “hook” intentionally scratched into it. Anyone, of course, could have created it at any time. Naturally, this excited the show about Templars again because the producers decided that Templars are the main through-line of the season. It’s still a show about digging holes, and I still find it painfully boring. I will be interested, though, to see whether Wolter’s outrage from last week about having his pet fantasy coopted continues now that the producers have paid him obeisance. In a tweet this morning, Wolter claimed that an X had been scratched atop a natural formation, with the “hook” being natural. “NOT Templar IMHO,” Wolter tweeted.
New York Times Founder Admitted Stories of Monsters, Ancient Artifacts, Unearthed Treasure Were Lies
When I mentioned the silly story of the flat-earthers who believe that the Japanese preserved an ancient Chinese map of the flat earth, including the Americas, I blamed the newspaper for perpetuating a hoax. I compared it to similar hoaxes, like the 1885 “lost city” hoax, the 1909 Grand Canyon hoax, and the 1912 Atlantis hoax. But this inspired me to take more of a look at just how widespread hoaxing was prior to World War II, when modern professional standards began to take hold.
Yesterday, the Xplrr Media, LLC crew of Scott Wolter and J. Hutton Pulitzer delivered another hour-long podcast criticizing The Curse of Oak Island. They spent the time complaining about the show for many of the same sins found on Scott Wolter’s own America Unearthed, particularly stretching out investigations rather than getting to the point, over-dramatizing minor events, etc. They reiterated their claims that the show is “unwatchable” and that the production is doing damage to archaeological sites. Pulitzer returned to his favorite insult, referring again to people who live in their mother’s basements, this time to say that their personalities predispose them to liking pink Volkswagen Beetles. However, since the two men made no news except to restate the story of Zena Halpern’s allegedly ancient Templar map and say that it (and other copies of copies of alleged documents) came from a shady figure Wolter won’t name (via a military operative who served in Vietnam!), there is really nothing to discuss here. I’ll just mention that Wolter can’t remember his own America Unearthed episodes, so Pulitzer tells listeners to Google “America Unearthed plus New Ross plus Templars.” If you do that, most users will be directed to my review of America Unearthed as the top result. Oops!
After a long week of a heavy subjects, I thought that something lighter might be in order for Sunday. Today, let’s take a look at an article that’s been making the rounds of Flat Earth believers. Even ancient astronaut theorist Klaus Dona weighed in. It comes to us from the January 11, 1907 edition of the Hawaiian Gazette and alleges to be a map of the world made in Japan more than 1,000 years ago. But as critical readers will notice, the story has more than a few hints of the Zeno Map and Zena Halpern map stories. As with those maps, this one is also a redrawn modern copy of an allegedly ancient map unseen by anyone. Like the Zeno Map, the original was also allegedly rotten with age, explained by a mysterious ancient letter unseen by anyone else, and it also serves to glorify the geographic areas connected to its “discoverer.” In this case a Japanese resident of Hawaii found a map in Japan that was ignorant of Madagascar, Greenland, and Polynesia but somehow managed to include Hawaii front and center!
A week after J. Hutton Pulitzer announced on Facebook that he would not be commenting on the fourth season of Curse of Oak Island, he and business partner Scott Wolter delivered an hour-long podcast analyzing the fourth season of Oak Island. Pulitzer announced in the podcast that he has “retracted” his earlier Facebook posting. Wolter dismissed Curse, which held steady this week with 2.66 million viewers, as a “silly show,” while Pulitzer alleged that Curse of Oak Island’s production company, Prometheus Entertainment, is intentionally incorporating material originally presented on Scott Wolter’s America Unearthed, a show produced by a rival company, Committee Films. During the podcast, Wolter said that he told Prometheus Entertainment not to discuss his so-called “Hooked X®” because he had trademarked the phrase.
There is an article on Ancient Origins and discussed at the Daily Grail that alleges that a bowl on display at the Aswan Museum on Elephantine depicts the constellation Orion surrounded by Canis Major, Canis Minor, and Lepus. The bowl, which Italian mystery-monger Adriano Forgione identified as pre-dynastic, depicts a Nubian hunter drawing a bow and shooting at a cheetah while two dogs chase a hare beneath and behind him. According to Forgione, the scene bears a striking resemblance to the constellations.
Maybe I’ve watched too many quasi-historical documentaries. Maybe fringe history and its more mainstream spinoffs are just extremely limited in imagination. Or maybe the handful of people who are responsible for producing these shows assume the audience doesn’t know or care about more than a small number of the same tired old topics. Whatever it was, this was the week of the instant rerun, which is to say, a show that was freshly shot but contains material so stale you’ve already seen a nearly identical version of the show before it ever aired.
I guess there is a theme to my blog posts this week. Over on Live Science there is an interesting article on the cultural debate that arose after the BBC aired a documentary alleging that the terra cotta warriors unearthed near the tomb of China’s first emperor were the work of a Greek artisan, or produced under the influence of Greek sculpture. One of the archaeologists involved, Li Xiuzhen immediately backtracked in the face of criticism, distancing herself from art historian Luckas Nickel, who made the claim that the sculptures were directly created by Greek artisans or by Chinese workers under a Greek supervisor. Li alleged that the BBC had misrepresented her and made her out to be a believer in the Greek origin of Chinese sculpture. “The terracotta warriors may be inspired by Western culture, but were uniquely made by the Chinese,” she said. Other Chinese scholars were even more dismissive, with the official in charge of the emperor’s tomb, Zhang Weixing, bluntly stating that there was no evidence for contact with Greece at all.
White Nationalist Richard Spencer Uses Diffusionist Fringe History in Speech Praising Trump, White America
Cast your mind back to that far-off distant year of 2009, when conservative thinkers were outraged that an elementary school teacher in Chicago led her students in a chant praising Barack Obama. Fox News pundits decried what they alleged was an incipient communist cult of personality, and Sean Hannity devoted several segments of his various programs to red-face outrage. Then-GOP chairman Michael Steele said at the time “Friend, this is the type of propaganda you would see in Stalin’s Russia or Kim Jong Il’s North Korea. I never thought the day would come when I’d see it here in America.” Yesterday white nationalists held a meeting in Washington, giving fascist salutes and shouting “Hail Trump!”, led by the man that Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, through his Breitbart website, hailed as a great “intellectual” of compelling brilliance. You get no points for guessing that Fox News downplayed the event, or that Ann Coulter dismissed it as merely thirty people in a room, or that Sean Hannity devoted his time instead to praising torture and begging Vice President-Elect Mike Pence to use the power of his office to silence criticism.
Every time I mention politics on my blog, I receive howls of protest that it’s inappropriate to talk about how bad ideas about history relate to current events, as though history doesn’t inform how we live today. At the same time, no one seems to complain when the purveyors of these bad ideas about history use the platforms their popularity affords them to advocate for political positions. We have seen, for example, Jim Marrs use the popularity of his ancient astronaut and anti-government conspiracy theories to advocate for rightwing political positions, alongside transparently ridiculous anti-Obama propaganda, such as his claim that Obama was conspiring liberal elites to commit mass genocide against conservative Americans. We have similarly seen Steve Quayle use his quack claims about Nephilim and the coming reign of Satan to openly accuse Democratic politicians of being in league with Lucifer and of being actual demons. (This is ironic because last week Steve Bannon, the chief strategist for the candidate Quayle supported, Donald Trump, cited Satan as a role model.) But it’s not just that; specific claims about history serve to underline and underscore the way we think about current events, as when pro-Trump political action committee spokesman Carl Higbie cited Japanese internment as precedent for creating a national religious registry for Muslims.
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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