If the national media are too willing to give voice to believers in ghosts, aliens, lost civilizations, and other assorted fantasies, the local media are even worse. Unfortunately, critics like me simply don’t have the ability to monitor the opinion columns of every local newspaper or minor blog in the United States—let alone the rest of the world—and that means some things simply fall through the cracks. This is a problem because surveys show that news consumers are more likely to read local newspapers than national ones and to watch local TV news than national news. Consumers also trust their local news outlets more than other sources; 81% in one 2010 survey, for example, cited local TV news as their single most important news source.
That’s why it’s so disconcerting to see outright lies and ignorant misinformation passed along as fact by the opinion columnist at a local Arizona newspaper.
Writing in the online edition of the Daily Miner of Kingman, Arizona, Butch Meriwether delivered a column on ancient astronauts that I initially took for satire until I realized he was serious. Meriwether began by claiming that he feels a weird presence watching over him and sometimes hears voices in his head. He disclaimed his sanity and proposed that the voices were “advanced beings communicating with me.” He also claims to have seen ghosts and UFOs and to have had premonitions of future events. Meriwether had a near death experience in 2003 where he claimed to have left his body after suffering a heart attack when his boat sank in Lake Mohave near Las Vegas.
Meriwether wrote that he was concerned that hardcore religious believers would accuse him of blasphemy for proposing that God, who may be an alien, used Earth to offload undesirable beings, something like Xenu did with the souls of those who rebelled against him in Scientology:
Maybe God or an extraterrestrial established Earth to be like Australia was when England shipped criminals and riffraff to that large body of land. Possibly God or extraterrestrials believed in the theory "out of sight, out of mind" and decided Earth was a great place to deposit those unwanted beings. It would surely explain a lot of the behavior of people on Earth.
The idea of earth as an alien prison planet is apparently a quite popular one and certainly not unique to Meriwether.
Meriwether asserts that he believes that aliens exist and are watching our planet, rendering a moral judgment on humans for their violence and barbarity, just like God in the run-up to the Flood—not that Meriwether quite sees the parallel, not even when he suggests that the aliens only reveal themselves to the righteous while hiding from the ignorant, violent masses.
But it gets worse. Meriwether clearly cannot differentiate between fact and fantasy, and contrary to what H2 officials and those who support the “entertainment” value of alternative history claim, he thinks that what the TV tells him is true because it was on TV:
Archaeologists have discovered prehistoric petroglyphs throughout the world that they believe are cave drawing depictions of ancient aliens visiting Earth and of spacecraft. I guess non-believers and skeptics can't say the petroglyphs are modern-day graffiti by someone who had nothing better to do, since many of them where [sic] found in caves inhabited by ancient people.
He’s taking Ancient Aliens as real and ancient astronaut “theorists” like David Childress and Giorgio Tsoukalos as archaeologists! As a point of fact, archaeologists as a group do not believe any petroglyphs depict aliens, nor do the specific archaeologists who study individual petroglyphs make such claims. Those claims were made by non-specialists, including Soviet propagandists, French New Age socialists, Swiss hoteliers, and cable television personalities.
Meriwether then suggests that the government is covering up UFOs and ancient aliens because government officials are secretly space aliens. I sincerely hope he is joking when he suggests this is the real reason no one has seen Pres. Obama’s birth certificate. (Point of fact: This birth certificate was released years ago. Arizona, however, has played a prominent role in questioning its authenticity and promoting birth certificate conspiracies.)
But Meriwether’s positions aren’t so clear-cut—obviously, he’s not opposed to illegal extraterrestrial immigration! His column is a bizarre mixture of conservative religious revival (pondering whether aliens are really angels) and liberal social panic (aliens are concerned humans are too violent and earth’s resources are being depleted). He is apparently convinced we as humans are servants to the gods, or aliens, or angels, or whatever, and need to overcome our “arrogance”—which means what? Traditionally that was the conservative, religious argument against science, to prevent mad scientists from “playing God.” Is this an old religious argument dressed up in a space suit? If so, it’s of a piece with Ancient Aliens, which similarly has tried to find new reasons to believe in an old-fashioned world where humans are childlike creatures cared for and protected by invisible beings in the sky.
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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