Australia's History Channel Marks Australia Day with "Ancient Aliens" Claims about Space Aliens and Egyptians Colonizing Down Under
Australians celebrate Australia Day each January 26, a public holiday that is the rough equivalent of America’s Fourth of July, except that it celebrates the arrival of British sovereignty rather than the loss of it. But the patriotic celebration is not universally beloved Down Under, and thousands turned out last week to protest what opponents call Invasion Day, due to the observance marking the arrival of British colonists and their takeover of Indigenous Australian territory in what is now New South Wales. Supporters believe that the day is an important tool in fostering and celebrating Australian unity, while opponents see it as, basically, a White Pride party. “There are only two events where we can be guaranteed to see white people wearing [Australian] flag capes—on Australia Day and at neo-Nazi rallies,” wrote Luke Pearson, the founder of Indigenous X, a website raising awareness of Indigenous Australian issues.
The controversy has grown markedly in recent years, buoyed by the fact that Australia Day has only been observed nationwide since 1935 and has only been a national public holiday since 1994.
So how did Australia’s History Channel choose to deal with this sensitive and complex cultural topic, one deeply rooted in history, culture, and identity?
Don’t be stupid. They showed several Ancient Aliens reruns claiming that Indigenous Australians received their culture from superior space gods or ancient Old World cultures.
Australia’s History Channel is owned by Foxtel, a joint venture of News Corp. and Telstra, and it uses the on-air identity and some of the programming of A+E Networks’ History Channel under license from A+E.
News Corp. may own the History Channel over there, but that didn’t stop News Corp.’s Australian news service from publishing a lengthy and outraged attack on News Corps.’ Ancient Aliens exploitation of Indigenous Australian history. Let it never be said that Rupert Murdoch doesn’t know how to make money off both sides of any controversy.
Jamie Seidel wrote about the many factually inaccurate claims that appeared in the episodes, which included 2016’s S11E07 “The Wisdom Keepers,” the particular focus of Seidel’s ire. Since I have covered that episode myself, I will spare you the debunking of the fake Egyptian hieroglyphs carved around 1970 and the analysis of why Indigenous art doesn’t show space aliens to focus instead on what Australian experts had to say about the claims that Australia had been colonized by Third Dynasty Egyptians:
Professor Boyo Ockinga from Macquarie University’s Ancient History Department in Sydney, told the ABC in 2017: “I’d be the first person who’d welcome some sort of link that because it would make my subject relevant to Australian history. It’d be wonderful … but I’m afraid it’s just not possible.
But wait! There’s more. After a long debunking of the 150-year-history of attributing colonization of Australia to ancient Egyptians (which is worth reading if you have the time), we get a few more reflections from members of the academy:
Dr Gorman says she is dismayed at how so much airtime is given to such Euro-centric flights of fancy.
Gojak’s final thoughts are certainly true, and archaeologists and historians need to be able to show that real history is more interesting and exciting than Ancient Aliens—a poorly produced, badly written, and aggressively uncreative money-trap of a program. It can’t be that hard! But the greater weight must fall on the media, which has created a market for fake history and then another market for aggrieved parties to criticize the racist, xenophobic, and irrational claims. News Corp. is a perfect example, taking in cash from airing Ancient Aliens and racking up clicks from news coverage of the outrage it generated through its own actions. As long as the media collect money from exploiting ignorance, prejudice, and outrage, and as long as academics and journalists alike blame the ancient astronaut theorists rather than the production companies, TV networks, and corporations that give fringe voices a megaphone, nothing is actually going to change.
When Fox News, the corporate cousin of News Corp. Australia, repackaged the story for American readers yesterday afternoon, they created a sensational new headline: “Did ancient aliens and exploring Egyptians visit Australia 50,000 years ago?” They also filed the story in their dedicated UFO section.
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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