So, this week the New Yorker interviewed racist author Erich von Däniken, the elderly ancient astronaut theorist who once wrote that the Black race was a “failure” and who has included transphobic and Islamophobic commentary in his most recent books. Why would one of America’s premiere publications give a platform to a man whose claim to fame was arguing that nonwhite people couldn’t stack rocks without help from rapists from outer space? It’s because a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist seems to have relied on her adolescent memories of ancient astronaut rather than researching current controversies—current being anything after, say, the late 1970s.
War of the Gods: Alien Skulls, Underground Cities, and Fire from the Sky
Erich von Däniken | New Page Books | Sept. 2020 | 214 pages | ISBN: 1632651718 | $17.95
Years go by with the inevitable cycle of the seasons repeating their majestic rounds. After winter, summer. After summer, winter. And with the regularity of the season, so too does Erich von Däniken release a new book, and with the same repetition as the seasons. Each book is the same as all the books before, and each one begins with the ritual of pretending otherwise. War of the Gods, originally published in German 2018 but released in English for the first time this month, starts with a letter in which von Däniken (henceforth EVD) proclaims with great excitement news that he imagines will surprise his readers: “In this book, I present new findings!” Unfortunately, there is an ominous note: “But it is only possible by building on previous experiences.” Each winter brings a different snowstorm but you always know it will snow. So, too, do you know that whatever soupçon of new material appears in War of the Gods will be buried in a blizzard of recycling. He frequently refers to his own books, the books of guests on Ancient Aliens, and to claims made on the Ancient Aliens television show itself, recycling in an endless loop of previous claims tracing back to his own earliest efforts to recycle Morning of the Magicians to his own advantage.
Weekend Omnibus: Younger Dryas Volcano, Elon Musk's Ancient Astronaut Tweet, Steve Quayle's Plagiarism, and More!
Yesterday was an extraordinary day for news of interest to my readers. Let’s take a brief survey of just some of the things that happened.
I’ll put the science first. A new study in Science Advances concludes that the global cooling triggered during the Younger Dryas was not the work of a comet or meteor but was instead brought on by volcanic activity. From the press release announcing the study late yesterday:
I had intended to write a full blog post today, but this week turned into a series of bad news leading to worse. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on my household's employment and finances, and a literal midnight email about mandatory pay cuts and furloughs will only make it worse. I was not in the mood to blog. However, I did feel up to working on the proposal for a new book I have decided to write, based on my recent article about Rebel without a Cause and the three 1947 national panics over communists, gays, and UFOs that turned out to be deeply interconnected.
On Thursday, CNN’s website ran an article on the ancient astronaut theory by Jen Rose Smith. The piece frames questions about the origins of UNESCO World Heritage Sites like the Giza pyramids and the Nazca lines in terms of Erich von Däniken’s version of the ancient astronaut theory. It then devotes most of the article’s space to describing how “mainstream scientists” reject the ancient astronaut hypothesis, with lengthy quotes from archaeologist Sarah Parcak.
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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