This year wasn’t quite as bad as 2021, so I can’t be too upset at a year that, if nothing else, did not get appreciably worse. On the other hand, nothing really improved either. Between inflation and further work cuts in my failing industry, it’s been hard. When a prominent astrologer said this year would be the best of my life, I wasn’t sure whether that was a promise or a threat. It’s a good thing astrology is bunk, or else I would be painfully depressed to think this was the best things will ever get.
In a more general sense, this was a year devoted mostly to UFOs, which dominated the paranoid paranormal discourse for the first ten months, until Atlantis made a late run for the crown.
Here, then, is the year that was, edited and condensed from my blog posts and newsletter.
Given my particular interest in conspiracy theories and the supernatural, I naturally have been fascinated by the various conspiracy theories that swirled around James Dean, who is the subject of the book I have been writing. One of these conspiracies alleged that Warner Bros. intentionally fabricated an urban legend that Dean had not died in the Sept. 1955 crash that killed him but instead lived on disfigured in some secret sanitarium. For nearly seven decades, writers have shrugged and passed it off as another tabloid craze. The claim of Dean’s continued life is, of course, false, and likely originated as a spontaneously generated bit teenager mythology, but it turns out there is a compelling story about how and why the media got hold of these rumors.
Read the full story of the publicity campaign that fed conspiracy and supernatural legends in my Substack newsletter.
Note: This piece is cross-posted in my Substack newsletter.
This weekend, Fox News commentator and UFO aficionado Tucker Carlson posted previews for the new season of his Fox Nation streaming service documentary series Tucker Carlson Originals. This season’s episodes designed to appear to the prejudices and preferences of old white conservative men whose last new idea occurred to them in 1979 include one on why trans people regret changing their gender, one on the crisis of UFOs attacking and mutilating our cattle, and the one that received the most ridicule: “The End of Men,” a documentary alleging that male testosterone levels have declined steadily for decades, and men will cease to be masculine in our lifetimes unless conservatism restores their virility.
Fox Nation host Lara Logan told a right-wing podcast this week that the Rothschild banking family paid Charles Darwin to develop the theory of evolution as part of an international conspiracy of world domination involving the British government. Speaking on the And We Know podcast, the onetime international correspondent for CBS News, who left the network in 2018 to promote conservative conspiracy theories, first for Sinclair Broadcasting and then for Fox News’ streaming service, implied that that the Jews controlled not just international banking but also 10 Downing Street and used evolution as a tool to break Christian resistance to their global control.
Beam Me Up: The Year in Review 2021
Writing my annual year in review article used to be amusing, if not actually fun, because there was at least some entertainment value in seeing the wild claims and fantastical speculations that passed for history and science. But each year has been a little darker than the one before, and the job is less an exercise in tut-tutting foolishness than it is a depressing reminder that wealthy and powerful people are pushing conspiracies whose real-life consequences are no longer hypothetical but manifest every day in ways large and small, from the halls of Congress to hospital ICUs.
I gave an interview to Salon about vaccine conspiracies, UFOs, and the deep history behind modern conspiracy culture. Be sure to check it out on Salon's website.
After a 15-month investigation, a New Jersey man has been charged with one count of criminal mischief in the vandalism attack on America's Stonehenge that left the New Hampshire colonial cold cellars wrongly believed to be an ancient Old World monument defaced with QAnon slogans. Mark Russo, 50, is currently is in jail in New Jersey waiting for extradition to New Hampshire to face trial.
A couple of weeks ago, Huang Heqing, a professor in the department of art and archaeology at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China made ridiculous claims about ancient history at a conference. Huang, who teaches art history, holds a doctoral degree from the University of Paris but nonetheless is convinced that all the achievements of ancient Western cultures were fabricated in the nineteenth century.
Sen. Lindsey Graham warned this week that calling the so-called QAnon Shaman, Jake Angeli (a.k.a. Jacob Chansley), to testify in Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial would be a circus, while last night CNN aired footage from tonight’s QAnon conspiracy special of anchor Anderson Cooper interviewing a former QAnon believer about the extreme delusions that he accepted as true while in the mouth of madness. Just as Angeli posted YouTube videos detailing his belief that he was a psychic space warrior working for a secret U.S. military program to destroy alien spaceships from another dimension, his fellow QAnon believers have some pretty strange—but very familiar—ideas.
Before we begin, be sure to read this recent academic essay exploring the History Channel as a vector for conspiracy theories and masculinity panic. I’m cited in it, and, well, we all know that this mix of conspiracy culture, toxic masculinity, etc. feeds directly in to the conspiracy culture we are seeing all around us, notably among the Capitol Hill insurrectionists, whose demographics are a close mirror of the History Channel’s own target audience.
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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