This morning, the New York Times ran a puff piece in its business section claiming that 1970s-era spoon-bender Uri Geller has “won” the war against his debunkers by monetizing his fraudulent powers and attaining greater celebrity than his detractors. The story, by business reporter David Segal, praises what Segal describes as Geller’s repudiation of conventional standards of truth, substituting entertainment for evidence and using his postmodern attacks on evidence and reason to generate millions in revenue:
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.
The success of Graham Hancock’s Ancient Apocalypse surprised me greatly. The show reached #2 on Netflix’s viewership rankings in the U.S. and U.K. and was in the top 10 worldwide. Consequently, it has become the most-watched speculative history series in a decade, likely outstripping the viewership for previous ratings titans in the genre, like History’s Curse of Oak Island (3 million at its peak), Ancient Aliens (2 million at its peak), and America Unearthed (1.5 million at its peak) and easily leapfrogging similar series on the Discovery, Travel, and Science channels, which averaged around 600,000 viewers. (Netflix does not release exact viewership figures.) Part of the reason is likely due to Netflix itself. Cable channels narrowcast. Viewership for the History or Science channels is primarily older white men, while Netflix, which has found success with other New Age shows like the Gwyneth Paltrow Goop series, can put Ancient Apocalypse in front of all four quadrants: men and women, young and old. Thus, they can appeal to a wider anti-establishment audience that would not tune in on cable.
This week did not run according to plan. My hot water heater broke down, and my internet service went out for half a day, so I did not manage to produce the blog posts I intended to write this week. But I did manage to get one thing written. In one of the biographies/memoirs about James Dean, there was a passing reference to a stage show that purported to call up James Dean’s ghost. I found a 1957 advertisement for this show, and it is so much weirder and more Gothically bizarre than the brief reference deigned to indicate. Take a look at this:
Read my full article about this oddity in my Substack newsletter.
I am in the middle of rewriting and revising my book manuscript, so I have not been devoting much time to writing my blog. However, I did want to point to two important news stories today. First, someone bombed the Georgia Guidestones this morning, taking out one of the large slabs which bear controversial advice about population reduction and other prescriptions for a future in harmony with the environment. Authorities do not have a suspect or suspects yet, but the destruction comes after then-Georgia gubernatorial candidate Kandiss Taylor called for their destruction at a campaign event earlier this year.
The Discovery+ and Travel Channel two-hour special Vampires in America is one of those pieces of garbage media that reaches such depths of awfulness that it crosses over into unsavory, potentially dangerous territory. According to Discovery, the show is intended as a serious documentary about vampire hunters in Arizona who believe that missing persons and victims of violent crime have actually been seized by a hive of newly awakened vampires who descend from a blood-drinking hominid species that evolved 68,000 years ago before settling in Translyvania. They intend to find and kill the vampires. With a sword.
Uri Geller, the Israeli spoon-bender who convinced contractors for the U.S. government that he had inexplicable psychic powers in the 1970s, announced yesterday that he had discovered the location of the Ark of the Covenant while dowsing on the ground floor of his new museum of himself in Jaffa.
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 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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