If you can believe it, this is my 3,000th blog post. What better way to mark this milestone than with an episode of a cable TV pseudohistory show featuring ancient astronauts, lost civilizations, Nephilim, the occult, and glowing descriptions of Nazis? It’s everything we have criticized and debunked over the past ten years in capsule form.
After two weeks of near record-low timeslot ratings for Rob Riggle: Global Investigator, the Discovery Channel pulled the show from its desirable Sunday timeslot and benched it until next month. The show will return on Thursday nights in April to burn off the remainder of its season. The misbegotten series wasn’t funny enough for comedy fans, and it offered nothing new to fans of fake history, putting it in the uncomfortable position of alienating two audiences at the same time.
Mysteries of the Tayos Caves: Lost Civilizations Where the Andes Meet the Amazon
Alex Chionetti | Bear & Company | Dec. 2019 | 272 pages | ISBN: 9781591433569 | $20
Publishers don’t share all of their new books with me, so I don’t always get to read all of the books that might be relevant to this blog before they are published. Ever since Andrew Collins complained that I gave one of his books a negative review prior to publication, Inner Traditions, one of the biggest purveyors of pseudohistory and New Age claptrap in the publishing industry, has stopped making available for review their books on themes related to archaeology and ancient history prior to publication, presumably to stop me from reviewing them. Therefore, I had to wait to read a new book published last month by Bear & Company, a division of Inner Traditions. The book is called Mysteries of the Tayos Caves by Alex Chionetti, and it deserves notice for two reasons: First, because of who Chionetti is and second, because of who endorsed his book. The actual content of the book is nothing you haven’t seen before on Ancient Aliens and Expedition Unknown, and for good reason, as we shall see.
The Year in Review: 2019 in Pseudohistory, Space Aliens, and Conspiracy Theories
Perhaps more than any year in recent memory, 2019 was the year in which fringe history stopped being fringe and went completely mainstream. This year, we saw pseudohistory and conspiracy theories top the literary bestseller lists, multiply across cable channels like mushrooms on a rotten log, and attract record crowds to traveling carnivals masquerading as pseudohistory “fan” conventions. It perfectly captures the tenor of the times for the post-truth era that the very notions of fact and fiction ceased to have meaning. This was a long, hard year, both for the world and also for me personally. After dealing with family health problems, buying and selling a house (and still not being able to close on selling the old one until early 2020, nearly half a year after the sale), writing two books, and a knot of lawyers for many different developments, I am ready for this unpleasant year to end. Let’s look back in anger:
In this month's edition of The SAA Archaeological Record, a publication of the Society for American Archaeology, there is a special section organized by John Hoopes in which a number of authors, including several friends of this blog and me, have pieces examining aspects of Graham Hancock's America Before, pseudoarchaeology, and popular understandings of the past. My piece focuses on racism and the Mound Builder myth, in anticipation of my forthcoming book on the subject. The special edition can be read for free in its entirety here, and my piece also appears on my website by permission of the SAA. In lieu of a lengthy post today, please enjoy my article.
Originally, I planned to spend today’s blog post discussing Tom DeLonge’s recent interview in the British music magazine NME, in which he claimed to have secret knowledge that he has adjudged too dangerous for public consumption: “Believe it or not, we have very long conversations about what we’re going to talk about publicly, not because we don’t have the facts – but because people aren’t ready for the facts,” he said. This seems transparently false. If an aging rock star whose sum total of knowledge of UFOs, ancient history, and the occult is derived, by his own admission, from reading old paperback ufology books has experienced “the facts” and emerged unscathed, surely we mere mortals can hear whatever it is DeLonge thinks he knows (but probably doesn’t). I also thought it worth mentioning that Luis Elizondo, who two Pentagon spokespeople have denied served as the head of the Pentagon’s UFO tracking program, declined to provide evidence that he did head it when asked. “I don’t want to make anyone look foolish,” he said. Sure, that’s the reason.
If you are a subscriber to Science magazine, you may have seen Lizzie Wade’s article “Believe in Atlantis? These Archaeologists Want to Win You Back to Science,” which ran online on Tuesday and will appear in the print version of the journal. The article features a number of archaeologists that regular readers of this blog will be familiar with and (I hope) fans of, as well as a few comments from me, too. In lieu of a blog post today, I urge to you give Wade’s article a read. In it, she discusses the continued popularity of pseudoarchaeology and its dominance in popular culture. It covers the racism of pseudoarchaeology and its connections to nineteenth century colonialism and imperialism.
On Wednesday, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee sent the Lucas Brothers to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to examine why the Alt-Right is obsessed with Greco-Roman statues. The brothers and their team of experts concluded that the white marble of the statues has falsely created a culture of white supremacy around the sculptures which the Alt-Right is exploiting for political gain. This is stupid, and as much as I like Samantha Bee and her show, this segment was flawed, predicated on the facile conflation of the color white with the social construction of Whiteness.
Instead of writing a lengthy blog post today, I’d like to recommend that you read “Hunting Dinosaurs in Central Africa,” an excellent article in Contingent Magazine by Edward Guimont discussing the close connection between pseudohistory, cryptozoology, and colonialism in Central Africa from early colonial era down to the present. Guimont discusses how Europeans attempted to assert control over Africa by rewriting its history through a Biblical lens but also through appropriating control over its animals. As Guimont explains, such seemingly disparate phenomena as hunting for King Solomon’s mines, looking for dinosaurs in the Congo, and displaying African wildlife in European capitals were actually part of a single colonial enterprise to delegitimize African cultures and knowledge and assert European dominance. To this end, the entire language of “discovery” and “exploration” inherently referred to European penetration of lands viewed as inherently wild and primitive, whose inferior peoples were ignorant and whose presence and knowledge were unacknowledged and unvalued.
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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