"Contact in the Desert" Happened Again; Plus: Another Celebrity Pledges Allegiance to "Ancient Aliens"
This week on Twitter former television personality Scott Wolter announced that he had recorded interviews for an upcoming Science Channel documentary, but he could not say whether the network planned to use them. If they do make it to air, he would appear on the network sometime in the fall, just about two years after his last television series came to an ignominious end.
Meanwhile, I completely forgot that the annual Contact in the Desert conference was held last weekend in Joshua Tree, California, a change from the past four years, when it was held in July. According to OC Weekly, about 3,000 people attended. However, unlike previous years, the conference didn’t seem to make much news. The cast of Ancient Aliens attended, of course, and the OC Weekly said that Giorgio Tsoukalos set up a booth where he sold t-shirts with pictures of himself on them alongside copies of his Ancient Astronaut Society newsletter, Legendary Times.
The Press-Enterprise carried a photograph of Tsoukalos’s booth, and it gives the lie to any claim that he has any remaining interest in being taken seriously. Between the cartoon pictures of himself and the memes of himself and even pictures of aliens dressed as himself, Tsoukalos has thoroughly embraced his caricature as a cartoon character. On the plus side, the price list appearing in another photo suggests that Tsoukalos isn’t trying to gouge his fans, charging standard market prices for his goods.
The Press-Enterprise was less respectful of Contact in the Desert’s fig leaf of independence from the show Ancient Aliens. They openly described the conference as a gathering of fans of Ancient Aliens, and while it was not formally endorsed by the show’s production company, the description wasn’t wrong, though perhaps incomplete. The conference featured many cast members and talking heads from Ancient Aliens, but also some who have not been part of the show, at least not yet. Among them was Peter Levenda, a late addition to the program who spoke about his recent Sekret Machines book, coauthored with Tom DeLonge.
All of this wouldn’t be so grating if it weren’t for the fact that the audience for Ancient Aliens takes the show so much more seriously than the entertainers, carnival barkers, and wannabe celebrities who make up the ancient astronaut traveling circus. Consider, for example, the latest entry in the ungodly list of celebrities who have embraced Ancient Aliens. The newest celebrity to come out as an ancient astronaut theorist is Jaime Camil of the CW’s Jane the Virgin. He told WBEZ radio in Chicago this week that he wants everyone to watch and embrace the show:
Please watch Ancient Aliens. Oh my dear god, it’s so good! It’s about the theory that we have been visited by aliens. Many times. And how ancient, ancient aliens -- I’m sorry, you asked me, so I’m going for it! It’s a very interesting show that I am completely addicted to.
Is there something about being a celebrity that makes a person open to embracing the most bizarre ideas? Dozens of celebrities have embraced Ancient Aliens, including Katy Perry, Megan Fox, Rob Lowe, and more. And the embrace of odd ideas isn’t limited to just celebrities in the performing arts, where one might attribute it to the prevalence of New Age ideas. Football player Aaron Rogers is an Ancient Aliens super-fan, and the professional basketball has spawned a number of prominent flat-earth believers.
What I find amazing is that celebrities can endorse Ancient Aliens without consequence (except, perhaps, a bit of teasing) even though the ancient astronaut theory lacks evidence and is either racist or misanthropic depending on how generously you read it. But if a celebrity endorses actual science, like, say, environmentalism, he or she becomes an object of ridicule and/or hate, shouted down by the right-wing noise machine and screamed at for being “political.” But being a conspiracy theorist who thinks the U.S. government working with space aliens who are actively trying to destroy humanity to benefit the Democratic Party (as David Wilcock maintains)? Oh, that is just fine. It’s fun.
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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