Last year the ancient astronaut community held a get-together called “Contact in the Desert,” and apparently the event was enough of a success that a second edition is in the works. The organizers of the event sent out an email press release last night announcing the upcoming lineup for the gathering, which is set to take place from August 8 to August 11, 2014. I think you’ll notice that there is an interesting emphasis in the opening lines.
JOSHUA TREE, CA - This August star experts featured on the top-rated History Channel shows Ancient Aliens and Hangar 1 along with an array of respected scientists and researchers from around the world will convene in Joshua Tree for the 2nd annual CONTACT in the DESERT, a 4-day conference exploring mounting earthly evidence of intelligent extraterrestrial origin.
Yes, indeed, ancient astronaut believers place their advocates’ affiliation with the History Channel (technically H2) as the single most important fact, coming first in their promotional materials. “Oh,” you might say, “they just put it first because of the sentence structure.” Maybe. But then how do you explain the headline attached to the release?
History Channel star experts to decend (sic) on Joshua Tree for conference exploring earthly evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence
The History Channel’s H2 network is also a financial supporter of the Paradigm Symposium, a competing fringe history gathering featuring many of the same speakers. It was at that gathering last year that Scott Wolter publicly proclaimed his belief that Oreo cookies contain secret messages from the Knights Templar about the real history of Jesus. H2, as far as I know, has no financial involvement with Contact in the Desert.
But what is more disturbing is that Contact in the Desert bills itself as scientific when it is anything but. In fact, the conference purposely dissociates itself from “tinfoil hat” conspiracy theorists through its appeal to the History Channel and to science:
In stark contrast to UFO conventions famous for attracting fanatics in foil hats, CONTACT in the DESERT offers four full days of science-centered lectures, workshops, intensives and fieldwork that explore ancient astronauts, extraterrestrial life, human origins, crop circles, UFO sightings and contact experiences.
So what science-centered lectures are attendees going to experience?
According to the conference’s website, they will hear from Erich von Däniken, who will assert that the sarcophagi of the Apis bulls contained cross-species genetic hybrids, based on a mistranslation on his part that I exposed and debunked years ago. Giorgio Tsoukalos, misidentified as the “host” of Ancient Aliens, will present his famous PowerPoint presentation on ancient astronauts. Jim Marrs will assert that the U.S. government invaded Iraq in 2003 in order seize control of Anunnaki sites and artifacts, including “50,000 artifacts and tablets” missing from Iraqi museums. He will also assert that “certain individuals” (read: Jews) control world finance, that these financiers killed Lincoln and Kennedy to stop them from freeing America from this financial system, and that fluoridated water is a conspiracy to keep Americans docile. You know, science!
But it gets worse. Linda Moulton Howe will tell attendees that Göbekli Tepe, the world’s oldest temple, and most world pyramids are “self-activated machines” designed to terraform the Earth for “non-human intelligences.” Since such structures contain no moving parts, this must occur through vague appeals to “energy.” John Anthony West will tell audiences how academics have bombarded him with “abuse” for proposing an older date for the Sphinx (decades ago!), and he will announce an unnamed “smoking gun” that leaves the very idea of “Progress disintegrating before our eyes.” West continues to rail against Victorian anthropological theories of linear progress that were obsolete before the moon landing. There will also be an “intuitive astrologist [and] global alchemist” on hand to make predictions, thus proving that progress has always been a lie.
South African fringe writer Michael Tellinger, who works to validate the work of Zecharia Sitchin, accidentally exposed the underlying panic and paranoia behind fringe history. According to the website, he plans to talk to attendees about how to create a cultural revitalization movement based on appealing to alien secrets, one that is suspiciously similar to communism:
Only by understanding our mysterious past, the origins of money and the rise of the royal bloodlines, can we make sense of where we are heading today. Why life is so hard and why we have to struggle so much to stay alive. Tellinger presents a model for a new social structure called CONTRIBUTIONISM – A World Without Money – based on the African philosophy of UBUNTU and proposes how we should move from a money-driven society to a society driven by people, their talents and their passion for life. Where everyone contributes their natural talents or acquired skills to the greatest benefit of all in their community – and money has no meaning.
You know that Tellinger means what he says because he offers this lecture for only $39.95 per ticket, proving that money has no meaning for him and he’s all about sharing the wealth. Remember, folks, money has no meaning, so give it all to Tellinger!
Tellinger’s version of Ubuntu differs from that of other South Africans. While it is a communitarian belief system, Nelson Mandela noted that “Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves.” Note carefully how Tellinger’s ideas, wrapped in an appeal to African wisdom, are actually old-style Marxism-Leninism, with a dose of Victorian propaganda about the secret bloodlines that control finance. The last quoted line is a clear paraphrase of Louis Blanc’s famous phrase—popularized by Marx—“From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”
Tellinger now runs a political party in South Africa dedicated to pushing his beliefs. He calls it the Ubuntu Party. There is so much to unpack here about a white man appropriating black African beliefs in service of a post-colonial ideology with Marxist overtones... Let me be clear: A Zecharia Sitchin super-fan started a political party to promote the idea that all humans are born as slaves to a shadowy international financial system because of gold-hungry aliens who secretly run the world.
The sub-theme at this year’s Contact in the Desert seems to be anger at bankers and an inability to come to terms with the idea that actual humans are responsible for the political choices that led to income inequality and the modern financial system. Therefore, they project into the sky a nefarious cabal of all-powerful conspirators, for this is the only way to make sense of the otherwise terrifying notion that the problems of the modern economy are the fault of voters, lobbyists, bureaucrats, and officials who made bad decisions and refuse to institute reforms. Better to wait for the aliens to come back and explain what went wrong.
It’s interesting how at this conference the ancient astronaut theory isn’t really “about” aliens; indeed, their existence is seemingly taken for granted. Instead, the speakers are interested in what the aliens have to say about modern political and social issues—income inequality, political corruption, the environment, spiritual development, etc. It’s funny how far this is from the ancient astronaut theory of the 1960s and 1970s, which was preoccupied with rocketry, atom bombs, secret scientific knowledge, sexuality, and questions of whether the aliens supported socialism—the political and social questions of that era. In fact, the only theme the two really have in common is paranoia about alleged government conspiracies, which probably reflects that fact that the people of the 1970s and today share a disillusionment with politics.
But you don’t need to take my word for it. Conference co-producer Victoria Jennings said as much in the press release. She’s quoted thus: “Our governments and the corporations that control them may not be willing to tell the full truth yet, but their former employees and officials are.” Again: Not just political paranoia, but also a deep distrust of businesses manifesting as accusations of alien involvement. A different age might have channeled such feelings into efforts aimed at reforming the system rather than all but literally praying to higher powers to take mercy on us.
Conference co-producer Paul Andrews offered a more traditional summation of ancient astronautics, but in the press release even his quote is tainted with a vaguely apocalyptic tone:
Our ancestors passed on oral traditions and stone carvings to make sure that their experiences with 'people from the sky' would be remembered forever. No one alive today can tell you how we could make, or even move, many ancient megalithic structures with modern technology. So, how did our ancestors do it? We must find answers to these and myriad other mysteries if we are to discover the missing chapters in early human history and be around to write the rest.
I’m not sure what part of any of this is “scientific,” but I’ll give them this: It certainly is ready for prime time on the History Channel.
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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