As many readers already know, actress Roseanne Barr became an internet laughingstock recently when she praised Donald Trump for his heroic role in an imaginary effort to free thousands of children from a Democrat-run pedophilia network. This bizarre counterfactual belief is part of the so-called QAnon conspiracy, an internet-driven conspiracy theory which holds that Trump and Special Counsel Robert Muller are working together to take down Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who are the masterminds of a global child abuse network and terrorism syndicate. Barr removed her tweets referencing QAnon but did not apologize for her belief in the conspiracy.
In a recent examination of the QAnon conspiracy, The Outline highlighted a popular set of rules that believers have been using to try to spread belief in a heroic Donald Trump among mainstream audiences, whom they deride as “normies.” In these rules, take a look at what believers are asked to avoid discussing for fear of turning off audiences:
Avoid: 1) Aliens, 2) "Energy" fields, 3) Hollow earth, 4) Metaphysics, 5) Religions pantheons, 6) Moloch / Satan / Saturn, 7) Chemtrails, 8) Crop circles, 9) Detoxing / Cleansing Pineal Gland, 10) Chakras, 11) Reptiloids because normies will take one look at any of those and dismiss you as a nutcase.
The unstated assumption, of course, is that QAnon believers also believe in aliens, demons, and Reptilians and that such monsters are part and parcel of the conspiratorial world view, and are the deepest level of the conspiracy. It reminds me a bit of the way Scientology lures new members with semi-scientific gibberish about e-meters and self-help only to introduce ancient space aliens much later, after the members have committed to the cult.
Meanwhile, I feel like I should say something about the recent Earth Ancients interview with Frank Joseph, the former head of the American Nazi party and a convicted child rapist. Joseph is a rare guest on fringe radio, mostly because of his sordid past, and here host Cliff Dunning whitewashes Joseph by praising him effusively without mentioning his Nazi affiliation or his disturbing history. Joseph made this rare foray into fringe radio to promote his new book, which I reviewed a few months ago.
In the interview, Joseph endorses the controversial claim that evidence for human occupation of America had been discovered in California dating back 100,000 years, and true to his racist heart he differentiates between these presumed people and “the first Asians” to reach America, the ancestors of the Native Americans. As is quite clear, he sees the first Americans as a lost race unrelated to the Native Americans. This is a colonial-era claim invented in the 1700s to justify dispossessing Native peoples. He lingers from time to time on Native Americans’ bloodlust and human sacrifices, another common trope from the colonial era.
Joseph pauses several times to complain about “mainstream archaeologists” and “academics” and all of the usual bugaboos of fringe history, even as he says things that academics could prove demonstrably false. He alleges, for example, that ancient people “didn’t regard the oceans as formidable barriers. I think they regarded the oceans of the world as great highways.” And yet in ancient literature, the ocean appears as a frightening barrier whose limits were unknown. Consider, as representative, al-Mas’udi’s medieval summary of ancient Mediterranean views of the ocean: “it is impracticable to navigate beyond the Mediterranean into that sea (the ocean), for no vessel sails on it: there is no cultivation nor a human being, and the sea has no limits neither in its depths nor extent, for its end is unknown” (Meadows of Gold 12, trans. Aloys Sprenger). Expeditions into the ocean were so rare that they were celebrated and written up as monumental adventures.
Joseph’s claims are less outrageous than those of his competitors, but consequently less interesting. Joseph rejects Egyptology as anti-scientific and argues that Egyptologists are “adamantine” in their dogmatic insistence that the pyramids are tombs and tombs alone, a fact that Joseph wrongly believes to be fake. Joseph insists that the pyramid is 600 years older than modern estimates of its age. It’s not world-shaking and not terribly exciting. Otherwise, his arguments are mostly matters of interpretation. He claims, for example, that the discovery of Roman coins primarily in the eastern parts of America where white people had settlements indicates true Roman contact in ancient times. But a simpler explanation is that they are coins from private collections that have been lost in modern times in areas where Europeans settled. He also complains about the “textbooks” and the old professors and repeats what is apparently a current fringe talking point that the young will overturn old paradigms by believing in hyper-diffusionism. He offers effusive praise for Robert Schoch, and he praises decades worth of fringe claims on basically every hyper-diffusionist topic, waiving away criticisms and critiques of such chestnuts as the so-called “cocaine mummies” of Egypt by declaring every claim as having been established beyond doubt.
Later, Joseph rejects the argument that hyper-diffusionism is racist because he claims that Native Americans admit in their oral traditions that superior Celtic people came to America and wowed the Natives with their sophisticated technology, remembered in myth as white sorcerers. He attributes that mounds and earthworks of the United States to the Celts, repeating at great length Mound Builder myths and claims that were fabricated in the 1700s and 1800s. “We can say with a great deal of certainty that the first Mound Builders, whom archaeologists refer to as the Adena, were Celts. They were Celtic refugees from Europe.” And yet these Celtic Europeans left behind no trace of their material culture, no European artifacts, nothing. The warrant for this claim? Joseph can’t believe that the Native Americans could have piled dirt in great heaps without white people to show them how. It’s even worse when Joseph describes the Celts as “semi-civilized” and “barbarians” compared to Greece and Rome, meaning that he sees a hierarchy whereby the Celts were whiter and better than Natives but not as good as a better grade of European. He repeats the same problematic racism in discussing the Maya, whom he said achieved “cultural greatness” only through a gift of the Egyptians. Without the Egyptians, Joseph said, the Maya would never have had a magnificent culture. Naturally, Joseph denies that the Maya lived in the early centuries CE; instead, he wishes to re-date them to around 3000 BCE.
Joseph finishes be asserting that archaeologists can’t see the big picture because they are too concerned with individual artifacts. Instead, he feels that the truth can only be seen by stepping back to look at the “big picture” without concern for specifics and details. He repeats his claim that his views are not racist by arguing that Native Americans were “strong enough” to “absorb” European influence while “holding on to the integrity of the culture.” He added that “For people to assault us for extra-archaeological criticism, you know, is really unfair. It’s really ungenerous.”
The stunning lack of insight in a few successive sentences dumbfounds me. For Joseph, the big picture is good, but not if it reveals the racist consequences of evidence-free speculation; insulting scholars as dogmatic conspirators is fair, but identifying fringe believers’ racism is “unfair.” Maybe the Nazi shouldn’t be the one trying to claim that it is illegitimate to point out the white nationalist and racist rhetoric behind hyper-diffusionist claims.
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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