Today you are getting a shorter blog post since I ran out of writing time yesterday when my scheduled eye doctor appointment ran ridiculously far behind schedule, and I spent three hours there only to be told that my prescription hadn’t changed. It was my first time seeing this doctor, and I was surprised to find that he was a believer in the ancient astronaut theory and that he was delighted to learn that I was familiar with Mu and had appeared in a documentary with Erich von Däniken.
Speaking of him: In a recent interview with Inverse magazines, ancient astronaut theorist Erich von Däniken (henceforth EVD) discussed his strong religious faith and criticized the Ancient Aliens mothership, while offering a disturbing justification for his long-term propaganda effort to spread what he admits to be a faith-based belief in space aliens. For being a brief interview, it packed a lot in.
The lion’s share of the interview was given over to EVD’s well-worn personal mythology of turning from questioning Catholic to alien acolyte due to his adolescent dissection of passages of the Bible that on their surface cast God in a less than omnipotent and beneficent light. “I am a deep believer in God,” he told Inverse. “I’m one of these figures who prays every evening.” This squares with EVD’s public statements from the past half century. He has written a book on the reality of Catholic miracles, and he famously exempted Jesus Christ from the ancient astronaut theory as the only deity or demigod who was not a spaceman in disguise.
In what was perhaps the most disturbing part of the interview, EVD hinted that his efforts were not merely the opportunistic folly of a convicted embezzler who hit upon a profitable line of easy money. He told Inverse that he intended to use his work to slowly alter attitudes and values, shaping the zeitgeist, which he references in English translation as the “spirit of the times”: “I want to change the spirit of time,” he said. “What was unreasonable slowly becomes reasonable.”
That final line is a little chilling, particularly when contrasting this thrusting of unreason into the public discourse with the gradual process of normalization that has seen a wide range of scams, hoaxes, propaganda, false claims, and outright lies raised to equality with facts, evidence, and reason among elites around the world. If it is true that we live in an age of unreason, much of the blame must rest ultimately on the failure of those charged with gatekeeping mainstream discourse to prioritize facts, evidence, and reason over sensation. In the 1960s, publishers, newspaper, and TV networks had the power to include or exclude points of view and to set the agenda for what ideas should be taken seriously. They could have chosen any number of paths. They chose to let the fox into the henhouse and to give the weight of their midcentury institutional authority to anti-scientific ideas. Viewpoints that they chose not to give the same widespread treatment—Afrocentrism, open white supremacy, flat earth beliefs, demonic interference, etc.—remained on the fringes for years or decades, until the burgeoning age of unreason made them contenders for dollars in the attention economy, often driven by the media.
But the headline from the interview is probably EVD’s admission that Ancient Aliens is sometimes a little too bonkers even for him. “I’m not happy with all the conclusions Ancient Aliens makes,” he said. “Always it ends with a question mark or mostly a question mark.” So there you have it: Ancient Aliens has outgrown its father (it was originally based on Chariots of the Gods) and even its cast of ancient astronaut theorists—many of whom, including Giorgio Tsoukalos and David Wilcock have said they disagree with some of its claims—to become a metastasizing cancer that has developed a malevolent sentience independent of its hosts. Ancient Aliens is now an ancient astronaut theorist itself, not just a platform for them; indeed, it is now bigger than all of them, and a more recognizable brand than they are.
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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