It seems that our old friend Giorgio Tsoukalos is on a bit of a media tour, giving a series of interviews to Philippine media about aliens, TV stardom, and, of course, his hair. Tsoukalos was in Manila for HistoryCon 2016, an exhibition staged by the History Channel to promote the network in Asia. In speaking with Philippine media, Tsoukalos repeated many of his greatest hits, with little to add to them beyond his usual self-promotion and recycling of old claims. The most newsworthy thing to come out of the interviews was Tsoukalos’s admission that the show’s production team generates new “mysteries that even I am not familiar with.” In other words, he seemed to say that the producers, far from documenting the existing “views” of ancient astronaut theorists, are actively concocting new claims and feeding them to the talking heads.
Tsoukalos told InterAksyon.com, somewhat ungrammatically, that the show’s production team “goes to libraries around the world and pore over ancient texts and books and say this is something we can talk about and the fact that sometimes there are things that I never heard before just goes to show how many things we can talk about.” Tsoukalos told CNN Philippines that producers develop topics for the show and then submit them to the regular team of talking heads for approval. Tsoukalos, formerly a consulting producer on the show, has been promoted to co-executive producer, while David Childress, Erich von Däniken, William Henry, Jason Martell, David Wilcock, and Jonathan Young are officially credited as consulting producers.
To be fair, Tsoukalos claims that he does at least cursory research before commenting on the “mysteries” the producers churn up, but the bottom line is clear: The production team is the driving force behind Ancient Aliens and are currently the most active force shaping the ancient astronaut theory, which they bend and shape to the needs of television, not even to the laughably low standard of “proof” represented by earlier generations of ancient astronaut theorists.
That explains a lot about why the show is so repetitive, so out there, and so sloppy, but it doesn’t explain why ancient astronaut theorists would agree to go on TV to mouth opinions about topics they admit to have done very little checking into. I’m sure we can all imagine a few reasons. Tsoukalos also said that only he, David Childress, and Erich von Däniken are allowed to make declarative statements about the aliens on the show. Everyone else, including the narrator, must simply ask questions. “That’s what we do,” he said. “We ask questions.”
Tsoukalos’s description of the show’s process is a bit surprising considering that he admitted in the same interview that he does not believe, as Ancient Aliens so often implies, that aliens and the afterlife are intimately connected.
Now, do I think that aliens and the afterlife are sort of the same? Not really. Because the aliens I talk about are flesh and blood human beings like you and me and they at some point, too, will die. The only thing that makes them different from you and me is that they have access to more advanced technology, and perhaps technology with which they can travel from star to star.
A co-executive producer—whose responsibilities are defined by the Producers Guild of America as “primary creative contributors”—who admits to not believing what his own show has tried to persuade the audience to believe off and on for at least the last five years? Oh, right: They’re “just asking questions,” even if they themselves believe the answer is “no.”
There were a few other notable statements. Tsoukalos said, as we have heard him say before, that his love of ancient mysteries began as a small child, when his grandmother read him Ignatius Donnelly’s Atlantis: The Antediluvian World and Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods as bedtime stories. More surprisingly, he claims to know that aliens have “the same questions about God, religion, life after death, all those things.” How might he know this? He didn’t say.
Tsoukalos also said that Ancient Aliens is intended as fringe speculators’ revenge on the skeptics. He said he is happy that skeptics don’t get to have a voice on the show, even for cursory balance. “Well, the last 40 years of you just saying how crazy we were, it’s now our time.”
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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