In case you didn’t see it, Graham Hancock appeared on Russell Brand’s podcast this past week to promote Ancient Apocalypse and to attack archaeologists yet again for being mean to him by asking for evidence for his claims. Hancock looks tired and angry during the interview, and even Brand notes that he seems unduly dejected and downtrodden for a man with one of the world’s most popular streaming nonfiction series.
During the interview Brand complains, not wholly incorrectly, that without Hancock only “elites” have access to archaeology. That’s true, but not because the public needs Atlantis to be interested but because the mainstream media only patronize sensational claims and Hancock’s hated “academics” have retreated into a bubble created by universities’ publish-or-perish mentality, hyper-specialization, and academic publishers exploitative pricing that essentially disincentivizes public engagement. Popularizers certainly have a role to play, but not one that should involve making things up.
Throughout the half-hour podcast Hancock appears grumpy and sad and says he needs “a cuddle” after attacks from critics. Again, Hancock complains about “schools,” “academia,” and “the education system,” and it’s very clear that he is remembering his own school days since he describes the teaching of a “linear” model of “progress” from caveman to computer than hasn’t been taught since the 1960s. (At root, he’s describing the old Victorian model of progress from “savagery” to “barbarism” to “civilization,” long recognized as flawed.)
Hancock alleges that archaeologists have immense “power” and “despise” the public. This is related to his claim that they serve as guardians of an official past and talk down to anyone who challenges some agreed-upon “narrative,” presumably enshrined in a catechism in the Smithsonian to which every archaeologist must swear an oath of allegiance before picking up a trowel.
Hancock, for the first time I recall, announces that there is “a huge amount of evidence for reincarnation,” and then he becomes very upset that “mainstream scientists attack my work” by citing his claims about Atlantean psychic telekinesis in America Before, which he says shouldn’t count against him because they take up but one page. That’s an odd way of looking at one’s own work. Hancock bitterly resents critics noting his drug use, but he only discusses ayahuasca in this context. He purposely claims not to have taken “cocaine” in order to elide his own admission that he was a heavy user of marijuana and that the drug had made him paranoid and impacted his work. Those were his words, and now he carefully talks around them.
He finished the podcast by claiming that modern civilization is “doomed” and that a self-induced apocalypse is coming due to partisan rancor and capitalist destruction of planetary resources. In short, he walks right up to the edge of admitting that it doesn’t matter whether his story about a lost civilization is factually true because it serves as a mythic warning about contemporary society, one that he sees “elites”—meaning those who currently operate the control mechanisms of modern life—trying to suppress to keep the wheels of capitalism turning. Again, it’s an odd choice for someone who became a jet-setting multimillionaire from the media, one of the most successful capitalist enterprises of the past century.
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.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities, and subscribe to Culture & Curiosities, my Substack newsletter.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.