History Channel Sends Giorgio Tsoukalos on Latin American Tour as Part of "Ancient Aliens" Promotional Extravaganza
Venezuela is in the midst of a terrible crisis that is consuming every level of its society. Pres. Trump called the country a dictatorship, and the socialist government has come under international criticism for pushing through constitutional changes under a dubious referendum with the goal of consolidating the ruling party’s power for a generation. Meanwhile, ordinary people are starving as food supplies run low. So what does one of the country’s leading newspapers think that the public needs to know about? Giorgio Tsoukalos and space aliens, of course.
Caracas’s El Universal newspaper was formerly one of the opposition’s staunchest defenders, but after a consortium was formed for the express purpose of taking over the paper, El Universal transformed into a stridently pro-government paper, and apparently the Venezuelan government and its media allies feel that entertaining claptrap about space aliens is a good distraction from the catastrophe destroying the country. Either that of the paper went cheap and just decided to recycle other papers’ articles for inexpensive filler. Since Ancient Aliens is inexpensive filler itself, I’m sure that’s the real reason.
“It has been said that Giorgio [Tsoukalos] is ‘a hybrid between Carl Sagan and Indiana Jones,’ and since 1998, he has succeeded in changing the way the world thinks about the ancient astronaut theory,” writes Jesús Matusalén in the paper’s Sunday lifestyle section. (All translations are my own.) Or, rather, Matusalén plagiarized his entire opening paragraph from Tsoukalos’s PowerPoint presentation publicity materials, nearly word for word, right down to the unusual capitalization. The Venezuelan text is on the left in Spanish and English, and Tsoukalos’s is at right:
The piece is mostly a rehash of other Latin American news reports, which also plagiarized the same press materials, apparently from a press release originating with History or Tsoukalos.
The article coincides with a publicity tour keyed to the debut of the new season of Ancient Aliens (dubbed Generación Alien, or Alien Offspring, in Spanish) in Latin America. The new season is billed as the show’s tenth there, because they use the original numbering, before the U.S. History Channel renumbered the episodes to create extra seasons. What is interesting is the hoopla History uses to surround the show internationally, where viewers are treated even more like ignorant dupes than in the United States. Ancient Aliens is apparently a lifestyle brand in Latin America now, and it is fascinating to see the carnival-like, celebratory air that surrounds a new season of the show there.
The History Channel held a massive press event and rally featuring Tsoukalos and a cross-section of Latin American ufologists, including the infamous hoaxer Jaime Maussan. According to press reports from Mexico, hundreds of Ancient Aliens fans packed Mexico City’s BlackBerry Auditorium for the event, and the History Channel provided attendees with free Ancient Aliens merchandise, an exclusive Spanish dubbing of a new season episode, and a chance to win autographed Giorgio Tsoukalos merchandise. Tsoukalos was seen posing with the logo for something called “GiorgioCOMX,” which appears to be a forthcoming line of comic books featuring the cartoonish ufologist. The line has a logo featuring an alien with Tsoukalos’s bouffant hairdo, and it has a hashtag (#GiorgioCOMX), but the name and the hashtag returned no results when I searched for it.
Tsoukalos, who said it was his first time in the Mexican capital, thanked the crowd and received a standing ovation.
While in Mexico, Tsoukalos answered questions from fans. The most telling sentence was probably the one he offered in response to a fan who asked what a typical day is like for him. He said that on days when he isn’t pushing products or promoting himself, “Believe it or not, I live a life of boring leisure.” I checked the Spanish twice, and that’s what he actually said. Must be nice. He went on to discuss cargo cults, which are his current obsession, and how he now wants to interpret most of ancient history as a cargo cult devoted to aliens. I don’t suppose it’s entirely a coincidence that this was also the main idea of Peter Levenda’s and Tom DeLonge’s recent ancient astronaut book Gods, Man and War, which billed itself as a major advanced in ancient astronaut studies, though it was not.
In the interview, Tsoukalos also concedes that Ancient Aliens has drifted from its focus on antiquity to a broader look at modern ufology, but he insists that this is by design, because the show is really about cosmology and the search for human origins, not, as one might think, ancient aliens: “But the truth of the matter is that even people in universities—geneticists, astronomers, biologists—all have the same big question: How did it all begin? […] This is a big question and that’s why we now also explore modern UFO stories. Although it is called Ancient Aliens, it is still interesting. But, the series has definitely expanded the material we research.”
The only other utterance worth reporting concerns a question he was asked about fakery on the internet. Consider his response in light of the fact that Ancient Aliens is full of fake quotes, distorted myths, false claims, and outright hoaxes:
…[U]nfortunately we live in a time when with CGI, computer-generated images, we can create almost everything we want today. And this presents a problem for the theory of ufology, because it presents the question of what is true, especially with all these fake memes that circulate. We have to come out with a type of plan or a distinction that differentiates between real stories and fake stories. This is the challenge of our time.
He’s right, of course. Why rely on CGI to see fake alien images when we already have “ancient astronaut theorists” to simply tell us fake alien stories, for cash, on TV?
A similar promotional History Channel event was held in Sao Paulo, Brazil shortly afterward for Portuguese speakers, for whom the show is called Alienígenas do Passados, or Aliens of the Past. This one was notable because the History Channel’s senior vice president of marketing in Brazil thanked “those who have supported him episode after episode in his evolution as an expert on the subject aliens,” which seems to pretty much admit that Tsoukalos isn’t at all the same person who started on the show eight years ago. He is now a cartoon version of himself, suitable for comics.
While in Brazil, Tsoukalos promoted the “mystery” of the Ingá Stone, a rock located in northeastern Brazil. It is covered in petroglyphs that scholars conventionally date to the eighteenth century, but the identity of the carvers is unknown. Many believe that native groups living in the area carved them. Tsoukalos, of course, is happy to promote them as evidence of aliens, saying (in Portuguese quotation): “To the north of Paraíba, we also have the Ingá Stone, on which are written various symbols that even today archaeologists have no idea what they mean, or even what native culture carved them. If you look at this rock, some of these markings look like the heads of aliens.”
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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