My website and my email address are my name, so I’ve always wondered how people can confuse me for the stars of the History Channel. I’ve had people mistake me for Giorgio Tsoukalos and Scott Wolter, but today was a first: I received my first email mistaking me for Jim Vieira! The confused letter-writer asked Jim to look into a particular “giant” report from her hometown that she remembered from Coast to Coast AM years ago because she’s infuriated that the government is “burying” the truth about a case she could find no more information about. She thanked Vieira for his TV show and concluded: “I appreciate the work you are doing. It must be great to do something you love.”
Sadly, that was much more pleasant that the rest of the past 24 hours. After posting my review of Paul Roland’s Curious Case of H. P. Lovecraft, I received a sternly worded note from the publisher of the book, Plexus, which I am now ethically bound to disclose, in which the company expressed its displeasure that I “felt” I had to acknowledge our prior correspondence in my review. The company feels that I misrepresented our email exchange and requested that I remove the final four paragraphs of my review or modify them to acknowledge that Plexus at no time attempted to influence my review. (I did not think I had implied that they did.) They also felt it was unfair of me to describe the message Paul Roland sent to me via the publisher as “unsolicited contact” because Roland did not directly communicate with me but sent the message through a third party. I explained to Plexus that they did nothing wrong, but that in America it is conventional for reviewers to avoid contact of any kind with the authors they review before their reviews are published. (For example, I wrote and submitted my review of Scott Sigler’s Ancestor prior to interviewing him about the book so that there would be no potential influence, even though the two pieces ran side by side.) However, due to Britain’s notorious libel laws, there isn’t a lot I can do, so I have reluctantly added a disclaimer to the review clarifying that Plexus did not behave unethically.
So, while I am pissing people off, I might as well go all in: Yesterday I had a telephone audition with Left/Right Productions for a television program on ancient ingenuity that a casting director for the production company had contacted me about earlier in the week. According to the production company, H2 is looking for a new flagship series with a dynamic host who can become the “face” of the network. The production company wants to provide them with that face. (I guess that means that Scott Wolter and Giorgio Tsoukalos will see their stars dim.) It was the shortest audition I’ve ever had. The audition lasted a total of 3 minutes. Needless to say, I will not be getting the job.
The casting associate I spoke with told me that the production company is planning to pitch a new series to the H2 network with the concept of looking at ancient achievements in engineering, science, etc. in order to explore and discover how they were done. I’m sure you can already see two reasons that this would not result in a TV program for me, even before the casting associate suggested that aliens and Atlantis might be an explanation for ancient genius on their show, “where relevant.”
My first question was to ask how their proposed program differs from Ancient Impossible, which already airs on H2, but hails from a different production company. According to the casting associate, she had no idea and wasn’t familiar with Ancient Impossible. I also asked the casting associate if the production company had done any research on me at all, such as reading anything on my website. No, they had not, and the flattering email about how much they enjoyed my work wasn’t based on actually reviewing any large amount of my work. Neither she personally nor the production team were aware that I review H2 shows, that I am critical of them, or that A+E Networks threatened to sue me last year on behalf of H2 star Scott Wolter’s alleged intellectual property. Obviously, I’m not hiding any of this, and I felt it was important to disclose the information before spending hours or weeks waiting for them to discover it.
The moment I mentioned my past interaction with A+E Networks, the casting associate’s tone changed, and she hustled me off the phone in less than 30 seconds without even the cursory “we’ll be in touch.” But just to avoid lawsuits: She acted professionally the entire time and way pleasant on the phone.
It’s one of the ironies of my position that the only reason I am getting inquiries from television shows is because I write reviews of current fringe history programs, the most popular feature on my website and the engine that drives traffic to me. At the same time, being critical of corporate products also disqualifies me from producing other products for those same corporations. This creates a perverse incentive to lie for cash in order to get in the good graces of amoral corporations that honestly could not care whether their documentaries are good or true so long as they make money. And the programs that make money do so because of the choices these same corporations make about what to show and how to market it. In other words, their patronage of crazy ideas creates a mutually reinforcing network of crazy ideas that in turn generates larger audiences for those ideas from people who see the ideas on TV and come to accept them, at least until fatigue sets in and the merry-go-round stops, as it largely has for ghost-themed shows.
My talent apparently is for killing TV shows and segments. I’m the Ted McGinley of fringe TV. After talking with me, Destination America decided not to go ahead with their archaeology documentary series. After the Science Channel talked with me about a documentary on the alleged Smithsonian conspiracy to cover up giants, they seem to have dropped that segment. I’ve also had segments involving me killed on National Geographic, History, History Canada, ITV, and the BBC. Now it looks like the “ancient ingenuity” series will be undergoing some retooling to make it different from Ancient Impossible.
Finally, there is this: If H2 really is looking to find a new face for their network, then Scott Wolter better make good use of all the government-funded goodies he’s currently getting. For a man who claims that the United States government, as well as parts of the Minnesota government, are actively trying to destroy his career, he isn’t shy about using government-funded forums. According to an article from KEYC-TV, the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, paid for by Minnesota tax dollars to promote “high-quality arts experiences,” paid the Blue Earth County Library System to bring Scott Wolter to the Verizon Wireless Center in Mankato last night to give a talk about his fringe theories and promote his television show. Hilariously, the article (attributed to anchor Mitch Keegan but taken verbatim from a notice on the county website, which is not accessible as of this writing but visible on page 8 of this newsletter) describes Wolter as a “world renowned forensic geologist” and the inventor of “a new science called archaeopetrography.”
The justification for Wolter’s visit was that he is prima facie credible because he’s on TV. Didn’t Blue Earth County get the memo that there’s a conspiracy to suppress the truth?
So, what I’ve learned over the past day is simple: To succeed, I need to lie through my teeth, embrace hypocrisy, withhold as much information as I can get away with to make myself look good, offer praise to our corporate masters, accuse everyone of conspiring against me, and treat the audience like children who can’t be trusted with all the facts. It’s a guaranteed path to success!
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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