Today I’d like to call your attention to a change I’ve made to my website and my branding to help keep up with the evolving fringe history field. On my homepage, you’ll see that I’ve replaced the old moniker “skeptical xenoarchaeologist” with a new one, “historical researcher & skeptic.” I’d like to explain the reason for the change.
When I first put together my branding for this website back in 2010, it was the height of the ancient astronaut craze spawned by Ancient Aliens, and the leading fringe figures were posing as experts in aliens and archaeology. Therefore, it made sense to adopt the title of “skeptical xenoarchaeologist” that the apparently now-abandoned Space Archaeology Wiki had bestowed on me. I thought it was funny, and since xenoarchaeology isn’t a real thing (due to the lack of any known alien archaeological remains), I figured that it was as appropriate a made-up title as any that ancient astronaut theorists bestow on themselves, such as William Henry’s claim to be an “investigative mythologist.”
Well, as it turned out, I did not correctly judge how literally visitors to my website would take the title. I guess I should have known since a shocking number of visitors don’t realize that a website with my name on it belongs to me and not to Scott Wolter, Jim Vieira, Giorgio Tsoukalos, Erich von Däniken, David Childress, and others for whom I am mistaken distressingly often. Even trained journalists did not understand that I am a skeptic or what the word “xenoarchaeology” means, despite it being defined on my homepage and a separate page. The brand did its job in the Ancient Aliens era, but it’s now a bit too specialized for the new world of fringe history.
So, anyway, I noticed that recently fringe figures have been moving away from monikers that ape science and seem to be adopting titles related to history instead. J. Hutton Pulitzer rebranded himself at the end of last year from “Treasure Force Commander” to “historian,” as Andy White so hilariously documented this weekend. The History Channel also tried to rebrand America Unearthed host Scott Wolter from “forensic geologist” to “Knights Templar historian.” David Wilcock now calls himself a “researcher of ancient civilizations,” while Jason Martell has rebranded himself for 2016 as “one of the leading researchers and lecturers specializing in ancient civilization technologies.” Graham Hancock now calls himself an “unconventional thinker … about humanity’s past,” which I guess is better than claiming to have done fact-based research. Simon and Schuster label Alan Butler a “researcher, and recognized expert in ancient cosmology.” The key words we find across the fringe sphere today are “researcher” and “historian,” or similar forms.
I initially planned to just go with “historian” as my new title, but I didn’t feel comfortable using the title since I don’t have a graduate degree in history. That said, I have easily done more work in historiography than any of the fringe theorists who operate under that title, from my four published works of history to my years-long investigation of the textual record of the Watchers myth. So I settled on “Historical Researcher” because it captures the main ideas but doesn’t imply degrees I don’t have. I appended “skeptic” in opposition to “unconventional,” “maverick,” and other adjectives fringe authors add to their descriptors.
If I’m lucky, publishers and the media might understand this moniker a bit better. It will certainly help me to keep up with the latest trends in fringe “credentials.”
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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