The New York Times reported yesterday that Donald Trump’s advisor, Stephen K. Bannon, who has expressed fringe history views, is apparently influenced by Italian fascist philosopher Julius Evola, who was popular with Nazis and Neo-Nazis. The Atlantic adds that Bannon is a fan of neoreactionary philosophy, which advocates autocracy and, at times, praises Nazi Germany. Evola’s followers call themselves the Children of the Sun, a fascist phrase used in white supremacist contexts going back decades, and a phrase uttered by white nationalist Richard Spencer in his infamous “Hail Trump!” speech. Bannon refused to confirm or deny influence from the philosopher, whom he referenced in a 2014 speech, but Spencer and other so-called “alt-right” thinkers suggest that Bannon can help bring into the mainstream Evola’s elitist vision of a hierarchical society run by a superior caste, a “master race” if you will. The anti-Semitic Evola was influenced by Nietzsche (but of course) and fetishized Germanic culture, becoming an outspoken supporter of the SS. He believed that historical movements such as the Renaissance and the Enlightenment were disasters that disconnected humanity from ancient truths. Does this sound familiar? It’s pretty much exactly what Jay Dyer advocates, minus the explicit racism, as we learned in yesterday’s blog post.
Speaking of which, this week I’ve been profiling some of the ways that fringe historians and conspiracy theorists have embraced the Trump presidency. I have to say that I find it ridiculous that every time I mention Donald Trump I receive a barrage of emails saying how inappropriate it is for me to discuss anything political in conjunction with fringe history. As I have shown this week, fringe theorists and conspiracy theorists are not shy about embracing political causes, and few voices tell them to shut up. Worse, their fringe history and conspiracy theory claims have a direct line to the White House, making an understanding of them all the more important. Today, though, I’d like to get off the Trump beat, though I can’t help but note before I do that the subject of today’s discussion, Micah Hanks, runs a podcast called Middle Theory where he opines on Donald Trump each week, albeit in a way that studiously avoids taking a position or even having much of a point.
Anyway, yesterday Hanks published another Mysterious Universe piece about UFOs, and I was uncertain how to react to it. On the one hand, I am pleased that Hanks has come fully around to the position on UFOs that I laid out in 2013, but on the other hand, between this and his recent embrace of H. P. Lovecraft and other pulp authors as forerunners of the UFO and ancient astronaut movement, I am dismayed that he seems at times to be borrowing from me without credit, and without ever really retracting the offensive criticism he leveled against me before he decided all my ideas were right. (The answer seems to be that my ideas filter down to him secondhand.)
Regular readers will remember that Hanks became upset with me in 2014 because I did not believe that the Smithsonian was covering up evidence for the existence of giants, and he attacked my criticisms of his research by declaring that “hubris of this sort is actually worthy of study” as a case of ideology overwhelming common sense. Nevertheless, in 2015, Hanks embraced, albeit from secondhand accounts, my research from my 2005 book The Cult of Alien Gods and agreed that the writings of H. P. Lovecraft were an influence on the ancient astronaut theory.
Now Hanks is endorsing my 2013 view (which, to be fair, is not entirely unique) that the UFO phenomenon is an artificial construct imposed on a variety of unrelated phenomena. Hanks is speaking here in the plural as part of a literary conceit in which he writes of his ideas as those of both himself and the hypothetical reader:
Our intent here is not to make an argument against UFOs entirely. To the contrary, it seems very likely that a broad range of phenomena observed over time have caused us to amass an equally diverse collection of narratives about this perceived phenomenon. No two reports are alike, and in equal measure, the theories about their origins remain numerous and varied.
His final question is a rather pointless one in terms of evaluating whether UFOs have any objective basis, akin to asking whether Star Trek benefited humanity by inspiring future generations to go into STEM-related fields. But his broader point is a remarkable echo of what I described four years ago. Here is how I put it:
The modern UFO phenomenon is composed (roughly) of four parts: UFO sightings, crop circles, cattle mutilation, and alien abduction. […] It is only after the 1960s that these threads come together in the modern UFO myth. Because we find the various elements of the UFO myth in isolation throughout history, the logical conclusion is that the four facets of the myth were originally separate and brought together because of the UFO myth and the UFO phenomenon is not the cause the four facets. […] If treating sightings, abductions, mutilations, and crop circles as distinct events yields productive explanations for each (as skeptics contend), then the UFO phenomenon as a whole may be considered as a modern myth and the UTH [Ultra-Terrestrial Hypothesis] can be discarded as redundant, though as with phlogiston and unicorns, it cannot be conclusively proven wrong, only unnecessary.
I say this not to lord it over Micha Hanks but rather to point out how the same ideas that I get criticized for gradually end up getting accepted to the point that even someone like Micah Hanks eventually comes to take them as a given. I guess this means that rather than wait for the fringe to catch up four to ten years later, you should just stick with me. They’ll get there eventually, anyway.
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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