Before we begin today, I thought I’d share an odd blog post I saw this morning. Joe Rose, the onetime America Unearthed guest who later claimed that the show misrepresented his views on Mithraism, is presenting for your consideration a leather re-bound copy of Philip Ainsworth Means’s The Newport Tower, complete with Scott Wolter’s own penciled-in annotations! That’s not the interesting thing. The interesting thing is that Rose, who is a bookbinder by trade, explains that he now considers Wolter a “fringe history revisionist” and is apparently upset with him, despite having been “practically on retainer” as Wolter’s personal bookbinder. (Note: It must be nice to be able to affording having your entire fringe history library leather-bound, though it ruins the value of the books as artifacts.)
Yesterday I had a productive phone meeting with a producer for a cable television documentary series exploring world mysteries, as I indicated yesterday I would. Technically, I’m still under consideration to have a cameo as a guest expert on the show, so I won’t share the name of the show or the network right now. What I can say is that I did my damnedest to use facts and logic to torpedo the production team’s idea that there is a conspiracy run by the Smithsonian to suppress the truth about Bible giants.
The producer started by asking me questions about the Smithsonian’s actions in specific instances where “giant” bones were alleged to be discovered, and I in turn asked him what the Smithsonian said when he asked them for their view. The answer was rather enlightening: He told me that they hadn’t contacted the Smithsonian because they were still researching the conspiracy but that they planned to call them for comment at some point before the segment aired because viewers might expect that. One would think that this would have been the place to start, but then again the Smithsonian (in conjunction with Showtime) operates a cable channel that directly competes with the one airing this program. I asked how he came to find me in that case, and he told me that the show found me through an internet search for Micah Hanks and that they were interested in the “feud” we had over giant skeletons last summer. I have never met Micah Hanks.
The producer informed me that the program intends to present several “experts” who believe that the Smithsonian is hiding the truth, along with several who deny the claim. The show plans to “leave it up the viewers” to determine the truth. I told him that this was false equivalency and was creating the impression that there were two equal sides to the claim of a giant-suppression conspiracy. I also told him that while I would be happy to provide expert commentary if it will be used fairly, I am not willing to participate in a program that intends to promote a conspiracy theory without evidence. Did they have any evidence of giant skeletons? Of course not; they only had “internet searches.” Were they looking for evidence? They were looking for “debate” that did not involve fieldwork.
I informed the producer of the history of the Smithsonian conspiracy claim, namely that it was invented by David Childress in 1993 from false evidence and then adopted by creationists following Pat Buchanan and other Republicans’ efforts to politicize the Smithsonian as anti-white and anti-American in 1994. He did not really seem to listen to this because it was running counter to the narrative that the show apparently was going for, that conspiracies are fun. In fact, the production team, who had claimed to have read extensively on my website, missed all of the posts I’ve made about the history of this conspiracy. However, when I informed the producer that several other cable series, including H2’s America Unearthed and Ancient Aliens, had already presented the alleged Smithsonian conspiracy this season, that got his attention.
I told him that seeing this false claim repeated on multiple series across multiple networks contributes to a propaganda effect, legitimizing a claim that has no factual backing, and that this is not just fun and games but has a very serious impact on the audience. I reminded him that accusing the United States government and all of academia of a massive conspiracy was a whole level of seriousness above asking whether a dead coyote was really a chupacabra. I told him about Scott Wolter’s call for a congressional investigation into the imaginary conspiracy and how many people who watch these shows take this idea seriously. This seemed to shock the producer, and I got the impression that he had not really taken the time to think about the impact wild claims have on the audience. It was all just for fun, right?
Overall, my impression is that the producer I spoke to, who is British, understood that the “giant” conspiracy was an outgrowth of American creationism and anti-government tendencies but that the program had no intention of probing the social or political origins of conspiracy claims, instead hoping for a “balanced” debate for or against the existence of a conspiracy, as though balance were the same as fairness, or truth and lies two sides of the same coin. I think, though, that I gave the show enough food for thought that they’ll reconsider this segment, if for no other reason than because the competition already did it—twice.
Of course, I could have just agreed with everything they said and gone on TV to make some money promoting myself. But that would have been a disservice to viewers and to the truth.
2/28/2014 03:31:30 am
Way to go Jason.
3/13/2014 03:01:24 pm
Jason I don't care which side of the fence you are on I feel most all you so called 'experts' are just great pretenders really. You all call them facts and back that up with Masters and PHDs and other such things but in the end down the road into the future its always oh hey wait, don't take that after all, or hey wait, we thought it was this but no its this way. Only until the next guy tells you new facts and on it goes. Really who are you to poke the bear? You all have your bias and yours like Hawass, Lehner and others shows in your works like everyones'
3/13/2014 11:36:58 pm
I'm a bit confused: You seem to be complaining that scholars change their mind when new evidence emerges and would instead prefer that everyone be consistently wrong by sticking with a comforting but false story. There are differences between facts and interpretations, and I'm not sure you are entirely clear on this. Your problem seems to be that interpretations change as more facts are brought to light.
An Over-Educated Grunt
2/28/2014 03:40:35 am
Certainly sounds like there were a couple of "a-ha!" moments in there. Must have been an interesting conversation.
2/28/2014 05:31:22 am
I'd enjoy watching a balanced debate about the existence of the conspiracy without the show promoting a conclusion. So, yet again, I think you're way too uptight, taking entertainment way too seriously, and considering yourself the protector of all the viewers who are dumber than you are. Lighten up and do the show no matter how they plan to present it, as long as your words won't be taken out of context.
2/28/2014 01:16:18 pm
Sounds like PHIL-i-bustering to me!
2/28/2014 02:04:57 pm
I'm just an objective reader who isn't a fan of Jason or of the people he covers, and understands the difference between commercial and non-commercial television.
2/28/2014 04:46:06 pm
And, BTW, I'm also the only person here who actually gave Jason the sound career advice that he should make the TV appearance as long as he believes his words won't be used out of context. His agent and his loved ones should be saying the same thing.
2/28/2014 05:19:48 pm
3/1/2014 02:07:30 am
But Tara, the comment I responded to was definitely not happy that I dared suggest Jason should appear on TV regardless of his personal feelings, as long as he believed they wouldn't chop up his words.
3/1/2014 02:22:46 am
You know that I did tell the producer I'm happy to appear on the show as long as they're planning to use my ideas fairly. I said as much above. I would rather, though, see the segment killed than see them present another conspiracy theory as though it were real.
3/1/2014 06:03:04 am
Jason, is there ANY possibility that the dude looked
3/1/2014 06:06:05 am
I've seen the show he works on, which has been on for at least a season. It would be terribly off-format for that show to do a historical investigation into the origins of a conspiracy theory.
3/1/2014 09:45:28 am
2/28/2014 01:22:28 pm
I suggest that where the producer said, "It was all just for fun, right?" substitute, "It was all just for $$$, right?"
2/28/2014 03:41:55 pm
They did that with Dr. Lorenz
2/28/2014 01:38:31 pm
A "debate" on the supposed conspiracy involving the Smithsonian would not be entertaining nor would it be worth the time to watch in my opinion.
2/28/2014 02:11:43 pm
I'd assume that a debate about the conspiracy would include the history, espeically if Jason participated.
2/28/2014 10:29:27 pm
I wouldn't assume that. There's no reason to discuss David Childress inventing the conspiracy if your purpose is to explore whether the Smithsonian is hiding giants. Giants would be the subject, not the Smithsonian, and a 12-minute segment simply couldn't discuss the evidence fairly.
3/1/2014 01:43:46 am
Jason, someone has updated the Wikipedia episode guide for The Universe, and the descriptions for the next two episodes are:
3/1/2014 01:50:10 am
It isn't my description! I quoted directly from H2's press release sent out to the media to promote the spring season of programming. Blame them!
2/28/2014 03:23:08 pm
"Now, a show that gave the actual history of this conspiracy ..."
2/28/2014 03:54:16 pm
It's not that one belief is as good as another, it's that we all started as space dust and we'll all end as space dust, regardless of the beliefs held in the middle. One can create any number of reasons for ignoring the facts and taking one's self more seriously than others, in spite of what we've learned in the last 20 years, but it's quite the delusion. Every one of us is exactly the same in the beginning and the end.
2/28/2014 10:32:58 pm
That's a rather nihilistic belief. If we followed your advice, no one would ever advocate for social change because we'll all be dead anyway, so let's just accept falsehood and injustice because it's easier. I prefer to think that making things better for everyone is an end in itself, not just a path to measuring my own material improvement.
3/1/2014 01:48:58 am
I'm not saying beliefs shouldn't be held and truths or falsehoods discussed, I'm saying there's no place for anger, hatred, and the feeling of superiority during the process.
2/28/2014 03:06:50 pm
I'm surprised you didn't mention that the Smithsonian actually displayed the KRS in 1949.
3/1/2014 12:24:33 am
I have a coworker who is an expert on the Salem Witch Trials. He has written several books on the subject, has been cited in many others, and manages the archive where Reverend Parris' papers and sermons are kept. He takes a very evidence-based approach to the subject - no woo, just documentation.
3/1/2014 02:56:02 am
Jason, if you keep hitting on the TRUTH button, you'll be fine. Have them agree in writing ahead of time about what your core belief is about the Smithsonian and giants, and that this view will be presented, and not any other view. But you should go for it, as an opportunity for publicity.
3/1/2014 06:15:32 am
Worse, the Bigfoot community people have an obvious overlap
3/1/2014 06:30:03 am
Fossil bones could have easily triggered the "giants in the earth"
3/1/2014 06:58:45 am
There is a curious article that just came out on the Beringia land
3/3/2014 11:47:20 am
I think you just exposed the modern media (entertainment and news alike) in a nutshell.
3/12/2014 08:59:59 am
I was never clear exactly what Joe Rose's specific credentials were in regard to his appearances as a religious "expert" on several episodes of the first season of America Unearthed. Were you ever able to find anything about his background as anything other than Wolter's personal bookbinder? Or do the producers just seem to find someone who seems to fit the bill of whatever expert they need to present for the show and recruit anyone they can find for the part who can be passed off as some kind of knowledgeable authority? And let's be honest, these are roles being filled as part of a fairly unrealistic scripted reality show...complete with fake first meetings, phone calls, and discoveries. I wonder how many takes they have to do to make it all look convincing.
3/12/2014 01:42:08 pm
Rose is a Freemason and has an unspecified degree in comparative religions. So far as I know he has not produced any publications on religion, and the claims he made on TV were demonstrably false.
3/28/2014 06:17:27 pm
Over on the Magonia Blog someone found an old newspaper hoax from 1887 involving a mysterious object that 'fell from the sky' and ended up in "...the possession of Dr. Seyers, but it will be sent to the Smithsonian Institution in a short time, when an official report will be made."
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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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