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.
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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