It’s a bit self-serving of me to plug the discussion that occurred yesterday and this morning on the AnandTech forum since it makes reference to my blog, but all the same, it’s a funny read in which a bunch of commenters gang up on America Unearthed for being self-important, speculative, and wrong and try to determine whether it’s worth hate-watching. I got a chuckle from one poster describing America Unearthed as “the bastard offspring of Ancient Aliens and Dan ‘My Face is My Ass’ Brown.”
It's basically Ancient Aliens, yeah, but it is presented (terribly so) as this Indiana Jones adventure that is based on *completely logical* speculation. Self-validating speculation. It's a bit scary that people might actually take this seriously.
On that note, I thought it might be worth sharing some reader mail today. People have the strangest ideas, and some days it feels like I get to hear all of them. Some are interesting, some are bizarre, and more than a few are not actually meant for me at all.
I am constantly amazed by just how many people believe that I am Scott Wolter. My website clearly lists my name, and they actually write emails to my email address, which is also my name, and yet mistake me for Scott Wolter.
About six weeks ago, a college student from Oklahoma wrote to me thinking that I was Scott Wolter and asked if Wolter could come out to authenticate a rock his grandfather had found buried in the dirt of Oklahoma. He proceeded to describe what sounds like a large number of Native American petroglyphs, similar to other rock art in the region, before asking whether their unusual shapes could have been “aliens” or “dinosaurs.” He wanted Scott to help his grandfather learn the truth before his grandfather dies, and he expressed his belief that an Old World civilization must have drawn the figures either in the early centuries BCE or “even before the Flood.”
Last week, a reader mistook me for Scott Wolter and wrote to praise Wolter’s investigation into the 1909 newspaper hoax claiming a pseudo-Egyptian civilization in the Grand Canyon. This reader claimed that he remembered reading the original Arizona Gazette story in the newspaper, a chronological impossibility probably born of confusion with later fringe articles about the subject, and told Wolter that he had books from the 1930s documenting Egyptian cities and artifacts located in California’s Death Valley that he would send him.
Not all emails offering weird claims mistake me for Scott Wolter, though some that come with no salutation make it difficult to determine whether I was the intended recipient. In the latter category I received an unsolicited message asking whether I would like proof that an ancient stone-carving culture once occupied part of New Zealand five million years ago.
One message, directed to me specifically, told me that I would become a believer in lost civilizations if only I would look into research related to a “lost” moon of the earth and a comet that exploded over Egypt 28 million years ago. This somehow proves that the Pyramids were built at that time, and the Mayan centers 65 million years ago! This one came with a URL for those interested in seeing what happens when speculation unfurls far beyond facts.
The important thing to take away from this is that there are a large number of people who believe a lot of things that the facts don’t support, or who interpret facts through lenses created or colored by previous exposure to fringe history. The chances are pretty good that it is the prior existence of earlier fringe theories, now easily accessible online as well as on TV, that leads to audience belief in the weird.
Re: exposure to fringe theories, I recall in the dark days of the late 70s early 80s Scholastic Books offered various bits of fringe awfulness in their monthly booklists. While I did wind up with a couple of Charles Berlitz's rubbishy Bermuda Triangle books I thankfully found Kusche's thorough debunking of the mystery and I learned not take weird claims at face value.
1/4/2014 04:57:03 am
I remover the same scholastic books as we'll in the 70s. I still have the triangle book you reference along with a bunch of UFO books...I guess you have to remember the time..for a little kid growing up watching moon landing and seeing 2001, there was this sense that the world was changing and we were about to enter a new high tech age. In some ways we did with microcomputers but the mon bases never quite panned out....
1/5/2014 01:34:01 am
I, too, remember as a child and teenager reading books containing claims of paranormal activity before reading books that debunked them (although I never bought any of Berlitz's books). I also remember that Kusche's book, "The Bermuda Triangle Mystery - Solved" (which I still own) was one of the first debunking books I read.
1/5/2014 02:14:26 am
I seem to have done it backwards. I first read Asimov's debunking of Velikovsky, then read the book to see what it was all about. I could see how, if you really wanted to believe, Velikovsky's work could be convincing.
1/5/2014 09:34:54 am
"I also remember reading von Daniken as a teenager and noting that he never really said anything definitive, but only asked a lot of questions."
1/4/2014 05:35:37 am
Robert Bauval, Chiara Hohenzollern, Sandro Zicari, "The Vatican Heresy: Bernini and The Building of The Hermetic Temple of The Sun" (Bear & Company, 2014)
1/4/2014 12:42:09 pm
The Vatican is a sun temple? Oh, my. I can hardly wait for that one.
The Other J.
1/4/2014 08:41:47 am
Do you ever respond to people who mistake you for someone else, or do you just let them know they have the wrong person, or do you ever try to clear some other things up for them?
Fantasy History Watcher
1/4/2014 09:20:09 am
The monks of Glastonbury, when they exhumed the body of King Arthur, were inventing history to restore their fabric (their Abbey had burned down). There's a good reason for inventing fantasy history.
1/4/2014 12:00:33 pm
For the ones who seem like they are genuinely trying to figure things out, I try to offer some advice on research. For the ones who seem too far out there and dogmatic, I usually just tell them they have the wrong person.
1/4/2014 11:23:52 am
"I am constantly amazed by just how many people believe that I am Scott Wolter. My website clearly lists my name, and they actually write emails to my email address, which is also my name, and yet mistake me for Scott Wolter."
1/4/2014 01:00:05 pm
I think you are on to something!
1/4/2014 12:19:13 pm
The lost moon thing is just. Uh. WOW. O.o I.
1/4/2014 12:49:33 pm
Oh, yes, the guy needs to be monitored for his own health. It's clear he is no longer participating in this reality.
1/4/2014 01:09:04 pm
I suspect some of the fringe writers are in it purely for the money and don't drink their own Kool-Aid.
1/4/2014 03:14:27 pm
No, no, Mr. Black doesn't think mankind was around 28 million years ago- that would just be silly.
Fabtasy History Watcher
1/4/2014 08:33:21 pm
I have heard rumours for a long time that Picknett & Prince don't really believe the rubbish they write. The same goes for Andrew Collins (when he's drunk)
Do you know anything about the origins of the earth and moon? You don't seem to. A captured celestial body that breaks apart and deposits material on the earth is called "destructive capture" and is one of the theories for planet formation. So, a lost moon is not excluded by current science. So, reconsider your opinion. Mr. Black. Blog: http://black2tell.wordpress.com
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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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