Last week I receive a request from someone who is consulting on a documentary to take a meeting with a producer who works with Netflix about adapting one of my books into a documentary or potential documentary series. Normally, I don’t let this sort of thing get very far because it is always a huge waste of time, but since I have been stuck in quarantine, I figured it would serve as a bit of a distraction. So, we set up the meeting, and before the appointed day, I suggested that the producer should probably be aware that my work is not pro-alien. Regular readers of this blog can guess the rest. There was no meeting at the appointed hour. It wasn’t unexpected, but even so, it is disconcerting.
Meanwhile, the effects of the quarantine are starting to wear on me. I’m still doing the same amount of work as always—more, in fact—but now I have to spend more time caring for my son, whose usual daytime activities have all been canceled. On top of that, I have to manage a rotating series of shortages while keeping my toddler son happy. The only way to make it work, is to trade off parenting duties in blocks of time and basically go nonstop from morning to bedtime. I was doing OK for the first month or so, but the lack of rest is catching up with me.
You’ve probably noticed that my blog has been a bit light on the type of longform historical research that I used to do several times a month. So, to be completely honest, I don’t have the energy to do it right now. Since I have also been working on one book or another nearly every day for the past two years—and I just turned in the first round of revisions for my Legends of the Pyramids book last week—I am kind of tired of writing.
Today, therefore, I’ll share with you a bit of commentary from disinformation researcher Mitch Chaiet of the University of Texas at Austin, who spoke with journalist John Koetsier on a recent podcast, excerpted in a Forbes online blog. Chaiet discussed how the media “weaponizes” conspiracy theories and fake news for cash. While most of the discussion focused on topics beyond our interest, one passage was particularly relevant:
“I’ve interviewed people who claim that Hollywood are putting in Satanic symbols in the movies to represent something,” Chaiet told me. “And on the flip side of that, I know producers who are like, ‘Yeah, if I throw a pyramid with an eye on it somewhere in my film, all the crazies on YouTube come out and I get three times as many views.’”
Yeah, that’s about right. Even the History Channel had to learn this lesson when they discovered that dumping money into the expensive scripted series Project Bluebook returned smaller ratings than the unscripted—and much cheaper—reality schlock knocked out by the Ancient Aliens production company. In terms of dollars, if you can get even 75% of the rating for 30% of the cost, it’s no wonder that churning out fodder for online obsessives is worth more than quality—or even true—programs.
And now you know why I don’t sit waiting for producers to call.
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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