Jim Vieira has made a career out of imagining that old newspaper stories about giants are true, and Hugh Newman has done just as well by attaching his name to other people’s fringe theories, whether it be the ancient astronaut theory on Ancient Aliens or gigantology on Vieira’s History Channel series Search for the Lost Giants. The pair have teamed up for Giants on Record: America’s Hidden History, Secrets in the Mounds and the Smithsonian Files, a book that is nearly identical in form and content to Richard Dewhurst’s Ancient Giants Who Ruled America (with one notable exception discussed later), and it made me wonder who exactly would need more than one collection of similar newspaper reports about giants interspersed with conspiracy theories about the Nephilim and Atlantis.
Before we begin discussing the text as such, I want to make a few notes about the production of the volume, which is officially credited to Avalon Rising Publications (not to be confused with the band or the erotic romance novels), a website affiliated with Hugh Newman. The book is poorly produced. It looks like it was laid out in Microsoft Word by someone who wasn’t entirely familiar with the conventions of book publishing. For example, paragraphs are indented a full half-inch, for example, a standard Word tab, instead of the industry-standard quarter inch. The copyright page informs me that Newman did the interior layout himself. The typeface is overly large, perhaps size 12 or so, and the pages are a riot of fonts, lines, italics, and other stylistic tics, with too little white space. One page alone featured three typefaces, two divider lines, and blocks of boldface and italics. But Newman also appears to either have produced his interior layout with images below the recommended 300 dpi for clear reproduction, or else used crappy internet images and/or an inferior print-on-demand service, as most of the photographs were heavily pixelated, blurry, or had digital artifacts from where they were scanned and reduced to black and white without compensating for the effects of the conversion. Some images, such as the book page reproduced on page 171, seem to be screen grabs from archive.org scans of old books.
I’m sure the History Channel is thrilled that Vieira and Newman have placed the History Channel’s name and the trademarked Search for the Lost Giants logo on the cover of their book. There is no acknowledgement in the text that they had permission to do so, and the lack of a ® sign beside the Search logo suggests they don’t have it.
The two men open the book with acknowledgements in which they both cite Graham Hancock as their inspiration and offer their thanks to Ross Hamilton, Micah Ewers, Greg Little, and a host of other fringe figures. They then proceed to inform us that they refuse to use “modern forms” of dating, such as the Common Era system and years Before Present, preferring the BC/AD system. They also explain that they define a “giant” as “anyone 7 feet tall or over.” These note precede the Preface, which precedes the Forward, which precedes the two Introductions. In an unusual move, this front matter is numbered inconsistently, with each of the four pieces carrying a Roman numeral sort-of chapter identifier, but the page numbers switch from Roman numerals to Arabic at the first introduction. Newman also hasn’t learned how to create a section break in Word to allow him to omit printed page numbers from mostly blank pages, such as the dedication (appearing, weirdly, on a left page) to “all Indigenous Americans” in honor of their legends of giants.
The opening foreword by Ross Hamilton, the godfather of gigantology and the first to apply David Childress’s Smithsonian conspiracy to giants, offers a very interesting reversal of the typical criticism of gigantology as recycling racist claims, such as when Richard Dewhurst declared giants to be a “pre-Indian Caucasian culture.” Hamilton says that when we consider “the dark aspects of racial prejudice and the understanding that Native people were without rights, alive or dead, and you have a mojo cocktail of white sectarianism that would disorient the most sober and reliable jurist.” He goes on to say that Washington elites conspired to impose a racist view of Native Americans and to use those views to make it impossible to believe in a superior race of giants that would have outstripped the Aryans. He even cites the Native American activist Vine Deloria to support his views and says mainstream scholars as enforcing “Jim Crow” mentalities when it comes to Native American history. In other words, Hamilton would like to cast the giant deniers as the true white supremacists by aligning the imagined North American giants with the Native Americans, despite repeated evidence that those who believed in giants back then specifically claimed that the giants were racially distinct from Native Americans and were affiliated with a lost white race of Mound Builders. It’s a clever rhetorical trick, and one that might be convincing to anyone not intimately familiar with the literature in question.
Well, I can’t say it’s good rhetoric in a literal sense since Hamilton’s writing is often confusingly obscure: “Such conditions coupled with their believed hierarchically structured village systems giving leeway to an overall egalitarian vision, may have stayed the grand stature resulting in so many such skeletal remains being witnessed by the European settlers in the Eastern U.S.” Or when he claims he is using “giant” “in the spirit of, though not as, a homonym; i.e., having more than one aspect,” which isn’t the definition of “homonym” at all.
Hamilton argues for the Biblical theory of degeneracy, and suggests that the reason that the giants became less common over time due to the running down of the earth, prompting Native Americans to turn to selective breeding to try to keep the giants alive. This is why, he suggests, there are so few giant skeletons from historic times—simply inbred members of a dying race, whose compromised immune systems (!) led to smallpox killing off the last giants.
Anyway, the reversal of the historic norm on who the “giants” were and how they fit into American racism was an interesting development, and one that almost seems purposefully designed to absolve the gigantologists of the accusation that they are perpetuating Victorian-era imperialist and colonialist ideologies, particularly after Dewhurst laid them bare with his emphasis last year on the Caucasian might of the white giants who ruled America. I’ll be interested to see if the theme plays out in the rest of the book.
I have only just started the book, and I’m not sure if I’ll be posting the rest of the review in sequence or if there may be a couple of days’ gap between sections. It will depend on how fast I can read it.
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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