Apparently, the only thing that onetime America Unearthed host Scott Wolter hates more than me criticizing his work is me ignoring him. I’ve been too busy working on serious, important things to care about the former TV star’s frequent radio rants, so Wolter went on The Family with Tom Barnard to spend 15 minutes badmouthing me. Lest anyone be confused, at one point he slipped and said my name instead of “the blogger.” Odd, though, that he calls me “the blogger” since my publication history, in national magazines, university press books, academic journals, etc., far outstrips his self-published books and freebie Blogspot blog.
But, that, of course, is the problem. In his mind, I am a poseur looking to steal the fame that rightly belongs to him by parasitically attacking his work. Wolter criticizes me for “wanting to be somebody,” alleging that I am driven by a desire to be on TV, to be a writer, and “to be paid for it.” He took credit for getting me “fired” from the Atlantic magazine this spring when the editors elected not to go forward with a planned piece about cable TV programming strategy after Wolter complained to the magazine’s editor-in-chief: “The guy got what he had coming to him,” Wolter said. “That felt really good.”
He alleges that I am driven by the desire for fame and money, and he asserts that I live in a basement. He repeats many times the false claim that I called Wolter a racist. I very clearly and frequently said that I did not believe that he is personally racist; instead, I have consistently said that the claims he makes about European colonization of the pre-Columbian Americas and the Old World origin of secret knowledge are rooted in Victorian era racism and carry with them racist implications. It is impossible for him to believe that someone might disagree with him on principle.
Now the thing is that Scott Wolter misrepresented what I said in our email exchange, and he misrepresented the correspondence between us. He might do well to remember that I have copies of all of the emails, too, and would be happy to publish them. In those emails, I am entirely polite and professional. I won’t characterize his side of the conversation because I value others’ dignity. I can’t comment on the Atlantic’s opinion of him because the NDA I signed with them prevents me from relaying their thoughts after reading his emails to me. Suffice it to say they would not agree with his characterization of events. It never did occur to him that that he wasn’t the subject of the article.
“I don’t think any of my Native friends would want to hang out with this guy,” Wolter eventually says, egged on by Barnard to new heights of pique. “Can I use the word ‘dick’?” Oddly enough, I studied Native cultures in college, worked with Native people, and was good friends with a member of the Seneca nation. That’s really neither here nor there, except to remind Wolter that Native people are not monolithic, and a diversity of viewpoints within their communities accommodates many perspectives.
After crowing a bit more about how Wolter allegedly damaged my career, he tells Barnard that he was pleased with the outcome. “That had a happy ending,” Wolter claims. Yes, it did—because I went on to the New Republic, where I published a piece that was much more widely read and distributed than my aborted minor piece about cable TV programming strategies ever would. I can’t imagine that piece would have garnered coverage in the New York Times or the Washington Post like my New Republic piece did. Ironically, all Wolter really accomplished was to keep his own name out of a major American magazine, where he might have had a bigger and more prestigious audience learning about him than at any time since his show was dropped from one network and then the next. But, hey, local Minnesota radio is the same thing, right?
As I said when I started my current round of projects in service of my new book, I do not want this for me. I am pushing myself into the national media conversation because I need to prove to publishers that I have the national profile to effectively promote the book I recently wrote. I don’t want to be famous. I have no desire to be on TV. (I have, as they say, a face for radio.) I was ready to quit public life forever last year, and that wouldn’t have bothered me at all. But I have something I believe in and believe needs to be said, and I will do what I must to get it in print.
And the next time Wolter tries misrepresenting himself as a hero for withstanding the horrible “gotcha” question of “how do you feel?”, he best remember that emails are copied in two directions.
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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