Let me start by thanking Tara Jordan for bringing this to my attention. On Friday morning, Scott Wolter posted a comment on his blog accusing me of being a “hate-blogger” and telling “outright lies” about him and his work. Let me be clear: This is a very serious allegation, and it is one that I take very seriously. Normally I do not respond to personal attacks (you’re welcome to Google my name to see more), but I do make an exception when they are made by prominent fringe figures such as David Childress, Philip Coppens, and now Scott Wolter. Wolter, however, does not consider his statements serious enough to support with facts, stating that he does not “read [Jason’s] stuff” despite somehow feeling comfortable in declaring it “outright lies.”
Here are Wolter’s words, posted in response to a question from Ken Davidson asking him about my “hate blog”:
The hate-blogger actually helps the show by creating controversy. I don’t read his stuff because it serves no constructive purpose. He doesn't acknowledge sound factual evidence, presents misleading information along with outright lies, and his followers resort to angry name-calling. I’ve been told that I've been called a pathological liar, mentally unstable, and a racist. Why would anyone bother to engage such nonsense? One thing I know for sure, he and his followers are watching the show and that’s a good thing!
Scott Wolter’s statement is categorically false. Let’s break it down.
The phenomenon of the hate-blog is typically defined as a blog that is obsessively focused on posting negative information about a specific individual or entity. You can read about the phenomenon at The Awl, where journalist Adrian Chen explains that hate-blogs exist to try to engage the subject in reactions for emotional satisfaction. I remain steadfastly uninterested in Scott Wolter’s emotional state.
I have been blogging in some form or another since 2001, and in those thirteen years I have covered hundreds, possibly thousands, of different topics. Just this week, I discussed creationists’ dinosaur claims, right-wing revisionist history, and space aliens shopping in Las Vegas. I regularly review other television programs besides America Unearthed, including Ancient Aliens and Unsealed: Alien Files. In fact, I’ve been reviewing television since my very first post-college job reviewing The O.C. episodically in 2003. In terms of sheer volume of coverage, my “hate” blog would hate Ancient Aliens over America Unearthed nearly 2:1. If I “hate” it is only the hatred of seeing history twisted.
Wolter then claims I do not “acknowledge sound factual evidence.” I defy him to find a place where I have failed to acknowledge each piece of evidence presented on America Unearthed. I dutifully report each claim made, noting how Wolter presented it before explaining my take on it. After reading my review, you should be able to understand what Wolter claims as well as my views about it. Wolter seems to think that making a claim entitles him to having it believed; but it is up to him to make a case for his views, not for me to assume he’s right. In many cases, such as Wolter’s claims about caliche in Arizona, others with equal or better credentials and stronger evidence have drawn opposing conclusions. Given the sheer volume of information Wolter leaves out, it’s rather rich for him to accuse me of presenting “misleading” information. I again defy him to find “outright lies” that I tell about his factual evidence or his historical claims. (Or anything else for that matter.)
Wolter owes his readers (and mine) the courage of his convictions: Please share these “outright lies.” Like all humans, I am fallible, and I am happy to correct any unintentional errors. We may even have differences of interpretation, occasioned perhaps by my inability to guess the alleged facts behind evidence-free statements. But I don’t tell “outright lies.”
I renew the offer I made last year: I remain happy to publish, unedited, for all to read a written piece by Scott Wolter explaining exactly why I am wrong.
I have never called Wolter “a pathological liar, mentally unstable, and a racist,” and I have repeatedly said that I do not believe Wolter to be a racist. I am not a psychiatrist and cannot make any statements about his mental condition. To conflate me with people who post comments in response to my blog posts is, however, an act of mendacity. Anyone may post a comment, supportive or oppositional. I am not responsible for others’ comments. They are their own people, and I am on record as removing comments that contain libelous accusations or medical diagnoses as soon as I am informed of them.
Does Wolter take responsibility for each comment posted about the show on the H2 Facebook page? Here’s one: “I watched this episode. there were so many factual errors in it I dont think I'll ever watch the show again. I want my hour back please.” Negative comments run about 2:1 on H2’s America Unearthed Facebook posts, even among “fans,” many of whom have become concerned that a conspiracy forced Wolter to pretend Rockwall’s rock wall was natural and not made by Bible giants. I guess H2 is running an anti-Wolter hate page! By Wolter’s logic, he is responsible for all of the comments made on official pages in response to his work, and I would equally be responsible for Steve St. Clair’s and the Rev. Phil Gotsch’s steadfast endorsement of Wolter in this very forum.
Let me finish my analysis by noting that Wolter failed to inform his readers of his own conflict of interest in assessing my motivations. Wolter failed to acknowledge that he or his representatives prevailed upon A+E Networks to issue me a cease and desist order and threaten a lawsuit against me in his name. Surely that’s relevant to understanding Wolter’s reaction to me, and it’s the kind of routine bit of disclosure that professional ethics requires. It’s why I remind readers of this whenever if becomes relevant. I don’t do it for my health; surely it would be easier to pretend it never happened, but it would be deceptive to readers.
I would, though, suggest that Wolter’s people might take a few minutes to read my reviews. Despite what he thinks, I do offer a wealth of material as well as suggestions that, if implemented, would have made his show stronger. For example, in reviewing this week’s episode, I suggested that exploring the geological evidence that connected the Aztecs to Spiro Mounds in Oklahoma would have been both more interesting and more historically relevant than his pointless submarine product placement adventure.
It’s probably also worth noting that in his other comments on the blog, Wolter also admitted to staging large chunks of the show (isn’t that “misleading information”?) and focusing on “entertainment” that compromises his ability to tell “taboo” truths.
“If they truly thought it was all crap, they wouldn't complain would they?” Wolter said of his critics. Um, well, yes, I would. It’s all “crap” and that’s why I complain. If it were true, I wouldn’t be complaining!
To conclude on a more positive note, for those of you who want to complain that I am “obsessed” with Wolter despite writing on many other topics each week, ask yourself why you are here and not at Right Pundits, where each week conservative columnist Andrew Zarowny offers a full-length review of the latest episode of America Unearthed from a credulous perspective and without any outside research. Here’s his “Secret Blueprint” review, and I believe, if I am not mistaken, it’s exactly the kind of review Scott Wolter’s super-fans and friends want to see. Yet they aren’t there.
Is Mr. Zarowny “obsessed” with Wolter since he does what I do but from a believer’s point of view? Or does his endorsement of Wolter’s views absolve him? If so, why? I challenge each person who claims I am obsessed to have the courage of his convictions and treat Mr. Zarowny the same way. What other reason could a person possibly have to review television shows each week except for deep-seated obsession?
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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