As you know, Monday is my busiest work day of the week, so I will be keeping today’s blog post short. Since I am also on the hook for page proofs, I have even less time than usual. But I did want to point out that Scott Wolter posted his thoughts about Bigfoot over on his blog, and they are mildly revealing: Wolter doesn’t believe in Bigfoot and didn’t want to do an episode about the creature. The producers reminded him that he is contractually obligated to do what they tell him, and he came around once they explained that he’d receive a free vacation to Nepal on the History Channel/H2’s dime.
It’s funny enough watching Wolter try to justify his skepticism of Bigfoot by appealing to hard science and the need for evidence, but it was Wolter’s wife who punctured that balloon effectively, though accidentally: “…my wife, Janet, reminded me of how many times I insist on certain academics and skeptics to remain open-minded about things I think are important such as the Tucson Lead Artifacts, Bat Creek Stone, and the Kensington Rune Stone.” There is just as much evidence for the lost colonies of Romans, Jews, and Norse in Arizona, Tennessee, and Minnesota as there is for Bigfoot: none. Wolter sees the “artifacts” like Bigfoot hunters see footprints and hair, but as Wolter himself said, where’s the body?
But what was really interesting is the small insight Wolter gave into the inner workings of the History Channel’s mutual appreciation society of fringe figures. Far from encouraging an open and honest dialogue in search of the truth, the network insists (as many networks do) on Orwellian conformity to the party line, as he wrote in the comments on his blog entry:
...I am contractually bound not to disparage or say/post/tweet/etc., anything negative about another network show. I have a lot of experience with Oak Island and have opinions I cannot express until after the show runs its course. It appears they are on for at least a third season so I will have to wait.
Wolter expressed some of his views about Oak Island in Season One of America Unearthed, before Curse of Oak Island debuted.
So, let’s get this straight: History Channel and H2 hosts are forbidden from criticizing each other’s lunatic ideas even when they are wrong, all while proclaiming that they and they alone are honest brokers providing the audience with the “truth.” I guess that explains why not a single History/H2 figure expressed any consternation that In Search of Aliens endorsed Neo-Nazi propaganda last year. But it’s also interesting that the network won’t let its own talent debate the very issues that they are supposedly interested in examining, allowing only support or silence. It’s one thing if your Food Network and don’t want your chefs smacking one another down, but when your shtick is that you’re looking for the “truth” and rewriting history, purposely preventing supposed experts from using their expertise until you’ve wrung every last dollar from bad ideas just feels wrong.
But it seems that we’ve stumbled upon History and H2’s solution to the negative publicity my critiques of their programming brings: Instead of sending me a cease and desist letter and cutting me from their credentialed press roster, they should have hired me as a consultant! Then I’d be contractually obliged not to say bad things about their shows!
Or, they could make better quality shows. But we all know which option is cheaper.
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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