Now on to today’s depressing look into the heart of America Unearthed.
We’ve heard time and again that no one take America Unearthed as a serious discussion of fact and that we, as viewers, ought to treat it as entertainment. So how do we explain the fact that show host Scott Wolter presented as a “fan letter of the week” last week a missive from a viewer named Stan who has taken Wolter’s claims about Smithsonian cover-ups at face value? Here’s part of the letter that Wolter wants all of his fans to read:
I appreciate how you back up your findings with science and logic, it's truly stunning how this great nation has covered up so much of its history and how so much of the public will never question the History books we learned from throughout school. As a patriot I'm gonna contact my Representative and will also place a call to the Smithsonian to ask about their cover up tendencies.
Wolter then thanks Stan for his letter and says that viewers like him have made his show “such a success.” In other words, Wolter has conceded that his viewers take his insinuations as facts and that he is proud of this. You’ll also notice that Stan voices a specific audience demographic I have pointed to in previous analyses: American nationalists.
Therefore, the argument that the show is not meant to be taken as factual is inoperative. Scott Wolter tells us so himself.
But this pales in comparison to the comments section of Wolter’s blog post, where Wolter attacks me and my blog, referring to me only as “Mr. Debunker” and asserting that I have “home field advantage” on my blog and that my “team” needs to play in his court, which I suppose means his blog. I don’t have a team, but whatever. Apparently having a television show isn’t enough of a “home field advantage” for Wolter, since his show gets to set the agenda for what all the rest of us talk about vis-à-vis his work.
I had to laugh when Wolter’s response to the suggestion that he should address criticisms of his work was to complain that “blatant negativity and personal attacks are not appropriate.” This came just minutes after Wolter wrote that “scholar’s [sic] miss use [sic] of proper scientific evidence” had cause a “mess”—a blatantly negative comment if ever I’ve heard one—followed by a personal attack on me as “Mr. Debunker,” who presents “miss-leading [sic] and inaccurate information about me, my work, and the show” and is not “serious and productive” like him. Of course! Personal attacks are insults to Wolter only. How silly of me! It’s not like I have a giant new book of serious and productive research into Greek mythology coming out soon, one that has absolutely nothing to do with Scott Wolter!
As always: I am happy to correct any errors that appear in my work. The material I publish is based upon the best available sources at the time of writing, and specific claims have specific sources, including production documents obtained from Minnesota Film and Television, H2 network press releases, interviews with History officials, and Wolter’s own broadcasted and printed words. If Wolter feels I have erred in a claim made about him, he is welcome to let me know what is incorrect and why the documentary source for that claim is wrong.
Anyway, since Wolter says that he won’t “advertise” for me, I’m not sure I should direct you to his blog with a direct link. But I will anyway. Here are the relevant comments:
February 1, 5:30 AM
Let me remind you, by the way: Scott Wolter’s “hard science” training is a bachelor’s degree in geology. Mine is a bachelor’s degree in archaeology, which included actual fieldwork conducting archaeological surveys and excavation. He’s been working on archaeological problems for less time (2001-today) than I have (1999-today), and I’ve worked in a major government museum where I’ve had special access to the pre-Columbian artifacts collection and have examined them firsthand. I also have a not-inconsiderable collection of Victorian hoax artifacts created for the artifact trade market, and I worked with professional archaeologists to prove they were fake. These are hoax Native American spear points and arrowheads of varying putative origins, some quite well done. For the last century, these artifacts had been sold and resold as genuine until I ended up with them in 2001—coincidentally the same time Wolter was “authenticating” the Kensington Rune Stone. I’ve done the same type of work looking at rocks to gauge their authenticity, though I didn’t have a lab tricked out in glowing blue maps. (And the Wolter-style relative dating technique is not unique to geology; Flinders Petrie helped create a relative dating system for archaeology in the 1800s!)
Anyway, the point is that I match Wolter credential for credential in our respective fields of fringe studies, and my several books and wealth of documentary research easily outstrip Wolter’s own. Appeals to Wolter’s special authority over me as a mere blogger based on scientific training and experience working with stone artifacts therefore do not apply. In studying concrete, sure, Wolter beats me there (it’s his professional field), just as I easily run laps around Wolter in studies of horror literature and mythology.
Wolter asserts in a comment posted this morning that “the constant whining gets old” and that “logic tells me there’s a reason” that people get so upset by “the work myself [sic] and other professional’s [sic] publish.” He implies this is due to fear of his powerful insights into Oreo cookies and Jesus symbolism, but he seems unable to understand that those who work seriously and carefully with historical material are upset with him because he is making great leaps of logic on faulty evidence and creating a situation where viewers who do not have training in the field, like his viewer Stan, accept speculation as fact and complain to the government about an imaginary conspiracy promoted by Wolter.
One could easily turn this around: Why does Wolter get so incensed at criticism? Logic tells me there’s a reason… Could it be due to fear that he is wrong?
But what do I know? I’m just here to “play” on my “home field.”
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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