The sheer volume of fringe stupidity broadcasted and printed each week is overwhelming. Even in my little corner of the world, ancient history, the amount is simply astonishing. If I had no actual job and spent all day doing nothing by evaluating fringe history claims, I would never be able to fit it all in. Take, for example, Rene Barnett’s NightVision radio show on LA Talk Radio, a program that has plenty of fringe history and which I usually have no time to listen to.
Airing weekly, the show supposedly covers all things paranormal but in recent months has focused largely on what I have come to call the Scott Wolter special: Holy Bloodline-Templar-Freemason-Oreo Cookie conspiracies. This also happens to be Barnett’s central area of interest. She produced a documentary about the alleged Holy Bloodline in 2009. Barnett convinced Scott Wolter to come to France to investigate her Holy Bloodline mystery in 2010, based on information in her documentary about the “discovery” by Ben Hammott of the Holy Bloodline tomb in France, which Hammott (whose real name is actually Bill Wilkerson) admitted in 2012 was an elaborate hoax, causing significant damage to Barnett’s reputation, by her own admission. Wolter reported the story in disjointed form in Akhenaten to the Founding Fathers.
Over the past few weeks, Barnett has discussed the Holy Grail in America (Oct. 31 and Nov. 14), the Priory of Scion (Nov. 28, repeating an earlier episode), the Knights Templar (and King Arthur!) in America (Dec. 12), the origins of Freemasonry in the Book of Enoch (Dec. 19), and so on. She capped it off Thursday night with, of course, Scott Wolter himself.
I don’t listen to this show regularly because, frankly, Rene Barnett is not a very engaging radio personality.
Scott Wolter announced that season 3 of America Unearthed has been commissioned and that it will continue to explore the Knights Templar and their connections to France and Portugal, but the show has not settled on a “final storyline” for the upcoming Templar episodes. He said, however, that he will be exploring St. Bernard of Clairvaux and the founding of the Templar order. He also plans to trace the “older” history of “early Templars that came here prior to Columbus and intermarried with Native Americans,” which I imagine is news to Native Americans.
Barnett asked if Wolter would consider a spinoff focusing on non-American topics, a sort of World Unearthed. His reply was telling, not because it is true but because it reveals so much about his ethnocentric worldview that sees his home as the navel of the world:
We do always want to try to bring it back to America, and a ‘World Unearthed’ would, in my opinion, in just about every [case] and in just about every continent there would be a connection to ancient North America and what is now the United States…
He then launched into his first tirade of the evening about “academia,” which he asserts claims that there was a “fence” around the Americas until Columbus. This is obviously false since “academia” was thrilled to find L’Anse-aux-Meadows (Vikings) as well as—and this is one Scott Wolter just does not care about at all since it comes from the wrong direction—evidence of Polynesian voyages to South America. Further, there were several known migrations by Asian peoples into the Americas, by the ancestors of the Native Americans, who did not all come at once. The last were the Inuit.
Barnett mentions her earlier discussion of the Templars with Rick Osmon, a fringe author who explores pre-Columbian Old World visits to America. Barnett says that according to Osmon, “Manifest Destiny” (which was never an official U.S. policy) is why academia and the American government are conspiring to prevent “us” (non-experts) from learning about Old World voyages to America. Wolter agrees and says that the Founding Fathers had a “land-grab” plan focused on two tenets: dehumanizing Native Americans to justify taking their land and (b) promoting the myth of Columbus to claim that America was virgin land, unclaimed by European powers and ripe for the annexation. The conspiracy must run deep since elements of the founding generation fought bitterly with Jefferson over whether it was even permitted for the president to expand the country’s borders.
But this is interesting: In Wolter’s view, the government suppressed the truth in order to deny that Native Americans are really white people in order to justify committing genocide. The unspoken idea is that if Old World peoples “intermarried” with Native Americans, then Native Americans are really white, and therefore should be treated better. This is incredibly patronizing and belies the fact that many early Americans actively believed that many Native Americans were descended from medieval Welsh or the Lost Tribes of Israel but went ahead and expelled them from their lands anyway because money is more important than ancient history. The Mormons went so far as to declare the Native Americans both Lost Tribes and cursed by God.
Wolter then claims that the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. government destroyed pre=Columbian non-Native archaeological sites and “buried” artifacts in the archives to suppress the truth about the partial European ancestry Native Americans.
Remember: Wolter is the one arguing that we should view Native Americans as hidden white people. I’m not the one doing this. He wants to make Native Americans into Europeans.
Both Barnett and Wolter agree that the “world” was always integrated and connected and America has always been a central theater in world history, dating back as far as we care to look. Wolter claims that the people who watch America Unearthed are reacting well to this America-centric view and are “interested” and “want to know more” about the centrality of America in world history. He then blasts “academia” again for trying to “put down” artifacts that Wolter has authenticated. And here I thought that the Smithsonian and the U.S. government eradicated this stuff. Silly me. They are bad at conspiracy.
Wolter declares that Tucson Lead Artifacts, discovered in the 1920s with excerpts from a late nineteenth century Latin grammar textbook inscribed on them, to be “absolutely” genuine and their archaeological context “pristine.” He again claims academics refuse to admit this.
Wolter calls the Rock Wall of Rockwall episode (S02E03) his favorite from Season 2, and (please note, Steve St. Clair), Barnett said that the first thing she remembered from the episode was how impressive it was to see Wolter driving heavy machinery. Wolter agrees, saying in jest that he is “a man of many talents.” Barnett says she was shocked to discover that the “obviously” manmade all was a natural feature, but she is unable to abstract this lesson to other fringe phenomena, remaining convince that everything else is exactly what it appears to her to be. Wolter confesses that he knew the wall was natural from the first moment he saw the site, proving again that the episode was heavily manipulated to generate an hour’s worth of mystery out of two minutes of content, and that Wolter was acting when he pretended to see a mystery.
After this, Wolter takes a moment to blast the Minnesota state archaeologist, Scott Anfinson, whom he accuses of refusing to discuss “details” of Wolter’s various claims, instead preferring to “tell us what he thinks” rather than detail reasons why Wolter is wrong. “Scott Anfinson I don’t think was totally forthcoming with all the information that he knew, and so I’m just being honest. That’s my opinion, but he’s been very vocal in his opinion against the [Kensington] Rune Stone.” Barnett expresses exasperation that Wolter is being “attacked” by people that Wolter says are “saying things that aren’t true.” He says that skeptics are calling him names but that this doesn’t bother him. “It’s about the evidence. It’s not about me.” Right: His evidence remains on a spectrum from faulty to fake, as he will shortly prove in this very interview.
Wolter then announced that he will be working with Simcha Jacobovici, the Canadian filmmaker known for his advocacy of the so-called Jesus tomb, to explore an undisclosed mystery related to the Bible, a book Wolter admitted in print to not having read. Even Barnett expresses skepticism about Jacobovici’s claims, which surprised me. She thinks he’s “nice” but that she can’t agree with his conclusions. I imagine this has something to do with Christianity and the way Jacobovici’s work would, at face value, undermine the tenets of faith and possibly contradict her own Holy Bloodline claims.
Barnett complains about “armchair critics” who fail to put forward “new evidence.” Wolter disagrees and says that he learns from those who disagree with him. He says he looks forward to disagreement as long as it isn’t “personal,” “condescending,” or “negative.” He asserts that critics, which I guess must include me, shouldn’t get upset when Wolter disagrees with them and vice versa. “When I’m dealing with people who see something differently, I want to listen to them. I want to see where they’re coming from.” He tried to have A+E Networks to sue me to stop me from criticizing him, his trademarked “Hooked X®,” and his show, so I’m not sure I’m willing to take him at face value that suddenly everyone should be happy friends who just happen to disagree about history. He then blames “certain elements of academia” for opposing him bitterly, but he says that “open-minded, objective academics” are great, and that there’s really a mix of good and bad academics. This would certainly seem to contradict his repeated refrain.
Wolter next discusses “connections” between his work and those of other fringe theorists, which he views as uncovering a “matrix of connections” in world history that each researcher sees a small part of. He then discusses the Prophecies of the Popes, which I cannot believe he takes completely at face value. He asserts that the prophecies, published in 1595 (Latin text here), really are the work of their putative author, the eleventh-century Saint Malichy, whom Wolter views as connected to the Templars. But even taking at face value the prophecies, dismissed by the Catholic Church and nearly all historians as a sixteenth-century forgery (they suddenly stop being accurate after 1590), they do not say what Wolter asserts. He claims that the prophecies say that in “2012” [sic] the pope would resign and the new pope would be from outside of Europe and the last one before the coming of the New Age. The prophecies list 112 popes, and the current pope is the 112th successor to St. Peter. Here is exactly, in its entirety, what the prophecy says about pope 111, the next to last: “Gloria olivae” (Glory of the Olive). That’s it. No resignation, no year, nothing. Just olives. As for pope 112, the final pope? No, nothing about him being non-European. It calls the final pope “Peter the Roman” and says he will “pasture his sheep” before Rome is destroyed.
Barnett and Wolter then discuss papal politics, and Wolter suggests that Pope Francis “could have connections to people on the other squad” (if I heard this correctly) and that “there is more going on here” than the selection of a popular pope. I don’t know what this means. Wolter calls Catholicism a “dying institution” but likes the pope. Barnett and Wolter want the pope to open the “secret” Vatican archives, and Wolter asserts that the Church is suppressing “explosive” documents, including as many as 30% of the Dead Sea Scrolls. He claims that the Church knows which Europeans first visited Central America. “How did they know about all the gold,” he asks, if no one had been there prior to the Spanish? I guess the fact that the Native peoples had literally tons of gold covering all their temples and idols wasn’t enough of a clue.
Barnett wants to know why no one has stormed the Vatican or broken in to find the hidden pre-Columbian travelogues. She also thinks that the Vatican is hiding “the lost Book of Enoch,” to which: What? Enoch was published centuries ago.
Wolter says he’s currently researching the Priory of Sion, a non-existent secret organization originating in a French hoax from the 1950s, which he believes really exists and is connected to the Freemasons and the Rosicrucians.
As the show comes close to its end, Barnett discusses being taken in by Ben Hammott’s hoax connected to the Jesus Bloodline, which destroyed her lucrative Holy Bloodline cottage industry and shattered her feeling that Holy Bloodline researchers were a “family” working toward a single aim. Wolter compliments her for how she handled the aftermath of the hoax, and he asks her to read more about the Priory of Sion. Barnett and Wolter speculate about whether they can “prove” that people they know are secretly members of the Priory of Scion. “It’s impossible to know,” Wolter says.
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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