Yesterday, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch ran an article by journalist Alexander Zaitchik exploring the close connections between fringe history and hate, notably the way that white nationalists, Neo-Nazis, and anti-Semites have incorporated claims as wide-ranging as ancient aliens, lost civilizations, and Bible giants into a narrative designed to promote a racist agenda. Zaitchik quotes me as an expert in fringe history’s darker themes, and I am pleased that he made good use of much of the information that I provided about some of the many ways hate groups have employed fringe history to craft narratives of racial supremacy.
In lieu of a blog post today, I want to encourage you to read Zaitchik’s article. Much of it will be familiar, but the narrative gains power when so many of the themes we have discussed separately here come together in one place.
Benjamin Radford of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry also appears in the article, and he is, if anything, much blunter about the connection between pseudo-history and racism: “Pseudo-histories feed the self-importance and aggrievement of neo-Nazis and alt-right folk. … They feel their rightful place in the world has been denied them — by ‘Big Archeology', by Jews, by an oppressive government.” This echoes quite nicely the article I am currently working on for a British magazine covering the anti-Semitic themes in conspiracy theories about the Rothschilds—conspiracies that also tend to fall along the axis of alt-right and Neo-Nazi supporters, and conspiracies that also cross over into feelings of being disempowered by a vast conspiracy of shady power brokers.
The best part must be the discussion of Patrick Chouinard, an advocate of the “ancient Aryan” version of the lost civilization theory. He is torn between his white nationalist beliefs and the fringe’s growing focus on the ancient astronaut theory as the centerpiece of an alternative worldview:
“The Jews,” writes Chouinard, “are using … the ancient alien camp to confound our race to the point that we deny our own accomplishments. The White race did not need ancient aliens to build our ancient civilizations, or to found other civilizations in remote corners of the Earth. Our race is capable of so much more.”
Given the origins of the ancient astronaut idea in racist Victorian efforts to deny Native people credit for their own cultures and works, there is more than a little irony in a white nationalist trying to stop the ancient astronaut theory from doing the same to white people. Alt-history has become an ouroboros eating its own tail.
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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