Fringe historians have no shame. I received an email yesterday from Peter Demmon, the fiction writer who invented the Book of King Og, a fictitious translation of a lost apocryphal Jewish text. I knew that Demmon made it up, but I wasn’t sure if he intended for his readers to believe that the hoax was real. Demmon let me know that he didn’t intend for the fake to text to be taken seriously, and he was shocked to discover that gigantologist Steve Quayle—the right wing anger bomb who blames the Nephilim for homosexuality and implies biblical support for the genocidal extermination of gays—not only accepts the Book of King Og as real but went on disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker’s TV show to talk about how important the book is and his belief that it was written by Og, the Bible giant, himself:
“They just found his writings,” Quayle said. “And guess who released them? The Vatican, supposedly.”
His comments appear here at the 24:00 mark:
Quayle, who obviously did no research into the text that he assumes was actually written by a Bible giant, is misinforming thousands of viewers and revealing that he subsumes factual accuracy beneath ideological expediency.
The sad part is that his audience simply won’t care. We seem to be living in a post-fact age where allegiance to ideology (and increasingly the ideologue) is more important than whether that ideology has actual factual support. But Steve Quayle is far from the only person present himself as an avatar of low-information conspiracies this week.
J. Hutton Pulitzer is the Donald Trump of fringe history—a businessman of dubious accomplishment, a self-aggrandizing but insecure egomaniac, a conspiracy theorist—and now he is also a, like Trump, a purveyor of right wing ideology masquerading as a critique of science. In his latest blog post, Pulitzer revealed not just a stunning ignorance of modern science but also a paranoid conservatism that folds his anger and fear at “liberalism” into his stew of reasons why archaeology is wrong to suppress the grand accomplishments of some lost prehistoric civilization.
Pulitzer begins his post by describing the 1960 Lost World movie, which was based on the 1925 silent version, in turn based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s turn of the century Lost World novel. Pulitzer calls the movie racist for using non-native actors (he calls them “Italians”) and suggests that Hollywood was merely following the lead of academics, who treat non-white peoples as specimens: “I realized that the sci-fi writer most likely consulted some back woods rural South Carolina Pseudo-Archaeologist who never worked in the field, but only learned from books.” He accuses scholars of believing native people capable of nothing but “jiggly dances.” Pulitzer isn’t just lying—he clearly did no research into the film, or even the scholarship on native cultures available at the time—but he also reveals that his view of mainstream science is hopelessly trapped in the 1960s, as though time had simply stopped with the (wrong) paradigm of Man the Hunter.
“Man the Hunter” was the name of an influential 1966 symposium that attempted to make the case that human males evolved to be violent hunters while human females evolved to be nurturing gatherers. The paradigm remained influential for about 25 years, and it is often conflated in popular culture with Lewis Henry Morgan’s 1877 idea of linear cultural evolution from savagery to barbarism to civilization, a paradigm that had been on the decline since Franz Boas’s 1918 attack on linear development.
I’m 35 years old, and I have no active memory of Man the Hunter or the 1960s/1970s view of anthropology and human nature. That paradigm had collapsed before I was teenager, and the stereotype of cavemen hauling home slabs of meat for their dutiful wives was already a joke for cartoons when I was a kid. I’m not sure anyone under 40 would have a living memory of when this was a widespread view, or that anyone paying attention to modern science would think it still applied, much less Morgan’s 1877 linear model of development.
But for Pulitzer, the world of the 1960s isn’t just alive and well; it’s where he lives and where he thinks the rest of us live. (Probably, given his apparent age, his views formed during the 1970s.) Listen to him describe a 1960 movie with a toxic stew of anger at 1960s science and modern culture wars, themselves rooted in the changes to the social contract made during the 1960s (spelling and capitalization as in original):
So here is how wide the circle goes. Archaeologists got it wrong, sold the bad images to Hollywood and then Hollywood sold it to the world AND that is exactly WHY the psuedo-archaeologists, archaeologist, anthropologist and others STILL cannot disown bad data and beliefs and still stick to “man was simple”, “man could not sail great oceans before Columbus”, “Americas were only wild animals” and “Man was not more advanced in the ancient past”. These same “super left leaning” academics who espouse being “more moral, open and advanced” then the common man and women of today, still peddle historic swill as fact. These same people who will turn a blind eye to an inconvenient pregnancy being killed in womb, but will fight with all they have to have you imprisoned if you kill a feral animal, are the same people WHO DENY man was once better, smarter and did more amazing things than we could ever imagine. But yet, these same individuals hammer into our heads that ancient man was nothing more than wild animals themselves.
Notice the insidious political agenda used to smear scholarship: Academics, he alleges, purposely distort history to conform to Lewis Henry Morgan’s linear model in order to reinforce 1960s social paradigms for the (paradoxical) purpose of positioning themselves as the uppermost echelon of the linear order, the most evolved and therefore superior lords of the earth. The root of Pulitzer’s anger, then, is not at “facts” per se but rather at his feeling that he has been denied his rightful place at the head of the social order. It is the rage of the failure, blaming others for not recognizing his genius.
I can’t imagine how Pulitzer’s reactionary views will mesh with those of his XpLrR business partner Scott Wolter, who is one of those “super left-leaning” hippies he hates. Wolter, after all, believes in climate change, social progress, and even goddess worship!
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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