I have to say that I was quite surprised to look at the final Nielsen cable ratings for last Friday, when Ancient Aliens returned to the History channel schedule after three years in exile on H2. I imagine History was shocked as well. According to Nielsen’s published ratings, Ancient Aliens did not rank among the 100 most watched cable shows for Friday April 10. This means that fewer than 300,000 adults between 18 and 49 watched the program on Friday, since 300,000 18-49 demo viewers were the audience for the 100th most popular show. I’m not able to estimate the total number of viewers since Nielsen ranks shows based on 18-49 viewers, not total viewers. In its 9 PM time slot, the program lost big to Discovery’s Bering Sea Gold and reruns of The Cleveland Show and Full House. This is a dramatic fall for a show that brought in 1.5 million viewers (400,000 in the 18-49 demographic) when it aired after Curse of Oak Island in a couple of special presentations over the winter. Can it be that the age of Ancient Aliens is finally drawing to a close? I wouldn’t count on it, but it seems that History’s efforts to rebuilt their Friday night and challenge Discovery’s dominance of the evening among middle aged male viewers didn’t go according to plan.
But even if Ancient Aliens crashes like a Roswell flying saucer, it will hardly make a dent in the endless flood of conspiracy theories. As many regular readers know, outside of my blog I also have an interest in nineteenth century European history, and I am continuously surprised by how often I stumble upon outrageous conspiracy theories when reading about even the most anodyne subjects on the internet. It’s enough to make me give up on the open web altogether. I was trying to find a picture of an Austrian archduke whose face I couldn’t quite remember, and Google Images took me quite quickly to a website that did in fact have his picture—and then tied the Habsburgs to a crazy-quilt conspiracy that linked the devil and the Jews to the imperial family. Oh, and Hitler, too. And let’s throw in the Watchers as well because, well, you have to have the Watchers. What conspiracy is complete without them?
According to The Reformation Online, the Great Pyramid was built by the corrupt pre-Flood civilization to preserve its unholy scientific knowledge. You will of course recognize this as a form of the story of the Enochian Pillars of Wisdom built by the Children of Seth or the Watchers in Jewish legend, later applied to the pyramid when Enoch became associated with Hermes Trismegistus, the builder of the Great Pyramid in Late Antique and medieval mythology. The website specifically cites Flavius Josephus on the pillars. But Reformation Online also has creepier reasons for accepting this fairy story: “To attribute the technologically advanced Great Pyramid to the Ancient Egyptians is like claiming that the Hottentots of Africa, or the aborigines of Australia, built the Empire State Building.”
So anyway, the author connects the pre-Flood corruption to the “sinful” Roman Catholic Church, following the centuries-old slander that Rome is really Babylon. Our author hates the Habsburgs largely for being Catholic: “The very name is synonymous with Roman Catholicism, bigotry, absolutism and autocracy.” Our author goes on to claim that the Habsburg dynasty gave rise to the Rothschilds and the Rockefellers, and that all three families are “demonic.” Thus, because our author believes that a Baron Rothschild raped Hitler’s grandmother, Hitler is therefore a Habsburg and the Habsburgs somehow manipulated Hitler into power in Germany. This would be the same Hitler who hated the Habsburgs and wanted to steal the symbols of their power (particularly the Holy Lance) and build a new Austrian capital to supersede Vienna.
Our author goes on to discuss his hatred of Jewish financiers and his love for America as the Biblical New Jerusalem, fulfilling God’s prophecy.
Speaking of the Habsburgs, it’s probably worth exploring one more crazy claim made about the family, this time citing insufficient Catholicism for the dynasty’s downfall. In 1889 the thirty-year-old Crown Prince Rudolf von Habsburg, the heir to the thrones of Austria and Hungary, murdered his teenaged mistress and killed himself. The suicide shocked Europe and was rightly called the nineteenth century’s “most spectacular suicide.” His suicide also was indirectly responsible for sparking the First World War through a chain of events too confounding to list here, but the death of the most liberal member of the ruling family forever changed Austrian policy, and not for the better. The imperial family covered up as many of the details as they could, fabricating a cause of death and even driving the dead mistress’s body away from the site of the murder propped up in a carriage as though alive.
Anyway, the tragedy led to a number of conspiracy theories, but one of the oddest claims came from the Count de Soissons. In 1903, he wrote a generally glowing profile of the Habsburgs for the Pall Mall Gazette, and he explained that Rudolf’s disordered thoughts and acceptance of that awful doctrine of liberalism may have stemmed from skepticism:
He was very fond of reading [secularist poet Heinrich] Heine, whom he admired so much that he would pay any fancy price for his unpublished letters; he had thirty of them, and his thoughts may have been infected with scepticism.
Now, granted, the count wasn’t referring to skepticism in precisely the same way we do today, but he surely meant to imply that secularism, liberalism, and doubts about tradition and faith lay behind Rudolf’s “melancholy” (depression), exacerbated by a fall from his horse, which further disrupted his already taxed brain, a brain too consumed, he said, with “intellectual overwork” and “feverish activity.” Rudolf was the brightest intellect the House of Habsburg had produced in centuries; naturally, the count concluded that being smart, liberal, and skeptical led him to sexual debauchery and ultimately did him in!
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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