Wednesday Roundup: Tom DeLonge to Talk UFOs on History Channel, Harry Reid Spills the Beans on Skinwalker Ranch, and Scott Wolter Says Wrong Things
In case you had not guessed, our theme today is about the symbiotic relationship between conspiracy culture (broadly defined) and the media, which enable and empower it.
Last week, I discussed former Nevada senator Harry Reid’s recent interview with Las Vegas TV journalist and UFO media personality George Knapp, but I didn’t have time last week to discuss the follow-up piece that Knapp presented a few days later. In it, Reid offered a depressing piece of information about the multi-million-dollar UFO investigation program at the Pentagon that he helped arrange and fund.
According to the article, “One focus of the study, Reid says, was a ranch in Utah known as the site of unusual activity for many years.” Knapp appears to be disingenuously referencing Skinwalker Ranch, the alleged paranormal hotspot where Knapp spent years documenting Robert Bigelow’s search for poltergeists and interdimensional portals, research that we now know concluded with government funding for the big wad of nothing that Bigelow’s own team admitted in a recent documentary based in part on Knapp’s work was the end result of years of hiding out in the desert and hoping to catch boogeymen on camera. Bigelow sold the ranch around the time Pentagon funding ran dry, and his team—which included To the Stars executive Hal Puthoff and other members of Tom DeLonge’s UFO-hunting crew—insisted that the lack of evidence was simply proof that poltergeists from other dimensions are too clever for humans to detect. And now we know that the U.S. government took this bullshit seriously and diverted Pentagon resources to the hunt for space ghosts.
Meanwhile, the once and future host of America Unearthed, Scott F. Wolter, went on a tirade on Twitter in the wake of last week’s episode of America’s Lost Vikings—but not because of the show. Instead, Wolter became upset at reviews of the episode that doubted the authenticity of the Kensington Runestone, which the vast majority of mainstream researchers consider a nineteenth century hoax but Wolter insists is an authentic Norse artifact from 1362. The show caused some difficulty for Wolter because he is friends with his fellow ex-History Channel personalities Mike Arbuthnot and Blue Nelson who host the show on the Science Channel, which is itself part of the same conglomerate that owns the Travel Channel, the new home of Wolter’s own TV series. As a result, he did not directly challenge the show’s conclusion that there is no compelling evidence for the stone’s authenticity and instead focused his upset on reviewers.
Normally, I would not consider social media tirades by Scott Wolter to be newsworthy, but since he is once again a television personality who will have a mass following, his words now carry more weight. I won’t go through a blow-by-blow discussion of Wolter’s tweets (in which he claims I am “hate blogger” he caught “lying”), but I do want to highlight a couple of points. Let’s look at some representative tweets:
In this tweet, you will see that Wolter alleges that America’s founders perpetuated Templar “ideology.” The Knights Templar did not support freedom of religion since they were Catholics and actively supported what they saw as the One True Faith. Even accepting the allegations that they were blasphemers who worshiped Baphomet doesn’t make them interested in religious pluralism. But more to the point, freedom of religion is not an original tenet of the American Constitution as written. Restrictions on the federal government’s ability to establish an official religion were added in the First Amendment specifically because the Founders hadn’t included them in the original document and several states refused to ratify the Constitution without such protections. This did not restrict the ability of the states to establish their own official religions until the Fourteenth Amendment applied the First Amendment to the states.
Having just finished writing a book about this subject, it’s fairly clear that the American government never tried to treat Native Americans “fairly.” From the earliest colonial times, the belief was that Native Americans would die off naturally because of their racial inferiority. From the late eighteenth century onward, removal was the preferred method of emptying the land of Native peoples. Here is no less a conspirator than Thomas Jefferson, a Founding Father of the highest standing, explaining to future president William Henry Harrison his hope that Native people would self-deport when white Americans forced them into crippling debt:
To promote this disposition to exchange lands, which they have to spare and we want, for necessaries, which we have to spare and they want, we shall push our trading uses, and be glad to see the good and influential individuals among them run in debt, because we observe that when these debts get beyond what the individuals can pay, they become willing to lop them off by a cession of lands.... In this way our settlements will gradually circumscribe and approach the Indians, and they will in time either incorporate with us as citizens of the United States, or remove beyond the Mississippi. The former is certainly the termination of their history most happy for themselves; but, in the whole course of this, it is essential to cultivate their love. As to their fear, we presume that our strength and their weakness is now so visible that they must see we have only to shut our hand to crush them, and that all our liberalities to them proceed from motives of pure humanity only. Should any tribe be foolhardy enough to take up the hatchet at any time, the seizing the whole country of that tribe, and driving them across the Mississippi, as the only condition of peace, would be an example to others, and a furtherance of our final consolidation.
Jefferson wrote this in 1803, almost three decades before Andrew Jackson’s removal policy became law. In fact, he and Jackson discussed Indian removal that year, helping to inspire Jackson to pursue removal, despite the two men’s profound political differences. There was never an attempt to be fair.
Messy for whom? A land claim isn’t worth anything if no one knows about it—especially if it’s written in what Wolter believes to be a secret code that no one but him can read—and current governments do not derive their authority from colonial-era land claims. The Templars, not being a sovereign government, had no legal authority to claim land in their own name, since European governments only recognized the rights of sovereigns to claim territory. Otherwise, every colonial family would have set up their own little kingdom by claiming this land in the name of Martha and Steve. There is no way the Templars, or their imaginary descendants like Wolter’s friends in the Sinclair family, could waltz in to the Capitol and declare themselves Grail Kings. And even if they could, their claim would be useless since the land was not terra nullius but was, by Wolter’s own admission, occupied by Native Americans, who would have held the original legal rights to the territory. In American legal theory, these rights passed to the British crown and then the American government in some cases and were transferred to the United States by treaty in others. (Whether you agree with how treaties were signed or not is a different issue.) Since Wolter offers no treaty between local Native tribes and representatives of a European crown prior to the colonial era, this whole claim is nothing but hot air.
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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