Today I have two topics to discuss, though they aren’t particularly closely related.
In Salon yesterday, Christine Montross has an interesting piece on “Jerusalem syndrome,” an unofficial and disputed psychiatric condition whereby a certain number of individuals with “unusual ideas” about the Bible become obsessed with Jerusalem, visit the city, and have a psychotic episode while there. More concerning, seemingly-normal people visiting the city can become susceptible to similar episodes, developing psychosis in identifiable stages: They first declare their intention to explore the city by themselves, walking the streets alone. Next, they become fixated on purity and hygiene. After purifying themselves, they will typically dress in pseudo-Biblical clothing, frequently made of bed sheets, and then proceed to a holy place to deliver a ranting sermon about morality and simplicity. Within five days, the syndrome subsides and the otherwise normal person returns to ordinary life as though nothing had ever happened.
This happens frequently enough (42 times in 13 years) to lead some psychologists to consider it a bona fide disorder, while others suggest that extreme belief, even if hidden in “normal” life, is the root cause of its manifestation when outside the “normal” environment during a visit to the city.
Apparently, though, Jerusalem is not alone. Japanese tourists in Paris experience psychotic breaks due to highly romantic expectations of Paris clashing against the banality of everyday Parisian life. They became agitated, violent, and sometimes suicidal. In Florence, tourists become hysterical, violent, and paranoid while viewing Renaissance art, with one man claiming that the art revealed the empty hoax that was his life and several other tourists losing their sense of time or identity.
In these cases, deeply held beliefs provoked extreme reactions, and I wonder if there isn’t an “alternative history syndrome” to explain why so many who begin exploring alternative history become obsessed with defending low-evidence hypotheses, describe alternative history in religious or belief-oriented language, and become combative and extremely hostile when their deeply-held ideologies face evidence-based challenges. I’m not seriously arguing that alternative history creates psychosis, but it is interesting that cases like Jerusalem syndrome indicate just how deeply affected the brain can become when ideology and emotion collide in precisely the right way.
Most interesting, I think, is that these various syndromes are associated with specific groups. In Paris, it is almost always Japanese tourists because the Japanese have a particularly strong belief about Paris as a center of culture. In Jerusalem, it is almost always Western Christians. In other words, the syndrome has a cultural aspect—Hindus are not generally terribly interested in Jerusalem, for example.
What Happens When an African American Watches America Unearthed?
On a somewhat related note, it is interesting to see what people from outside the target audience for alternative history think about it. I don’t imagine it surprises anyone to know that the audience for America Unearthed is very heavily weighted toward white viewers. H2 does not break down their audience by race, but a review of cable viewing numbers for African American and white audiences shows significant divergence across all television programs, with the two audiences sharing very little in common. For example, no History Channel shows appear on the most recent list of the most popular cable programs for all African American adults (exception: one, Swamp People, appears on the list for African American men 25-54), while four appear on the list for overall viewers, nearly three-quarters of whom are white. The obvious conclusion is that African American audiences do not watch the History Channel in significant numbers, and therefore not its more specialized sibling H2.
This is a lot of set up for a brief bit of humor. What happens when a non-white viewer stumbles across America Unearthed? Recently an African American viewer tuned in to America Unearthed for the first time, and she immediately detected a racial component to the show’s version of American history that has gone largely unnoticed among white viewers:
Watching America Unearthed and the white guy was like ‘the history we learned in school is wrong’ tell me more Tombs and catacombs and pyramids? Ancient languages? No one can read them? Maybe if ya’ll didn’t murder millions of natives we would know a lot more of “American” history And then they wanna act like native attacks are wrong bitch you came onto their land trying to make towns and shit, you can’t do that Stand your Ground remember? ugh im babbling because its like 3 am but whatever
Now, granted, this writer has an interest in social justice issues; however, this viewer immediately recognized the lack of Native American perspectives, the lack of understanding of Native American contributions to American pre-history, and the program’s ethnocentrism.
I am, of course, not suggesting that race defines how we react to history. Rather, each of us approaches claims about history with certain assumptions and values. When we see how those who do not share all of the same assumptions and values view a claim, we gain a new perspective and new insight. Just to show that it isn’t all about race: I’ve heard from many white Australians who are just now getting America Unearthed on their televisions, and the reaction has been almost uniformly the same. Australia doesn’t share America’s negative historical relationship with Native Americans (though Australia has its own complex history with its Aboriginal peoples) and therefore the lack of Native Americans on the show is just as obvious there.
Compare, however, our writer’s reaction to that of Scott Wolter himself, as he related it on the radio with Tim Shaw a few weeks ago, when he proclaimed that he was fighting against
…the post-Manifest Destiny period where, you know, I mean, let’s be honest, you know, we committed genocide against the Natives because they were not Christian, they were pagan, and not worthy of owning this land, so we took it from ’em, and, I mean, you know, it’s virgin land, right? It’s basically free for the taking. And when they were finding evidence—cause you know they did—of previous contact with all kinds of cultures, some of them land claims like the Kensington Rune Stone, what would this do to Manifest Destiny? [Shaw (cross-talk): “Exactly, exactly.”] It would create a problem, wouldn’t it? So what do you do? You just make it go away. I mean, it was the simplest, it was the easiest explanation. And some people would say, well, you’re talking about a major conspiracy. In some ways, I think there is a conspiracy going on until people can explain to me things like the Bat Creek Stone.
In the statements of Scott Wolter, Native Americans appear as collateral damage in a grand conspiracy by some white people to cover up the actions of other white people to hide the truth from still more white people in the name of political power. It’s never stated that way, and I doubt Wolter thinks of it in those terms, but as you can see, when you don’t share the Eurocentric viewpoint, it sure looks that way.
8/26/2013 07:49:47 am
(I'm sorry to drag this conversation over from another post, but I think it is relevant enough...)
8/26/2013 12:44:24 pm
Isaac, my good man, I absolutely do consider Native American history to be as important as the history of white Europeans in America. Only peer back a few blog subjects, and you will see my challenge to take Native Americans seriously as they relate their histories.
8/26/2013 03:38:49 pm
8/27/2013 04:59:47 am
So your evidence is a warning to move inland possibly maybe around the same time as Sir Henry Sinclair never went to America (I may not be an expert on Native histories, but I know the Zeno Narrative)? You'll have to do better than that.
Major attempt slip through the record? At least you see it as major, not minor, like the Blog Host. Wow. How much has happened of a major nature that we don't know about? This is why we are all interested in history, because it can and is changing. Some are skeptical and want change to be slow, while some are perhaps insightful (even if only in their own eyes) and want change to take place more rapidly...especially when new evidence is discovered and recognized.
8/27/2013 05:21:19 am
The above was meant for Tara's comment, not Isaac's.
8/27/2013 05:53:41 am
Technically, the KRS says nothing about Native Americans. It could have been Hebrews, Romans, Welsh, bears, ghosts, Windigos, or anyone else for all the information the KRS provides. Additionally, it doesn't say they went in search of fish but rather that they were fishing... the fishing could have been incidental to any other purpose. If you want us to take the KRS seriously, you can't make assumptions without evidence.
8/27/2013 06:53:13 am
I know, Jason, we both want to be logical.
8/27/2013 07:13:45 am
I'm afraid I don't see anything I should apologize for, Gunn.
8/27/2013 08:00:04 am
I thought we were done with this KRS nonsense? Didn't Gunn promise he was done pushing this crap a couple months ago? I seem to remember a very lengthy post about how he was tired of being persecuted by unbelievers (but I'm not so concerned I'm going to go dig up a link to the blog post itself).
8/27/2013 08:26:03 am
Gunn, WHERE ARE THE BODIES? The stone says ten men "were red from blood and dead," so WHERE ARE THE BODIES? The stone also uses Christian terminology, so presumably they were Christian and would have buried those bodies. In pre-refrigeration days, they certainly wouldn't--couldn't!--have hauled them home. If they weren't Christian, they STILL would have buried them in a mass grave, probably in one of the fishing vessels, as was recently discovered in the Baltic. (http://www.archaeology.org/issues/95-1307/features/941-vikings-saaremaa-estonia-salme-vendel-oseberg)
8/27/2013 12:44:46 pm
I guess it won't do any harm to thwart some shallow thinking here.
8/27/2013 01:08:49 pm
Varika, you have little imagination. Where are the bodies...from 1362?
8/27/2013 01:36:46 pm
Gunn, I eagerly await a reply containing;
8/27/2013 02:23:16 pm
"Where are the bodies...from 1362?"
8/27/2013 02:29:47 pm
Gunn, you mad, bro?
8/27/2013 02:59:12 pm
"Yes, the expedition was part of a land grab that didn't work out. Ten men died. It's right there on the runestone, put very simply. Everyone wants to make up abstract, fanciful stories, or get rude over it, instead of just taking the runestone for what it says. Not much interpretation is needed."
8/27/2013 05:23:10 pm
I called into question only the motivations for the continued diatribe regarding a topic Jason himself has expressed displeasure in, and the quality of the evidence supplied by the site in question. I'm sorry if my language offended you, but it had to be said.
8/27/2013 06:21:24 pm
"the idea other Scandinavians could make and leave the KRS over 200 years later, further inland, is logical."
8/27/2013 06:56:35 pm
Good points, Christopher.
8/26/2013 03:58:58 pm
When are you people going to get over your romanticized vision of early European seafarers and admit the obvious truth that it was the Mandans who colonized Wales. The relevant geology is all in their favor. Rivers flow away from Mandan-land, not to it. The Missouri flows into the Mississippi. The Mississippi flows into the Gulf. The Gulf gyre leads to the Florida Straits and the Gulf Stream gently crosses the Atlantic to the British Isles. Sure, this course leads to Ireland before Wales but, as The Other J. points out below, Ireland has a bad rap for being a land of violent drunken louts. Unless the Mandans were looking for a Spring Break blow out, it makes sense that they would have continued on to someplace more serious. I'm sure a careful study of Morris Dancing will support my thesis.
8/26/2013 04:15:43 pm
Indeed,I once mentioned the Gulf stream issue when discussing the claim of ancient Africans traveling to America with large canoes.Can we expect John Henrik Clarke & Cheikh Anta Diop Aficionados to solve this mystery?.
8/26/2013 04:46:30 pm
My secondary field of study in grad school (after Balkan History) was Colonial Africa. Naturally, with my love of forbidden knowledge literature, I came across Diop almost immediately in my studies. He was too peripheral to my main work for me ever to do more than look at him for entertainment. I think there is great potential in doing a work on alternative history in non-European literature. Diop and Vine DeLoria leap to mind. Hindu nationalists provide some wonderful material. I'm not familiar with it, but I'm sure East Asia must have some doozies. The only danger in such a study would be that it would taken over by Post Colonialists.
The Other J.
8/26/2013 07:18:23 pm
The Mandans colonized Wales -- I like it. (My wife's part-Native American, part-Welsh; she also approves.)
8/27/2013 11:31:18 pm
As Clint notes, this blog was not about the KRS, and I would prefer if the discussion had something to do with the topic of the blog post. I have repeatedly suggested that Gunn host his own forum for discussing his beliefs about the KRS and pre-Columbian European colonization. If this sort of thing continues, I'm going to have to start locking comments or going to a cumbersome pre-approval system, which is going to take a lot of extra time that I already spend deleting the SEO optimization advertising comments that Indian companies flood me with every night.
8/28/2013 12:34:05 am
I'm sorry, Jason, this whole derailing was pretty clearly my doing. I tried to make my original comment at least partly on-topic, but it rather quickly got out of hand.
8/28/2013 12:42:56 am
Don't worry about it. It keeps happening across every blog post no matter who says what.
8/28/2013 03:07:28 am
You make life tough on yourself.
8/26/2013 07:54:59 am
Of course though what it all boils down to is white privilege which shows like "America Unearthed" and such is all part of it.
The Other J.
8/26/2013 10:30:50 am
"Apparently, though, Jerusalem is not alone. Japanese tourists in Paris experience psychotic breaks [...]. In Florence, tourists become hysterical, violent, and paranoid while viewing Renaissance art [...] In these cases, deeply held beliefs provoked extreme reactions [...]"
8/26/2013 03:57:50 pm
The Other J.
8/26/2013 05:33:44 pm
8/27/2013 08:27:31 am
Maybe it just didn't have anything to say that day, J.
The Other J.
8/27/2013 12:30:58 pm
Varika, I have no evidence to dispute that. Maybe the stuffed gorilla just didn't have anything to say, especially to a 5-year-old. Good point.
8/29/2013 06:52:02 pm
If an Australian tried to prank someone's gullibility it is not an act of hostility, but one of bonding and affection. If you can see the joke and have a laugh you are a good sort, if you don't fall for the trick you are a smart one. The wrong response is to get butt-hurt about it. It is also fine to prank them back in a similar fashion if it has been done to you. It is generally best to fall for it...
8/28/2013 03:05:34 am
I guess it's okay for Jason to speculate and dance around the rim of the KRS, constantly making jabs at the runestone and Scott Wolter, without adversarial comment? Jason brings the subject up more than one visiting here would think. Look at the blog heading: bringing up America Unearthed again, then including the Afro-American bitch comment, which can easily be related to the KRS scenario. Off topic? I don't think so.
8/28/2013 03:17:20 am
Wow. Farewell, and please do not come back. The insult toward the African American writer as a "bitch" was uncalled for, and your further claim that I am "anti-white" is similarly uncalled for, though it says more about you than about me.
8/28/2013 12:25:47 pm
"The insult toward the African American writer as a "bitch" was uncalled for."
8/28/2013 12:45:22 pm
I'm not sure how you expected "including the Afro-American bitch comment" to be read. If you did not mean for Afro-American to modify bitch, then you ought not to have written it that way. I also fail to see how the writer's grammar is relevant to the point she was making, or how it is insensitive to quote her to discuss her opinion, not her grammar. But if by "over and out" you mean you are leaving, by all means Godspeed.
8/28/2013 01:41:46 pm
I suppose if you try to, you can take it both ways. I didn't think I would have to put quotation marks around bitch for someone to follow that I meant the "bitch" comment by the African-American woman. Nice try at feigning ignorance. But it was you who quoted, thereby highlighting, the language of the Black woman for a purpose, and now you should back away? Good idea.
8/28/2013 03:23:00 am
Yes, bodies after 650 years. That's quite common in archeology, as is finding older remains. So common in fact that a lot of the time the initial finds are simply people doing construction. Twice now at least in this forum when you've made that comment others (including me) have called you out on it, and you never find time to respond. You have time to bang out complaints about how poorly you're treated and how you're the only person dealing with the issues, and yet you dodge this issue repeatedly. You can't expect to be taken seriously and be ignorant of the fact that 600 or 1000 year old remains are studied all of the time.
8/28/2013 04:35:59 am
I'm going to try attacking you positively, see if it works.
8/28/2013 05:15:14 am
You can do better than that, Isaac. Allow me to demonstrate. Ahem...
8/28/2013 03:47:27 am
8/28/2013 01:25:20 pm
I'm not sure your wisdom will help this time, Tara.
8/28/2013 02:01:06 pm
I guess I owe you a goodbye, Tara. I've got some free time coming up, and I'm thinking about making another trip up to Brandon, where I figure those bodies once were, or still are. One of the problems in the translations on "The Stone" was over exactly where the men were camped. One translation talked about skerries, sort of stony places in water, while another talked about shelters. A more exact or perfect translation would help. The men were camped between such two places. Perhaps such places could be found near Brandon, which, as "The Stone" describes, is about a day's travel by water. This time I'll take my trusty metal-detector with me.
8/28/2013 08:01:18 pm
8/28/2013 08:30:35 pm
8/28/2013 10:42:29 am
8/28/2013 11:15:06 pm
"Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." - Jesus of Nazareth, as quoted in Matthew 5:38-9
8/29/2013 10:59:04 am
I say Jason deserves failure because of his constant attacks against God. This was a good thing for me to say, as he's actively hardening hearts against God. His punishment will be more severe, and he should take warning.
8/29/2013 11:20:56 am
"Opher always wants explorers to hang around long enough to leave plenty of signs of non-habitation"
8/29/2013 04:39:31 pm
As a Christian, I find your words and attitude insufferable. Its people like you that give Christianity a black eye. Because of your recent tirades, I'm beginning to think there needs to be a Gunn control policy implemented.
8/29/2013 04:56:42 pm
8/29/2013 05:24:35 pm
Thank you, Tara. Our choices to believe or disbelieve in the divine should be irrelevant to our discussions. Your tolerance and willingness to share both insight and personal experience is appreciated, at least by me. I'm grateful to you.
8/30/2013 05:23:46 am
Only Me, you are a pretty shallow Christian to not see how smug Jason is against God, very openly, and not care an ounce.
8/30/2013 10:16:26 am
You're still here? Bless your heart:)
9/1/2013 07:31:24 am
Why would a proto Swedish expetidtion around 1300 be looking for land so far inland? Upstate ny has thousands of good furtile and south of lake Ontario. Sorry if you look hoe long Europeans took to settle in the Ohio valley from columbus landing...the kris just doesn't make sense.
9/2/2013 05:55:32 am
Titus pullo, you have managed to ask the right question, which automatically flips the door open for a side-debate to the infamous Kensington Runestone, a troublesome matter here. Usually, though, a poop-slinger comes in after I try to address someone's further curiosity...as though everything has already been discussed? Hardly. The questions and answers can go on almost unending, and someone can perhaps learn something new, but only if the debate continues.
9/5/2013 09:13:52 pm
While I rarely post here, I am a daily visitor. One of the things I do enjoy is the comments section. Almost daily it is filled with intelligent posters who give me cause to evaluate many of my own biases and opinions.
9/5/2013 11:33:02 pm
I've never censored other viewpoints, and I'm happy to let people post as they'd like. In the case of "Gunn," the problem is twofold: First that he has become particularly aggressive in attacking people, including me, personally. How happy should I be to receive daily attacks telling me I'm going to hell? I could do without the daily condemnation. Second, that he hijacks every topic to discuss his pet idea, even when it is irrelevant or inappropriate.
9/6/2013 02:59:29 am
I don't think anyone's being "intolerant to people with different views." Making up fairy tales out of whole cloth and insisting that this is factual, objective reality is not a 'different view,' it's being factually incorrect.
9/26/2013 04:11:21 am
After finding this show through YouTube and having watched a few episodes, I can't believe this show is allowed to be on the air. It is absolutely ridiculous and moreover, for all of Wolter's assertions of being a qualified forensic geologist, very little geology actually goes on at all. The was one of the first red flags I found with this show. The other problem I have with this show is how Wolter is obsessed with proving that any unique or mysterious artifact found in the United States couldn't possibly have come from the Native Americans. Instead, it must have some origin with pre-Columbian conquests by Europeans. I find that extremely offensive, and I will admit to being white. How dare he make such assumptions? In one episode, he was claiming that a hidden chamber in Connecticut was created by the Irish, yet in the same episode, that chamber was dated to almost 2000 years ago, when if the Irish had arrived, according to Wolter, it would have been in the 6th century. The facts don't even add up. America does have a hidden history. That history is how we subjugated native people, did horrible things to them, and stole their land all because of Manifest Destiny. Listening to Wolter, his terrible science, and his ridiculous theories are enough to make a sane and educated person go crazy. I'm sorry that this show has been allowed to air and that people actually watch and believe it.
9/5/2014 12:23:17 am
If the deep currents were 1/2 understood in the North Atlantic
Hypothetically...( yes !)
9/5/2014 12:28:08 am
"Indeed,I once mentioned the Gulf stream issue when discussing the claim of ancient Africans traveling to America with large canoes.Can we expect John Henrik Clarke & Cheikh Anta Diop Aficionados to solve this mystery?" Tara Johnson 8/25 at 11:15
9/5/2014 12:38:51 am
9/5/2014 12:54:40 am
Tara Johnson from much earlier...
9/5/2014 12:58:47 am
South America has a southerly tip,
Your comment will be posted after it is approved.
Leave a Reply.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities, and subscribe to Culture & Curiosities, my Substack newsletter.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.