by Blaise Rego
I was 6 or 7 the first time I was introduced to cryptozoology, thesearch for and study of unknown, legendary, or extinct animals whose present existence is disputed or unsubstantiated. I vividly remember this because it has sparked a lifelong love of the unknown, from speculating about bigfoot and aliens to watching bad TV with my dad, it has given me hours of entertainment and enjoyment. With that in mind, you can imagine my horror when I come across this article recently. In a piece by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the author lays out an in-depth the connection between some famous conspiracy’s and their link to the ALT right.
My attention was caught by a story from the show “America Unleashed”, where the show’s host, Scott Wolter, continually endorsed a theory on the show about how Celts and Scots settled north America and “hybridized Native Americans centuries before Columbus”. I remember watching this show and being confused but impressed because Wolter was presented by the show as a leading expert in his field. This theory, like most others, is appealing because it is built upon some fact before expanding into the world of fiction.
It is true that there were European settlers in North America before Columbus but not in the ways Wolter tries to attest. The only Europeans to arrive pre-Columbus were Viking settlers that arrived in what would become Canada’s Maritime provinces. The myths being presented by Wolter may seem harmless but historically they’ve been used to perpetrate some horrendous crimes against the native population of North America. The idea that there once was a “great white race” that populated North America was an idea peddled by Andrew Jackson who stated “In the monuments and fortifications of an unknown people, we behold the memorials of a once-powerful race, exterminated to make room for the existing savage tribes.”. This unknown group was known at that time as the mound builders.
The mound builders were a myth perpetrated by English settlers of North America who claimed that mound structures across the American Northeast were built by an ancient “superior” race. It is claimed that they built structures like the snake mound in Ohio and other Adena culture sites.
Settlers assumed that the builders must have been one of the lost tribes of Israel, who were than massacred by the Native American population. Though this may seem like a pseudoscience conspiracy theory this was a popular held notion in the 19thcentury that was the basis for the removal of North America’s native people from their land. North American colonizers thought that if the indigenous populations colonized this land than they (European settlers) had as much right to that land as the native populations did.
The salient idea that alt-history is an acceptable way to view the world has permeated much of the far rights ideology. The Nazi’s used the Ahnenerbe think tank to research the “great Aaryan race and it’s history”. They used pseudo/alt history to back up fascist ideology, a trend that has continued with neo fascist groups across the world. They use this alternative history to back up their own bigoted ideology in which they can claim that “Jews, oppressive government’s and other enemies” have persecuted them and that they are right to feel self-righteous and angered.
Television channels such as the History Network and its family of channels use pseudo history to dramatize or aggrandize history. Though this can be entertaining and amusing it has a dark undercurrent as many of the theories presented on their shows have controversial, if not racist, origins.
Imagine you get home from work and you turn on the television to have some background noise. There is a show that’s on H2 (History 2) called “Uncovering the Himalayas”. The show is hosted by a man with a beige explorer’s hat who talks to a PhD who says “there have been studies that have shown that pre-history, 2000 BCE, Nordic peoples migrated across Eurasia to the Himalayas where they intermingled with the native populations and help establish communities there. This might be humorous to you or it might stick out in your mind as bizarre and you might mention it to a family member or a friend. The main danger with programs like this is that it is impossible to unhear something, so the next time you think about the Himalayas, this fact might pop in to your brain and you may start wondering if it was a true fact or not. The theory outlined above is not a figment of imagination it is actually a true theory that the Nazis investigated and collected research on in the 40s to justify why the Nordic people were superior to others. In conclusion, if you enjoy consuming conspiracy media, continue doing so but be wary of what the underlying message may be or of where the origins of conspiracies may lie.