The controversial History Channel series Ancient Aliens seems to be winding down after four seasons (the fourth has been airing on H2). In my opinion, it's been a net positive overall, in that it brought the topic back into the mainstream and irritated the hell out of all the right people.
I can't say every episode was a barnstormer, but that's TV for you. As I've said before, my quest is for unanswered questions and not questionable answers, and on that count the series has given me lots of grist for my mill.
It made an Internet star out of Giorgio Tsoukalos, who cannily drew fire with his outrageous look and milked his notoriety to the hilt. It gave a lot of hard-working researchers like Nick Redfern and Filip Coppens some well-deserved exposure and concentrated on the countles anomalies that skeptics wish would just go the hell away, since the laws of physics make a mockery of the Establishment's science fiction theories of how so many megalithic structures were constructed.
The show did what it needed to do in the modern media environment- establish a narrative and drive it home with constant repetition. Part of this was out of necessity. Ancient Astronaut Theory was catching on in the 70s until the rise to power of the Religious Right brought it to a dead halt, at least outside the pop culture realm. In order to get the conversation going in this day and age, you have to keep it simple and lather, rinse and repeat, ad infinitum.
IN THE CORRIDORS OF POWER
There's no doubt in my mind that some form of AAT is secretly accepted in the corridors of power, even if their errand boys in the pulpits and the Ivory Tower work so hard to keep a lid on it all.
As I've documented here, every major sci-fi franchise is based on the theory, including this summer's entry in the Alien series, Prometheus. Alex Jones recently unleashed a rant on how Prometheus was part of some eugenics program or something, but the Dominionist puppet strings are showing more and more every time that guy opens his mouth.
The fact remains that starting with Star Trek and 2001: A Space Odyssey, AAT has been at the foundation of most of the big sci-fi franchises that the same geeks who sneer at Ancient Aliens spend all their time obsessing over- Battlestar Galactica, Transformers, the DC and Marvel Universes, Star Wars, and on and on and on. We've been over all of that here, but the basic fact bears repeating.
Having spent most of my life in fandom I can tell you there's a major difference in the beliefs and attitudes between the producers and consumers of geek culture, just as there's a major schism in the psyches of much of fandom itself. They'll pledge allegiance to science-- despite the fact that real science (meaning the science that exclusively serves corporate and government power, not the idealized science of their imaginations) is rife with fraud and deceit, but when you present them with the real, physical science that Ancient Aliens has presented, their brains melt down like one of those ST:TOS androids.
But I do have a problem with Ancient Aliens myself, and it's a not-insubstantial one. It's a problem I have with AAT as it's often presented. So much of it seems determined to debunk religion that it over-simplifies the issue.
I do think that paleocontact was a reality and that what every major religious and mythological tradition is telling us is true- that we had help. We had help becoming who we are, we had help from these beings who taught us how to build things and do things and how to learn about our world.
But I don't think human beings were just mindless drones or passive observers and I don't think that's what the ancient myths were trying to tell us either. I think we were far more important than simple slaves and what's more I don't think modern homo sapiens sapiens would be the best an advanced race could do if they simply wanted to engineer a slave race. I believe AAT explains why human beings are so poorly suited to this Biosphere, but the slave theory (nor Darwinism, in my view, since our intellects often make us poor survivors) fails to explain our astonishing potential as thinking creatures.
BORN TO SERVE
I am very grateful that Ancient Aliens put Zechariah Sitchin's theories on the backburner, not only because I am definitely not a Sitchinite, but because I've come to harbor nagging suspicions about the man's work. Richard C. Hoagland told me that he was summoned to Sitchin's office for what was essentially a fishing expedition, and the office in question was located in Rockefeller Center.
I think The 12th Planet was an important work, the others much less so, but I always resented how Sitchin's slave race thesis not only contradicted many of the ancient accounts but seemed to be tailor-made to fit into the right-wing paranoid mindset that latched on it.
Sitchin's work was later adopted by Tore Dahlin, a lawyer who writes under the name William Bramley for his book Gods of Eden. Dahlin's work was compelling and was instantly adopted in turn by Jim Marrs and David Icke for their conspiracy theorizing, though the late Jim Kieth believed it was essentially a Scientology tract in disguise.
But again, what it boiled down to-- and this is where Alex Jones has a point-- was a deep diminishment of human history, a total scapegoating for all of mankind's problems on absent landlords, and an inherent messianic impulse that empowers the elites by disempowering the rest of us.
Indeed, there's always been something profoundly disempowering about Sitchin's exegesis. It almost seems that the elites understood they couldn't keep AAT under wraps forever but they could poison the well and turn it all to their advantage, using the conspiracy underground as their unwitting dupes. Almost.
And I'll say the same about both Sitchin and Ancient Aliens-- I don't think you can just pull out an ancient myth or religious text, plug in aliens and be done with it. I think these stories are all compilations of a sort, and my intepretation of mythology (and the Sumerian texts in particular) is that stories of human kings and queens were jumbled in with paleocontact accounts, animist beliefs that arose when the Anunaki departed and popular fables and so on.
For me the fun of it is trying to figure out which is which, and what part of the story contains the out-of-place references to DNA splicing or what have you.
It's also my personal belief that many- not all- of the famous landmarks discussed in the AAT canon were built not as spaceports or whatever but as mementos of ancient contact, and were often built on sacred places or power spots intentionally. This would explain the alignments encoded into these structures and all of the rest of it as well.
It goes like this: the ancient spacegods had a longer view of time, knew they would leave one day --and understanding the incredibly violent world that we live on-- knew that there would be rises and falls of human understanding. They knew that once humankind reached a level of scientific understanding (which we have) and wisdom (which we definitely have not) that we'd decipher and understand the messages encoded in these structures.
This is a process we're undergoing now. Ancient Aliens is a step in that process, but we have a long way to go. But I hope we can get back to the more empowering and mysterious approach that we saw in the several films that people like Rod Serling and William Shatner were involved with in the 70s and not the Sitchinite thesis or the "everything automatically means aliens" thesis, either.
I know all the usual logical fallacies trotted out by heart, but you can't say that humans built all of that stuff with rope and logs on one hand and then claim that what they presented as history was all some childish delusion on the other. Just like you can't claim Egyptians could build giant pyramids without heavy equipment and then wave away Ancient Egyptian culture's universal obsession with magic.
I never thought AAT was demeaning to human beings and I don't think we were created to be a passive slave race either. I do think that we have lost something important and vital-- a basic self-knowledge we can't truly prosper without-- in the sands of time. I think our history is more complex than the Heiserites, Sitchinites or Ivory Tower types would dare have us believe.
I think it ultimately speaks to a potential that the people pulling their puppet strings would very much prefer we never realize. And that's the real threat posed by Ancient Astronaut Theory.