I have been watching Ancient Aliens on the History Channel recently, as research for this post. If you have never watched Ancient Aliens, it is hard to describe just how bad it is. It is essentially a bunch of cranks looking at statues of gods or stone circles from the ancient world and making bizarre assertions about their links to little green (or grey) men. Any god with big eyes is an alien, anything disc-shaped is a UFO, etc. etc. The whole thing is narrated by a man who sounds a little like E.L. Wisty. Here is a piss-take of a typical item, which is only slightly sillier than the real thing.
A typical rock, you might think. [Picture of rock.] A rock like any other rock on earth. A rock picked up and brought to the USA by a young back-packer at an ancient Inca site in Peru. [Picture of someone picking up rock.] Within weeks, the young tourist was convinced that the rock was speaking to her. Mental illness, or was she driven to madness by alien voices, as many ancient alien theorists believe? [Picture of young woman covering ears with anguished expression.]
[Cut to respectable scientist explaining about current thinking on other dimensions.]
“The current belief is that there are more than just the dimensions we can see around us in the ordinary world. These extra dimensions are hidden, folded up in the interstices of our everyday reality.”
[Cut to ancient alien author with crazy hair and a Greek name.]
“So, these aliens who have the technology to travel vast distances across space, they understand the multi-dimensional nature of the universe. We all know the Tardis effect of science fiction, something is bigger on the inside than the outside, right? So how do we know that this rock is not a whole spaceship? It wouldn’t surprise me. It wouldn’t surprise me at all. There could be whole fleets of spaceships inside it.”
[Cut to badly-designed graphic of alien spaceship.]
Why am I having a go at Ancient Aliens on cassidyslangscam? Well, I’m sure many people have wondered why I have expended so much time and effort on someone as marginal and unimportant as Daniel Cassidy. Partly, of course, the reason for this is that Cassidy is treating the Irish language with contempt and I happen to love the Irish language. However, there is a more serious aspect to all this.
The world is awash with pseudoscience and pseudoscholarship. Cassidy’s nonsense is just one example of people believing in any old shite without following scientific methodology, without seeking evidence. People who believe rubbish like this are just as likely to believe in graphology or the MMR link to autism, or AIDS denial, or Hancock’s nonsense about ancient civilisations. They believe in these things for the same reasons – arrogance, hubris, a desire among badly-educated people to be ‘in on’ some arcane story which the ivory-tower scholars have supposedly missed.
However, there is a big difference between these other idiotic theories and Cassidy’s nonsense. They haven’t had positive articles in the New York Times and the Irish Times. The people who peddle AIDS denial and Hancock’s rubbish about ancient civilisations under the ice caps haven’t been given receptions at New York University. They aren’t treated with respect among genuine scholars and intellectuals and quoted in history books and on television programmes.
Cassidy was, in spite of the fact that his ‘research’ was every bit as ridiculous as the worst pseudo-scholarship out there. That’s why the Cassidy Scandal is part of something bigger. And that’s why this story needs to be told.