It feels like "dangerous" has become the easy cop-out for "things I don't like". Like that fatuous "this puts NYT staff in DANGER" nonsense about an op-ed.

More recently since Musk's takeover of twitter, I've seen lots of "he's allowing DANGEROUS people back on". (Every person I've seen come back was originally kicked off for misgendering, or saying something later proven right - or at least defensible - about covid, etc. Am I now "in danger" because I might be exposed to their tweets?? Give me a fucking break).

Driving on an icy road without headlights is dangerous. Go poke an alligator with a stick if you want danger. What's not dangerous? Streaming a tv show. No matter what it's about.

Expand full comment

Some of my professional interests are proximal to the material covered in "Ancient Apocalypse." I've watched a few episodes, and my impression of Hancock's work is that it takes some interesting case studies and uses them to construct a larger narrative that is, well, let's say "unparsimonious when compared to the larger body of evidence." But "dangerous"? The historical sciences have faced much more focused attacks in the past (creationism and intelligent design) and somehow were not burned to the ground in the process.

Calling Hancock "dangerous" is basically giving him free advertising. He WANTS people to say he's dangerous. It's part of his schtick. It's just about the first thing he says in the first episode of AA: the establishment is terrified of me and wants to shut me up, because I have the real truth and that truth will destroy them. Media like AA actually provide a great opportunity for mainstream scientists to engage the public and calmly introduce them to the counter-evidence for Hancock's narrative, but that unfortunately takes longer, is not professionally rewarding, and is often met with a new farrago of nonsense claims and personal abuse from the Hancocks of the world and their fans. I can see why the professionals don't want to do it. But going for hysterical claims of "danger" and crying for censorship instead is hugely counterproductive.

Expand full comment

One further point. Perhaps Hancock is seen as dangerous because his inquiries challenge our assumption that our civilization is the result of a more or less continuous process of progress. If we were to complicate the narrative of progress, that might cause us to question our own narrative of progress in the contemporary age.

Such as, say, gender ideology, which results in the sterilization of minors and the removal of their breasts. Or putting men in women’s prisons.

If you are ideologically committed to this narrative of progress, then you would likely find an exploration of the past that challenges the narrative of progress as “dangerous.” Because then you might be called to question your own views on a host of topics.

That might turn out not to be dangerous, but rather a way of enhancing your ability to perceive danger.

Expand full comment

Genuine danger is fairly banal. A child molester is more likely to be a grandparent than a satanist; if you get murdered, it's more likely to be by a family member or friend than a serial killer. Actual danger is invisible, because no one wants to believe in it. Fake danger distracts from real danger. It's of great benefit to those who mean us harm. They tend to hide in plain sight.

Expand full comment
Dec 29, 2022Liked by Jesse Singal

Christ that Guardian article energy has the energy of the ITYSL episode with the infomercial about the hot dog vacuum: "They put a show on Netflix, which SHOULDN'T BE ALLOWED."

Expand full comment

Gotta love archaeology expert Rebecca "The" Onion's name. She should be interviewed on every subject for maximum confusion.

Expand full comment

Here’s the thing: my partner and I watched, and enjoyed, Ancient Apocalypse. We both think the host is a total wingnut windbag. The show is very entertaining and it’s shown us archeological sites a had no idea existed. It is possible to watch something skeptically, to know it’s best watched for entertainment and not information. Did I roll my eyes when I saw it was number one in Canada a couple weeks ago? You bet I did. But I’m also really glad I know about the ancient hunter-gatherer giant dick room.

Expand full comment

I see your point but I would suggest that what you call a red flag might instead be a yellow flag: proceed with caution. But of course that should, in my opinion, be a default setting. Skepticism is also warranted with with accepted narratives, as a matter of course.

I am familiar with the work of the “pseudo-scientists” you reference. Many of them present narratives that far outrun their evidence. I don’t engage with them too deeply.

For a handful of them, such as Hancock (who, for the record does not claim to be scientist but rather a journalist and therefore cannot fairly be charged with being a pseudo-scientist), or Robert Schoch (a credential scientist and professor of Geology at Boston University), I find their narrative does not outrun their evidence. Their narrative may be wrong or in need of modification, but they marshal sufficient evidence to merit my attention. Hancock and Schoch disagree on fundamental points, and I myself have criticisms of both of them.

Randall Carlson is another figure who presents a large body of evidence to support his claims, and he handles it carefully (a key requirement for me). He is not a credentialed geologist but he displays a depth and breadth of knowledge of the subject that borders on astonishing.

I go beyond their presentation and the seeming outlandishness of the claims they make and think for myself about the evidence they adduce. I myself cannot avoid at least seriously considering that mainstream archaeology has gotten a great deal wrong.

Just as you find Hancock’s presentation to be a red flag, so do I find the airy dismissals of him as a pseudo-scientist and refusal to engage with him and his ideas and the evidence he presents. If his ideas are so wrong and so dangerous, why not take them down? How hard could it be? If his burgeoning popularity is so disturbing, then surely they have ample incentive. Instead, crickets.

No, that’s not quite right. Instead they label him a pseudo-scientist, the laziest possible response. This is akin, in the current political climate, labeling someone far right. It is done so reflexively that it is drained of all meaning. It fails to make an argument, and if you make no argument at all, it leads me to suspect that you don’t have one and that your own narrative does indeed merit calling into question.

I find this so disappointing, because I very much want substantive critiques of their work (and so do they, I might add). I am impressed so far with how they handle and present their evidence, and how they structure their arguments. The next step in my intellectual process would be to see how their theories stand up to criticism. But if all anyone has to say is that they present like “pseudo-scientists,” there is no value added.

Work with me here. Please, something substantive.

Expand full comment

I’ve been following Graham Hancock’s work for years. I think he is right about some things, probably wrong about others. At a minimum he raises important and provocative questions.

Do his claims merit skepticism? Sure. But so does the accepted narrative of human history. If it’s seen as dangerous to question that narrative, then we will remain stuck in our view of the past. We will cease to engage in meaningful inquiry about the past.

Would that be “dangerous?” Maybe not. But it would be incredibly stultifying.

Expand full comment

I'm guessing the vast majority of your readership here are refugees from the kind of blind catastrophising common in echo-chamber journalism these days. I think honest debate and nuanced thinking is on its way out because it's far more psychologically comfortable to believe your views are pure and right rather than have to challenge them with inconvenient counter-arguments.

Expand full comment

If things weren't "more complicated than that", if you could draw a nice neat line between Pure Good and Pure Evil as easily as you'd choose up sides on the playground, free speech wouldn't make any sense. Neither would liberal democracy.

Expand full comment

The late 90’s to early 2000’s message board culture was the best

Expand full comment

I had just finished reading Kurt Andersen's Fantasyland when AA hit Netflix and laughed at America's yet insatiable hunger for Aquarian mumbo jumbo.

While the headline for this includes the word "Dangers," it presents Hancock and his theories as mystical wackadoodle nonsense.


And the author's name is really Flint Dibble.

Expand full comment

Reza Aslan has gone out of his way to suppress views he disagrees with. Pre-Elon Twitter did the same thing. The Twitter files (parts 1-8) show that censorship was the norm in the old Twitter. When Reza called for censorship, he got a standing ovation from students. The list of extreme leftists going bonkers over the end of Twitter censorship is long and revealing. Reza isn't even the worst. He has plenty of competition.

Expand full comment

This is an aspect of the discourse that I sense contains a religious element. Sinning - even by displeasing God with Bad Words - is dangerous because it lands you in hell for an eternity of unspeakable suffering.

Expand full comment
Dec 29, 2022·edited Dec 29, 2022

It would be great if all the reactionary weirdos screaming about the danger of groomers take their rhetoric down a notch in 2023 but somehow I don’t think they’re interested in steelmanning the arguments for youth gender medicine.

But as long as our media superstructure relies on clicks as the fundamental basis for its economic survival, people will write and speak and act to provoke strong reactions rather than to enlighten. Nationalized media (and social media) could be a good place to start to address this.

Expand full comment