During his appearance on Question Time on Thursday, Nick Griffin revealed that he has, in fact, read some books. These books, we are to believe, support his notion of there being a 17,000-year old “indigenous English race” surviving in the modern population of the British Isles.

Actually, I shouldn’t say “we are to believe” because I can all too readily believe that books like that have been written. And I am therefore, obviously, reminded of the pyramids.

Graham Hancock is a writer, self-trained historian and archaeologist who writes hugely successful books called things like The Fingerprints of the Gods. It’s years and years since I read one or two of them (my verdict at the time: some interesting nuggets and it’s always good  to be reminded that history is all about questions, but tediously easy to pick method apart in places, and far too convinced of a Great Mysterious Overall Picture for my untidy mind). For a quick run-down of core theory I can do no better than quote Amazon’s blurb on Fingerprints:

The author has a highly controversial view of history and his theory of a mysterious, lost civilization that brought knowledge to other people around the world, has attracted a wide audience. In this new large-format edition, Hancock responds to critics and brings readers up to date with developments in the debate. He exposes the eerie network of connections between: the Great Sphinx and pyramids of Egypt; the Andean temples of Tianhuanaco; the Mexican pyramids of the Sun and Moon; the lost continent that lies beneath Antarctica; ancient knowledge of spherical geometry and astro-navigation; the myths and legends of humanity that have remained strangely consistent across geographical and social divides; and new theories concerning the causes of the ice ages. His new evidence suggests not only the “fingerprints” of an unknown civilization that flourished during the last ice age but also horrifying conclusions about the type and extent of planetary catastrophe required to obliterate almost all traces of it. Included are the BBC transcripts to the “Horizon” TV documentary.

This “Woah! Far out!” school of history is of course not new; the ancient Greeks believed explicitly in a heroic age before their own when the gods  walked the earth. Plato’s Atlantis myth has been treated as a morality tale, as a narrative history and as an object of parody in both antiquity and the  modern post-humanist era. But it’s certainly true that, while not actually new, alternative history and alternative archaeology can legitimately sell themselves as being “a breath of fresh air”, because most people’s experience of history – schoolbound history – is pretty stultifying.

It helps crank history that history in schools is taught with such poverty of imagination, but it’s not the core reason for its popularity. The real reason crank history is so terribly attractive is this: it offers people the chance to get one up on those whom they believe to be  distant, elitist, complacent snobs, to wit, academics. It holds out the tantalising possibility that, by reading just one book, you too can become an expert – and a much better one than the experts around at the moment! It trades on the same “superiority hit” as Ufology. If you doubt this, go and read the  Amazon reviews of any Graham Hancock book. Time and again we get this sort of thing [all sic, if you take my meaning]:

you do the general public a great service by questioning the mainstream of historians views on civilisations… i for one admire people like graham hancock who arnt afraid to push the bounderies

investigates the hypothesis of a Lost Civilisation, or Atlantis, an idea detested by scholars… it asks some fundamental questions about humanity’s past that orthodox scholars fail to respond to in a convincing way.

Often controvertial, particularly to the established view of prehistory laid out by academia, Graham is unapologetic about his findings,

Do your own research, come to your own conlusions, read this book.

For those of us who have pored through the works of Zecharia Sitchin and dared to ponder questions that the scientists and religious authorities regard as sacrilegious (after all, science itself is a religion), this is especially interesting material

Hancock is not a scientist or theologian, but this may in fact serve as his greatest qualification for tackling the types of lofty problems he embraces. After all, the vast majority of scientists and theologians dismiss without consideration the sorts of “wild” ideas discussed in this book; if not for the open minds of men like Mr. Hancock, many truths that have now been established would remain jokes told by the arrogant “experts” over tea

the irony is that these books are critisised by those who havent done any research and accuse the authours of taking snippets of infomation to make the events fit their notions, unfortunetly it is the orthodox establishment that has done this.

Now that I have read this book, I understand why there is such a disinformation campaign surrounding his work. The powers-that-be simply don’t want people to learn to think along these lines. It would upset the status quo.

who is the more close minded, those who follow homogenous beliefs or those who are able to do significant, unsarpassable analytical research and stand up to the discriminating old-boy views of mass orthodox perception

If all this language sounds a bit repetitious and as if it might have been learnt by rote, it’s because it has been.  The scourge of “orthodoxy” and the “arrogance” of scholars are recurring themes in the books themselves, from what I recall. They’re very much part of the sales pitch, as this publisher’s note from Amazon makes clear:

My own interpretation is that the people who hate Hancock – as I say, mostly academics – are militant materialists who have a horror of the spiritual…

The odd thing about these purportedly high-minded militant materialists is that they are prepared to resort to dishonesty in debate, so keen are they to stamp out the spiritual element. No doubt it’s all for a higher good.

No idea what the publisher is getting at in that second paragraph. But whether or not there’s a grain of truth in that insinuation in a way makes no difference. Controversy sells, conspiracy sells, an unorthodox hero battling the establishment sells and above all, a promise that you, the little man, can best the forces that “keep you down” in life and know better than “them” if you just read this book, oh, that sells like billyo.

It’s the same with the BNP. I don’t, of course, intend any direct comparison between fans of Graham Hancock in particular and BNP supporters. But the act of accepting crank history in general is characteristic of the sort of people who can believe the BNP’s message. The BNP’s beliefs are based on crank history not just because crank history enables them to rewrite the past for political motives. The sort of people  who feel the need to join the BNP are more likely to be attracted to crank history anyway. It provides the balm their wounded souls need to feel better about stuff again. If “the establishment” says something, then it must be a cover-up for the truth! And if it weren’t for “the establishment” and their cover-ups I could probably have got that promotion…

Mind you, I should also point out about cranks that just occasionally they turn out to be total geniuses (although probably only at one thing). They hang about in jealous, sneering groups rejecting the accepted academic standards of their day because it makes them feel interesting, crying conspiracy at every turn, and concocting theories about how the Sphinx is God’s doorstop and Atlantis is buried under Milton Keynes – and that 17,000 years ago there was an indigenous race of British people that has survived intact to the present day – and suddenly one of them says something like, “Hey, you know what? I bet the earth goes round the sun! I bet it does. Of course they tell us it doesn’t, but oho, there’s a lot we don’t get told about, I reckon.”

Even a stopped clock is right twice a millennium. What’s stunning is that everyone – but everyone – who believes in a particular crank believes that it’s their crank who’s going to turn out to be the Galilean exception to the Aristotelian rule.