Official Disinformation

Disinformation can be presented in many forms. Besides outright untruths, perhaps the most insidious are incomplete or cherry-picked facts, often legitimized by subtle weasel words, distractions from the matter at hand, and unsubstantiated conclusions.

A case in point is a brief reader-question and expert-answer in a prestigious national magazine popularizing history, science, etc. The reader asked if American Indians had a written language. That question should have opened up a very large can of worms. The responding “cultural specialist” from an important museum framed the answer narrowly by stating: “The Timucua were among the first to have a written system…”

Without identifying the Timucua, the respondent hid behind the weasel word “among” to remark on a Franciscan missionary in 1595 at St. Augustine in Florida developing that system for the native population. This was followed by remarks sanctified by ethnographic authorities on the Cherokee syllabary invented by Sequoyah over 200 years later in 1821. This simple answer was perhaps factual but essentially dis-informative.

Perhaps there was an early Franciscan missionary in that fanatically Jesuit Spanish colony on the Florida coast, but his using the Latin alphabet to write their language was of dubious and short-lived benefit for the natives themselves. By 1600, the Timucua people had been exterminated by diseases and genocidal violence.

Behind that weasel word “among,” several facts of singular importance to the reader’s question were omitted. In “America B.C.” by Barry Fell (1976), a scholarly book denigrated and dismissed by said ethnographic authorities, a lengthy discussion with comparative examples shows that the Micmac peoples of Maine and the Canadian Maritimes had a hieroglyphic writing system with clear relations to the Egyptian! In the early 1700s, a French cleric rendered Psalm 116 in the Micmacs’ well-developed system. Meanwhile, the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs were not deciphered until 1823 by Champollion. I can’t begin to explain how or when this happened, but the Micmac had at some time long before 1595 clearly made this writing system their own.

The most subtle weasel word involved in the cultural specialist’s answer to the reader’s question was “American Indian.” The expert quickly limited the question to North American indigenous peoples, conveniently ignoring indigenes of the rest of the Americas. I’ve not encountered any evidence of writing systems in South America, but the late Michael Coe and several other noted scholars of Mesoamerica have now decoded the hieroglyphic writing system of the Maya, revealing detailed histories of their lost worlds from some two thousand years ago.

To return to the famous Cherokee syllabary created by Sequoyah, there has been fascinating research on the Pre-Columbian peoples of the (North) American Southeast by Richard Thornton ( showing that the peoples of the Creek Confederacy had in earlier centuries developed a syllabary of their own. Apparently, Sequoyah used that unique creation in formulating his system. This appropriation of native history to the Cherokee nation is part and parcel of their wider cultural/historical imperialism. In spite of their claim to have lived in the area “for thousands of years,” the Cherokee only immigrated into the Southeast (from Canada) in the 19th century after the United States government had mostly cleared it of other indigenous tribes following the Creek Wars and the Trail of Tears.

But I’m not through exposing official disinformation. The Timucua people in the specialist’s answer were a major mound-building culture in the Southeast well beyond the St. Augustine area. We know most about them from the artist, Jacques LeMoyne, who accompanied the refugee Huguenots who were (among) the first French to settle in the New World.

Under Rene de Laudonniére, they established Fort Caroline in 1564; the Spanish founded St. Augustine in 1565 and proceeded to slaughter and/or drive the French out. LeMoyne painted scenes of the Timucua like this later engraving of Laudonniére with Atore, son of the native “king of kings” Satouriona, at the column raised by the earlier French explorer Jean Ribault, image courtesy of Wikipedia:

Now we come to official disinformation in the form of alternative truth. Jean Ribault reportedly planted this column at the mouth of what he called the River May. Establishment dogma was that this was the St. John’s River in Florida, and in the first half of the last century the impartial State of Florida and City of Jacksonville jumped on that interpretation to “reconstruct” Fort Caroline there as a historical attraction. Again through the research of Richard Thornton, it’s now clear that Fort Caroline was in fact built at the mouth of the Altamaha River in southern Georgia near present-day Savannah. For purposes of the almighty tourist dollars, however, the official disinformation still stands.

My point in this tirade is that we shouldn’t blindly accept simple answers to complicated questions. Behind every supposedly historical fact, there’s usually a whole world of extenuating circumstances and alternative explanations that are derided and denied by establishment authorities. We always have to dig deeper to discover the real truth—and try to figure out who benefits how by promoting official disinformation.


Another Dancing Fantasy

This third story about dancing has taken quite a long time—since last September. In the course of realizing the inspiration, I had to manage my move to a new house—and the transfer of my collection of 50 varieties of iris to the new yard. Not to mention wrapping up the Snake and Flint trecenas of the Aztec Calendar and a few blogs on miscellaneous subjects (dance, lunar bunny, and science fiction). If nothing else, that shows I’m a persistent cuss…

Ecstatic Dancer

This third piece of fiction is another old man’s fantasy about ecstatic dancing and encounters with young folks of his ilk. Entitled “Bo Peep’s Sheep,” it’s perhaps a little utopian but draws on the scary aspects of being a youngster nowadays.

Enjoy, and here’s hoping I can manage the next story rather more quickly. Wait for it!


My First Attempt at Science Fiction

I’ve recently been fascinated by global news and couldn’t resist putting the alarming phenomena into perspective in the brief sketch below, my first attempt at science fiction. I hurry to post it—before it can be disproven by subsequent events—or even worse, proven prophetic.


Phantom Galaxy


            News stories of these recent weeks had been horrifying: about the earth’s core stopping and possibly reversing its rotation, about inexplicable solar eruptions, and about a crowd of asteroids threatening our planet. Like a good disaster-buff, I kept those stories on my news feed. My attention was rewarded with remarkable scientific discoveries.

            By late February, astronomers were reporting solar flares creating a ginormous vortex off the surface of the sun. Geologists were meanwhile wondering what the effects would be of a stationary planetary core, which they calculated would happen in another month. If it started rotating in the opposite direction, I figured it would cause a reversal of Earth’s poles, probably with significant rearrangement of land masses and, I suspected, a change in the length of day. In fact, geologists were now tracking changes in the Earth’s surface rotation rate and seasonal tilt.

            On the solstice in March, scientists declared that the core had indeed stopped rotating in the usual direction, and a few days later they announced that it was starting to move in reverse, the Earth now in internal retrograde. Earthquakes had already started in mid-February, first the huge one in Turkey and Syria, and soon hundreds of them around the globe, like the Earth was shuddering. At the same time, the poles switched in early April, immediately throwing the world’s weather into drastic confusion. Along with many quake-induced tsunamis, the melting, shattering, and scattering of the polar icesheets brought apocalyptic destruction to coastal communities. There was no time or means to cope with or calculate human casualties.

            While we long-suffering humans tried to cope with the ubiquitous chaos of earthquakes which were growing alarmingly in magnitude, overhead our star kept flaring up around its surface, like flames waving into space. I expected that the flares would soon show a pattern, which AI detected on my birthday near the end of April—roughly a circle about three times the diameter of the Earth. In early May, that circle began to bulge on the sun’s surface, a slow swelling over the course of a few months, while I watched closely the video reportage of the condition of our celestial body.

            Those next few months were more than busy enough with basically futile global disaster-recovery efforts, and most survivors had no time to worry about our Sun acting up. While helping every day with my disaster-relief cohort—to the extent of my octogenarian ability—I checked my news feed often for solar system updates, feeling like Akhenaten in communion with the Aten. Our Sun was now found to be increasing in brightness, noticeably hotter on exposed skin—when one wasn’t drenched in arbitrary storms. There was probably no connection, but the many Unidentified Aerial Phenomena that began being noticed (and shot down) already in February became even more numerous over the next months. All we needed now was to piss off the aliens and have them retaliate. And more meteors kept falling to earth, many ejected with the Sun’s flares, blowing out huge craters and killing millions.

            My news feed died with the Internet in late June, a casualty of an electron burst from the sun which fried telecommunications everywhere, including most cell-phone towers. No TV, but there was still radio, if anyone had one. Fortunately, I did and through the near-hysterical remnants of NPR’s Morning Edition learned of increasing tectonic activity opening deep fissures across the Middle East and along Africa’s rift valley. That geological pressure in Indonesia and the Andes was causing more earthquakes and volcanoes, and meteors kept impacting in heavily populated areas. Earth was becoming an inimical habitat for humanity!

            Shortly after I lost electricity and water in my old adobe house, a meteor strike nearby brought it crumbling down. I’d fortunately run outside and watched in safety while it collapsed. Salvaging what little I could, I took shelter in a still-standing corner of a nearby school, sharing the space with several traumatized young students. However, we had nothing else to share, and each day we foraged in the ruins for anything edible. Potable water was a critical need, rarely met except for catching rainwater, that often fouled. Totally cut off from any newscasts or social communications, I had no idea what was going on outside of our miserable refuge, either on the Earth or up in the Heavens. However, the glaring, inflamed Sun told me that momentous things were transpiring up there.

            In my foraging one day, I found a half-collapsed, metal-framed factory where about a dozen workers were trying to survive. They had a working radio (powered by a small generator), and I was advised by frantic NPR correspondents that the bulge on the sun’s surface had erupted and was ejecting a planet-sized ball of flaming gaseous matter into space—like Athena springing from the brow of Zeus. Scientists projected its trajectory away from Earth but toward Venus, thought its monstrous speed and paths of planetary rotation could easily shoot it close by Jupiter.

            In spite of this supposedly good news, the morale of us few local survivors bottomed out. I explained to the starving workers that even without a direct collision, the Earth was going to get jerked around dramatically by this new mass at play in the solar system. Orbits of all the planets would probably change, as well as distances from the Sun as the system tries to find a new equilibrium. And even if the new mass doesn’t collide with anything, it would probably enter an extended orbit around the Sun like a comet, returning regularly to wreak havoc on the planets and then only at some time in a future epoch settle into an obedient planetary orbit.

            With this less than optimistic expectation, lethally inclement weather, starvation, thirst, and advanced age, I will lay my helpless head down in the rubble, leaving the savage future to others of my species who might survive this end of the Earth as we’ve known it.