The Journalistic View From Marrs?

Dallas/Fort Worth area conspiracy author Jim Marrs is a contributor to a web site called Alien Zoo. I have found it both interesting and entertaining. A few months ago I was asked by a local publication, the Dallas Observer, to give my estimation of Mr. Marrs research techniques. Much of what I said was based upon past dealings with him and my observations of material on the Alien Zoo web site.

After the Dallas Observer published "The Truth Is Way Out There", Mr. Marrs reacted to my opinions in negative fashion, his wife responded publicly with equal disapproval in a letter to the editor and I also understand he criticized my evaluation of his work on at least one private newsgroup.

It would appear Mr. Marrs feels I (along with others) have accused him of not being a journalist. If one presumes I have misinterpreted his belief they need only review the following quote:

"Recently I was accused of not being a journalist but instead merely a writer. The difference I am told is that a journalist gives equal attention to both sides of any particular issue while a writer only presents his or her own viewpoint."

Marrs then points out:

"Lastly, anyone who is familiar with my work knows I try to present both sides if there is a controversy over some issue. I will plead guilty to perhaps occasionally overemphasizing certain issues and viewpoints, but this is because they are ignored or marginalized by the Establishment media."

The reader should be aware that, as part of a computer course I teach at a high school in Irving, Texas, I have the students develop skills in critical thinking. As an assignment, I had some of the students read "When is a journalist merely a writer?" followed by two of Mr. Marrs' monographs. They were asked to determine if he did indeed "present both sides if there is a controversy over some issue." Because of both Mr. Marrs' and my involvement in Kennedy assassination research, I had the classes make that subject "off limits."

Two articles from Alien Zoo were selected "Old Turkish maps evidence of prehistoric mapping from space?" and "Keep on tracking but avoid big foot in mouth."

Here are some of the highlights:

Old Turkish maps evidence of prehistoric mapping from space?

The students determined that not one piece of contradictory evidence questioning the authenticy of extra-terrestrial involvement in development of the Piri Reis maps or the supporting claims of Professor Charles Hapgood appeared in the article.

Additionally some students found Mr. Marrs never reported that in 1970 Hapgood himself indicated his theory on pole shift was flawed.

There are other problems that the journalist who "presents both sides" fails to discuss:

If extra-terrestrials were indeed involved why was the map centered in Egypt rather than at the true poles?

Researchers using photographs from space centered on the same spot in Egypt as Piri Reis discovered the South American portion of the map has an inaccurate elongated shape.

Individuals making the assertion there is evidence of prehistoric mapping of Antartica from space have forgotten something. They have failed, as Hapgood did, to consider the effect of the removal of the weight of the massive ice sheet from the continent. Computer modeling shows that doing so substantially alters the coastline creating islands where none appear on the map.

The ancients, if they received help from space, would have correct as opposed to partially correct maps and for the entire surface of the earth not just the areas under European exploration.

Keep on tracking but avoid big foot in mouth

Since Mr. Marrs is discussing the Bigfoot sightings, do you accept the notion that the following statement actually represents the other side of the issue.

"Tales of Bigfoot or the Sasquatch is a topic I have tended to avoid in past years simply because that subject has been thick with hoaxes and misinterpretations. So many of the occasional witnesses to a Bigfoot sighting can be ridiculed for their inexperience or dubious motivations"

To quote a student who summed up the feelings of the group, "Marrs uses examples that will make the story sound like it is true. He again is telling the one sided story of those who say they have encountered big foot."

In this instance here is some information the journalist who "presents both sides" failed to report:

"Most scientists discount the existence of such a creature because the evidence supporting belief in the survival of a prehistoric bipedal apelike creature of such dimensions is scant."

"There are no bones, no scat, no artifacts, no dead bodies, no mothers with babies, no adolescents, no explanation for how a species likely to be communal has never been seen in family or group activity, no evidence that any individual, much less a community of such creatures, dwells anywhere near all the 'sightings'."

In the end the students concluded Mr. Marrs was not a journalist but a writer who used several propaganda techniques. Among the methods they felt he most commonly used were bad logic, unwarranted extrapolation and transfer.

In my view it is Mr. Marrs and not the establishment media that is ignoring or marginalizing "certain issues and viewpoints." It is not "the occasional witnesses to a Bigfoot sighting (that) can be ridiculed for their inexperience or dubious motivations" but the "journalists" like Mr. Marrs. The ones who rush to publication before using clear thinking and clear statement, accuracy and fairness. That is what is fundamental to good journalism.

As one student put it, "Jim Marrs claims he is a journalist and as proof points out he has 'The Journalist's Creed' hanging on his wall. I have a picture hanging on my wall but that doesn't make me an artist."

As usual I, and in this case my students, will modify our opinions went we see documented evidence that refutes our conclusions.

Dave Perry

September 28, 2000

The students felt any study of this sort requires footnotes.

  • For the article "Old Turkish maps evidence of prehistoric mapping from space?"

    Peter James & Nick Thorpe, Ancient Mysteries (New York: Ballantine Books, 1999), pp. 58 - 76

About Ancient Mysteries From Kirkus Reviews

A thoughtful and absorbing analysis of more than 30 of the most intriguing artifacts, occurrences, and myths of the prehistoric, ancient, and medieval worlds, by freelancer James and archaeologist Thorpe (King Alfred's College, UK). Conundrums like the mythical lost continent of Atlantis, the legend of King Arthur, the Easter Island statues, and the curse of Tutankhamen have been overworked in recent years by cultists and speculative writers, who have often, without the benefit of critical scholarship and analysis, propounded outlandish and even bizarre theories.

Too often, debunkers have responded simply by dismissing such theories rather than by inquiring more closely into the mysteries themselves. Marshaling the most current evidence in each case, the authors here endeavor ``to chart a middle course between the uncritical enthusiasts and the professional skeptics.'' James and Thorpe explore lost civilizations and the catastrophes that destroyed them, astronomical phenomena, architectural wonders, ancient reworkings of the landscape, voyages and discoveries, ancient myths and legends, hoaxes, and supernatural occurrences.

Some myths, like that of the lost continent of Atlantis or that of the Christian African king ``Prester John,'' turn out to have been precisely thateither gross embellishments of real events or total fabrications. Others, like the Star of Bethlehem (the authors conclude that the Star may have actually been Halley's comet in 1211 B.C.), King Arthur (possibly a historical Dark Ages warlord named Riothamus), and Robin Hood (among other theories, a servant of Edward II), appear to have some arguable historical basis. Among other enigmas, the authors plumb Stonehenge (a neolithic sun temple, not built by the Druids), the legend of Dracula, a lost Roman army that may have found its way to China, a Viking rune-stone in Minnesota (a likely hoax), and an ancient visit by a Welsh prince to America (just possibly true) An engrossing journey through the riddles of the distant past. (Book-of-the-Month Club selection, Quality Paperback Book Club selection.) -- Copyright 1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

  • For the article "Keep on tracking but avoid big foot in mouth."

    The Skeptic's Dictionary contains well over 338 skeptical definitions and essays on occult, paranormal, supernatural and pseudoscientific ideas and practices with references to the best skeptical literature from abracadabra to zombis.


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