Thursday, May 27, 2021

Leading American Crackpot: Ignatius Donnelly

There are a lot of falsehoods about the Atlantis tale.  In fact, there are two or three falsehoods about Atlantis that seem to underlay most of the nutty history we all loathe.  

Three recent videos at YouTube discuss the main source of the disinformation, which is the American writer and politician Ignatius Donnelly, who wrote the book called Atlantis, The Antediluvian World that appeared in 1882.  

Donnelly's work postulates an advanced technical society that was destroyed 12k years ago. He argues that survivors of the cataclysm founded all of the world's great civilizations.  

Neither of those ideas are found in Plato.  He did not say that Atlantis was advanced -- his Atlanteans are on the same level of culture as the people around them.  In addition, Plato did not mention or discuss Atlantean survivors.  So, both of those story elements are additions from later writers, probably from Donnelly.  

Donnelly's work is central to pretty much all of the crackpottery that has come after him. He truly is a king of the crackpots, and an Ur crackpot in American history. This connection between Donnelly and other kinds of crackpottery, from Ancient Aliens to Q Anon, is nicely explained in the first film below, beginning around 9:10 to 16:40. The bio of Donnelly begins around 20:25.  He was a Lincoln supporter and Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota (1860-63), and a congressman from Minnesota (1863-69).  So, he moved from the state house to federal office during the civil war.  

This second film is very informative. I enjoyed the discussion of Plato (7:30 - 16:30). The opening seven minutes contain a nice outline of Donnelly's main claims.  The final minutes treat the idea of a comet impact that Donnelly and other crackpots appeal to.  The notion that there was an advanced prehistoric culture is pure poison, and yet it is believed by more than half of Americans. 

This third video works on the distinction between science and pseudo-science, with special attention to the work of Donnelly.  

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