Sunday, April 15, 2018

Fake News Juggernaut Dies

Fittingly, purveyor of paranormal and paranoiac misinformation Art Bell died on Friday the 13th. Bell was the originator of the syndicated Coast-to-Coast AM radio show, which began in 1992 as yet another right-leaning AM radio talk show, but quickly moved into paranormal subjects, such as Bigfoot, UFOs, psychic ability, and other exemplars of WOO! Until recently, I thought that Bell pioneered the late night weird radio format, but it turns out that he largely took the schtick of John Nebel, a late-night radio host who broadcast tales from crazy people from the 1950s to the 1970s. Bell took the Nebel model and ran with it, far.

As someone who has long worked an unconventional schedule, I have to confess that I have on occasion hate-listened to 'late night Sasquatch radio'- I am a fan of weird pulp fiction, and Bell's guests were spinning yarns that they, unfortunately, tried to pass off as true. Bell played straight man to the various lunatics that he invited to the public airwaves- he maintained a neutral pose: certainly not skeptical, but not particularly credulous. While he took calls from random weirdos with bizarre narratives, many of his guests were well-known weirdos such as UFO encounter auteur Whitley Streiber, reactionary religious crank Malachi Martin, ancient aliens loon Erich von Däniken, and clairvoyant grifter/doomsayer Ed Dames. UFOs, demonic possession, remote viewing, cryptids, hybrids, bottomless pits, solar flare 'killshots', and killer Planet Xes- all sorts of bizarre topics were aired by Bell. Basically, anybody who cheated on their 'psionics roll' in the role-playing game we call life was a prime candidate for guest spot on 'Coast'.

A search of YouTube will uncover a plethora of full 'Coast to Coast AM' episodes, but I wouldn't torture my readers with three hour psychological onslaughts (yeah, do you really want to listen to three hours of a fake psychic trying to spy on Satan with clairvoyance?). There are a couple of shorter clips of Bell doing his thing, such as this clip of him with von Däniken:

Here's another clip of Bell receiving a call from some guy claiming to have worked at Area 51:

If you have a strong stomach for this sort of material, there's a shitton of it out there. Personally, I believe that Art Bell had a pernicious effect on our society, paving the way for such cranks and hucksters as Alex Jones and newcomer Liz Crokin. The garbage 'Ancient Aliens' content on formerly respectable cable TV channels can be laid at his feet to a large extent. He made his living peddling parsnormal pablum and paranoia, preying on the mentally ill, the misinformed, the credulous... kinda like a secular version of a particularly scammy preacher. Sure, in small doses it can be entertaining in the same fashion as the Weekly World News was entertaining, but too many people have been snookered by this sort of crap.


mikey said...

Funny story. A good friend of mine is they typical suburban white woman anti-vaxxer, and she has a friend who used to work in the pharma industry and now is trying to be their nemesis, with all sorts of irrational stories of malfeasance and evil-doing that just can't seem to hold together and pass any kind of logic test.

So one day a few years ago my friend messaged me that her friend was going to be on a major national radio program to expose the malicious fraud of the pharma cos.

Yep. Turns out the show was Art Bell's 'Coast to Coast'.

On another side, you can also find clips of 'Space Ghost: Coast to Coast', which was often hysterically funny...

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Turning Space Ghost into a talk show host was a stoke of genius.

Anonymous said...

I have fond memories of late night road trips and listening to Art Bell. It never occurred to me that anyone would think it was any more than entertainment until a friend told me about voices in cemeteries "for real, I heard it on Art Bell". Nothing I could say to change her mind and that was kind of the end of Art Bell for me.

Bonnie so as not be anonymous

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Thanks for the comment, Bonnie. Yeah, it stops being fun when you realize real people are harmed by it.

Buttermilk Sky said...

Being much older than you, I used to listen to "Long John" Nebel (and his wife Candy) because he was on after Jean Shepherd. I think many of his guests now work in the EPA. At the time, it never occurred to me that they were more than delusional people in tinfoil hats. When Nebel left WOR for another station, he was replaced by James Randi, the magician and debunker of paranormal garbage, so that was a kind of balance, I guess.