[Cross-posted at Airminded.]
Previously I argued that two books by Frank Joseph, Mussolini’s War: Fascist Italy’s Military Struggles from Africa and Western Europe to the Mediterranean and Soviet Union 1935-45 (Helion & Company, 2010) and The Axis Air Forces: Flying in Support of the German Luftwaffe (Praeger, 2011), were at the very least bad history and, in the case of Mussolini’s War at least, possibly apologies for fascism as well. I also promised that I’d take a closer look at Joseph himself. It turns out that military history is only one of his interests, and that he is better known as a pseudoarchaeologist and a former neo-Nazi.
It took a little bit of detective work to piece this together, but only a little. It’s in the author biographies supplied by his publishers. Praeger’s author biography of Joseph says that
Frank Joseph is professor of world archaeology with Japan’s Savant Institute, and recipient of the Midwest Epigraphic Society’s Victor Moseley Award. His published works include more than 20 books in as many foreign editions, such as Mussolini’s War: Fascist Italy’s Military Struggles from Africa and Western Europe to the Mediterranean and Soviet Union 1935–45.
Helion’s biography is more extensive (Mussolini’s War, 312):
A member of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago and a scuba diver since 1962, Joseph has participated in underwater archaeological expeditions in the Bahamas, Yucatan, the Canary Islands, the Aegean, and Polynesia. A frequent guest speaker across the United States, he has lectured in Britain, Slovenia, and throughout Japan, where he was made ‘Professor of World Archaeology’ by Kyushu’s Savant Society. Before the close of the past century, Japanese national television broadcast two different programs about his work.
In 1998, he received the Victor Moseley Award for his work on behalf of cultural diffusionist archaeology from Ohio’s Midwest Epigraphic Society (Columbus). He also received 1999’s Burrow’s Cave Society Award, and his work has additionally commended by the Ancient Artifacts Preservation Foundation (Marquette, Michigan).
At first blush this perhaps doesn’t sound so bad. The Oriental Institute is perfectly respectable, of course, though becoming a member requires nothing more than paying an annual fee. The ‘Savant Institute’ has very little web presence, at least in English, but it appears to have something to do with archaeology (Nobuhiro Yoshida, ‘President of Japan Petroglyph Society and Professor at the Savant Institute & Japan Academic Center’, spoke at the 2005 conference of the American Rock Art Research Association). The Ancient Artifacts Preservation Foundation exists ‘To collect and preserve evidence of ancient civilizations in North America, and the Great Lakes region in particular, in a manner that supports their study by amateur and professional scholars and to educate the public about the significance’. The Midwestern Epigraphic Society ‘researches the ancient migrations of mankind to the Americas, especially Pre-Columbian and particularly to the Midwest US, as revealed by cultural similarities, archaic writing, ancient world history and evidence found by modern science’.
A pattern is emerging here of Joseph’s interests in evidence of pre-Columbian civilisations in North America. This sounds like the proper work of archaeology, until the actual evidence is looked at. For example, Burrow’s Cave is a place somewhere in southern Illinois where ancient carvings of triremes and Alexander the Great were supposedly found. In fact, all this talk of pre-Columbian artifacts is simply code for the belief that Old World societies (Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, etc) settled or at least visited the Americas long before Columbus arrived, based partly on such observations as the existence of pyramids on both sides of the Atlantic, because apparently these are things which indigenous American cultures couldn’t invent on their own. Joseph’s award for contributions to cultural diffusionist archaeology should in fact be an award for contributions to hyperdiffusionism, which, it should be noted, is rejected by mainstream archaeologists and historians.
Again, Joseph has not been hiding any of this; Mussolini’s War (312) proudly proclaims that:
Frank Joseph has published more books and magazine articles about the lost civilization of Atlantis than any other author in history.
A list of these books can be found in his speaker biography for a ‘Crystal Skulls cruise’ in the Caribbean last year. Alongside Mussolini’s War and The Axis Air Forces are such titles as Atlantis in Wisconsin, Edgar Cayce’s Atlantis and Lemuria, Opening the Ark of the Covenant, and 2012: Alien Revelation. Along with Mussolini’s War (311), that bio also notes that Joseph was editor of Ancient American magazine for 14 years, another forum for hyperdiffusionism, and is ‘currently a feature writer for The Barnes Review and Atlantis Rising’. Atlantis Rising is more of the same (‘Ancient Mysteries – Unexplained Anomalies – Future Science’) but the Barnes Review is something else entirely.
I don’t feel like linking to the Barnes Review, subtitled ‘A Journal of Nationalist Thought and History’, because it is devoted to historical revisionism, conspiracy theories, and Holocaust denial. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls it ‘one of the most virulent anti-Semitic organizations around’. The current issue (March/April 2013) features an article arguing that ‘Jewish involvement in the shady business of banking goes back to ancient Rome’. The journal’s website is covered with ads for books such as The Work of All Ages: The Ongoing Plot to Rule the World from Biblical Times to the Present (about the Jews, of course) and the notorious The Hoax of the Twentieth Century by Arthur Butz, one of the founding texts of Holocaust denial. The Barnes Review, named after the historian and denialist icon Harry Elmer Barnes, was founded by Willis Carto, a co-founder of the Institute for Historical Review, probably the leading Holocaust denial organisation.
Judging from the titles and summaries, none of Joseph’s writing for the Barnes Review concerns Holocaust denial or anti-Semitism directly. Instead he defends Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor or rehabilitates Jozef Tiso (as well as old pseudoarchaeological standards like the Kensington Runestone). But why would he want to associate himself with a publication so thoroughly implicated in denialism and racism unless he was in sympathy with its views? Especially when you consider Joseph’s past history. In the 1970s, Frank Joseph was known as Frank Collin, the founder and leader of the National Socialist Party of America and former follower of George Lincoln Rockwell and his American Nazi Party. The National Socialist Party of America gained notoriety when it announced that it would march through Skokie, a suburb of Chicago with a large Jewish population. Its right to do so was upheld by the US Supreme Court in 1977, though in the end the march never happened.
The Illinois Nazis were immortalised in The Blues Brothers; Henry Gibson’s ‘Head Nazi’ is supposedly a caricature of Collin/Joseph. But by this time he was no longer involved with the National Socialist Party of America, as it had become known that his father was Jewish. Joseph has distanced himself from his neo-Nazi past and his anti-Semitism. But his favourable accounts of fascist war criminals and his continuing association with Holocaust deniers suggests that his views have not changed. His heavy involvement in hyperdiffusionism and other revisionist fantasies similarly suggests that his historical judgement cannot be trusted. How can such a writer with such a spectacularly dubious background come to be published by respectable military history presses? Can military historians do anything to limit the damage done or to prevent it from happening again? And should we?