weird things in sensible places: the NYT UFO articles

Starting off the new year with a bang. Or is it a fizzle?

Obi Wan Kenobi: From a certain point of view
Both? Via.

After a year of news that beggars belief, I can honestly say that this is one I didn’t expect to see. This past year, or ever. And yet, it’s not as shocking or mundane as it first appears.

The short version: former DoD intelligence officer Luis Elizondo arranged the release of classified Pentagon video of…something before his resignation in October. Articles in the New York Times (on the front page, no less) and Washington Post accompanied the videos, describing the activities of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, a small Pentagon effort, from 2007-2012. Much of the $22 million funding the AATIP funneled to Bigelow Aerospace, who claims to have refitted warehouses in Las Vegas to store materials retrieved from these UFOs.

Here are my meandering thoughts:

The initial impulse is to cry “Government confirms existence of UFOs!!” Which isn’t news: A UFO is by definition unidentified, and no one has denied that there’s stuff in the sky we can’t identify. But “UFO” is often conflated with “alien”, which leads us to:

“Government confirms existence of aliens!!” But it’s done no such thing. Careful reading of the articles reveal that the writers back off from the word “alien” at every turn.

“Government confirms interest in UFOs!!” Again, not news. See: Project Blue Book; Condon Report.

“At long last, it’s Disclosure™!” I never expected an unambiguous “yes aliens are here” message coming from anywhere in the government. What elected official would admit a potential security breach which they can’t identify and can’t stop? But those beating the Disclosure drum clearly did so I imagine online/print news articles with fuzzy video must sorely disappoint. So: Maybe? Sorta? “Disclosure Lite“? The irony: most Disclosure aficionados don’t appear to trust the government at all so I doubt anything would satisfy them.*

“Why isn’t this blowing up more?” 2017’s news cycle generated such extraordinary stories all year that it simply slipped under the radar. In the face of sexual assailants finally facing justice, Nazis marching in American cities, and Trump & Co’s constant outrages it makes sense that mere government confirmation of UFO research is mundane by comparison.

“How about those alien artifacts warehoused in Las Vegas?” Scientific American points out the existence of massive databases of metal alloys mean that any “unidentified” alloys won’t remain so for long. As I’m not a metallurgist I withhold judgment on this one but do wonder why Bigelow Aerospace hasn’t shared these materials outside the company, or if they plan to do so.

So what’s the real story here?

    • These articles appeared in well-regarded, mainstream news sources. Moreover, they didn’t appear in the Culture or Arts section accompanied by snide remarks; they were tagged under National Security (NYT) and Politics (WaPo). The NYT in particular attempted to curtail ridicule by describing how they decided to publish.
  • This is the first time a government entity acknowledged that UFOs present a genuine mystery. The aforementioned Blue Book and Condon efforts concluded that most reports were mistaken identity and didn’t warrant further research. This article suggests not only recent but current concern, at least as regarding national security/aviation safety.

If you were expecting the president to come on tv with dead alien bodies and crashed flying saucers this must seem very insignificant. On the other hand, if you never expected any government admission that UFOs are worthy of scientific inquiry, this is huge. I’m not sure these articles represent a permanent about-face of mainstream attitudes towards this particular flavor of weird but I’m happy to wait and see.

*The conspiracy corner has Opinions. Slate provides a rundown of the paranoia-flinging if you’re really interested/masochistic. If I read “false flag” one more time I’m gonna tear my eyes out.

References/further reading:

Glowing Auras and ‘Black Money’: The Pentagon’s Mysterious U.F.O. Program: the New York Times article that kicked this off.

On the Trail of a Secret Pentagon U.F.O. Program: NYT explains their careful process for evaluating the validity of the story before publication.

Head of Pentagon’s secret ‘UFO’ office sought to make evidence public: the Washington Post gets in on the act.

The Pentagon UFO Study Audio-Video Media Archive: ongoing archiving of mainstream news sources linking to/commenting on the original NYT articles.

The Truth About Those ‘Alien Alloys’ in The New York Times’ UFO Story: those alloys need not be unidentified for long.

UFO-Pentagon Story Reflects Fundamental Problems: some background including Bigelow Aerospace’s connections to MUFON, Elizondo’s connections to Tom DeLonge’s Academy To The Stars, and the problem of taxpayer money paying for materials the public aren’t allowed to see.

A “Secret UFO Office” in the Pentagon? – What Just Happened In the Media: more analysis on the cascading mainstream media response to the NYT articles.

Whitley Strieber’s year-end show on the UFO articles [YouTube]: helpfully broken up into interviewee sections by time stamp in the comments. Interviews include writers of the articles plus various commentators from academia and the UFO research community.

biweekly links 11-8-2017

Tom DeLonge on JRE: “You Don’t Know What I Know About UFOs (But I Can’t Tell You): Um, yeahhhhh. I’m suspicious of anyone who claims to have The Truth™, especially when they claim they can’t share it – such people are either selling something or being sold something. In DeLonge’s case it might be both: he’s promoting a book that claims to reveal true secrets via fiction, while his unnamed “top government advisors” may be using him for…who the hell knows what. Or maybe the controversy is just fueled by jealous veteran UFO researchers resentful of a newbie with fame and connections. Should I bother to read this, just to figure out what the fuss is about?

screenshot from Raiders of the Lost Ark of government official. Text: Who's looking into the issue? Top...men.
DeLonge’s contacts. Via Memegenerator.

Top 4 Revelations From the New JFK Files: Just the four? From the FBI’s surveillance of MLK to Oswald’s ties to the Soviet Union to wild attempts to kill Castro, there’s something for everyone with a taste for Cold War-era paranoia, and people are still going through these with fine-toothed combs. NPR has put out a call for citizen journalists to share their findings so if you’ve got the time and inclination, go for it.

Religion vs. Superstition: Subtitled “Is Religion Just Organized Superstition? Is Superstition Always Religious?” And yeah, I know I’m wading into a minefield. Talk amongst yourselves.

Reformation “What Might Have Been”s: on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 theses it’s worth asking: what if the Catholic hierarchy had listened? And did the Reformation ultimately fail because they didn’t?

biweekly links 3-22-2017

Hazy Cosmic Jive: Bowie and the Starmen, Part One, Part Two, Part Three: Intriguing series about the influences of UFOs and Captain Marvel on the creation of Ziggy Stardust and other Bowie personas. I knew Bowie was into UFOs, but didn’t know about the comic book angle. Huh. Well timed as I found this just after finishing Simon Reynolds’ Shock and Awe: Glam Rock and its Legacy.

David Bowie made up like an alien with bald head and yellow cat eyes
David Bowie in “The Man Who Fell To Earth”, courtesy Zimbio. I maintain: Bowie didn’t die, he just went back to his home planet of svelte androgynous people.

Henry VIII’s ‘small country’ Tudor palace for sale: so if you’ve got £3 million lying around you’ll want to jump right on that. Seriously though, some nice interior/exterior photos at the link if Tudor architecture is your thing.

The Tudor guide to colonising the world: in case “Bluff King Hal”‘s old digs aren’t big enough for you, read about Richard Hakluyt’s sixteenth century travel guides of the New World. Mind, he never actually left Europe, so take with a grain of salt.

The Game Developers Who Are Also Witches: not a gamer myself but games are a powerful storytelling medium and it sounds like these games to celebrate and empower traditionally maligned populations.

biweekly links 3-8-2017

A handful of UFO-related links as I mine my blog feeds:

Dee, Kelley, and the Gulf Breeze Six

Lest you think that soliciting and obeying dubious supernatural advice is a purely pre-Enlightenment thing, I give you the Gulf Breeze Six.

Google Map of Gulf Breeze, on the Florida panhandle near Pensacola. Beautiful beaches but beware springtime jellyfish.

The abbreviated version: in July 1990 six American soldiers working in intelligence in West Germany went AWOL on the orders an entity called “Safire” they contacted through a Ouija board. The authorities apprehended them in Gulf Breeze, Florida, interrupting their attempt to 1) inform the President about aliens, 2) kill the antichrist, and/or 3) await the Rapture (accounts vary). Incredibly they evaded punishment: after three weeks held incommunicado the military discharged them with full honors.

Of course there’s more to it than that–isn’t there always? Government experiments, UFOs, and prophecies all get tossed into the blender of weird. The blog post at the link provides a sober, comprehensive history. Check out the accompanying PDF for contemporary news clippings.

The story caught my eye because the story is so similar that of Dee and Kelley:

  • Both groups sought and followed supernatural advice, even when it put them in conflict with the authorities
  • Neither group were cults as such, being small (six soldiers plus a handful more; Dee, Kelley, and their wives) disorganized, short-lived, and lacking charismatic leaders
  • Despite wild detours from orthodoxy both groups’ beliefs were rooted solidly in Christian theology

What intrigues me most is how many modern beliefs the Gulf Breeze Six must have had to jettison to make their assumptions. Dee and Kelley obeying their “celestial teachers” makes sense in their historic context; in twentieth century America not so much*. The GB6 must have taken some serious intellectual leaps (IMHO) to obey “Safire”‘s instructions to desert.

Letting go of my modern assumptions has been one of the hardest parts of getting into my characters’ heads. Characters may question Kelley’s intentions or sanity but it wouldn’t occur to them to question the existence of supernatural entities.

Mind, I’m a hard-headed, secular-soaked atheistic sort. Believer’s mileage may vary.

What’s your take?

*I’m well aware that belief in God/gods, angels, demons, etc. persists but those beliefs compete with modern scientific method in a way they didn’t in the sixteenth century. Turns out some of the GB6 were fundamentalist Christians. Which raises the question: how did they come to play with a Ouija board? I thought those were a big no-no in those circles.