Article by Sarah Scoles February 29, 2020 (slate.com)
• A 2019 Gallup poll revealed that 68 percent of Americans believe that the government is hiding information about aliens and UFOs from the public. Thirty-three percent of respondents said that they believe UFOs are alien spacecraft from other worlds. So why then would the government lie about aliens? Sarah Scoles, the author of the book: They Are Already Here: UFO Culture and Why We See Saucers,offers perspective and possible answers.
• The government alone has the means, motive and opportunity to maintain a cover-up of aliens and UFOs. Even US presidents’ security clearances are need-to-know. On Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2014, Bill Clinton revealed that during his time in office, he’d asked his people to look into both Area 51 and the Roswell files. He was denied access to those secrets. When Kimmel asked whether Clinton would tell the public if he discovered that extraterrestrials, or ‘ET’, were here, Clinton replied, “yeah.” Is this simply part of the cover-up?
• The government’s primary means of cover-up is its authority to classify information, making it a crime to disclose to the public. Such secrets can be sequestered to massive military bases. The notoriously secretive Area 51 Air Force installation in Nevada spans 2.9 million acres – twice the size of Delaware. Military guards at Area 51 are authorized to use “deadly force” against civilians who try to storm the base. This is a lot of security for a base whose existence the Air Force denied until 2013. There must be something truly incredible going on inside there.
• The government has proven that it is adept at cover-ups. When the public rumor-mill heard about a “UFO” crash near Roswell, New Mexico in 1947, the Air Force used this as a cover-up for what the crash “debris” really was – a spy balloon under the ‘top secret’ Project Mogul. The point is that the US government is not above resorting to decades-long cover-ups.
• Is the government’s motive to cover-up the ET presence due to a fear of hostile ETs, or the fear of benevolent ETs ushering in an era of peace? The existence of any sort of extraterrestrials would unite us Earthlings. It would transcend national borders as we contemplated our place in a galaxy possibly teeming with life. What if benevolent ETs brought us technologies like free energy devices, warp drive propulsion, self-contained life support systems and the blueprints for spaceships? Such a technological renaissance would be a high-tech respite from international conflict.
• But under such a benevolent scenario, those currently benefiting and making a fortune off of the fossil fuel energy status quo would oppose it. A truly global society could topple national-level leadership. While ET technology would be good for the little guy, it would negatively affect the ‘powers that be’. Or perhaps the ‘powers that be’ already have such alien technology and want to keep these only to themselves. Perhaps the government wants to hide free “zero-point energy” from the public to keep big companies in business, and therefore keep the people poor and dependent on them. Or maybe the US military wants to keep this advanced technology hidden from foreign nations, giving the US an unbeatable advantage.
• No one really knows how the public would actually react to the sudden existence of extraterrestrials. In 1953, the CIA sponsored a small group of scientists and military personnel to evaluate the national security risks UFOs. Known as the Robertson Panel report, these experts warned that the public’s revelation of the existence of extraterrestrials among us would give the Soviets an opening to sow mass hysteria and panic in the United States. This sort of reasoning concludes that such hysteria could result in ‘more spying, more assassinations, the dissolution of religion’ and an increase in radicalism. This gave the government a legitimate national interest to protect.
• Alternatively, these extraterrestrials could represent an apocalyptic threat as in the movies War of the Worlds, Independence Day, and The Day the Earth Stood Still. Or maybe these aliens are benign or anti-social, and the government has determined that we are simply better off without them without making a big deal about it. The possible answers to why the government would choose to cover up the extraterrestrial presence spans a whole spectrum: They’d cause too much peace, make too much chaos, give too many people too much technology, or they’d just be a real disappointment. Believers can choose the one that makes most sense to them or tick off “all of the above.” But all of this has one certain result – there is enough of a narrative here to give ET/UFO conspiracists solid ground to support their conspiracy theories.
If you think the government has more information about UFOs than it’s letting on, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re in the majority. A 2019 Gallup poll revealed 68 percent of people feel that way. Thirty-three percent of all respondents said that they believe UFOs were built by aliens from outer space.
The Venn diagram center of those two groups clings to one of the most enduring conspiracy theories: The Government (it’s always with a capital G for believers) is squirreling away information about alien spacecraft. This idea appears, and has for years, on internet forums, social media, TV shows, memes, movies, and, of course, fiction, like Max Barry’s “It Came From Cruden Farm.”
Almost as interesting as any government secret is why it’s kept secret. And for alien UFOs, the conspiratorial answers span a whole spectrum: They’d cause too much peace, make too much chaos, give too many people too much technology, or, maybe—as is the case in Barry’s story—just be a real disappointment. Because the why here has so many potential answers, believers can choose the one that makes most sense to them or tick off “all of the above.”
Even powerful politicians, it turns out, think there may be more to the saucer story than meets the public eye. That’s why, when presidents become presidents, sometimes they, too, take an interest in the extraterrestrial. On Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2014, for instance, Bill Clinton revealed that during his time in office, he’d asked his people to look into both the Area 51 and Roswell files. “If you saw that there were aliens there, would you tell us?” Kimmel asked.
“Yeah,” said Clinton. (But if you’re inclined to believe in a cover-up, isn’t this affirmative just further evidence of disinformation?)
The president in Max Barry’s story similarly uses his power to seek out ufological secrets—immediately after his inauguration. The Air Force chief of staff, to the president’s surprise but perhaps not the reader’s, confesses that, yes, there is a specimen from space. It is, just as last year’s would-be raiders suspected, tucked away inside Area 51, a notoriously secretive Air Force installation in Nevada, whose existence wasn’t officially acknowledged till 2013 (although, you know, we knew).
It makes a certain sense that in this story, and in popular consciousness, the government holds these celestial secrets. After all, it alone meets the classic criteria of guilt: Means. Motive. Opportunity. Those elements make the conspiratorial conviction feel juuuust plausible enough. And if a hypothetical narrative is juuuust plausible enough, adherents have juuuust enough ground to remain standing on it—which is part of why this conspiracy theory has long, sturdy legs.
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