"It is easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled."
– Mark Twain
In December 2017, a totally unexpected New York Times story about a secret $22 million "black" Pentagon study of UFOs (now arbitrarily termed UAPs, unidentified aerial phenomena) appeared that never used the words "conspiracy theory" or "conspiracy theorists." And the first in a series of "UAP" videos – the so-called "Tic Tacs," looking more like TikTok videos — also were released.
It shook both those consuming only mainstream news sources and those who have followed the confusing, contradictory and often crazy narratives — official and otherwise — since an alleged extraterrestrial vehicle with occupants crashed in Roswell, N.M., on July 8, 1947. That's 70 lost years before the secret Pentagon study was revealed on the front pages of the Old Gray Lady of American journalism, rather than in the shoddy supermarket tabloids proclaiming truly fake news about flying saucers, bogeys, UAPs or WUWTCT (Whatever U Want to Call Them).
Roswell has become the Rosetta Stone of UFO history and lore, with the U.S. military providing not one but four different accounts over the decades about what really crashed and what was retrieved: a flying disc ('47); a weather balloon ('47); an atmospheric, balloon-like device from Project Mogul to detect Soviet nuclear detonations ('94); and crash-test dummies ('97). Which one are we supposed to believe?
But what is lesser known about the Roswell event was that it was preceded by pilot Kenneth Arnold's view of a fleet of nine "saucer"-like objects flying in formation near Mount Rainier in Washington, where he was airborne on June 25, 1947. In the same time frame, before Roswell, a flurry of subsequent "flying saucer" sightings and news headlines screamed across the front pages of newspapers in 38 states and Canada, including detailed reports by the Associated Press and other "reliable" news sources like UPI.
Will a soon-to-be-released and legally required unclassified report from the director of national intelligence and secretary of defense to Congress and the American people about what the military and the U.S. government know about UFOs "clear the air"? Don't place bets on any side of the table. Long-suffering students (including me) and self-proclaimed masters of the issue have expressed as much hope for a "true disclosure" as those who remain highly skeptical that anything new will be revealed. The report is due around or by June 25, and leaked information from the New York Times is already claiming there will be a classified section, too. Hopefully, that also will be leaked.
Steven Bassett of the Paradigm Research Group — and the lone lobbyist/advocate in Washington for disclosure and related extraterrestrial issues ("exopolitics") — anticipates that the 70-year "Truth Embargo" is about to end. "Communion" author and "experiencer" Whitley Strieber, meanwhile, shrugged off all the hoopla in his June 4 blog titled "What's the big deal? The Pentagon admitted UFOs were 'Not of this World' 74 years ago." He cited a 1947 classified memo from Gen. Nathan Twining (later released under the Freedom of Information Act) "stating that 'the phenomenon reported is something real and not visionary or fictitious.' He went on to describe 'extreme rates of climb' and other characteristics that precisely match the recorded capabilities of the objects in the [recently] released naval footage. So, if an earthly foreign power has such craft now, then they also had them in 1947."
Taking a much more alarming position, Dr. Steven Greer, the controversial founder of the Center for the Study of Extraterrestrial Intelligence (CSETI) and the CE-5 Initiative (Close Encounters of the Fifth Kind, i.e., human-initiated contact) is warning that this apparent mainstreaming of a once perpetually marginalized subject is setting up a false flag scenario. The idea is that a hoaxed alien invasion or incident will be staged in order to continue to divert billions of dollars to mostly space-based weapon systems for the military-industrial complex that President Dwight Eisenhower warned us about before leaving office.
Then there is the basic issue that many want answered with the report, such as the one expressed by legendary public-interest attorney Daniel Sheehan (Pentagon Papers, Watergate, Wounded Knee, Silkwood, Iran-contra, et al.). Sheehan has served as CSETI's ongoing legal counsel, including through three eye-opening, crowdfunded documentary films since 2013 and the organization's two high-profile grassroots disclosure events in 1997 and 2001 (in full disclosure, I served as CSETI's communications or PR person for most of the '90s). As the prominent barrister recently noted on a podcast hosted by longtime Canadian researcher Grant Cameron, the biggest — and perhaps the only — question that needs to be answered with the release of the report is, "Why now?"
In the run-up to the report's release, not just news stories but op-ed pages and magazine articles are proliferating exponentially. And — at least in some quarters — serious discussion is ensuing by learned individuals who are not afraid to say the "ET" word. Daniel Drezner, a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, insightfully wrote in a Washington Post guest column last April that it is "increasingly respectable to acknowledge that unidentified aerial phenomena are a thing. But this leads to a few follow-up questions. Does this evidence point toward the prospect of extraterrestrial observation of our planet? If so, how should we feel about that?"
"I am not going to speculate on the first question," Drezner continued, "beyond noting that if Harvard astrophysicists are making that suggestion about interstellar phenomena, perhaps we need at least to consider the possibility that these UAPs might also be extraterrestrial in origin.
"If UAPs are extraterrestrials, however, this is a different scenario: It is not humans contacting extraterrestrials but rather those extraterrestrials actively observing us. Furthermore, they seem to be doing so in a way that is not destructive. That is promising! Observation without the intent to destroy suggests a civilization that is much less violent than, say, Spanish conquistadors …
"I get the concern from physicists that technologically advanced extraterrestrials might behave as powerful human civilizations have in the past. But maybe the concerned physicists should engage a little more with social scientists. The assumption is that powerful, technologically advanced civilizations will act in a destructive manner. That is possible, but perhaps civilizations that reward destructive entrepreneurship are less likely to generate the technological wherewithal for interstellar travel. And if those UAPs are ETs, maybe there is more hope for interstellar relations than either scientists or science fiction envision."
To quote that old Buffalo Springfield song, "There's something happening here, but what it is ain't exactly clear." Remember, however, that in this multistoried and always murky realm, the shiny, loud things that go zigging into the public awareness and the wider popular culture often blind us to the more salient and revealing things that go zagging right by in the same direction, often hiding in plain sight.
Martin Keller is a Twin Cities writer and publicist. His new book is "The Space Pen Club: Close Encounters of the 5th Kind, UFO Disclosure, Consciousness and Other Mind Zoomers."