The U.S. Government, Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, and You: A Truth Seeker's Guide - Tor Nightfire

The U.S. Government, Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, and You: A Truth Seeker’s Guide

Still from U.S. Navy video of UAP (Department of Defense)

Unsolved Mysteries gave me a firm foundation for strange history. The show was my introduction to the 1947 Roswell crash, and between the ages of 8-12 I devoured anything and everything about UFOs and extraterrestrial life. When the internet came along, I combed the web for UFO conspiracy theories and learned more about Area 51, Project Blue Book, and MJ-12.

At one point in my UFO-fanatic childhood, I was watching a documentary about the crash at Kecksburg—a town that sat just fifty minutes from my own hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. With my child’s mind, I was terrified and fascinated by the idea that extraterrestrial life had come so close to my backyard. It didn’t matter that more than thirty years separated the actual crash and my viewing of the documentary. 

About a quarter of the way through the show, my Uncle Ronald strolled past the TV and paused. 

Now, one thing you should know about my uncle is that he was a calm man who exerted a level of cool that no rock star or celebrity could ever achieve (at least in my mind). Those who knew my uncle in his younger years affectionately described him as a bit of a hellion. But that wasn’t how I knew him. I knew him as my cool uncle who sometimes rolled into Pittsburgh from Mississippi and strutted around the family cookout like his own clothes should be grateful to be associated with him. He was quiet and tough. 

He was also a closed book of strange stories. 

So, this very cool uncle of mine paused for a moment and watched the TV. He probably rolled a toothpick between his teeth. He seemed to be mildly interested in the UFO reenactment footage playing on the screen. 

Right before the program went to a commercial break, my uncle pointed at the TV and with a steady face, he said, “I remember that.”

My eyes darted toward him. I said, “Whaaa…” The word came out as more of a plea for details than an actual question. I wanted to know more! 

But my uncle only nodded matter-of-factly, and then he walked away. 

My uncle passed away in 2021. I never really had an opportunity to talk to him more about the strange and scary stories he told me when I was a kid.

What does this story about my uncle have to do with the recent House Intelligence committee hearing on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena—or for those who are unafraid to use the classic terminology, UFOs? Well, after I finished watching the hearing, some of my first thoughts were of my Uncle Ronald. I wondered what he would have thought of the news. 

So in my uncle’s memory, let’s take a trip down the 37th parallel and speculate about UFOs and aliens. 

Imagine this: A wood-paneled room. Hushed voices. Serious-looking figures in suits. Fluorescent lights. No, I’m not recounting an alien abduction scene. I’m describing the setting of the House Intelligence committee hearing on UAPs. 

Congressman André Carson presided over the hearing with all the gravitas of a science-fiction hero. Congressman Adam Schiff’s eyes widened with extreme delight and twinkled with a hint of mischief as he talked about “one of the world’s most enduring mysteries.” Someone dared to ask Ronald Moultrie, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence & Security, about his interest in science fiction and his history with sci-fi conventions. Everyone avoided saying the word extraterrestrial—and almost succeeded—until Congressman Peter Welch stepped in and said, “Extraterrestrial life… Extraterrestrial life… Extraterrestrial incident.” I’m paraphrasing, of course.

Here are my five favorite highlights from the hearing: 

  • A UAP task force called the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group will study UFO/UAP cases. In other words, we’re finally getting a real X-Files office, but it’s called AOIMSG, which doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Can you imagine Assistant Director Walter Skinner saying, “We’re bringing back the X-Files AOIMSG, because that’s what they’re most afraid of”? Me neither. 
  • U.S. military crafts have never collided with a UAP, but there have been 11 near-misses. 
  • The U.S. government and pilots have never tried to make contact with UAPs, because most of them appear to be unmanned.
  • The U.S. government has recovered wreckage from UAPs, but nothing has pointed to them being extraterrestrial in origin.
  • This was a favorite phrase: “Not to my knowledge.”

Now, let’s consider the possibility that UAPs are a legitimate national security threat. If you’re not new around here, then you must know that we’re about to approach this hypothetical situation the way Agent Mulder approaches any case—with wild enthusiasm for the possibility of extraterrestrial life.

In his infamous Pale Blue Dot speech, Carl Sagan said, “There is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.” But what if someone were coming to put us out of our collective misery? Wars. Pandemics. Pollution. In a world where racism and xenophobia rule, it seems fitting that beings from another galaxy or dimension might bring about the destruction of the human race, huh? 

I think these are stages immediately preceding an attack maneuver. I was wrong. They’re hostile.

Signs (2002)

One of my favorite kinds of alien invasion horror is the nuclear slow-burn kind—the kind in which a UFO sighting leads to a news report which leads to a national-level briefing which leads to a White House press conference which leads to sheer panic and then BOOM… society has a nuclear meltdown. 

How would a hostile alien takeover play out? Would their crash landing come as an absolute shock and interrupt our daily lives, much like the situation in which Moses and his crew find themselves in Attack the Block? (Which, by the way, is one of the greatest alien flicks of all time–allow it.) Or would the ETs come prepared to hunt us as prey and make a game of it, like Man Vs or Predator? The realist in me thinks a takeover would be more like 10 Cloverfield Lane or PG: Psycho Goreman with the ETs treating us the way some humans treat insects—like things to be sprayed and squashed. Exterminated. 

I have a sneaking suspicion (and hope!) that Jordan Peele’s NOPE will be the kind of alien horror flick that falls into this nuclear slow-burn category.  

One thing is for certain, they probably won’t be as sweet as the adorable flying roombas in Batteries Not Included.

If you were going to take over the world, would you blow up the White House ‘Independence Day’ style, or sneak in through the back door?

The Faculty (1998)

But wait. What if there is no Independence Day-style shock and awe invasion and the takeover is more menacing and methodical? This brings me to my second favorite kind of alien invasion horror flick—the quiet conquest. In this scenario, humans simply ignore all of the warning signs. When we finally come to our senses, it’s too late to do anything but surrender. This scenario plays out in films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), The Faculty, The Stuff–the list goes on.

In that part of my brain where stories and characters live on forever, MacReady and Childs are still sitting in the snow, and at least one of them has their full weight pressed against that “back door” that Casey references in The Faculty. (I like to think it’s Childs.) 

People think of aliens as these beings invading our planet in some great cataclysm, destroying monuments, stealing our natural resources. But it’s not like that at all. The invasion already happened.

Dark Skies (2013)

Alien invasion horror can be quite scary, but perhaps the most alarming subgenre of alien horror—and my third favorite kind—is the fourth kind. This is when the ETs abduct and experiment on humans. For those of us willing to acknowledge the little green men in the room, films like Honeymoon, Dark Skies, and The Vast of Night paint frightening portraits of human lives interrupted by ET abduction and experimentation. 

Why are these films so scary? Because the threat isn’t against all humans—just select ones—which leaves the abductees feeling isolated and hopeless.

Want to hear something even more frightening? The Greada Treaty. In some conspiracy theory crop circles, people believe that the US government entered into a contract with ETs which allows aliens to abduct and experiment on humans in exchange for advanced tech. (Thanks, Eisenhower.) Now, if such a thing were true, wouldn’t that be more frightening than any alien invasion film? 

That’s an alien, bruv, believe it.

Attack the Block (2011)

It doesn’t matter if you believe these UAPs to be advanced tech from world governments (including our own) or crafts built and operated by lifeforms not of this earth. What matters is that Tuesday, May 17, 2022, was a significant moment in our history. We’ve long denied and laughed at the prospect of UFOs, but the U.S. government and major news outlets like The New York Times are making definitive statements about the validity and possible threat of these flying objects.

Find 85 spare minutes and watch the House Intelligence hearing. My Uncle Ronald would probably want you to. If he were still around to watch the hearing, I like to think that he’d say something simple and direct like, “I knew it.”

When the hearing is over, you’ll be left with more questions than answers. You’ll wonder why the U.S. government is releasing this information now. You’ll wonder if this is classic misdirection or if we’re being spoon-fed information to make the idea of UFOs more digestible. 

One thing you won’t wonder about is why your friends and family are suddenly doing this…

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