[Paleopsych] TCS: Internet Killed the Alien Star

Premise Checker checker at panix.com
Sun Dec 4 03:21:49 UTC 2005

Internet Killed the Alien Star

    By Douglas Kern  Published   11/09/2005

    If you're looking for one of those famous, big-eyed alien abductors,
    try looking on the sides of milk cartons. The UFO cultural moment in
    America is long since over, having gone out with the Clintons and
    grunge rock in the 90s. Ironically, the force that killed the UFO fad
    is the same force that catapulted it to super-stardom: the Internet.
    And therein hangs a tale about how the Internet can conceal and reveal
    the truth.

    It's hard to remember just how large UFOs loomed in the public mind a
    mere ten years ago. The X-Files was one of the hottest shows on
    television; [26]Harvard professors solemnly intoned that the alien
    abduction phenomenon was a real, objective fact; and Congressmen made
    serious inquiries about a downed alien spacecraft in [27]Roswell, New
    Mexico. Still not enough? You could see the "Roswell" movie on
    Showtime; you could play "Area 51" at the arcade; you could gawk at
    stunning pictures of [28]crop circles in any number of magazines; and
    you could watch any number of lurid UFO specials on Fox or the
    Discovery Channel. And USENET! Egad! In the days when USENET was
    something other than a spam swap, UFO geeks hit "send" to exchange
    myths, sightings, speculations, secret documents, lies, truths, and
    even occasionally facts about those strange lights in the sky.

    The modern UFO era began with [29]Kenneth Arnold's 1947 UFO sighting
    near Mount Rainier, Washington. National interest in the subject waxed
    and waned in the following years -- sometimes spiking dramatically, as
    during the Washington, D.C. "flap" of 1952 or the Michigan sightings
    in 1966 (which captured the attention of [30]Gerald Ford). Steven
    Spielberg popularized the modern mythology of UFOs in 1977's
    "[31]Close Encounters of the Third Kind." And with the publication of
    [32]Whitley Strieber's "Communion" in 1987, alien abduction moved from
    a freakish, nutty concern to a mainstream phenomenon. Eccentrics had
    claimed to be in [33]mental contact with aliens since the fifties, and
    alien abductions had been a part of the American UFO scene since the
    [34]Betty and Barney Hill case of 1961, but Strieber's runaway
    bestseller fused the traditional alien abduction tale to a chilling
    narrative and a modern spiritual sensibility -- thus achieving huge
    credibility for our friends with the wraparound peepers.

    Yet in recent years, interest in the UFO phenomenon has withered. Oh,
    the websites are still up, the odd UFO picture is still taken, and the
    usual hardcore UFO advocates make the same tired arguments about the
    same tired cases, but the thrill is gone. What happened? Why did the
    saucers crash?

    The Internet showed this particular emperor to be lacking in clothes.
    If UFOs and alien visitations were genuine, tangible, objective
    realities, the Internet would be an unstoppable force for detecting
    them. How long could the vast government conspiracy last, when
    intrepid UFO investigators could post their prized pictures on the
    Internet seconds after taking them? How could the Men in Black shut
    down every website devoted to scans of secret government UFO
    documents? How could marauding alien kidnappers remain hidden in a
    nation with millions of webcams?

    Just as our technology for finding and understanding UFOs improved
    dramatically, the manifestations of UFOs dwindled away. Despite
    forty-plus years of alleged alien abductions, not one scrap of
    physical evidence supports the claim that mysterious visitors are
    conducting unholy experiments on hapless victims. The technology for
    sophisticated photograph analysis can be found in every PC in America,
    and yet, oddly, recent UFO pictures are rare. Cell phones and instant
    messaging could summon throngs of people to witness a paranormal
    event, and yet such paranormal events don't seem to happen very often
    these days. For an allegedly real phenomenon, UFOs sure do a good job
    of acting like the imaginary friend of the true believers. How
    strange, that they should disappear just as we develop the ability to
    see them clearly. Or perhaps it isn't so strange.

    The Internet taught the public many tricks of the UFO trade. For
    years, hucksters and mental cases played upon the credulity of UFO
    investigators. Bad science, shabby investigation, and dubious tales
    from unlikely witnesses characterized far too many UFO cases. But the
    rise of the Internet taught the world to be more skeptical of
    unverified information -- and careful skepticism is the bane of the
    UFO phenomenon. It took UFO experts over a decade to determine that
    the [35]"Majestic-12" documents of the eighties were a hoax, rather
    than actual government documents proving the reality of UFOs. Contrast
    that decade to the mere days in which the blogosphere disproved the
    Mary Mapes Memogate documents. Similarly, in the nineties, UFO
    enthusiasts were stunned when they learned that [36]a leading
    investigator of the Roswell incident had fabricated much of his
    research, as well as his credentials. Today, a Google search and a few
    e-mails would expose such shenanigans in minutes.

    Thus, the rise of the Internet in the late nineties corresponded with
    the fall of many famous UFO cases. Roswell? A crashed, top-secret
    weather balloon, misrepresented by dreamers and con men. [37]The
    Mantell Incident? A pilot misidentified a balloon, with tragic
    consequences. Majestic-12? Phony documents with a demonstrably false
    signature. [38]The Alien Autopsy movie? Please. As access to critical
    evidence and verifiable facts increased, the validity of prominent UFO
    cases melted away. Far-fetched theories and faulty evidence collapsed
    under the weight of their provable absurdity. What the Internet gave,
    the Internet took away.

    The Internet processes all truth and falsehood in just this fashion.
    Wild rumors and dubious pieces of evidence are quick to circulate, but
    quickly debunked. The Internet gives liars and rumor mongers a
    colossal space in which to bamboozle dolts of every stripe -- but it
    also provides a forum for wise men from all across the world to speak
    the truth. Over the long run, the truth tends to win. This fact is
    lost on critics of the blogosphere, who can only see the exaggerated
    claims and gossip. These critics often fail to notice that, on the
    'net, the truth follows closely behind the lies. A great many of us
    accept Internet rumors and hoaxes in exchange for fast access to the

    But is there any validity to the UFO phenomenon? Perhaps, but so what?
    The need for weird is hard-coded into the human condition. In every
    society, a few unlikely souls appear to make contact with an invisible
    world, communing with goblins or ghosts or aliens or gods or monsters.
    And in every society, some fool always tries to gather scales from the
    dragon tracks, or droppings from the goblins, or pictures of the
    aliens. The dream world is always too elusive to be captured, and yet
    too tantalizingly close to be dismissed. And so the ancient game
    continues, with weirdness luring us to introspection and subjectivity,
    even as reality beckons us to exploration and objectivity. The appeal
    of chimerical mysteries and esoteric knowledge tends to diminish when
    the need for moral clarity and direction grows acute. And our need for
    such guidance is acute indeed. We're at war now. We don't have the
    time for games.

    The weird ye shall have with you always. But right now, the
    introspection of weirdness isn't needed. I'm quite happy to leave the
    aliens in the nineties, and on the milk cartons.


   26. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Edward_Mack
   27. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roswell_incident
   28. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crop_circles
   29. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_Arnold
   30. http://www.ufoevidence.org/documents/doc883.htm
   31. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075860
   32. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whitley_Strieber
   33. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contactees
   34. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betty_Hill
   35. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Majestic_12
   36. http://www.roswellfiles.com/storytellers/RandleSchmitt.htm
   37. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mantell_Incident
   38. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alien_autopsy
   39. mailto:interview at techcentralstation.com
   40. http://www2.techcentralstation.com/1051/feedback.jsp?CID=1051-110905A

More information about the paleopsych mailing list