Anyway, Pope starts off by offering a rather dumb claim. He correlates UFO sightings to their proximity to U.S. Air Force Bases, but doesn’t consider the obvious conclusion that such sightings occur due to Air Force activities, such as test flights, as has long been known. Instead, he claims that space aliens have a deep interest in our nuclear weapons.
To illustrate this, Pope and Unexplained Files cover three cases that are extremely familiar even to me—and I don’t have much interest in modern UFO sightings. The three cases are:
- Malmstrom Air Force Base (1967), when UFOs supposedly shut down nuclear missiles. This story was on Ancient Aliens a couple of times, and skeptics have claim that the event was actually due to a completely non-alien electrical failure.
- Rendlesham Forest Incident (1980), a case that has been debunked over and over to the point that even the Fortean Times called Nick Pope dishonest for continuing to promote the story. The incident was the subject of a Sci-Fi (as Syfy was then known) documentary, also with Pope, and several episodes of Ancient Aliens, again featuring Pope.
- Byelokoroviche, Ukraine (1982), when a UFO supposedly caused Soviet nuclear weapons to start their launch sequence, a claim first made on ABC News in 1995. The first version of the story made the UFO 2,900 feet wide (yet somehow unseen except by about four people) but said that just one missile had a signal light briefly light up for less than 15 seconds, indicating that a launch code had been entered; now the story has grown into a much more frighting myth of imminent nuclear catastrophe.
In all three cases neither Pope nor Unexplained Files provided any physical or even documentary evidence in favor of their claims, only hearsay from various supposed witnesses decades after the fact. But having failed to make a case, the show does manage to be reprehensible in two aspects.
First, it never explains to readers that Pope has a potential conflict of interest arising from his financial interest in the Rendlesham story, which makes up the majority of the hour. He is not a disinterested observer or an objective researcher but the author of several books on the subject, including a new one oh so coincidentally just released this summer, as part of his bid to become the world’s leading (and thus highest paid) Rendlesham UFO expert. This documentary was all but an informercial for Pope’s new book, Encounter in Rendlesham Forest—the one that the Fortean Times accused of “mislead[ing] his readers” and purposeful omission of skeptical arguments. You know, like on this show, which includes exactly one skeptical (albeit unusual) argument (that the incident was an Air Force effort aimed at retrieving an Apollo space capsule) only to waive it aside with a fact-free dismissal from Pope.
But here’s the kicker: The narrator repeatedly ties the UFO incidents to abject fear. Words like “terrifying” seep into the narration, as the gravelly voice over offers one “even more frightening reason” after the other to believe in an evidence-free conspiracy. The show asserts a U.S. government conspiracy “to hide the truth,” but offers no opposing view—or even any evidence in favor of this claim, only an assertion without grounding that whatever the government says is a “lie.”
The producers at British production company Raw-TV (with whom I spoke when they wanted me to, essentially, lie about the Smithsonian conspiring to hide Bible giants) should be ashamed of themselves for such fear-mongering. When you contrast their program with the news stories this week about growing public panic that ISIS (ISIL/Islamic State) is planning a terrorist attack against America, as well as continuing upset over perceived invasions across America’s southern border, it becomes irresistible to see the rise of fear-mongering conspiracy programs like this and like the Ancient Aliens obsession with genetic hybridization as a reflection of the post-9/11 world in which traumatized Americans are paralyzed by an overwhelming fear of invasion. The message, distorted through science fiction conventions, is essentially identical to that of nativist political pundits: terrifying foreign forces are trying to attack us, destroy our way of life, and breed us out of existence unless we stop them. Neither your government, nor your land, nor even your families, bodies, or genes are safe. In the meantime, be afraid and send money.
But enough of this. I’ve gone one other nutty idea to share. As you may be aware, America Unearthed is coming back next month and one of the episodes will explore Judaculla Rock, a petroglyph-covered stone in North Carolina often attributed to the Cherokee but possibly dating back as far as the Middle Woodland Period (500 CE). Anyway, North Carolina author David Webb published a book about the rock last year, unbeknownst to me, in which he claims to have decoded the petroglyphs, in defiance of all scholarly attempts to do so. He translated the characters and discovered… well, you’ll see:
…Judaculla Rock tells of a time when giants and little people lived together in harmony and the children of the forest were taught their ways. The ancient language of the stone is a language of the Ginn [sic] (angels who were created 2000 years before Adam). The Ginn language was a language of Mother Nature and was kept hidden in the forest. This book uncovers a creation story where angels communicated with mankind and opens up the possibility of seeing the rich cultural history located in the Tuckaseegee that touches all other histories of the ancient archaeologies.
So, the rock was carved in the language of the angels and records secrets of creation, including the deeds of the giants. Where have we heard that before? Oh, right: It’s the damned Watchers and their Nephilim-giant offspring again. The parallel to the version of their story given in the Book of Jubilees is uncanny. In Jubilees 8:3, Kainam finds just such a rock: “And he found a writing which former (generations) had carved on the rock, and he read what was thereon, and he transcribed it and sinned owing to it; for it contained the teaching of the Watchers in accordance with which they used to observe the omens of the sun and moon and stars in all the signs of heaven.” It is the same as the Pillars of Wisdom from Josephus (Antiquities 1:68-74) and all the others versions of the same, when the Sons of God came unto the daughters of men (Genesis 6:1-4). I would never accuse Webb of knowing this, but it’s interesting that he makes his angels into Djinn since the most infamous of the Watchers, Azazel, is said in the Qu’ran (18:50) to be a Djinn rather than an angel, assuming that we accept the hadith that the Djinn Iblis (Satan) mentioned in this verse was born under the name Azazel.