It’s no secret that I have devoted considerable space to discussing the close connection between the collection of topics loosely grouped as “fringe history” and the alt-right and other extreme right groups. These connections were comprehensively documented by the sociologist Michael Barkun in his book A Culture of Conspiracy (2006, rev. 2013), a volume that made the case that extreme rightists had purposely and purposefully infiltrated ufology and related fringe fields in order to use them as a recruiting tool for extremist ideology. These connections became only more obvious in wake of the rise of Donald Trump, with Trump supporters such as Alex Jones, Jason Reza Jorjani, David Wilcock and others spouting a range of ancient astronaut and anti-government conspiracy theories that circle around white nationalism, anti-Semitism, and extreme conservative politics.
But some are unhappy with the association of ufology with the extreme right. One conservative writer recently argued that ufology and ancient astronauts and all of the related detritus of fringe history are really a liberal belief, while a leftist author is upset that the right is claiming ufology and wants to reclaim it for Marxism.
Frontpage Mag is a conservative publication founded by rightwing provocateur David Horowitz. In a recent article, a rightwing hack who specializes in Islamophobic and anti-leftist articles, claimed that UFOs are a delusion of the left and that Democrats are susceptible to a foolish belief in space aliens because they have lost faith in the United States. Horowitz tied his article to Democratic apparatchik John Podesta’s appearance on Ancient Aliens several months ago, and the article contains no new information.
He cites his claim to a 2013 Huffington Post/YouGov poll showing 58% of Democrats believe UFOs could be alien spacecraft, while 37% of Republicans agree. The poll found that 58% of self-identified Democrats polled either believed strongly or slightly in alien visitation. It also found an equally significant correlation between education level and UFO belief, which Horowitz ignored. In the survey, 60% of people with a high school diploma believed in UFOs while 37% of those with a college degree believed. Those numbers are nearly identical to the party affiliation number and therefore equally significant. But not to Horowitz.
Horowitz seized on the party ID to link Democrats to what he claimed were leftist “conspiracy theories” about Russian meddling in the 2016 election, meddling that 17 U.S. intelligence agencies and officials including the speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, a Republican, and even Pres. Trump, under duress yesterday, agree occurred:
It’s natural for them to believe the worst of a country they already distrust. The left’s core beliefs are a series of conspiracy theories about class, race and gender. These conspiracy theories explain everything from crime rates to poverty to social problems. Most leftist programs are geared toward fighting a conspiracy by white people, by men, by the wealthy and the middle class that doesn’t exist except in the minds of the left.
Certainly, there is irony in Frontpage using UFO conspiracies as a justification for a hackneyed irrational conspiracy theory that liberals are mentally deranged, irrational, and hateful.
On the other side, A. M. Gittlitz, a leftist writer of a Marxist bent, recently published a piece asserting that there was a long and proud Marxist tradition, mostly among Trotskyites, of embracing ufology as a cosmic alternative to capitalist reality. He outlines many of the efforts of Soviet and Russian writers, and their stooges in Europe, to promote space aliens as interstellar communists, including such familiar names to us as Peter Kolosimo, the Italian communist who made use of Soviet propaganda in his books and pretended that H. P. Lovecraft’s science fiction stories were true dispatches from the stars.
Glittiz, however, notes that in the United States, the loudest voices in ufology are rightwing nuts who rant about anti-government conspiracies and promote what I have described as racist and anti-Semitic views under the cover of ufology. All of Glittiz’s examples of leftist and Marxist ufologists date from the 1960s and 1970s, when there was still a utopian streak in American thought that mirrored, to an extent, the stated (if never honored) Marxist goals of equality for all. In those days, aliens were often imagined as alternate versions of human society, cosmic teachers who might show us a better way to live, and the province of hippies and utopians who had big plans for the Space Brothers. Today, we see aliens mostly as anal invaders and toothy monsters terrorizing the economically disadvantaged. There were and are exceptions, of course.
Glittiz is right that there was a Marxist ufology in the 1960s, but I think he is entirely too cheery in assuming that it was due to Soviet and communist love of science and a desire to find space comrades. The fact is that the Soviet Union produced most of its ancient astronaut material for Western consumption, published in English-language and French-language Western-facing magazines like Sputnik, even after the government began to crack down on the idea internally in the late 1960s. The Soviets carefully seeded the West with ancient astronaut material, providing “scientific” articles about ancient astronauts to writers like Kolosimo, Robert Charroux, and Erich von Däniken—who even traveled to Moscow to receive Soviet propaganda, despite being an ardent anti-socialist. These men happily cited Soviet scientists as allegedly credible alternatives to Western scholarship.
This brings me to what is perhaps the most important point: There are many leftists, liberals, Democrats, Marxists, and communists among the ranks of ufologists, ancient astronaut theorists, and believers. We could make a long list of them: Giorgio Tsoukalos of Ancient Aliens is an avowed liberal, and John Podesta, Hillary Clinton, and Harry Reid, who funded the Pentagon’s UFO program, are all Democrats. Kolosimo was a communist. Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier were socialists. Dozens of celebrities have embraced Ancient Aliens.
Ufology, as a field, was once populated by younger men, who grew older and more conservative over time. Similarly, there is no one political orientation for an ancient astronaut theorist.
But that doesn’t change the fact that the ancient astronaut theory is structurally conservative, with a small “c.”
I will use an example to help illustrate this. In my 2008 book Knowing Fear, I explain that the horror genre is structurally conservative. The premise of a horror story centers on the violation of the status quo and an effort to restore that status quo ante, thus going back to the way things were before the disruption. The element that violates the status quo, by definition, represents change, and therefore its suppression is an expression of the conservative desire to resist change. More often than not, this takes the form of the narrative “punishing” liberal behaviors, especially those revolving around sex and substances, or “punishing” efforts to discover new knowledge. Tradition and conformity are rewarded in the typical horror narrative.
There are of course exceptions. Get Out was an explicitly liberal horror movie, though it accomplished this by differentiating between small-c conservatism (keeping things the way they are) and capital-C Conservatism, the political ideology increasingly associated with white revanchism.
But the structural conservatism of horror doesn’t prevent the genre from being populated by decidedly liberal writers, like Stephen King, or from it being enjoyed by audiences that are primarily young and often liberal.
Similarly, ufology is a field that, on cable TV at least, attracts a young and liberal audience to messages that are produced, increasingly, by old, white conservatives. The ancient astronaut theory is structurally conservative because it reinforces traditional hierarchies under the grace of semi-divine aliens, asks us to view traditions and myths just as literally as our ancestors did, and attempts to reinvigorate the emotional and spiritual power of ancient traditions.
In both the ancient astronaut and horror fields, we see the result of structural conservatism manifest in a tendency toward racism—ancient astronaut theories denigrate the accomplishments of native peoples, while horror films are infamous for killing off the black character first—and an implicit acceptance of the idea that things were better / stronger / faster / more advanced in the past, which is in this conception the source and font of all tradition and power.
7/18/2018 08:44:55 am
FUNNY YOU SHOULD MENTION THE 'LEFT' & UFO'S;
7/18/2018 08:56:52 am
_He cites his claim to a 2013 Huffington Post/YouGov poll showing 58% of Democrats believe UFOs could be alien spacecraft, while 37% of Republicans agree._
7/18/2018 01:59:45 pm
Vast difference between, on one hand, acknowledging in a poll that you kind of believe that ETs exist and, on the other hand, believing and asserting without supporting evidence that aliens built everything from the great pyramids to the Easter Island statues and are actively kidnapping and anally probing people.
7/19/2018 04:21:01 am
If aliens indeed are visiting Earth then it is highly likely that they have some sort of an agenda here.
7/19/2018 10:56:22 am
The issue of who built the pyramids and every other big pile of rocks has been beaten to death here and elsewhere.
7/19/2018 11:45:55 am
Like it or not, there is no evidence that plain old humans built the pyramids especially considering the question where are older more primitive pyramids that had to precede the more advanced ones?
7/19/2018 12:07:08 pm
A mountain of professionals and scholars who are well trained in the relevant fields say otherwise and can readily support their positions in very rational and objective fashion. You can't even try to support your position without taking a quick trip thru sillyville.
7/19/2018 12:16:40 pm
“Scholars” have of course never been wrong before. Plain old groupthink. Blind leading the blind.
7/19/2018 12:22:32 pm
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case.
7/19/2018 02:36:17 pm
There is a clear progression of pyramid construction with older and more primitive forms. Mastabas ----> step pyramid ----> Meidum and bent pyramids ----> red pyramid, which was the model for the rest of the Old Kingdom's pyramids. The pyramids didn't just come out of nowhere as those who are uninformed would have you believe.
7/20/2018 09:38:30 pm
As a German, I ask myself when reading this article and the articles it is talking about, whether not only the Germans but also the Americans are so ensnared in their mental injuries that they are in heavy need of psychiatric treatment?
7/18/2018 12:07:19 pm
7/18/2018 01:45:04 pm
According to Barkun, rightwing extremists began to enter ufology in the 1980s and took it over in the 1990s, building off of the anti-government "militia" movement of that decade and the anti-government paranoia fostered by the "X-Files." There are obviously a large number of hippie-dippy New Age UFO believers still, but the UFO organizations and the upper ranks of professional ufology have seen a steady drift to the right. Witness MUFON's recent racism scandals. There is clearly a disconnect between the heterogeneous everyday UFO believers and the more politically active leaders of the ufology community.
7/18/2018 08:00:24 pm
And staying on point, let's again hear from Professor Barken:
7/18/2018 10:00:33 pm
"For example, a tremendous amount of conspiracy developed around the figure of George H.W. Bush."
7/18/2018 10:44:11 pm
Only in America is being Anti-Govenrment thought of as Conservative.
7/18/2018 07:03:20 pm
“When did they suddenly change sides ? When did the Red Necks become "enlightened" and the Hippies become cynics ?”
7/18/2018 07:53:12 pm
Some would say anything, but I'd suggest you consider a different festival, and I don't mean Woodstock 99 or whatever the one with the rape gangs was.
7/18/2018 08:27:32 pm
7/18/2018 09:04:54 pm
You're observation is spot on, I'm sure. What intrigues me more is a 180 degree shift in world viewpoint on the part of the "Republican" and "Democrat" Parties in the U.S.
7/18/2018 09:24:13 pm
I think there have been a number of shifts. At one point the Republicans were viewed as uptight, prudish, and lacking a sense of humor. People who acted like they were born 50 years old. The Democrats were the fun loving, youthful, humorous ones. In the present, it has been asserted that the parties have traded personalities. Fox News is a good example. Lot's of cute youngish chicks showing off legs and cleavage and a sort of Saturday Night Live vibe in terms of irreverent humor. But then if you change the channel you end up with someone like Rachel Maddow taking themselves way too seriously.
7/18/2018 10:52:41 pm
Oh man, you know what’s really freaking me out right now?
7/19/2018 11:53:02 am
Redneck is yet another label that has been so used and abused that current usage often bears relatively little resemblance to its original meaning. No shortage of people in the area where I grew up who would quickly get slapped with the label Redneck, but are card carrying Democrats.
7/22/2018 07:20:29 pm
I am collaquially a redfern.
7/23/2018 04:15:02 pm
Rednecks tend to be Democrats you idiot.
7/23/2018 09:14:08 pm
7/19/2018 03:24:34 pm
Thing is, I don't think it WAS a "sudden" change of sides. My observation is...they got old. Not just the people, but the ideas. Things that used to be wild cutting-edge ideas got stale and old, and younger people found, as always, a new crop of problems to focus on (since every social solution is the basis of new problems, and solving larger problems just uncovers a whole crop of slightly smaller ones that were always there, just hidden under the larger one). The people also got older, and more resistant to change, and the ideas aren't new ones, so they're comfortable. *shrugs* It's kind of a pattern we see throughout history, after all.
7/22/2018 07:27:59 pm
I know you, right?
7/22/2018 10:50:53 pm
7/18/2018 05:25:33 pm
7/18/2018 05:38:15 pm
The pattern is more about the ideologies of those who make money selling paranormal conspiracy theories.
7/18/2018 10:11:39 pm
Ideologies do last longer if someone can make money off the deal. Enough paranormal books have been written by enough con artists now that a whole lit review can be made by re-hashing each other’s books.
7/22/2018 08:31:01 pm
It’ll continue to be so.
7/18/2018 10:14:46 pm
Structural Conservatism...really. Oh boy I often think universities should just teach hard sciences and engineering and allow the individual to decide on their ideology.
7/18/2018 10:48:23 pm
Structurally conservative narratives aren't the same as the ideology incorrectly termed Conservatism. There is some overlap, which is why structurally conservative media can be used to support political Conservatism. But surely you recognize that the ideology passing under the name of Conservatism has little to do with the traditional conservatism of Edmund Burke or the traditional definition of conservatism as referring to the preservation of tradition.
7/19/2018 01:32:54 am
Glittiz made a historical review of marginal groups of the trotskyist left as posadismo, so it does not invalidate your analysis: it's complementary. A correction: Pauwels was a supporter of the new right. Regards
Robert Morningstar, editor of 'UFO Digest' is a radical conservative and obsessive Islamophobe. On 26 January 2016 he posted this on FB:
7/23/2018 04:19:27 pm
7/19/2018 03:11:58 pm
Aliens would not come to Earth to meddle in or take sides in our politics. Such a thing would suggest they would give any wit about human nature, and want to influence it. Human nature does not change. It may evolve.or mutate though.
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