Something weird is going on in UFO world, and it’s not just the grift at the UFO Disclosure Symposium in which ex-fighter pilot and UFO celebrity Chris Lehto shilled for alien-themed NFTs: “You can look at your boring bank account, or you can look at this. […] It’s that simple.”
It wasn’t even Tom DeLonge launching a new bid for his fans to give him cash for a reimagined To the Stars, which is still promoting its alleged alien aerospace research despite telling the SEC that it hard retooled the company as an entertainment platform.
Instead, what struck me this week was a brazen set of lies designed to create a rhetorical aura of credibility on the back of the Pentagon’s Congressionally mandated UFO research. The team of researchers that grew out of the Bigelow circle of Skinwalker space ghost hunters, having successfully radicalized a handful of members of Congress, who then inserted UFO legislation into an omnibus bill where it wouldn’t be debated or voted on separately, are now presenting the Congressional action they induced as confirmation of their own research, despite both ends the ouroboros being one and the same, and also still unevidenced.
This was on full display at the Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies’ Anomalous Aerospace Phenomena Conference in Alabama over the weekend. Politico’s Bryan Bender, who claimed recently that ufology’s stars had “deceived” him and lied about their paranormal fantasies, forgave them and is once again carrying water for the UFO industry. According to a report Bender filed behind a paywall, the conference featured ufologists mixing with government officials and government contractors, claiming that the UFO conference took on new seriousness thanks to the recent House subcommittee hearing on UFOs. “It was more like a typical defense industry event,” Alexander Rojas told Bender.
That part is true: Once Congress creates a program, contractors rush in to get paid.
Ex-fighter pilot turned defense contractor employee Ryan Graves gave the keynote address. He is working on hypersonic weapons for a contractor, demand for which can only increase if dubious UFOs “mysteries” can keep Congress panicking over alleged hypersonic weapons from foreign adversaries. Bender didn’t bother to point out the potential conflict of interest because in government, financially benefiting is baked in. It’s simply expected that “experts” stand to make bank from their advice.
According to Bender, the crowd was in thrall to “the real celebrity,” space-ghost hunter Eric Davis, the longtime Bigelow circle associate and current Aerospace Corporation defense contractor who was deceived by the 1990s Alien Autopsy special, may or may not have faked the “Admiral Wilson Memo” about crashed saucers, and has never met a UFO fantasy he hasn’t thought likely true, be it interdimensional poltergeists, Deros, and crashed saucers. Employees of Space Command were on hand to sit at the feet of a man who accuses them of a conspiracy. And everyone lapped it up because nothing says credible science like getting your “facts” from a guy who thinks Alien Autopsy is real and you are part of a conspiracy to hide flying saucers.
It's worth asking why so many defense contractors are hiring people associated with conspiracy theories, demonstrably false claims, paranormal research, and other fringe ideas for which the Pentagon denies there is any evidence to support. With whom are they trying to curry favor? Why do powerful people patronize lunatics despite their decades of falsehood and failure?
Whatever the reason, the loonies have a new rhetorical strategy to help convince their marks—sorry … audience—that they are the way, the truth, and the life. Recently, language of trust has started to creep into ufologists’ promotional efforts, though it is demonstrably false. Consider, for example, Tom DeLonge’s pitch for “investors” (perhaps better classified as “donors”) to give him money. He literally ties himself to what he calls “prestigious government agencies”—since the holy government sanctifies all—and says “Because of our connections and expertise, we were entrusted to release official military footage of UAPs to the public. We now have an ongoing Cooperative R&D Agreement with The United States Army to dig deeper into these mysteries.”
Both parts of that are demonstrably untrue. The government didn’t “entrust” UFO videos to DeLonge. Lue Elizondo and Chris Mellon spirited the videos out of the Pentagon without permission and then provided them to Leslie Kean and Bryan Bender. The now-defunct To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science had an agreement for the Army to test Art’s Parts and for them to share the results. However, Elizondo, who left the company years ago, says he was the signatory on that, not DeLonge, and to the best of anyone’s knowledge, nothing came of the tests.
But the language DeLonge used—“entrusted”—is fascinating for falsely implying that the U.S. government considers credible his entertainment company, which claims (dubiously) to have invented a “new genre” of science fiction that reveals “truth” in the guise of fiction, i.e. lies. He calls it “Informed Science Fiction” and says it tells “stories steeped in real truths from prestigious government agencies and academic institutions.” In short, for DeLonge, all the efforts to curry favor with government culminated in the ability to falsely imply that the government is endorsing his science fiction fantasies.
Similarly, Elizondo is now using the same language to lie. In the second episode of a new podcast with M.J. Banias of The Debrief, Elizondo used the same verb to lie about his UFO research for the government: “The U.S. population entrusted me with $22 million of their hard-earned money to find answers,” he said. No one entrusted Elizondo with $22 million, the sum that Sen. Harry Reid appropriated to fund AAWSAP, a program designed to funnel money to Robert Bigelow, Hal Puthoff, Eric Davis, and their friends to hunt space ghosts and paranormal phenomena at Skinwalker Ranch. Elizondo long denied having anything to do with AAWSAP, but when documents came to light showing that he worked for the program for two years and was its last director after its funding got cut off, he reversed course and is now claiming credit, using the same language—“entrusted”—to bolster his own credibility ahead of the inevitable splashy book launch, whenever Rupert Murdoch’s empire decides the time is right, and his own efforts to return to government. His lawyer recently claimed he is the chief UFO consultant to Space Command, the same Space Command patronizing Elizondo’s former colleague Davis in Alabama this week.
It's all very incestuous, and all the more depressing since half a century of “research” from the same small group of eccentrics produced nothing of substance other than a perpetual make-work machine tied to government and defense contractors, and a convenient way to launder their sci-fi fantasies into something the ignorant might mistake for prestige and respectability.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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