Since David Grusch stepped out of the backrooms of the UFO media circuit to become a public UFO celebrity, the phrase “ontological shock” has become his defenders’ go-to explanation across social media for why skeptics refuse to accept without evidence Grusch’s recycled assertions that the United States possesses multiple crashed alien spaceships and their dead occupants. “Ontological shock” is a phrase used in philosophy to refer to being forced to question one’s worldview. Historically, the phrase has been rarely used outside of theology, and even there, a search of databases finds it is not widely deployed. However, alien abduction researcher John Mack adopted the term to refer to abductees’ feelings about encountering space aliens, and he deployed the term in a 1994 Washington Post article about alien abductions, Reptilians, and Greys. A search of historical newspaper databases did not turn up any other reference to the phrase in relation to aliens. Similarly, a Google Books search finds the phrase used in connection with UFOs primarily in quoting John Mack.
This week the House of Representatives held a hearing in which they heard David Grusch repeat his claims that he heard from unnamed individuals that the United States has retrieved and studied crashed flying saucers and knows where the ships are stored. Representatives seemed to accept the claims with little pushback, even as the hearing turned into a gathering of dubious ufologists, paranormal researchers, and UFO media figures, working together to promote sensational and dubious claims. Jeremy Corbell, who attended the hearing as a guest of Grusch, claimed in an interview afterward that he had been given access to the secret locations where allegedly highly classified technology was kept--despite not being a government employee or having a security clearance. The fix is in. Congress and ufologists are working together to legitimize old hoaxes from the 1940s about crashed saucers.
I discussed some of the historical background for Congress's foray into dubious UFO lore today for CNN. Read it here.
The Abduction of Betty and Barney Hill: Alien Encounters, Civil Rights, and the New Age in America
Matthew Bowman | August 2023 | Yale University Press | 288 pages | ISBN: 978-0300251388
Last week, in announcing his support for legislation that would nationalize the alleged bodies of dead space aliens and require the surrender of crashed flying saucers, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said that Americans had a “right” to learn about “non-human intelligence” and “unexplainable phenomena.” The collision of UFO fantasies and legislative grandstanding—a “frankly … bizarre” story, as NBC’s Gadi Schwartz described it on NBC Nightly News—may not have been exactly what historian Mark Bowman had in mind when he wrote The Abduction of Betty and Barney Hill, but it is the culmination of what, in Bowman’s view, has always been a ufology movement driven by dissention from the traditional bureaucratic inertia and elitism of America’s postwar liberal order.
Under pressure from members of the GOP caucus, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy has signed off on a hearing looking into claims that the U.S. has secret treaties with murderous space monsters and recovered their crashed flying saucers. Rep. Tim Burchett, the 2020 election denier who appeared on Ancient Aliens to claim the Bible is a record of space alien visitation, will lead the hearing. And lest there be any doubt that the embarrassing spectacle is all about space aliens, Burchett told Politico today, “That’s what it is about: aliens.” An anonymous Republican told Politico that some in the GOP understand that the hearing could become a debacle if “people run wild with it,” but thanks to the party’s razor-thin control of the House, members with wacky personal agendas have extraordinary leverage over the Speaker, making it almost impossible to stop a fantastical descent into sci-fi conspiracy theories. The hearing is currently planned for the end of the month.
Late in the day, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer backed a bipartisan Senate proposal to create a commission to declassify UFO documents, which the New York Times correctly characterized as an effort to combat conspiracy theories and tamp down on UFO fever of the kind seen on the House side.
This morning, the New York Times ran a puff piece in its business section claiming that 1970s-era spoon-bender Uri Geller has “won” the war against his debunkers by monetizing his fraudulent powers and attaining greater celebrity than his detractors. The story, by business reporter David Segal, praises what Segal describes as Geller’s repudiation of conventional standards of truth, substituting entertainment for evidence and using his postmodern attacks on evidence and reason to generate millions in revenue:
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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