You might have seen the recent spate of publicity surrounding Bob Lazar, a UFO lecture circuit regular who became famous a nearly thirty years ago, in May 1989, when Las Vegas TV reporter George Knapp interviewed him about the U.S. government’s alleged UFO research at Area 51. Over the years, Lazar’s claims have expanded into a baroque narrative encompassing U.S. government research into 10,000 years of alien involvement in human affairs, but his personal credibility has suffered from revelations that his alleged alma maters have no record of him, something he calls a conspiracy to discredit him. Now Lazar is the subject of a new documentary from the same team that brought us Hunt for the Skinwalker earlier this year, and following much the same format, including clips from old Knapp interviews. The film has occasioned borderline credulous write-ups in a number of mainstream publications, including The Daily Beast and the British tabloids.
I got offered a screener for Jeremy Corbell’s film, Bob Lazar: Area 51 & Flying Saucers, but I couldn’t bring myself to gin up the interest to watch it.
Lazar’s long history of stating things that later investigation proves to be unsupported by fact has left even fellow UFO researchers like Stanton Friedman to brand him a liar and a fraud. To be entirely honest, I don’t care must about him or his wild claims. Area 51 conspiracies fall outside my area of interest, except insofar as Lazar has folded himself into the Bigelow-DeLonge axis. Lazar claimed online that he had written his autobiography and DeLonge’s To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science will be publishing it. (To the Stars has not confirmed this, and it is not currently on their public schedule of publications.) And, of course, Lazar’s entire ufology career owes itself to Knapp, Bigelow’s buddy and the author of the authorized book about Bigelow’s Skinwalker Ranch adventure.
However, the film happens to dovetail with Nick Redfern’s new book about Area 51, due out in a couple of weeks, and to promote the book, Redfern published an article on Mysterious Universe last week in which he discussed what he learned from a now-deceased former police officer pseudonymously deemed “John,” who claimed to have worked for the predecessor of G4S Secure Solutions in the 1970s, in which capacity he worked at Area 51.
According to Redfern, “John” learned a great deal about U.S. government space alien work, but he believed that it was not about real space aliens:
John also speculated on another possibility; it was a possibility which involved the Soviets. Although he was somewhat reluctant to address the matter in-depth – which is intriguing – John said he heard a few snippets of data suggesting that there was a small program at Area 51 which was trying to convince the Russians that the United States Government had not just alien bodies, but extraterrestrial technology; even highly advanced, powerful alien weaponry. John wondered if all of this was a mind-game – one designed to scare the Russians into thinking we had something that we never really did, but which the staff at Area 51 were hoping the Russians would come to believe. And come to fear, too. John died in 2013. His widow stated that in his final years John came to believe even more that what he saw and read out at Area 51 in the early 1970s was connected to a project of mind-blowing proportions; a highly detailed and intricate fabrication designed to have the Russians running around like headless chickens, wasting their time on disinformation dressed up as incredible truths and ultimately getting arrested.
Just to note: There is no factual support given for any of this, and the speculation belongs to “John,” based on facts that are not clearly described. I am also concerned about the way that “a small program” blew up in the course of one paragraph into “a project of mind-blowing proportions.”
Even with all of that, a minimalist reading of the claims rings at least somewhat true. We know, for example, that the U.S. government monitored UFO reports as a way of keeping tabs on the Soviet space program, and we know from U.S. and Soviet government documents that both governments falsely attributed secret tests of spacecraft, aircraft, and weapons to UFOs as a way of disguising what they hoped their opposite numbers would not discover. There are even a few hints—like a famous NSA copy of a memo about the Spitsbergen “UFO” calling it a government “plant”—that intelligence agencies were involved in faking UFO incidents.
So the idea that Area 51 engaged in intentional disinformation by covering up military and intelligence work with stories about space aliens doesn’t strike me as preposterous. I would wonder, though, if the intention was to actually fool the Soviets into believing America had space aliens—particularly since the Soviets spent decades promoting UFOs and ancient astronauts among Western journalists and writers—as much as it was to make it difficult, if not impossible, to figure out the real technologies American scientists and engineers were developing due to the challenge of disentangling reality from fantasy.
It’s an interesting story, but I would need to see some corroborating data before accepting the speculations of the deceased “John” as fact.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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