A former Canadian cabinet minister claimed on a Russian-operated English-language cable television channel that as many as eighty species of extraterrestrials are currently operating on earth, that they have been influencing human civilization for thousands of years, and that two individual aliens recently went shopping in Las Vegas while dressed as nuns.
I am not making this up, though I wish I were. The Russian story led Iran’s official news agency to issue a fabricated report that Edward Snowden’s document leak contained information about a race of “Tall White” aliens who masterminded events in Nazi Germany and then the United States. According to the Iranian fabrication, the Nordic aliens plan to assimilate into human society and take over the world under the leadership of Barack Obama, which is somewhat confusing since, while he is tall, he is not white.
Paul Hellyer served as Minister of National Defence under Lester B. Pearson in the min-1960s but did not become a believer in UFOs until, he claimed, he watched ABC newscaster Peter Jennings’s controversial February 2005 UFO special. Inspired by the television report, he began reading UFO books and soon after accused then-U.S. President George W. Bush of conducting an “intergalactic war.” In 2010 he claimed Stephen Hawking was working to spread misinformation designed to hide the fact that aliens had been manipulating humanity, possibly for thousands of years.
He had recently appeared at the Citizen Hearing on Disclosure in 2013 where he claimed that four species of alien worked on earth, and two aliens were operatives working within the U.S. government.
His latest claims, broadcast on RT’s Sophie Co, follow a familiar pattern of increasingly extreme and paranoid ideas. The four species have now, according to media reports, become eighty (including Greys and Nordic aliens), the number working for the U.S. government has grown, and the aliens’ influence has gone from occasional to pervasive.
Hellyer is currently 90 years old, and he developed his belief in aliens when he was in his 80s. Hellyer’s claims all derived from fringe books he read after 2005, four decades after he served in government. If ever there were a case where irresponsible television promotion of fringe claims led directly to an audience member’s belief in fringe material, this would be it. There is not enough evidence to suggest that his age contributed to his acceptance of aliens, but frankly I don’t know what to make of somebody who saw a UFO show on TV and decided to believe. It reminds me of my 97-year-old grandfather, a Democrat and a liberal since the time of FDR, who became aggressively conservative a few years ago, when he became a regular Fox News viewer. My late grandmother, who adored Hillary Clinton, similarly changed in the last years of her life after becoming a daylong Fox News viewer.
I have no idea where Hellyer got his “information” about alien nuns shopping in Las Vegas.
However, this does dovetail nicely with an editorial appearing in Op-Ed News that takes the History channel to task for Ancient Aliens, writing that
Millions of people take it seriously, largely because it has the general appearance of a "science" program, and because it appears on an "educational" channel. Ironically, this "educational" series actually "dumbs down" the typical viewer.
The author goes on to make a good point about the differences between Ancient Aliens and its long-ago predecessor In Search of… (which had been spun off of In Search of Ancient Astronauts, itself an adaptation of Erich von Däniken’s works, just like Ancient Aliens). The older show presented mainstream views as well as controversial ones, and it presented a disclaimer about its controversial positions, noting that other interpretations were possible. Ancient Aliens does not carry a disclaimer, something even Destination America’s Unsealed: Alien Files does.
[Update: A recording of Unsealed I reviewed carried a disclaimer, but I can't find evidence that the show uses one regularly. It's possible that the recording I viewed had a disclaimer added by a local station or international broadcaster more sensitive than the show and was not actually part of the production.]
There’s a reason for that--Unsealed was originally produced for syndication on broadcast television stations, like In Search of…, and therefore uses disclaimers to avoid getting its stations into any trouble with the FCC, which regulates broadcast (but not cable) TV. In the past, the FCC had required fairness in presenting controversial issues, and while that requirement is no longer in force, broadcast stations still operated on a stricter set of standards than cable. It is the very fact that cable is not regulated that makes Ancient Aliens possible in its current form.
The editorial, however, doesn’t really have any research to back up its claims, and its author, Jonathan W. Maxwell, has published his own books through a publisher often described as a stealth vanity press.
But, here is the takeaway: Cable TV says alien nuns are in your malls and supermarkets!
I hate cable.
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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