Diana Pasulka is consistently infuriating. The American Cosmic author is persistently half-right in her analysis of UFOs as a quasi-religious movement, correctly understanding how UFO belief systems parallel those of decentralized religious traditions but faltering time and again in showing too much faith in the truth claims this New Age religion passes off as science. A case in point is this week’s essay in Religion Dispatches in which Pasulka alleges that the recent government UFO report has transformed UFO belief through the validating holy baptism of government approval.
The first major problem with Pasulka’s analysis is her facile equation of military pilot “testimony” with the kind of religious testifying you’d see at a tent revival or from the Apostles preaching that they had witnessed the risen Christ. Pasulka goes too far in suggesting that a pilot claiming to see something he or she could not explain is proof of alien life. It is not clear whether she is speaking for herself or for UFO believers when alleging that accounts from pilots function as proof, but either way, they don’t.
Here, though, is Pasulka describing how pilot witnesses become secret windows into the parts of the UFO report that are unavailable to the public, since the public report is silent on aliens:
The unclassified public report is completely neutral on this point, but the public testimonies are not. What remains concealed within classified documents then, is revealed through witness testimonies. The testimonies are unequivocal: we are not alone in the universe.
They are very equivocal. No military testimony demonstrates the existence of aliens or claims to have seen aliens. There is no special holiness attached to military observers that would elevate “I don’t know” into “Aliens are among us.”
Pasulka falsely alleges that there is a “sudden” change in military UFO reports and that government policy has, since 1953, been to “debunk” witness testimony. That isn’t true. While it is true that Air Force tried to discredit alien narratives for a variety of reasons, they did not try to show that witnesses were wrong in describing what they saw. Instead, they tried to show that witnesses were wrong in how they interpreted what they saw. This is not the same thing. (Of course, the Air Force sometimes falsified their analysis to hide things like secret military testing.)
Pasulka’s conspiratorial, credulous UFO beliefs are manifest throughout her piece. She treats as serious and credible Leslie Kean, a longtime UFO reporter with limited critical thinking skills and a belief in ghosts and the paranormal, and John Mack, an ethically dubious researcher who used hypnosis to convince believers that aliens had sexually abused them and believed aliens would ferry his soul to a heaven planet to rejoin his mother.
Further, she alleges a completely made-up conspiracy by Google to use an algorithm designed to warn search engine users when a source may not be credible (i.e. fake news, propaganda, etc.) to suppress non-military UFO “testimony” in order to keep control over UFO narratives ensconced in a limited framework—i.e., no alien anal probes:
This new algorithm will allow regulation of user generated witness testimonies. We’ve had witness testimonies for a long time. Is it really suddenly okay to talk about UAPs? Closer examination of this question reveals that it is only okay to talk about certain sightings—those ensconced within a military framework, and new algorithms will make it easier for internet search providers to vet civilian generated UAP reports.
Pasulka then hardens her speculation, restating “the use of internet algorithms to monitor non-military testimonies” as fact, as though there were any evidence supporting this. (She has previously expressed support for the Collins Elite conspiracy theory, which holds Evangelical Christians in the Pentagon are sabotaging UFO investigations for fear UFOs are operated by demons.) The conclusion she wants us to draw, in line with her close colleagues in the Bigelow circle of psychic/spiritual seekers—she idolizes Jacques Vallée for example—is that the military is trying to tamp down the spiritual side of UFO belief and suppress the religious revelations of the beneficent aliens. This is not a logical analysis of facts but is, as Pasulka might recognize were she to step back from her own fever-dream, a statement of belief.
Of course, Pasulka couches this under just enough academic cover to give herself plausible deniability—she is simply describing what people believe, she will say, not making a truth claim. But in this article, the line between description and belief has become thinner than the membrane separating our dimension from the one her colleagues like Jacques Vallée tell us divides our world from the dimension of the alien space poltergeists.
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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