On Friday, Ancient Aliens suffered one its worst humiliations in years, falling below the one million viewer mark for a new episode for the first time since its ill-fated one-off Monday airing a while back. Friday’s episode brought in just 876,000 viewers. Its lead-out, The UnXplained, significantly outdrew it with 1.145 million viewers in a timeslot that traditionally sees lower viewer numbers. Both shows, however, had their asses handed to them by the 9 AM showing of preschool favorite Paw Patrol, which was the fourth highest rated show on all of cable that day. My son loves Paw Patrol. Ancient Aliens? Not so much. According to the Nielsen data, the weakness in Ancient Aliens viewership can be attributed to lower than average numbers of people under 34 tuning in to watch. The UnXplained did double the business in that age bracket that Ancient Aliens did. Who knew that William Shatner would be more of a draw for the younger set than Hugh Newman
Today, however, I’d like to focus on a set of three articles [update: now four] that Nick Redfern posted to Mysterious Universe this weekend detailing evidence that at least some of the so-called Majestic-12 documents are the product of a Russian propaganda workshop. The articles are tied to Redfern’s new book Flying Saucers from the Kremlin, which looks at Russian propaganda efforts to use UFO stories to influence Western culture, something I’ve pointed to many times in the past. U.S. government agencies such as the CIA have documented it in its Cold War context, and as recently as the 2016 presidential election, UFO content was deliberately mixed into Russian Twitter bots’ postings according to independent analyses of their content. Kremlin outlets like Sputnik and RT make ancient astronaut and UFO conspiracies a regular part of their anti-American and anti-science coverage.
The Majestic-12 documents are several sets of purported U.S. government documents related to a council of scientists and military officials who were tasked in 1947 with studying recovered alien spacecraft and communicating with their occupants. The documents are widely recognized as hoaxes except among a subset of ufologists who speculate that they are either genuine or forgeries based on genuine documents. The first MJ-12 documents came to light in the 1980s, with additional sets surfacing in the 1990s and 2000s.
Redfern’s first article discusses 47 pages of MJ-12 documents publicized by Heather Wade in 2017. These pages include a supposed 1947 interview with a space alien, who criticizes Western civilization, comparing the United States to Nazi Germany. When an American boasts about Western freedom, the alien retorts like any good Russian chauvinist, by likening Jim Crow to the Holocaust: “…tell that to the millions of Hebrews your western civilization has destroyed in the past decade, or the millions of Negro families whose sons died to stop the madman Hitler, but who do not have plumbing in their homes.”
Aliens are rather specific in their criticisms.
Redfern overstates the case for the documents being a 1980s Soviet hoax.Redfern couldn’t date the hoax, speculating that it occurred sometime between the 1980s and 2007, but we can be more specific. The hoax document makes a bizarre reference: “…in a remote part of the nation you call Yugoslavia, we visited and helped the people there to build a very advanced culture over seven thousand years ago.” This is a fairly transparent reference to the so-called Bosnian pyramids, natural formations that Semir Osmanagić has promoted since 2005 as the remains of a lost civilization known as the Illyrians, who lived in the region around 7,000 year ago. In 2017, he expanded his claim out to 34,000 years. Besides this obvious temporal signature, Redfern’s claim that the alien’s reference to Yugoslavia gives glory to communism isn’t a marker or Russian chauvinism since Yugoslavia broke with Moscow at the start of the Cold War and was at odds with much of the communist world down to the collapse of communism in 1989.
In the second and third articles, Redfern states that two earlier batches of Majestic-12 documents are also the work of Russian propagandists, including the infamous first set from the 1980s that were investigated by the FBI and determined to be fake. The second set from the 1990s seemed to reflect Russian conspiracy theories that America had developed the AIDS virus as a bioweapon.
Redfern doesn’t provide direct evidence that the documents were created by Russia, though he raises several important instances where the Majestic-12 documents reflect anti-American conspiracy theories. That said, while Russia may be the most likely source, there are plenty of others with anti-American views who might also have been responsible. It’s an interesting circumstantial case, and one worth reading, but I would have liked to see more direct evidence connecting the documents to Russia.
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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