As a drama series, Project Bluebook might have been an innocuous X-Files and Dark Skies knockoff, but its creators insistence that it presents a window into real conspiracies makes it a uniquely awful bit of pro-UFO propaganda because it is free to take wild liberties as fiction while its creators weave a false metanarrative that their fiction is somehow secretly real.
Anyway, O’Leary and Jablonksi, with no sense of irony, hold out their show as a truth-teller against what they see as a UFO conspiracy culture that birthed the “fake news” era, as they told Fortune magazine last week:
“The idea of someone who is a skeptic transforming into a believer is universal,” says Jablonski, Project Blue Book’s showrunner. Both he and O’Leary point to the current “fake news” climate and the public’s resultant skepticism as key to Project Blue Book’s resonating with viewers. “We always talk about how [the real Project Blue Book] was sort of the beginnings of fake news,” says O’Leary.
Hilariously, O’Leary denies that his show, and each episode’s miniature pseudo-documentary providing alleged “facts” behind the cases dramatized on the show are themselves fake news. “We don’t want to be part of this ‘fake news’ or confusing the issue,” O’Leary said. Then why do they fabricate facts and giddily run about talking about how they are trying to convince the public to believe? They’ll never tell!
O’Leary’s wildly anti-historical views grossly overestimate the importance of UFO conspiracy theories in government and media. Even if you believe that Project Bluebook was nefarious propaganda, it is disturbing, too, that they have no idea how the government and the media manufactured fictitious news narratives long before the 1960s. Imagine how it would blow their minds to read about how the government and the media openly conspired during World War II to fill the airwaves and the newspapers with propaganda and, yes, fake news. There was even an Office of War Information specifically to craft propaganda and lies.
But it gets worse. Fortune also interviewed History’s general manager, Eli Lehrer, one of the suits most directly responsible for the proliferation of fake history on television. He told Fortune that the channel’s viewers are in love with “history’s mysteries and the unknown,” and for him, aliens are the biggest player in that category. “I think aliens and UFOs are really the most iconic story in that category,” Lehrer said.
The worst of it was Lehrer’s insistence that his networks programs like Ancient Aliens aren’t pushing an alien line. He cited the “dynamic between belief and skepticism” as a key element of a successful History Channel series. Has he ever watched his own garbage? No fair reading of those shows could possibly conclude that a milquetoast feint toward asking “could it be” turns pseudoscientific propaganda into a fair-minded exploration of science and history.
Could the History Channel secretly be an Aryan Lizard Person front for underground child-labor pizza parlors? According to Lehrer, that’s a fair exploration of the dynamic between belief in Nazi History Channel Space Lizards and skepticism. I smell Emmy!
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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