UFO Digest published an unusual article earlier this week in which British author Nick Pope, the former UK Ministry of Defence official who oversaw UFO issues and bills himself as a leading UFO expert, asked whether there is a racist or sexist component to ufology and ancient astronauts. I figured it would be good to talk about Pope’s discussion because I have been criticized for making similar claims. You will recall that I criticized Pope last year for selling his UFO opinions to the highest bidder, and for his comments asking whether science fiction was designed to prepare humanity for the arrival of alien beings.
In that criticism, I faulted Pope for offering half-formed opinions about issues that he supposedly should have had expert knowledge of, since as the head of the British government’s UFO office, he ought to have been privy to the aliens’ agenda. The pattern continues here.
Pope offers some half-hearted opinions he does not support with hard facts, despite the likelihood they are actually true. He talks about his impression that ufology is primarily the preserve of middle-aged and elderly white men and that there are too few women and minorities attending UFO conferences. I’m sure this is correct, but rather than hedging by saying that there are “plenty of high-profile women in ufology, and a number of UFO conferences do have a pretty good male/female mix,” it would have been better to put together some actual data about the number of female ufologists or attendees at conferences. You can’t address a problem if you don’t know what the extent of the problem truly is.
Pope makes an interesting point about alien abductions that, of course, he raises in order to address as a perception issue rather than a fundamental issue:
…there was a time a few years ago when the area of alien abduction research was largely dominated by three charismatic individuals: Budd Hopkins, David Jacobs and John Mack. A disproportionate number of the abductees were female. Nobody is suggesting that Hopkins, Jacobs and Mack were sexist, but inevitably, the situation perpetuated stereotypes of women as victims and men as the powerful and heroic rescuers. Even if this is an oversimplification, the power dynamic was clear.
Susan Clancy discussed the psychology of alien abduction in her 2005 book Abducted, and she noted the power dynamic between the hypnotherapist and the subjects who “recovered” memories. Pope doesn’t really want to explore the obvious conclusion that the researchers were instrumental in reinforcing, amplifying, and even creating “abduction” memories.
Pope instead turns to anti-Semitism and racism, and here he is as honest as we can expect a ufologist to be. He correctly notes, as Michael Barkun carefully documented in A Culture of Conspiracy (2006/2013), that there is a huge crossover between ufologists and anti-Jewish conspiracy theorists. He notes that one prominent UK ufologist also runs an anti-Semitic conspiracy website, and it gets worse from there: “In the UFO community, you’ll often hear people talk about media complicity in a UFO cover-up, and at a UFO conference in the UK I once heard this thought segue into ‘The Jews run Hollywood.’” He bemoans that ufologists are also “investigating” 9/11 conspiracies involving Mossad, as well as the nefarious impact of a cabal of Jewish bankers in suppressing the hidden history of the world. You’ll recognize these claims, of course, as Jim Marrs’s recent anti-Semitic ranting about the Rothschilds and the alien-Jewish world domination conspiracy from his Our Occulted History (2013).
But the most important paragraph in Pope’s posting is his direct challenge to the ancient astronaut theory—frankly somewhat shocking given the prominence of Ancient Aliens as the flagship of ufology’s media presence. In addressing ufology buffs who claim white people are descended from Nordic aliens (or are their special creation) while all other races are modified dirty apes (a position Erich von Däniken advocated in Signs of the Gods), he writes:
[A]t risk of offending a lot of people in the UFO community, I can’t help but wonder whether the whole ‘ancient aliens’ meme has had a part to play here. The idea that our ancient ancestors were incapable of technological achievements such as the pyramids, and that such works were actually undertaken (or at least made possible) by extraterrestrials is, arguably, a borderline racist theory itself.
And there you have it, folks: A leading ufologist thinks the ancient astronaut theory contributes to racist ideas. From now on, whenever I mention this conclusion and get nasty comments from those who oppose any mention of racism, I will direct complaints to Nick Pope, certified ufologist.
I’ll just finish by noting that Pope failed to disclose to his readers that he appeared on Ancient Aliens at least four times, despite apparently finding the show “borderline racist.” I wonder if they’ll have him back now.
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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