This past week, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) made some controversial statements about UFOs when questioned about the Senate Intelligence Committee’s insertion of a requirement in legislation that the U.S. intelligence community produce a detailed reported about flying saucers. Rubio’s comments attracted a lot of attention an also served the more important purpose of distracting media attention from the ongoing catastrophe of Florida’s COVID-19 response and the Republican senate conference’s failure to reach an agreement on a plan to prop up the economy as the disease spreads uncontrollably. But, hey, a space alien! Over there! Look!
Specifically, Rubio said the following:
We have things flying over our military bases and places where we’re conducting military exercises and we don’t know what it is and it isn’t ours. Frankly, if it’s something outside this planet that might actually be better than the fact that we’ve seen some sort of technological leap from the Chinese or Russians or some other adversary that allows them to conduct this sort of activity. That to me is a national security risk and one we should be looking into.
Many ufologists treated this statement as an admission that flying saucers come from another world, though, really, Rubio’s statement hypothetically suggests that he would rather find out space aliens were buzzing us than that our enemies had superior technology.
In that assessment, Rubio’s views are identical to those of the U.S. Army Air Forces (the predecessor of the Air Force) and even the first UFO believers in the summer of 1947. In late June of that year, Kenneth Arnold originally suggested that flying saucers were U.S. military aircraft. After the Air Forces denied this publicly in the days after Arnold’s sighting (and more emphatically repeated the same to the FBI), speculation raged that the craft belonged to the Soviets, leading to arguments that space aliens would be preferable to Reds since America did not want its enemy stealing a march. Arnold adopted the space alien line in early July 1947, and the rabidly anti-communist U.S. government quickly fell in line, tolerating and sometimes encouraging space alien speculation to help cover up Cold War activity.
The more things change, right?
Rubio went on to claim in a CBS News interview that he has received UFO reports for the past ten years and that nobody know what UFOs are:
I’ve seen reports on this now for the better part of a decade. Other countries have had similar reports and so, but for our perspective is, there is someone flying in the airspace that no one else is allowed to fly in and we don’t know who it is and it isn’t something we have. We need to know what that is. […] If we can’t determine what it is, then that’s a fact.
Ufologists are very excited about these words, though at face value they discount much of ufology’s belief in secret U.S. government UFO crash retrievals and embassies to space aliens. Rubio’s “reports”—which he does not actually define as U.S government records of engagement with space aliens, and might just as easily refer to any UFO-adjacent material, in or out of government—tell him that no one knows what flying saucers are. If true, then the UFO program has so far been a failure and there remains no evidence of space aliens. If false, then Rubio doesn’t know the actual truth and his statements must be discounted as propaganda or lies. It’s a no-win cloud of hot air.
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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