Las Vegas-based journalist George Knapp, who specializes in UFO coverage, interviewed ex-Blink-182 member Tom DeLonge about UFO disclosure, and in fluffing DeLonge with fawning praise, Knapp revealed that DeLonge has once again reframed his claims about the upcoming UFO disclosure announcement he promised months ago and has yet to deliver. That announcement, postponed first to June and now to “later this summer,” has also subtly changed in content as well. Once upon a time, DeLonge was promising a major UFO revelation that would change the nature of disclosure. Now he tells Knapp that he concedes that there will never be formal government disclosure of UFO information (“There will never be congressional hearings on this. I understand and accept that…”). Instead, his major announcement is actually going to be … wait for it … “some sort of announcement about his business plans.” Talk about lowering expectations!
Meanwhile, MJ Banias, a writer who describes himself as a “nerd [and] Fortean philosopher” has an interesting article on Terra Obscura in which he watches a sampling of the UFO-themed documentaries and reality shows that littered cable over the past 10 years, and he concludes that these shows occupy an uneasy place between what he imagines is the intellectual scholarship of the UFO field and the popular sci-fi space opera of the lay audience’s imagination:
The UFO discourse is a small field made up by a collection of fringe dwellers, who, in order to pull in future community members and to bring awareness of the topic, require these shows to act as bridges from mainstream culture to the subculture. The bizarre twist here is that these shows portray an oddball subculture of ‘believers’ in aliens, which further pushes the discourse itself into the outer edges of popular culture. These programs enshrine the concept that the UFO topic is a fringe one, yet are required by the UFO discourse to spread its message beyond the current subculture.
This, of course, could describe any nonfiction television show, which, in order to appeal to a mass audience, has to dumb down the material and lean into gimmicks, extremes, and whatever might seem entertaining. Consider, for example, how Food Network has transformed the culinary arts into a nonstop timed competition to produce barely edible plates under increasingly ridiculous restrictions and challenges. It is in the nature of television to simplify and, frankly, to bastardize. Consider this fact: An average hour-long episode of Ancient Aliens contains fewer than 5,000 spoken words. A short UFO book contains roughly 80,000 to 100,000 words. Even a typical long-form magazine article can be 6,000 to 10,000 words long. There is simply no space in a TV show for the kind of nuance and depth that even a magazine article, let alone a book, can provide.
This fact alone probably answers Banias’s question about why TV insists on pigeonholing UFOs as alien spacecraft instead of the newly fashionable fringe hypothesis that they are incorporeal manifestations of a metaphysical realm—a claim that goes back to Theosophy and the trans-dimensional ships of the Ascended Masters from the Venus chain.
This begs a question; why do cable networks and TV producers focus only on the ET hypothesis, when the UFO discourse is a chorus of many different hypotheses as to the ‘source’ of the phenomenon?
Well, first, Ancient Aliens has focused on the spiritual role of metaphysical or interdimensional aliens for the better part of a decade now, so it’s not true that cable TV refuses to consider it. However, when dealing specifically with UFOs, the answer isn’t as philosophical as Banias suggests. It’s the simple fact that in fewer than 5,000 words there isn’t space to create a new conception of the UFO for the audience and convince them to shake off their pop culture beliefs about alien spacecraft—beliefs that the media and the UFO movement have reinforced for the past 70 years—and still produce a TV show that can be rerun endlessly as TV wallpaper.
These kinds of shows aren’t meant to be groundbreaking; instead, they have to be mildly interesting but unchallenging, sort of newish but never radically different. While a one-off special can be promoted as a groundbreaking event, ongoing nonfiction series can never truly resolve a question because it would end the show. The biggest goal of a low- to mid-level cable nonfiction series is to perpetuate itself, meaning that it has to be capable of rerunning and attracting a mildly interested but not overly enthusiastic audience, people who treat it as something they can put on for “fun” but not anything that they would be afraid of missing. Consider again Ancient Aliens, whose reruns attract audiences that rival new episodes no matter when it airs. Ratings are consistent, but never astonishing. By contrast, story-driven shows like Curse of Oak Island, which build themselves around “new” material and revelations, burn bright on first airing from enthusiastic audiences, but don’t repeat as well.
In other words, there is almost certainly no conspiracy at work. Instead, it’s the sad reality of the television industry. Thus, I disagree with Banias’s claim that TV is enacting a cultural fear of ambiguity that mystical aliens would cause:
The mystical approach to the UFO question challenges our current ideological framework regarding power, economics, and politics. It identifies the illusion, and informs its followers that the status quo ideological reality is a falsehood. Mainstream culture is not interested in radical change, and the media, television included, is designed to propagate culture, not challenge it.
I guarantee you that if the audience already held pseudo-Gnostic beliefs about a false reality, TV would be all over that. In fact, we’ve seen fiction about the falseness of seeming reality all over television and the movies for decades now, from The Matrix to Wayward Pines to The Cabin in the Woods to this season of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to Doctor Who (including just this week!) to Black Mirror and even back to The Twilight Zone. The increasing prominence of the hypothesis that we live in a holographic universe that could be an alien’s simulated reality—a hypothesis promoted by Elon Musk—demonstrates that nonfiction is hardly opposed to the idea, either.
The problem is that the UFO industry can’t really make a coherent case for how shiny metal spaceships are somehow actually mystical tears in the fabric of reality. The claim has too many complications and contingencies to make intuitive sense. I’ve had this conversation with TV producers before. They ask me my views on issues from UFOs to Atlantis to Nephilim, and when I try to explain that there is no simple cut-and-dried answer, they tell me that they have to provide one or the audience will tune out. It doesn’t matter if it’s true. The mystical UFO answer fails to an extent because it doesn’t work with the stories TV is trying to tell about encounters with metal craft, physical implants, etc. etc. Even Ancient Aliens has had trouble maintaining its own level of incomplete consistency when it tries to balance its interdimensional, disembodied intelligences with claims about shiny metal discs.
They fall into the trap that Erich von Däniken attempted to lay for Yahweh in Chariots of the Gods: If God is all-powerful and omnipresent, why does he need a chariot? Here, as the aliens become closer to gods the question returns: If the aliens are metaphysical and spiritual, why do they need spaceships? You can massage that question all you want (e.g., they’re not really spaceships but psychic projections of them) but it creates an irreducible complexity that can’t be overcome in a TV show of under 5,000 words.
And just for kicks, L. A. Marzulli weighed in on the issue yesterday as well, asking why Christians aren’t opposing UFO mythology, particularly the claim of alien-directed panspermia, with the claim that UFOs are really piloted by evil demons.
Our young people are inundated with this concept, that life was seeded here. Every Friday on The Ancient Alien (sic) series, we hear the Ancient Astronaut theory promulgated over and over again. Where is the Christian response? Sadly, for the most part it’s not there.
Frankly, there isn’t much difference between blaming aliens on demons from Hell and assigning them to spiritual beings from another dimension. We’re right back to the old argument found in the Church Fathers and their pagan adversaries over whether demons are really evil beings in league with Satan or pagan gods misunderstood by dogmatic monotheists. Two millennia, and the argument is still the same. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that there remains no objective evidence that said aliens / angels / demons / Nephilim / Ascended Masters / spirit beings / time traveling warlocks / Old Ones actually exist.
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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