The Pentagon has denied Elizondo’s claim. After the Pentagon’s denial to Keith Kloor of The Intercept came under fire, from apologists for To the Stars, The Black Vault’s John Greenwald tried to get more information, and received the same results. Pentagon spokesperson Susan Gough told him:
Mr. Elizondo had no assigned responsibilities for AATIP while he was in OUSD(I) [Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence]. DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency] administered AATIP, and Elizondo was never assigned to DIA. Elizondo did interact with the DIA office managing the program while the program was still ongoing, but he did not lead it.
Greenwald also tried to get a follow-up comment from Hal Puthoff about his claim [edit: made to Greenwald] to have worked on AATIP under Elizondo in 2008 when Elizondo claims not to have led AATIP until 2010 and possibly not at all. Puthoff declined to return Greenwald’s call.
The controversy has plenty of echoes with the sketchy claims of Bob Lazar, a convicted felon whose many stories about his life and times failed to find evidence in the documentary record. Lazar, of course, has claimed that the lack of proof is itself proof of a vast conspiracy to make him look like a fraud. For several years, Lazar has claimed that flying saucers run on element 115, better known as Moscovium, which had not been synthesized at the time he first made the claim but which now has. With a half-life of 0.65 seconds for its most stable known isotope, it would not seem to be an ideal candidate for UFO fuel. A stable isotope remains hypothetical.
You will forgive me if I am perhaps a bit brief in parts of this review. I just don’t care about UFO propulsion systems and find it hard to get interested in the show’s efforts to turn Star Trek into reality. As you might imagine, the show opens with a potted history of the so-called Roswell Incident, and George Knapp shows up to demonstrate that I am entirely justified in seeing the KLAS-TV reporter as a biased advocate for fringe ufology, though perhaps one blinkered enough not to realize it, or cynical enough to think he can get away with pretending to be a neutral observer. From there, the show summarizes the many claims of Bob Lazar, using footage from Jeremy Corbell’s documentary, produced in conjunction with, of course, Knapp, whose work formed the basis for Corbell’s two films from 2018, the one about Lazar and the other about Knapp’s other hobbyhorse, Skinwalker Ranch—once owned by Robert Bigelow. It’s all a big incestuous circle jerk, and Ancient Aliens has approached the circle and started giving reach-arounds in the hopes of being let in. After all, Ancient Aliens is more valuable as a brand than the claims of ufologists or dubious whistleblowers or even To the Stars, so it’s only fitting that it should muscle in.
Anyway, this first segment is basically just a big commercial for Corbell’s documentary, and Knapp tells us that a “piece” of Moscovium would prove Lazar was telling the truth and the U.S. government has alien technology. I don’t really follow that, since one doesn’t follow from the other, even if it were possible to stabilize Moscovium so that it did not have a half-life of less than a second. (A hypothetical isotope with one more neutron that the heaviest known isotope is suggested to possibly be stable.) Corbell shows up to promote his movie, and the show suggests that the FBI raided Lazar’s business last year not because of the reason given in the search warrant—that they were searching for records related to the sale of nuclear material—but because they were secretly searching for Element 115.
In the second segment, the show discusses Soviet efforts to philosophize about alien civilizations, and Star Trek and Star Wars are explicitly cited, because this show is basically sci-fi cosplay nerd porn. We hear speculation about what it would mean if humanity were to develop the technology to colonize other planets and travel to other galaxies. This leads, through an awkward transition, to a recounting of the first synthesis of Element 115 in 2003. The narrator asks if Moscovium is the same element that Lazar said powers UFOs. Nick Pope and the narrator both suggest that there is a conspiracy to fabricate the discovery of Moscovium in order to discredit Bob Lazar. According to Pope, all of physics has conspired to pretend that Moscovium is unstable in order to distract from the element’s use as fuel for flying saucers. By “pretending” it to be unstable, they supposedly make Lazar look crazy. I’m not sure that it required that much effort. The show certainly put no effort into providing any evidence of this alleged conspiracy.
The third segment discusses the Soviet space program and an early Soviet UFO sighting from 1948 at Kapustin Yar, which has taken on many themes from the Roswell myth, including a crashed spaceship, dead aliens, and recovered technology. Like the Roswell story, the myth is mostly a modern invention, popularized by—yes, you guessed it—the History Channel, which has pushed the story into the public consciousness since at least 2005’s UFO Files episode on the so-called “Russian Roswell.” This leads to a discussion of the so-called Nimitz UFO incident, which is the sine qua non of Unidentified and therefore an important connection between the two History shows. Many skeptics have debunked the sighting and the attendant video, including the differing stories being told about it, but the show goes through elaborate descriptions of how it thinks the supposed craft flies. Lazar says, for example, that Moscovium produces its own gravity!
At any rate, no one bothers to explain why we are to assume that the object is an intelligently piloted craft from a non-human intelligence, which would seem to be the kind of thing that would require at least some argument. Even if you were inclined to view the object as coming from space, how do they know, for example, that it is not a weird ball of unknown cosmic energy skipping through our atmosphere like a rock skipping over water? Surely there is as much evidence for that as there is for flying saucers from an alien civilization. In a more serious vein: What makes them think it is technological? I’ve never quite understood why people seeing things in the sky leap to alien spacecraft, except that the myth of the UFO tends to govern how people process ambiguous inputs.
Mike Bara and Rocket City Rednecks physicist Travis Taylor visit a visual effects expert to analyze the GIMBAL video, but lacking much insight into how the video was shot, they mostly speculate wildly without recourse to facts. They speak, for example, about a “light source” behind the “craft,” but they don’t seem to recognize that the video was shot in infrared.
The fifth segment has Bara and Taylor claim that the GIMBAL video demonstrates Bob Lazar’s anti-gravity propulsion system in action. Taylor says “My skin is tingling from this!” as he concludes that the “craft” is surrounded by a bubble of coldness created by what George Knapp says Pentagon officials call “special materials,” and Knapp adds that such materials “sound like Element 115 to me.” David Childress chimes in that the right-wing fantasy of the Deep State is true, that the Deep State is “essentially the military,” and this secret state is already colonizing other worlds without our knowledge. I guess that’s why Trump launched the Space Force—which is less a political jab than an acknowledgement that Ancient Aliens had an episode last season celebrating both Russia and Trump’s proposed Space Force. In the show’s rough and inconsistent continuity, this counts as a callback.
In the final segment, the show returns to Russia to describe how Russia plans to synthesize more Moscovium in order to harness its potential to release energy. It is odd, though, that the show elides U.S. and Russian government efforts and treats them as one and the same, for reasons that seem unclear but seem to be of a piece with the show’s continuous celebration of all things Russian. Knapp claims that the U.S. has alien technology, which is of course a completely fair and unbiased journalistic evaluation of the facts, and Childress delivers a kumbaya that he hopes all militaries can work together to launch us into a new age of intergalactic travel—even though he just said that the Deep State is already colonizing other planets. Foolish consistency and all that.
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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