Oh, nothing gets Ancient Aliens off to a better start than Donald Trump and Tucker Carlson. The segment opens with Carlson’s Fox News Channel interview with Trump in July in which the smarmy Fox host pressed the president on UFO conspiracy theories, leading Trump to say that he didn’t believe in flying saucers. Trump and the Republican Party have legitimized conspiracy theories over the past few years, and the talking heads on the show go bonkers celebrating that the conspiracy theories are no longer “fringe.” Nick Pope interviews Carlson, who is even smarmier on Ancient Aliens than he seems on his own show, claiming to believe in UFOs and UFO-related government conspiracies at one point and not to in another. He doubles down on government conspiracy theories and says he is “starting to believe” that the government has UFO wreckage, though (but of course) he can’t reveal his source in the government who told him that there is “physical evidence.” He says that after three UFO segments on his show, critics no longer complain about his UFO coverage. He vastly overstates how much the public beyond the 3% of Americans who watch his show care about his story selection, but there is also the fact that it’s hard to continue to be outraged over repeated eccentricity.
As for that “physical evidence,” well, we know that the Pentagon had been looking into Art’s Parts-style metal slag under Robert Bigelow’s auspices long before they contracted with To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science to test still more of it, and has been claimed to have its own pieces of such slag, so it seems that we are just seeing the (likely) industrial waste of the past recycled into “physical evidence” that can be trotted out in support of implied—but never explicitly stated—UFO “wreckage” and crashed saucer narratives. It’s like Inception if everyone had been lobotomized.
Also, fuck Tucker Carlson. That wannabe white nationalist is, of course, right at home on the History Channel, but in a better world he should be a persona non grata on any network with an ounce of respect for its audience.
Pope and Carlson also make excuses for Trump in order to imagine a UFO reality that Trump denied.
The second segment discusses the Navy’s changes to UFO reporting and the claims of U.S. senators to have received UFO briefings. The show neglects to note that the Navy changes were related to History Channel partner To the Stars and that the senators only requested UFO briefings after hearing about To the Stars’ claims on the History Channel. Pope claims that this media-government revolving door of fantasy is actually part of an elaborate stage-managed plan to prepare the public for the reality of space alien encounters. I’m not quite sure how that would work, since it implies that the aliens are either devoid of agency or are active conspirators, since, in theory, they could simply land in a public place at any time and blow all the government’s decades-long plans to hell.
Carlson returns in this segment to claim that there is “social pressure” in the media to scoff at aliens in order to avoid being seen as unserious. I laughed out loud when Carlson railed against government lies, claiming that we are experiencing “social breakdown” because of government deception and the lack of trust the public develops when the government creates fictions and falsehoods and hides the truth. About aliens. I mean, seriously: Does he not hear himself? What, exactly, does he think are the effects of Trump’s thousands of documented lies? Carlson sounds perfectly reasonable when speaking in the abstract about a hypothetical UFO problem and then turns right around on his Fox News show to propagandize and lie on behalf of a liar.
The third segment rehearses the fictitious ufology narrative of the Roswell UFO crash, asserting that a “shadow government” has been covering up a flying saucer crash and the resulting alien contact since 1947. The segment alleges that the Air Force and CIA intentionally skewed their subsequent UFO investigations in order to suppress the “truth” and engage in social engineering to suppress UFO belief. The show says the government “silences” UFO believers. The existence of shows like this give the lie to the idea that there is an all-powerful government control mechanism keeping the public from believing in UFOs. The segment returns to a number of old UFO “investigation” chestnuts they have repeated many times before, including in recent episodes from this season, and there is no reason to repeat them here. The segment ends with a teaser that Russian President Vladimir Putin is hunting for our UFO secrets. I guess it’s progress that the show that once delivered an hour-long love-letter to Putin and Russia now describes him as the “enemy.” Of course, that was the party line when this show was assembled in late summer. Now, in the late fall, Russia is the friend of the Administration again and we have always been at war with Ukraine. “The past was alterable. The past never had been altered...” and all that.
The fourth segment discusses the 1960s Brookings Institute report claiming that the existence of aliens would cause social upheaval and economic chaos, but I find it interesting that the show frames the entire discussion around the middle twentieth century. We’ve actually experienced this several times, in 1835 (the famous Sun newspaper Moon Hoax), in the 1890s (Percival Lowell’s Martian civilization), and a number of lesser incidents less widely believed. And yet civilization didn’t collapse when large numbers of people genuinely believed alien life had been discovered.
Much of the segment discusses the UFO videos from the Navy promoted by To the Stars a while back, and the show wonders why the government won’t come clean about what they know of UFOs, though they come very close to realizing that a lot of what is kept hidden is basically just the Pentagon hiding their next-generation air technologies. Old FBI documents from the 1940s show that the future Air Force all but openly admitted as much at the start of the UFO era. There isn’t really much reason to suspect anything has changed since, though the show speculates that these aerial technologies were reverse engineered from crashed flying saucers.
In this segment, the “enemies” of America are illustrated with images of a Chinese military parade instead of Russia’s president. Apparently they didn’t get the message that the whole evil China trade war flap is over and now Trump “stands with President Xi” in suppressing anti-Chinese demonstrations in Hong Kong. They are a couple of months behind the times.
The fifth segment discusses other world governments’ UFO investigations. David Childress notes that this has been going on for more than 70 years, but instead of drawing the right conclusion—that no one has found any actual evidence of aliens, hence the reason there is no real evidence that has ever leaked—he instead concludes that other governments have huge archives of secrets that Nick Popes says the U.S. pressures its allies to keep secret.
The segment then moves on to America’s “enemies,” defined as Russia and China. The show repeats material from their special episodes devoted to UFOs in Russia and China, but this time the show is not laudatory. Instead of praising the countries as they did in those episodes, the show complains that the two countries are too secretive and that Putin in particular won’t disclose anything about UFOs because it could threaten his grip on power. (This is belied, of course, by the fact that Russia has promoted UFO conspiracy theories for at least 60 years, and Russian bots have been documented spreading UFO conspiracies and ancient astronaut theories online. Clearly, Putin isn’t averse to using UFO info for power.)
The segment returns to Carlson, who rails against government secrecy, again making reasonable points, but largely when talking about UFOs rather than actual issues that might have real political consequences that he doesn’t like. After all, despite calling here for government to release reams of classified documents, he has had no problem with Trump hiding the records of his alleged wrongdoing from Congressional investigators. It’s easy to be principled when you don’t expect actual consequences that might impact your own power and privilege.
In the final segment, we review a 2010 conference at London’s Royal Society that failed to develop a plan for what to do if extraterrestrial life were ever detected. The show wonders why the world’s governing bodies lack a plan for handling ETs. Weirdly, the show uses a picture of Edward Snowden in discussing the possibility that “whistleblowers” might expose government UFO secrets. This is weird because Snowden told Joe Rogan recently that he did look for America’s UFO secrets only to discover that we don’t have any. There is, he said, no evidence of a UFO conspiracy or any recovered wreckage. Democratic operative and UFO believer John Podesta also appears in this segment in recycled footage shot for an earlier season of the show. The segment ends with Carlson and Pope thanking each other for massaging one another’s egos and Carlson bragging about having a private Air Force One dinner with Trump.
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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