This week we learned that ancient astronaut believer Rob Lowe signed on with A&E, a corporate cousin of Ancient Aliens broadcaster the History Channel, to star in a reality series in which he and his 20-something sons will travel around solving Scooby-Doo-style supernatural mysteries – if by “solving” them you mean standing out in a field in the middle of the night and gawking at whatever skitters before their night vision lenses. Lowe said that he has long been obsessed with aliens, monsters, and ghosts: “When I became a father I shared those tales with my two sons. Together we bonded over Bigfoot, UFO’s, and every creepy and bizarre story we could find, passionately debating if they were real … or not.” The Lowe Files, according to A&E, won’t be as much about the “truth” as it will be about the Lowe family bonding through doing activities together.
At least Lowe and A+E are honest about what their show is trying to do. On Tuesday, Mother Jones published an interview with Sekret Machines co-author Tom DeLonge, and it was just as bizarre as you might expect. DeLonge had long promised that he would spearhead “disclosure” of the American government’s UFO knowledge, but he has walked back that claim considerably. I can’t do better than to quote DeLonge’s sad and cynical dance around the very concept of “truth” in response to a question from the magazine about whether the U.S. government is using DeLonge to spread propaganda and misinformation. Pay special attention to how DeLonge fails to distinguish between fact and fiction:
I think they're using me, absolutely, because I can help. But I don't think they're using me for any kind of misinformation, absolutely not, and I'll tell you why. It took me a year to reach three groups of people in various stovepipes of the government…that were in charge of this subject matter, not only in terms of engineering, but in terms of intelligence and military. They all said the exact same thing, the exact same story, and that's what's so important about what I'm doing with the Sekret Machines franchise. The reality is if the president and Congress aren't going to have congressional hearings and have an open statement, then the next best thing is a $100 million movie with a $100 million in marketing, with an international release, and having that happen every couple of years with nonfiction books and documentaries. Then you kind of get an awareness going, a conversation going. That's what I'm doing.
Did you catch that? Short of “real” government disclosure, “the next best thing” is a fictional movie! By that measure, Close Encounters of the Third Kind already achieved all of DeLonge’s goals. I am deeply disturbed the ease with which DeLonge (and his coauthor, Peter Levenda) move back and forth been fiction and nonfiction, as though the admitted false narratives of fiction were coequal with factual evidence in achieving their goal of social and political change.
DeLonge, though, has an explanation that almost makes sense, if you don’t think about it too much. He claims that the fiction is really just a come-on, a way to bait the trap and lure audiences into his web of nonfiction “truths.” To that end, he explains it this way:
Think of it like the way they do Star Wars or Marvel films. It's an entertain-and-educate model. So you can watch a future film and go, "Wow, I never thought of it that way. I never thought that could be real. Seriously, what's the story behind this?" Then they go buy some nonfiction or watch a documentary.
I think the key word is “buy,” but even if we take DeLonge at face value, we have a situation where he creates a false narrative through fiction, supports only parts of its through nonfiction, and then uses that alleged support to create the impression that whole of the fictional narrative is secretly true and might be vindicated at some future date in the “years” and “years” of releases DeLonge plans.
It’s a clever strategy if you (a) want to sell a lot of product and (b) get around having to actually provide evidence for your most extreme claims. And why would he want to avoid that? Well, first because the evidence doesn’t exist, but also because he has followed Ancient Aliens and Graham Hancock down the rabbit hole of “quantum physics” and “consciousness,” imagining UFOs and aliens as honest to goodness gods from spirit dimensions. He confessed in the interview that he grew up resenting being “forced” to follow his mother’s evangelizing form of Christianity, and he said he began looking for a new form of spirituality after researching other forms of religion. This isn’t the work of a man who became enamored of space aliens but rather a wannabee guru who is really in the business of selling an alternative faith. Space aliens just happen to substitute for angels.
But what I can’t quite figure is how DeLonge marries together two disparate elements of his belief system. In the interview he specified that the UFO mystery is not about space aliens (“…that’s not the truth”) but rather internal issues of “quantum physics and (human) consciousness.” Yet when asked about his advocacy in restoring confidence in government, he returned to flesh-and-blood space aliens, saying that soon the U.S. government would announce the existence of planets that could harbor life. “Then they start announcing microbial life. And then they start announcing structures, and then they start announcing other things.” Somehow it is both and neither, at least until book 3 or movie 5 or TV show 12 when he figures out exactly what he means.
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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