The annual UFO report the Department of Defense and Office of the Director of National Intelligence were due to deliver to Congress on Monday has been delayed a few days, but that didn’t stop Pentagon officials from leaking some of the key findings to media outlets including the New York Times and ABC News just weeks before Congress is set to legislate a Pentagon UFO office. The government’s major headline, quite clearly intended to reduce interest in the proposed UFO office’s paranormal possibilities, was that officials had solved a near-majority of sightings, that there is no evidence of space aliens, and that most sightings can be explained as foreign drones, balloons, and aerial debris. Naturally, this garnered significant pushback from the UFO enthusiasts who stand to gain the most from a robust UFO office and have been angling for its sweet, sweet government contracts.
According to reports, once the government took UFO investigation out of the hands of the Skinwalker Ranch true believers, suddenly their success rate skyrocketed. The 2021 UFO Task Force, led by Jay Stratton with science advice from Travis Taylor, both Skinwalker Ranch believers, could solve only one of 144 cases. But both men have since departed government to work on UFO-adjacent projects for the same defense contractor.
Now, the Pentagon claims to have solved around half of the 366 cases analyzed in this year’s report. Older cases tended to remain unsolved due to a lack of data. Newer cases, of which there were 150 in the last year, returned clearer results. “But of the cases that have been resolved, most have proved to be either errant junk in the sky, like balloons, or surveillance activity, officials said. Incidents recorded in the past year, for which more data has been collected, have turned out to have ordinary, earthbound explanations,” Julian Barnes wrote in the Times.
The Times report is remarkable for the complete (and unacknowledged) turnaround from when the Times published Leslie Kean’s pro-UFO propaganda as news, despite what she admitted in a Showtime documentary last year was her intentional effort to manipulate or omit key details to make the Skinwalker Ranch space poltergeist believers look scientific and serious in order to influence public opinion. After the Times published its report last week, other media outlets followed suit with opinion pieces calling on Congress to put an end to its quixotic quest for an endless UFO circus.
NASA concurred, stating again two weeks ago that there is no evidence of aliens.
Those with a vested interest in the UFO corner of the military-industrial complex quickly fought back, downplaying the solving of sightings and hyping a continuing mystery as a sort of alien-themed “god of the gaps” so long as even one sighting lacks enough data to solve. In the Daily Mail, an anonymous UFO enthusiast in the ODNI tried to run interference using this argument. “But we don’t give a crap about the ones they’ve resolved. Yeah, there’s balloons up there, and balloons are sometimes mistaken for UAP.” The anonymous source alleged that the government was hiding “shitloads” of videos of UFOs from Congress. “They don’t want to talk about this stuff, because they really, really don’t know what the hell they are. That’s the truth.”
NBC News, which has enthusiastically promoted UFO mysteries, ran an opinion piece by a fringe writer who believes the universe is a computer simulation accusing the government of a cover-up.
“Expect to continue seeing periodic attempts to cling to the social high ground used to mock those who broach the topic of UAP,” former pilot Ryan Graves tweeted. “Conclusive commentary on UAP undermines natural security, aviation safety, and common sense.” Graves turned his own UFO sighting into a lucrative career as a defense contractor and UFO analyst.
UFO researcher and immunologist Garry Nolan, who has openly discussed his desire for the government to pay him to study paranormal UFO mysteries, tweeted out a conspiracy theory about Julian Barnes: “NYT, someone contact your HR department, this guy might be an imposter journalist, or at best is fluffing his handlers at DOD.”
The sad part is that no amount of case-solving or debunking is likely to stop the Congressional legislation and subsequent funding that will create a UFO make-work program for someone. But given that Avi Loeb quickly changed course and returned to promoting interstellar objects rather than flying saucers this week, it’s just possible that those with their hands out expect the money to flow toward real science rather than the supernatural this time.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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