Updated: Oct 29, 2021
I’m sure you have seen clips of the saucer-shaped squiggles dancing around in footage from a Navy fighter plane’s gun camera. Along with silhouettes showing a round center and a modest pair of wings are pilots saying how they see them all the time and military brass declaring the US has nothing like this. The takeaway is that a swarm of UFOs – now called Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAPs) – have been playing cat and mouse with the Navy.
We have a lot to unpack here. How long has this been going on? Why are we just now being told? Why can’t we get a clear picture of whatever it is? What’s the political capital here? And most importantly, what the hell are these things up to?
Media predictably goes bonkers
We’ve had bogies flying around our skies since at least the 1940s, so why all the excitement now? These images aren’t any better than hundreds of other films we’ve seen of fuzzy objects dancing about.
The story here is that the military has finally acknowledged the objects really exist, even though they are still unidentified. The brass usually treat us to a scene where someone marvels at their speed and maneuverability and says since we don’t have anything like those things flying around, they must come from an advanced alien civilization or, worse, the Russians or Chinese.
This is a media gold mine. Our military says UFOs are a legitimate story! The media has thrilling gunsight footage with pilots whooping it up. Reporters can show dated sci-fi images for fun and make alien jokes. It’s about time the government officially recognizes these things are real, they seem to say.
This approach leaves no room for questions about whether we’re seeing secret US technology. You never heard a shred of skepticism about the military’s claims. No, UFO/UAP sightings are either a sign the US is losing the arms race to Russia and China – or space aliens. In any case, we need to give the military lots of money to either catch-up or defend ourselves.
The switch from UFO to UAP reflects the military’s history of denying the reality of the phenomenon. They just can’t bring themselves to say UFO. Now, they can discuss UAPs without the same disparagement and stigma UFO reports have be subject to in the past.
They may also use the term UAP as a marker to see who in the media is in the military’s pocket. If a media star chooses to use the term UAP over the popular UFO, I think it signals they are following the military’s line. Let’s see who picks up on it.
The Pentagon just released a report to Congress on more than 140 sightings of UAPs. Why now? Why put out something that makes the Navy look defenseless?
Part of the reason is they had to. It was a requirement inserted into the 2021 Defense Budget bill by Florida Senator Marco Rubio. The topic has political capital, as a long line of politicians have promised to get to the bottom of the sightings. Carter, Clinton and Obama all made explicit yet unfulfilled promises of disclosure. Speculation is that new presidents are given a briefing of the government’s black secrets, shocking them into joining the coverup.
Another explanation: The Navy wants to punch up belief in flying saucers because they are flying something else around and want those sightings to be lumped in with common UFOs. This way, when someone gets blurry shots of, say, a naval EMP (electromagnetic pulse) interceptor drone, they’ll be filed away with the rest.
A better possibility: by escalating tensions with foreign enemies in space, the military can gin up support for increased funding. This militarization of low orbit is the backstory for Space Force. We’ve had a covert cold war in space for a good while now. As usual, the US military is pursuing total domination, while other countries are trying to gain parity. The conflict with Russia is heating up with their deployment of anti-satellite predators, and the Chinese are following suit. As long as UFOs are fictitious, a fruitful source of funding has remained closed. But if foreign enemies are ahead of us, then we must spare no expense.
Publicizing these images keeps the aerospace bucks flowing, especially to the Navy, which got cut out of the space war spoils when Trump launched Space Force. The media is delighted to play along.
Here’s what UFOs might really be
Many people don’t realize the films we see are taken with infrared cameras. We aren’t seeing the object’s outline, but its heat signature. The symbols and numbers on the images reveal how far away an object is, which lets you figure out its size. According to some analysts, the Navy bogies are about 3 feet wide. The heat signature is the same as a bird’s. They are at the altitude birds fly. They move in flocks. So, these puzzling UAPs are most likely seabirds. The unbelievable maneuvers? That’s an effect of parallax as the camera passes the trajectory of the object. The frame shifts make the object appear to zoom off.
Nevertheless, UFOs remain a puzzling phenomenon. Unfortunately, UFOs have been zipping around for at least 70 years with tens of millions of sightings, but not one clear picture. Plenty of fuzzy shapes and loads of fakes, but no authentic image showing the details of a ship. Three-and-a-half billion smartphones with cameras and not one clear shot.
I can’t give you a definite answer, so I’ll wrap this up with a shopping list of possible explanations for UFOs. You can read all about them on the Internet, so I’m just dropping starter links and making some witty remarks.
Alien spaceships. By far the most popular opinion is that UFOs are extraterrestrial visitors flying about in saucer-shaped craft, remaining out of sight with the rare sighting. A Gallup poll last year found that about a third of the public believes in extraterrestrial spacecraft. The science fiction image of saucer people has burned its way into the public consciousness, and shows like Ancient Aliens have promoted them as real. Alien visitors will range from evil lizard men to beneficent Nordics. The bad guys want to eat babies, while the good guys want us to join a Galactic Federation (they must all be Liberals). The theories here can become quite complex as we consider historical deceptions and multiple alien races along with alien science and New Age metaphysics. A quick search will turn up tons of stuff in this vein, some unimaginably detailed.
Cosmic tricksters. Since they’re aliens, we might not understand their motives for teasing us but not making contact. Maybe they are neither good nor evil, just doing some alien stuff we don’t understand. If it’s a geographical or biological survey, they’ve had plenty of time to wrap it up. How many humans would you need to abduct and probe? How many cows would you need to dissect and dump? It’s hard to imagine this is the advanced science of spacefaring races. In fact, it has a distinctly theatrical quality. The same goes for starry wisdom they bring: the dangers of nuclear power, ecological disaster and a spectrum of New Age beliefs. Nothing we haven’t heard before, but since it’s coming from space people, it should transform us? Is this all that an intergalactic civilization has to tell us? Or, again, could these revelations just be theater? Maybe they’re not here to destroy us, but to play with us. They tease us with their bizarre behaviors, delighting in our primitive responses. They think we’re cute. Maybe we’re part of some game, like in the Predator movies, or an alien reality show, as on South Park. Or, as the great Charles Fort (The Book of the Damned) speculated, perhaps they are fishing for us. The visitors may even be evolved time travelers engaging in archeological tourism.
Covert US technology. Those who think UFOs have been used to disguise covert aerial technology would point out that UFO design tends to follow the same evolution as secret military craft. From WWII foo fighters to 1950s bell-shaped saucers to triangular stealth craft of the late 2000s, the alien design mimics our own technology. UFOs would make a perfect cover for secret aircraft, allowing investigation of sightings and a national security justification for silencing witnesses. In the end, it just might be that the technology is too dangerous to expose. Some suggest the tech was confiscated from inventor Nicola Tesla and held back because it offered virtually free energy on demand, which would wreck the fossil fuel economy. Others say the destructive potential was too dangerous to be released to the world. A similar scenario is the recovery of a crashed saucer we reverse-engineered: The UFOs are our secret prototypes (a body of speculation about Roswell speaks to this). The problem is that “alien” technologies all have precursors in technical literature. And if we came across something as revolutionary as anti-gravity, wouldn’t we be looking at applications beyond aeronautics?
Breakaway civilization. In this view, the reverse-engineered technology was taken by a secret enclave within the government. They maintain a secret space force by siphoning vast amounts of resources from a black budget. They began interplanetary travel decades ago and have a colony on Mars or the back side of the Moon. It’s called a “breakaway civilization” because its population has been sequestered for decades and has access to potentially transformative discoveries about the Universe.
Mind control experiments. A more extreme version of this conspiracy says UFO abductions are a cover for unethical psychological studies: Subjects are made to believe they experience an alien encounter. Again, there is a distinctly theatrical quality to abduction accounts, with its bits lifted from 1950s saucer movies, though many credible sources say the government has tried to put thoughts in people’s minds.
Trick of the mind. You might unconsciously do your own mind control. When you see something you don’t understand or can’t identify, it’s hard to get your head around it. Your brain will park the observation in your short-term memory, then later commit long-term memory for future retrieval. Yet, details are lost. Long-term memory stores only the gist of the event, finding a familiar frame of reference and drawing on stored memories to flesh out the details on retrieval. Often, that frame is cultural, so seeing a UFO as a flying saucer is a familiar context. Elizabethans saw fairies. Nordics saw gnomes. We see gray aliens.
Polly sees something in the sky her brain can’t classify. As she struggles to articulate her sighting, her brain searches her memories and comes up with her best guess – and she describes the object as a flying saucer. On repetition, the impression becomes fixed. So, when she thinks back to her experience, she remembers it as a saucer sighting.
Another government. We worry most about Russia and China, but 70 nations have space programs. If the purpose was military surveillance, then both parties would have an incentive to keep it secret. This is the startling part about the recent Navy revelations. If they really thought it might be the Russians or Chinese, why would they ever say so? Both sides would more likely support a cover story while the cat-and-mouse game played out away from the public eye
Nazis. Anytime you have a conspiracy, you’re going to hear “Nazis.” The story goes that during a séance, Maria Orsic reached an alien intelligence that told her the secrets of interstellar travel, which the Nazi SS used to build antigravity aircraft. After the war, their updated saucers came forth from a secret base in Antarctica. The US supposedly obtained some of this technology and has been trying to match the Nazis ever since.
Illuminati. In this story, saucers are the technology of an ancient high civilization sequestered in the Forbidden Land of Agartha. Their means of propulsion involves a science of vibration that enables them to overcome gravity. The Ancient Masters live in hollow parts of the Earth served by mole people and send forth their vessels to observe us. Two rival groups, light vs. dark, are forever in conflict for control of the Earth.
Catholics. This conspiracy theory says the Vatican is having a theological debate over the inclusion of alien entities into the religious order and are planning to reboot Catholicism around the return of an alien savior. UFOs are holograms, part of the grand revelation of Space Jesus. (The Vatican Observatory Research Group actually does operate a huge telescope named LUCIFER [Large binocular telescope near-infrared Utility with Camera and Integral Field unit for Extragalactic Research] for astronomers to search the skies.)
Demons. If you believe in ghosts or angels, why not demons? To believers, one of their tricks is to pose as UFOs as they go about harvesting souls to feed on. This is the theory of the Collins Elite, a secret group of high military officials who are waging a campaign to defeat them. They trace the demonic invasion to a magical portal opened by rocket man Jack Parsons and occultist Alistair Crowley.
Plenty to choose from
Surely you can find something here to suit your worldview, but if not – or just for fun – surf the web and you’ll find even wilder variations and more novel theories. As for me, in my saner moments, I’m inclined to Trick of the Mind. I think I’m better off avoiding the supernatural altogether, but there’s a part of me rooting for Illuminati Mole People from the Inner Earth. How about you? What’s your best guess? Leave a comment.