The CIA, UFOs, Fairies, etc.

I am reading Mirage Men: An Adventure into Paranoia, Espionage, Pyschological Warfare, and UFOs, by Mark Pilkington. (There is a related documentary film.)

Small disclaimer: I met Mark Pilkington a few years ago in England. We did not talk about UFOs nor about the fact that he was one of the people making crop circles for “cereologists” to get all cranked up about.

I have not yet finished the book, but one of its these seems to be that a lot of the UFO material out there is deliberate disinformation by various intelligence agencies.

Why? Consider this scenario, which happened various times in the past: Military radar operators report suspicious “returns” over an airbase. Fighter aircraft are scrambled to intercept the intruders. Once airborne, however, the pilots cannot find the intruders. Must be technologically advanced UFOs!

This means that (a) alien beings have crossed the galaxy in order to play games with our radar operators, or (b) someone here on Earth is working on ways to “spoof” radar signals in order to confuse potential enemies and cause them to fly around looking for intruders that are not there—while, presumably, the real attacker sneaks in undetected.

Occam’s Razor: They sell them in 12-packs at Walgreens and Boots the Chemist.

Why would intelligence agencies feed deliberate misinformation to the public at large and to UFO “researchers” in particular? Some possible reasons:

1. During the Cold War, to baffle the Soviet Union and divert their military from #2, below.

2. To create a belief in “UFOs” that in turn camouflages actual experiments in spy planes, “stealth” technology, drone aircraft, and other secret research.

Create an image and a predisposition, and people will see what they expect to see.

3. To conduct experiments in disinformation in a controlled way: for example, how long does it take a particular piece of “disinformation” to become broadly accepted and by what channels is it disseminated? The whole “Majestic 12” hoax might be an example. Or “cattle mutilations,” or what you will. A lot of Pilkington’s book is devoted to tracing some of these pathways of disinformation.

What about Fairies?

If alien races did arrive here, they probably would not step out of  mechanical “flying saucers” wearing silver coveralls. Anyone who could conquer the whole issue of traveling faster than the speed of light would likely be so advanced that we not even perceive them.

To use a metaphor from the book, do the goldfish in the bowl know that someone is watching them swim around?

All talk of UFOs aside, I do tend to think that there are other beings who share our space, in a manner of speaking.

They have been here all along. They appear in various forms. They are not necessarily our friends. (Which is why the whole phenomenon of “fairy festivals” makes me feel a little queasy.) Lots of weirdness.

Mix them up with your favorite intelligence agency, and watch out!

Another facet of Mirage Men that I appreciate is that it shows how investigating forms of paranormal (or perceived paranormal) activity can have unsettling effects on the investigator. Rampant paranoia is just part of it.

The classic work, to my mind, on this phenomenon is John Keel’s The Mothman Prophecies, published in 1975.  (Ignore the 2002 movie, please, unless you have to watch everything that Richard Gere ever did.)

What is interesting is not whether “Mothman” exists or not, but what happens to Keel and his associates when they begin to investigate it. Talk about having one foot on the Other Side! (Or are they victims of disinformation too? More paranoia …)

It reminded me of the summer when a newspaper reporter friend, a lodge of wannabe ceremonial magicians, and I decided to investigate the so-called cattle mutilations. Things went downhill into weirdness fairly quickly.

I published the story in Fate (“Mutilation Madness.” Fate June 1988: 60-70), but this was back in the pre-digital 1980s, so there is nothing to link to. Sorry.

One last quote from Mirage Men that more or less summarizes it:

The UFO scene is overrun with whistleblowers who regale us with tales of underground bases and intergalactic pacts while waving impressive-looking documents around as evidence. To the believers these people are clearly on the side of ufology and are to be welcomes. That the role of [the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations] and other agencies in distributing this same material has been public knowledge for twenty years seems not to have sunk in. Meanwhile, those insiders who suggest that the UFO phenomenon is a complex brew of security, secrecy, psychology, sociology, politics, and folklore, perhaps driven by rare but genuinely anomalous events, are obviously part of the cover-up.

3 Comments

  1. Rombald says:

    You would probably enjoy Bryan Appleyard’s book about UFOs. He starts by classifying explanations as physical (nuts-and-bolts spaceships), socio-psychological (paranoia, delusions, suggestibility), and supernatural. Later on in the book, though, he seems to let all these categories bleed together, like you do. He never does come clean as to whether he thinks they “really” exist, but that’s part of the point.

  2. The old Fate article sounds like it would be worth digitizing!

  3. Pitch313 says:

    I don’t think that the early (WWII and immediately following) UFO sightings directly involved intelligence agencies generating and distributing purposely contrived disinformation.

    But I do think that, even early on, the verification/dismissal of UFO reports did involve bureaucratic turf wars and scuffles for influence and authority and money. Who got to define UFOs was more important than actually figuring out what they might actually be.

    At the same time, I do think that intelligence agencies did get into the UFO scene and spread misinformation. Or promote disinformation and its spread. Sometime during the mid-late-1950s.

    By way of an aside, I find that I am fondest of those early UFO sightings and reports these days, mostly because they enchanted me when I was growing up. I still cannot figure out why those Space Siblings so often descended on the Mojave or picked out folks like Adamski to communicate with. What, I wondered, was wrong with Northern California and folks like me, a science fiction fan and Neo-Pagan taking shape?