In late 2017 and early 2018, first The New York Times and then The Washington Post published articles detailing internal government reports and videos documenting how military pilots had encountered unidentified flying objects that seemed to use technology far more advanced than anything achieved by humanity.
The Times focused on a fleet of rotating aircraft “surrounded by some kind of glowing aura traveling at high speed” off the coast of San Diego in 2004. The Post recounted similar evidence, then raised the national security implications of such aircraft. Both pieces noted that flight crews rarely made waves over their close encounters for fear of being seen as out there themselves.
After the Post report, I wrote a column saying the mild response to it and the Times’ initial scoop was “the most baffling moment in the history of journalism.” Why? Because the source “of this stunningly provocative evidence pointing to aliens frequenting Earth is not someone with a collection of tin-foil headware — it’s the Pentagon, the most technologically advanced, well-funded institution on the planet.” And I waited. And waited. And waited.
And finally, over the past month, the fact that the Pentagon believes in UFOs — and that it had radar and infrared data to back this up, not just untrustworthy anecdotes from flight crews — has piqued the media interest it deserves. This coverage may have been triggered not by the evidence itself but by the fact that the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community have been required by the Senate intelligence committee to release a unclassified report by June detailing what it knows about UAPs — “unidentified aerial phenomenons.”
On April 30, The New Yorker posted a riveting account by Gideon Lewis-Kraus of the 70-plus years of speculation about UFOs that ended up being a testimonial to how vastly stronger the evidence is for their existence now than in the 20th century, when bizarre stories about alien abductions captured the public’s imagination.
On May 13, Ezra Klein, the Vox co-founder who is now a columnist for The New York Times, wrote a piece with a headline that perfectly reflected much of the media’s continuing refusal to take hard evidence seriously: “Even if You Think Discussing Aliens Is Ridiculous, Just Hear Me Out.”
Klein’s thoughtful essay deserved a far better headline. He noted that former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said, “We are talking about objects … that frankly engage in actions that are difficult to explain, movements that are hard to replicate, that we don’t have the technology for, or traveling at speeds that exceed the sound barrier without a sonic boom.”
Right on cue, last Saturday, another stunning, inexplicable video emerged of a close encounter — this one off the San Diego coast from 2019.
Last Sunday, a “60 Minutes” piece laid out the evidence that aliens are among us in interviews with current and former government officials.
And on Monday, after an initially jokey response to the UFO question in a TV interview, former President Barack Obama said, “But what is true — and I’m actually being serious here — is that there’s footage and records of objects in the skies that we don’t know exactly what they are.”
All of this begs the question: Now what? If the U.S. government believes the Earth is being monitored by aliens with vastly superior technology, how should it respond? How can it respond?
If the evidence gets stronger, will the Pentagon seek an even bigger budget? If the aliens are so much more advanced, that doesn’t make sense.
If the evidence gets stronger, will the nations of the world unite to confront the potential alien threat, as President Ronald Reagan suggested in a 1987 speech to the United Nations? Given how divided the world is — only starting with the U.S. and China — that doesn’t seem likely.
And bad things could happen if the evidence gets stronger, even if the UFOs remain benign — starting with a super-charging of the “fake news” narrative. “We already live in an age of conspiracy theories,” Klein wrote. “Now the guardrails would truly shatter, because if UFOs were real, despite decades of dismissals, who would remain trusted to say anything else was false?”
But if the evidence keeps getting stronger — and the aliens continue to not make contact with humans — I can see another possible profound form of fallout. How would people deal with the idea that the Earth amounts to a giant zoo regularly visited by an advanced species that sees humans as entertaining but unworthy of contact? What if, as I wrote three years ago, all these sightings are just field trips for anthropology students from Alpha Centauri University?
Humans as zoo animals for our unseen alien overlords — now that would be humbling on a cosmic level.
Reed is deputy editor of the editorial and opinion section. Column archive: sdut.us/chrisreed. Twitter: @calwhine. Email: email@example.com