Barry Napier is currently studying Professional Writing and Interdisciplinary Studies at Old Dominion University. He has been fascinated with unexplained phenomena for most of his life and his interests lie primarily with UFO studies and the paranormal. He plans to undergo Masters work in Creative Writing and to eventually publish works related to the paranormal.
Email Barry at firstname.lastname@example.org
UFOs and the Media Blackout
by Barry Napier
For over 60 years, the majority of major media venues have been indifferent towards any claims or reports of UFO sightings. Despite the fact that the subject seems to be growing in popularity, many serious news outlets continue to poorly cover-and in some cases even ignore-what is steadily becoming a subculture of sorts. But despite a growing number of sightings and believers, most media venues are still neglecting to cover what could potentially be one of the most important scientific issues in human history.
|Amazing photograph courtesy of Dr. Lynne Kitel of the famous Phoenix Lights.
In many cases, the government has gone so far as to fabricate illogical and unproven explanations for the UFO phenomena. And whether it is of their own accord or a result of orders from higher up, the often diligent media has turned a blind eye to such cases. The most common stories reported by the media regarding UFO activity are the far fetched and sensational. These are stories that are more akin to entertainment and the media often frames the story to sound like something out of the imagination of X-Files fans or individuals with a cult mindset.
So, the important question is this: is the media participating in a subtle form of gate keeping regarding the subject of unidentified flying objects? And if so, is the government pressuring media outlets to debunk and defile the real stories?
If the media's duty is to cater to the largest possible audience based on the general interests and beliefs of the public, it seems that the UFO phenomena should be taken seriously and that open debates and forums should be encouraged. One must wonder if news sources might speculate that evidence of UFOs might negatively affect its audience. If we seriously consider life outside this planet, how does that affect organized religion? Does the possibility of worlds vastly more technologically advanced then the Earth affect the power of the government to lead its citizens?
Looking back, it is easy to see the role that the media has played in the government's agenda to keep a lid of serious UFO debates.
The first reported UFO sightings that ever got a fair amount of coverage in newspapers were spotted throughout Germany and Russia in 1892. These "airships" were soon reported in America as well, most noticeably in November 22nd, 1896 when the San Francisco Call reported that many people had witnessed an airship that was about 100 feet long, cigar shaped and appeared to be made of aluminum. In 1909, similar craft were spotted throughout New Zealand and Australia.
UFOs first achieved serious attention during WWII, when, on several occasions, Allied Pilots reported strange "ghost rockets" that seemed to follow them (also dubbed "foo fighters). But it wasn't until 1947 that "flying saucer" truly became a household term in the wake of the infamous Roswell Crash.
After the crash, on July 7th, Col. William Blanchard issued an official USAAF press release from Roswell reporting that a "flying disk" had been found "sometime last week" by a local rancher, and that it had been recovered by the Intelligence Office at the base and was being prepared for transfer to "higher headquarters".
The press release caused a frenzy and phone lines into New Mexico and the Pentagon became jammed as reporters clamored for more details. Three hours after the press release, the army changed their story completely, claiming that the wreckage was that of a weather balloon. Later, speculation of recovered alien bodies would be leaked into the public, an idea that the Air Force claimed was ridiculous and completely false. The backlash that resulted from this sudden change was monumental; echoes of it can still be heard today.
On the heels of Roswell, many other sightings were reported yet not a single report drew the attention that the event at Roswell, New Mexico had received. It seemed as if the sightings were never being properly investigated and were almost always attributed to natural or man made phenomena. Even the ill-fated Project Blue Book did little to help.
Since the 60s, the UFO phenomena has only become more prominent in the media in cases of pure fiction. During the 50s and 60s, pulp comic books were filled with invaders from space. Later on, during the 70s and 80s, we were exposed to films such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Alien, and ET. The 90s gave us films like Contact and Independence Day. But beyond these Hollywood versions of UFO and extraterrestrial folklore, there were several real life accounts hidden in the news that very few people ever heard about. For example, in recent years, the world has witnessed events such as The Phoenix Lights and the bizarre rapid moving craft that followed and taunted an entire Mexican Air Force training squadron in 2004.
On March 13th, 1997, a series of strange lights were spotted in the night sky above Phoenix Arizona, an event known in UFO circles as "The Phoenix Lights". There were literally hundreds of witnesses and they all told the exact same story. Numerous lights hovered over the city and then began moving very slowly, remaining over the city for nearly an hour. Many residents report having assumed that the lights were separate from one another but, when they began to realize that something was blocking out the stars, they saw that the series of lights were all part of a much larger structure. It was V-shaped and flew closely overhead without a sound. The event was witnessed by so many people and caught on so many personal cameras that the media was helpless but to pay attention.
The event was covered in USA Today, on morning newscasts across the country and the most convincing bit of footage was actually shown on CNN. Once word got out, the military and the media worked hand in hand once again in trying to dissuade the public. The official Air Force report states that the lights seen overhead in Phoenix, Arizona on the night of March 13th, 1997 were flares that had been released by an A-10 Warthog aircraft during a training exercise. In reality, not only do these flares and the Phoenix Lights differ in appearance, but it is physically impossible for flares to hover and then move slowly in perfect unison with one another. Despite the authenticity of the sighting and the hundreds of witnesses, the event was swept under the media rug within a matter of days.
1997 also brought about the 50th anniversary of the Roswell Crash. And once again, the Air Force changed their story and the media obliged accordingly. Originally, the Air Force had claimed that there had been no bodies recovered from the '47 Roswell wreckage. However, in one of their many "case closed" reports in 1997, the Air Force claimed that the bodies were part of aviation experiments and were crash test dummies. Not only does this contradict their weather balloon story in '47, but they also apparently forgot that, 50 years earlier, they had denied the presence of bodies altogether.
Another significant sighting that has recently occurred yet gathered no proper media coverage happened during a Mexican Air Force routine training mission. Every pilot involved and several members of ground control all reported the sudden appearance of eight to ten lights that seemed to have come out of nowhere. The lights followed every move the pilots made and then, almost as if boasting, performed aerial moves that no human aircraft could possibly achieve. The footage was show on Mexican news casts and while it was debated and discussed more than any American sightings, it too was eventually forgotten in the media's mind.
Despite accounts as convincing as these, mainstream media often approaches the sightings as entertainment news. Other, less reputable sources have made a name for themselves by blatantly making a joke out of the phenomena, thus giving it little credibility. Even the much hyped ABC special Seeing Is Believing, which was a supposed serious attempt at the subject by Peter Jennings, seemed like an attempt to discredit witnesses and abductees.
What will it take for the media to acknowledge that there is indeed something unexplainable happening in our skies? With the recent rash of multiple sightings in Mexico-including videos of UFO fleets appearing simultaneously-one certainly hopes that we are getting closer. The sad thing is that in all reality, we will probably never hear the proclamation on the news that "UFOs are real!" (Well, maybe if one is seen landing on an oil field overseas or decides to land in LA during the season finale of American Idol).
So keep your eyes to the sky, keep those cameras prepared and keep collecting evidence. If an angry and demanding public approaches the media with compiled evidence, the government and the media will eventually have to take notice. And instead of hearing about Britney Spears' troubles with motherhood, we might one morning begin to see news stories concerning those unexplained objects in the sky and how our contact with the occupants could be the most important event in our planet's history.