New Year’s Eve or thereabouts is usually the rollout for De Void’s annual rant on the pathetic state of the mainstream media’s UFO coverage. But frankly? This year? 2014 was so common and boring, De Void can barely stay awake long enough to finish this stupid sentence. I mean come on. Biggest story of the year? The historic, government-level partnership between France and Chile, hands down. We’re talking about a trans-Atlantic bridge of aerospace engineers, physicists, astronomers and military resources, bringing transparency and skills to bear on the most mysterious and elusive challenge of the modern age. Unprecedented. And the media didn’t even show up to make fun of it. Amazing. No network blowdrys to announce “And now, for a real out-of-this-world development!” No wire services to work the ol’ tongue-in-cheek lead: “Although France and Chile speak different languages, their scientists are now joining forces to try to decipher Little Green Men.”
Nope — on the most significant development of the year, the no-show MSM left zero crumbs for De Void to lambaste or castigate.
What we got instead was another round of gruel so tepid and unremarkable it didn’t even leave stains. From the Science Channel’s hyperproduced “Are We Alone?” series that played like a Ritalin infomercial to CNN’s Morgan Spurlock formula sleepwalk across a trail so worn and familiar he could’ve done it blindfolded while tied to a La-Z-Boy recliner, we got nothing but boxes of styrofoam packing peanuts this year. In fact, the only real network surprise was Bill Clinton taking UFO questions under studio lights; only, it was Jimmy Kimmel, not “Face The Nation.” But beneath the veneer of joviality, Clinton tensed up as he attempted to steer the conversation into loftier rhetorical terrain. An analysis of No. 42’s subtle body language by criminologist and SyFy channel investigator Ben Hansen makes you wonder how spasmodic it might’ve been if Clinton had been pressed for details about his relationship with UFO disclosure advocate Laurance Rockefeller. But that’ll never happen in this country.
So 2014 was a media wash, even though there were plenty of things worth paying attention to. In February, for instance, NASA announced the verification of 715 more exoplanets from the Kepler telescope surveys. By year’s end, the Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia listed a grand total of 1,855 confirmed worlds beyond our own solar system. These developments were duly noted, and naturally, the prospects of an increasingly congested universe suggested a prudent course might be a what-next? conversation. To that end, NASA and the Library of Congress contributed a seminar in Washington, D.C., in September. They called it “Preparing for Discovery: A Rational Approach to the Impact of Finding Microbial, Complex or Intelligent Life Beyond Earth.” Unfortunately, they cheated the public interest by leaving UFOs off the table.
Consider astronomer and session panelist Seth Shostak, whose ramrod faith in radiowaves as the best way to discover ET has produced zilch over the past half century. In May, we saw him and fellow SETI Institute colleague Dan Werthimer appealing to a congressional committee for federal funding to keep hope alive. Shostak likes to maintain a facade of receptivity to UFO evidence, but that fell apart this year when British chemist Erol Faruk publicized an account of his futile efforts to get his research on UFO-affected soil samples published in peer-reviewed science journals. Thwarted at every turn, Faruk ultimately accepted to Shostak’s podcast offer to give UFO data a fair shake, and forwarded his chemical analysis to him. But Shostak declined to weigh in and conceded in an email: “… the SETI Institute doesn’t investigate UFO sightings (we don’t have the staff … we’re a very small group.”)
So 2014 reminded us, once again, that American UFO research is a lonely endeavor, bereft of institutional support and well beyond the editorial skills of corporate media. Yet, American ingenuity is enduring and inveterate. The underfunded nonprofit NARCAP continues to work quietly with aviation professionals and analyze trends pertaining to air-traffic safety. Old hands like NICAP veteran Fran Ridge keep cobbling together patchwork surveillance systems in the quest to gather more evidence, and enterprises such as UFOTOG’s state-of-the-art mobile platforms forge into the unknown without compensation or even the hint of a payday. These are visionary and heroic endeavors. Maybe someday academia could come around. Witness the public UFO forum sponsored last month by an honors course at American University.
Still, research into The Great Taboo this year uncovered a truth we have become blithely conditioned to accept — access to public records, and federal accountability, is being curtailed in some curious places. It wasn’t 9/11 that put an end to our ability, via unfiltered radar records, to evaluate what may or may not being flying around in our skies. It was the 2008 Stephenville UFO incident, which put an embarrassing squeeze on the Air Force and became one of the best documented UFO flight-pattern cases in history. Today, FOIA requests for that sort of data are rejected. (Btw, USAF PIO Anh Trinh, I’m still waiting for an answer …)
Consequently, as in so many years past, 2014 abandons us to our most cynical misgivings regarding at least some aspects of government and their function. With federal secrecy expanding in defiance of directives by both White House and Congress, we are increasingly reliant upon pilfered information to evaluate the degree to which we are being spun and played. In February, the latest batch of Edward Snowden’s National Security Agency leaks to reach the public domain was a 50-page power-point slide show, originally generated in the UK, titled “The Art of Deception: Training for a New Generation of Online Covert Operations.”
For De Void, the most relevant portion of the release is labeled “Influence and Information Operations.” There is no accompanying text, but it appears to showcase a true unknown flying-disc photo from 1950, followed by more contemporary pix of the sort of props one would need to stage a hoax. “Deception,” “Dishonesty,” “Distraction,” and “Social Compliance/Authority” are among the listed “Principles” at the front of the section in this creepy manual. Clearly, you don’t need UFOs to understand that reality is up for grabs. But maybe it always has been.
Anyhow, here’s to 2015, and to bold new leadership on the trail of The Great Taboo. And farewell, American exceptionalism. Official revelations from the study of UFOs will be delivered in French and Spanish.