Reporting UFOs to the Navy and Where To Go From Here?
Join the Navy they said, see a UFO they said.
With the recent story broken by Politco’s defense editor, Bryan Bender, the UFO community has clearly become very excited. With news that the American Navy is now “drafting new guidelines for pilots and other personnel to report encounters with ‘unidentified aircraft,’ many within the Ufological community view this as a big step towards the long-cherished goal of “Disclosure.”
As with any major announcement such as this, various other news sources have picked up the story, and there seems to be a flurry of commentary and speculation as to what this all means for the future of UFO discourse. Moreover, many within the community have also been quick to point out that the Navy “isn’t endorsing the idea that its sailors have encountered alien spacecraft.”
Red Pill Junkie, a regular contributor to The Daily Grail, pointed out in his article that this is really nothing incredibly new. The Air Force has been down this road before with various defunct projects, such as Blue Book. Moreover, he points out that the military does already have a method to collect information regarding unknown aerial vehicles via the JANAP 146 protocol. Red Pill Junkie’s conclusion is that this new project, which is still in its infancy, is just more of the “same old” stuff. On the flip side, Alejandro Rojas of Open Minds expressed that this is an important day for UFO discourse. In his article on Open Minds, he praised the recent work done by Tom DeLonge and Luis Elizondo of To The Stars fame by saying,
“Elizondo has said that if it where not for TTSA, he may not have made his involvement in the Pentagon UFO program public. It was Elizondo’s revelations that created the media fervor and subsequently brought attention to this topic. That means the efforts of rock star DeLonge, played a large part in today’s story.”
This new announcement by the Navy has raised a lot of questions, but more importantly, drawn a lot of lines in the subcultural sand. Moreover, it raises a key concern that I raised in October of 2017,
“Due to the very democratic, if not anarchic, nature of the UFO community (in that no one person or organization is UFOlogy), DeLonge’s ability to shift the discourse is threatening. Similar to how Donald Keyhoe and others in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s galvanized the extraterrestrial hypothesis into UFO discourse and popular culture, so too may DeLonge’s particular hypothesis regarding UFOs become how the mainstream interprets the whole of UFOlogy.”
I don’t want to take sides here. That is pointless. Rather, I wish to express that nearly two years later, the ideological frameworks established by To the Stars, Luis Elizondo and the rest of the crew, has clearly been responsible for the cultural shifts we now see in contemporary UFO discourse, especially in the popular and mainstream interpretation of modern UFOs. To use a film and television term, the very interested public outside of the UFO community, and many within the community, are taking ideological “beats” from the TTSA and the small collective of people who form the moving parts inside it.
The UFO discourse, regardless of what “side” you have chosen, is being greatly influenced by this band of “insiders.” Trying to argue as to whether this is good or bad is pointless. Proclaiming that one is on “Team TTSA” or “Anti-TTSA” is pretty much meaningless at this point. When it comes to cultural paradigms, especially within subcultural movements, patterns and ideas form whether people like it or not. Spitting bile at Elizondo or TTSA really serves no purpose, nor does massaging their egos.
What we really need to understand is that the Navy will now hold significantly more authority over UFO data from its personnel (it undoubtedly already does). While this move by the Navy is being heralded by some as another step towards “Disclosure,” the obvious problem is that UFO reports made to the military in no way equate to transparency. To think that the Navy will release its new UFO reports to the public is, in a word, idiotic. UFO reports, especially those made by military personnel, will disappear into the ether. This whole new system is in direct opposition to transparency and “Disclosure.” Moreover, the storm of speculation and media attention given to the 2004 Nimitz incident has, especially for those who manage information within military channels, showed a big open hole in how managed information can become loosed upon the public and cause headaches for individuals in government and the military. In other words, an unknown UFO incident with good witness testimony and video footage remained in the shadows for nearly two decades only to become incredibly famous because ex-military and government personnel began work to bring this information out. If it is your job to manage that information, perhaps this new reporting system is a great way to plug that information hole. Nothing keeps people quiet like a ‘non-disclosure agreement’ and the threat of litigation or jail time.
“Want to report a UFO to the Navy? Sure sailor, just sign these legal forms for us real quick.”
There is a lot of nuance within UFO discourse. There is a long history of facts, misinformation and disinformation. There are real objective truths and there are myths. For those of us inside this community who have done our homework, we know that nothing ought to be taken at face value. Mainstream media outlets are incredibly valuable, but they also are there to generate views and “clicks.” The Navy wants its personnel to be safe, and is responsible for the security of a nation, but it also knows that information, no matter what it is, is the most valuable commodity. Ufological history has shown us repeatedly that trust is not earned easily, as it is all too commonly broken in this community. The various agents who work for or represent To the Stars know this all too well.
To the mainstream public who are usually oblivious to the very nuanced history and culture of this community are not armed to defend themselves against this reality. The messaging presented regarding UFOs will be interpreted in a whole host of ways by the general public, however, there is little doubt in my mind that this recent announcement by the Navy was influenced by our friends at To the Stars. The inner-dealings of various groups within the UFO community are affecting the ideological understanding and meanings of what the UFO is as a social and cultural construct. In other words, UFOs are what we mean them to be. The media plays a vital role in developing that meaning, and To the Stars holds a lot of cultural and political cache in those media outlets. I am not crying conspiracy, as that is just plain silly. Rather, TTSA, most likely unknowingly (maybe), is holding the reigns when it comes to our future ideological understanding of how we, and future members of this community, will interpret the UFO phenomenon in the days to come. They hold and wield significant power, and drawing Ufological ‘bi-partisan’ lines, and trying to sort out and shame who is “for” or “against” TTSA is a waste of time. Instead of being vigilant of who plays for what team, we ought to turn that vigilance to those who currently control the message.
I am reminded of an old curse, allegedly from Ancient China, that goes, “May you live in interesting times.” For some, those times are here. For others, this is a road they have seen before. For me, personally, I’m just excited to see what is going to happen next.
- MJ Banias
Note: Lest I receive volleys of slings and arrows, let me be clear. I am not, in any way, trolling or attempting to subvert the projects of To the Stars, Luis Elizondo, Tom DeLonge, nor any other individual connected to this club. I remain romantically and open mindedly skeptical, critical and pragmatic. My six-ish years of active investigation, privately, or with local groups or with MUFON, into the anomalous has taught me a thing or two; chiefly being that no one has a damn clue as to what is going on or what they are doing. Moreover, it has taught me to be leery of those who make bold claims of truth and knowledge in a discourse that hinges upon the unknowable. With all that being said, I remain, as I think we all must, in the “I don’t know.”
For reasons both in and out of my control, I have been revisiting the works of John Keel and Gray Barker. I consider their body of work essential reading for any UFO or paranormal researcher and enthusiast, and not because they are “right” or “trustworthy.” Within ‘UFOlogy’ and paranormal research, there is no “right” or “trustworthy.” The phenomena itself never fits into these ideologies. Rather, they are worth reading because of their active and open agenda to enshrine one honest and fundamental principle; all paranormal research, be it into ghosts, UFOs, cryptids and other weirdness, is essentially an ever evolving mix of fiction and fact. That is not to say that these bizarre and strange events do not objectively happen, but that the interpretation of those events are not objective, but hang upon mythology, archetypes, symbolism and the current historical and cultural paradigms we dwell in.
The Contactee movements of the 1950s and 1960s saw Venusians and men from Lanulos named Cold, and flying saucers with landing struts. The 1980s into the present bore the imagery of navigationally inept grey EBEs who dined on strawberry ice-cream, evil reptilian abductors, and technologically clunky interstellar travelers armed with 20th century syringes for breeding hybrids (though the alien hybrid narrative was mentioned in Keel’s “The Mothman Prophecies” in the mid 1970’s). Today, we engage in much of the same interpretive operation. We track Tic-Tacs with gun cameras and radar, much like we used to stare at photographs of landing marks and crop circles. Countless hours used to be spent pouring over pictures of flying discs with magnifying glasses looking for filament wires or testing the veracity of poorly shot 90’s video footage, God help us, before the age of High Definition. Today, not much has changed. We continue to watch and re-watch “Gimbals” and “Go-Fasts” and “F4s”. We still lament the fact that much data is missing, and if the government truly was democratic, they would finally disclose the “reality” behind the phenomenon. We can trust the government and its former employees, and we can’t trust the government because it is lying to us. Everyone and no one is a disinformation operative. Rick Doty is an outcast who thinks the UFO community is going to the “shit house” yet, most recently, spoke at a UFO conference and has been welcomed back into the fold like the Prodigal Son (to be honest, he is a nice guy).
As the legendary Shirley Bassey and The Propellerheads so eloquently put it,
“The word is about, there's something evolving,
Whatever may come, the world keeps revolving
They say the next big thing is here,
That the revolutions near,
But to me it seems quite clear
That it's all just a little bit of history repeating.”
Every UFO enthusiast and researcher since Arnold landed his plane in 1947 has argued that their era was going to be the most important in all history. That 1948 would be the year that the lid would get blown of this thing. Or was it 1949? Or 1950? 51? 52? I honestly can’t remember because the same claim has been made for every year and every decade. To suggest that these paranormal pioneers were wrong or foolish is hubris. I have little doubt that in twenty years when I am a “UFOlogical dinosaur,” many new young guns will laugh at my belief that 2019 or 2020 or 2021 would chime in the revolution.
Keel points out in The Mothman Prophecies that paranormal enthusiasts have been playing this game before UFOs even became ‘a thing.’ Ancient shamans and prophets who spoke to their gods, medieval men and women of various religions who saw visions and prophesied, and regular everyday Forteans who found themselves communing with Lam or encountering the supernatural or paranormal have all bore the mantle of researchers of the strange, and have always made claims of great change, paradigm shifts, and sought official confirmation of some esoteric force. In all this, the phenomenon has existed. In all this, the phenomenon has evolved and changed with those who chase it. Like it or not, it will continue to do so long after you and I are dead. Barker and Keel never reached “The Truth.” Neither did Corso, Keyhoe or Hynek. Neither will Greenwood, Dean, Jornlin, Graham, Rutkowski, Lukes, Costa, Sprague, Damante, Corbell, Kloetzke, Knapp, Bigelow, Puthoff, Pasulka, Green, Nolan, Clark, Vallee, DeLonge, or Elizondo (and you and me for that matter).
The inherent wisdom that both Barker and Keel understood and attempted to impart upon their readers is that the ontological “Truth,” the destination, is and forever will be unreachable. What matters most of all in this paranormal theatre of the absurd is the journey. The path we tread stretches on well beyond us, and paths are not built all at once, but with the placing of one stone at a time. Those stones we place are the stones of our time. Our collective zeitgeist, our cultural and social ideologies which seem so vital and essential now but will change and evolve as the years progress. Tic-Tacs, Black Vaults, AATIP, and metamaterials will fade into the past as did Catherine Crowe (I bet you had to look her up), Richard Shaver’s stories (if you had to look this one up, you should be embarrassed), and Project Sign (no excuse if you had to look this up, just go back to ‘being normal’). However, those Tic-Tacs, FOIA archives, government programs and alien artifacts stand upon the same path great women and men have walked before us, and future great women and men have yet to trod long after we have become footnotes in the paranormal narrative.
Keel got it right when he wrote,
“Many of the choicest tidbits in UFO lore were not actual events but were put into circulation by contactees who placed their complete trust in their contacters. The entities spun wild tales about crashed saucers being confiscated by the U.S. Air Force, farmers shooting and wounding spacemen, and so forth. Contactees repeated the stories to wild-eyed UFO enthusiasts and so they spread in ever-widening circles until they appeared in articles and books.” (The Mothman Prophecies, 1975).
UFO writers and supposed experts will continue to expound their theories and hypotheses concerning anti-gravity propulsion, raising the planet’s vibration, or the distant stars which allegedly house great civilizations who traverse space, time or dimension to communicate with little old us. Ashtar Command and the Secret Space Program will continue to manifest in different ways and under different names. We will continue to have conspiracies and ‘disinformation’ agents. More government intelligence officers will come forward to talk about their work and what they saw. All the while, the phenomenon itself will, to paraphrase Eliot, hold our coats and snicker.
I return to the expertise of the great Shirley Bassey,
“And I've seen it before
And I'll see it again
Yes I've seen it before
Just little bits of history repeating.”
This all begs a question; what is the point then? Why research at all? Why chase the paranormal or UFOs or the strange? Beyond the simple fact that it is so very fun, do not all human endeavours follow the same pattern? The long well walked roads of mathematics and science have not yet been completed. Future math will build upon contemporary math. Future science will rest its hindquarters on current science. Language, culture, and art are all constantly evolving, ever pressing forward, and never being totally finished. What is the point doing any of it? Because we must. In some strange odd way, it is our compulsion. We are naturally driven to see what is around the next corner or over the distant hill. Interestingly, the phenomenon, whatever it may be, seems to coax us. We are lured to it. Just when we think we are getting close, something changes. Flying saucers become Tic-Tacs. Landing traces become radar tracks. Black and white photographs become HD gun camera footage. Turn and look back every once in a while, and hope that those who come after you will look back also. The path gets longer. More stones will always be needed, so keep placing them down one by one.
- MJ Banias