UFOs, Dissent, and Democracy
In Part 1 of this series, I explored the concepts of taboo and disenfranchisement. The key ideas being that UFO discourse is relegated to the taboo fringe by the mainstream due to its ideological conflict with modern Capitalism. To sum up,
“UFOs cannot exist because they are a system of objects and ideologies which challenge modern Capitalist ideologies. They function outside of them, and they do not yield to the assumed process of production and consumption. The belief in UFOs is therefore unacceptable to the Capitalist ideological mechanism. The response then, by people outside of the UFO subculture, is one of ridicule.”
Secondly, UFO discourse paints a picture of a world that exists outside of the Capitalist model of production and consumption, as well as the democratization of power overall. Again, to sum up,
“The UFO subculture, and the entire discourse itself, is different. It does not seek to alter modern Capital, but to end it. Whether the UFO community fancies government Disclosure, Light Beings, Channelling, CE5, or some other similar belief system, it attempts to create a worldview free of Capitalism itself.”
In this article, I’d like to explore the fundamental contradiction between modern Capitalism and UFO discourse. The contention between the two goes beyond the formula that the UFO subculture is disenfranchised by mainstream Capitalist culture. The issue is much more nuanced, and UFO discourse challenges modern Capital via its inherent democratization.
The UFO discourse, and the subculture that engages with that discourse is, by default, a purely democratic system, a wild west of ideologies where anything and everything goes. Due to this ideological freedom, UFO discourse and debate is an example of a living and functioning discourse that counters modern ideological Capital.
Comparatively, no other discourse, be it academic, economic or political, functions with the same democratic freedom that UFO discourse does. Within the UFO subculture, there is no ivory tower. No organization, MUFON included, holds control over the UFO debate. There is no throne that the UFO community bows before, and no institution exists that decides who is a member of the community, and who is not. There are no degrees, no graduate programs, no governing bodies, no accreditation, and no hierarchies that clearly delineate who is an expert within the discourse and who is not.
The UFO discourse is fundamentally democratized with members of the subculture able to freely express their own ideologies, which vary from reasoned logic to utter madness. While this may be a key reason as to why Ufology as a field of study has made little productive and objective progress, the discourse itself has functioned in this state since its inception. This creates a fundamental problem for mainstream culture; there is nothing solid in UFO discourse to nail down, no ideological principles which dictate the debate, therefore, nothing that the current power systems can negotiate into themselves. It is the very nature, the fluidity, of UFO discourse that calls modern Capital into question. If UFO discourse requires no ideological solid ground in order to exist, or at least that solid ground continues to shift and fracture chaotically, ideological Capital has nothing to negotiate with, nothing to grab onto in order to establish order within the chaos. The UFO debate creates a reality that does not require mainstream official ideologies in order to exist; it is in this democratic state where modern ideological Capital is impotent, unable to entrench itself and establish ideological order.
This begs a larger philosophical question; can Capitalist ideology function within democracy? Noam Chomsky, and many other philosophers and critics, plainly suggest that real democracy cannot exist under the current Capitalist system. There are many reasons for this, but Chomsky states it here;
“If we mean by Democracy, citizens having an equal share in participating and determining decisions that affect the society, then Capitalism, in any form, is inconsistent with Democracy... any form of Capitalism that is likely to exist will have sharp inequalities because it's based on hierarchy, domination, production for profit and not need, accumulation of capital, deprivation of others, subordination of people who have to sell their labor in order to survive. Of course that is going to translate automatically into any political arrangement…”
("Noam Chomsky on the (in)compatibility of democracy and capitalism.” Can We Do It Ourselves?. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xz9HWMX40T8> 10/2016.)
The status quo systems of power, of which Capital is a fundamental part, come to blows with UFO discourse. The men and women who make up the UFO community, the UFO subculture, function outside of the parameters of established culture and ideology (see part 1). They dabble in objects and ideas that pose a direct threat to the hegemonic thought system Capitalism generates. It is not that they “think about” a world without Capitalism, it's that the ideas debated and discussed concerning very real objects, UFOs themselves, challenge Capitalism. Furthermore, UFO discourse calls into question the very machinations of Capitalism itself.
If we explore the very pertinent exophilosophical questions UFO discourse generates, we can see the very real issues they raise for mainstream ideology. For example, if UFOs are controlled by a superior intelligent Other, who then “owns” Earth and its resources? The answer depends on a significant number of potential outcomes, however, many of those answers remove that property claim from human hands. Furthermore, if UFOs do not obey the laws governing national airspace, which they do not as per the UFO narrative, what does that say about national sovereignty? What does that say about government borders? What does that say about trade and resource gathering? The point here is that UFO discourse, as it continues to walk down these various paths of questioning, logical reasoning, and critical thinking, begins to come to conclusions that claw away at the hegemonic ideological authority modern Capital propagates. UFO discourse does not just “think about” the end of mainstream Capitalist ideologies, it tears them apart.
Culturally, we see that punk rock functioned along these lines in the 1980’s. It loudly and energetically called for an end to the status quo, the establishment, and the economic conservatism of Reagan and Thatcher. Where punk rock failed was that its message was relatively stable, and that the message was able to be contained and negotiated into the Capitalist construct. Large music production companies began to pick up punk rock artists and bands. They sold their albums, put their pictures up on billboards and into magazines, held arena tours, and the anti-establishment message was adopted into the mechanism of Capitalist ideology via osmosis. The irony now is that punk rock musicians are becoming large players in the UFO subculture.
This negotiation into the mainstream has yet to occur for UFO discourse, and it probably never will. Due to the shifting sands of thought that creates the UFO debate, and that no body or even ideology governs the discourse, the mainstream has nothing to subvert. Systems which are constructed upon order, even the smallest amount of order, are easy to control. To paraphrase Caesar, “divide and conquer.” Systems built on chaos however, systems which fluctuate and follow no leader, well- they may go nowhere, remain small, but they are totally free.
This freedom comes with a significant cost. Since UFO discourse cannot be subverted or embedded into mainstream Capitalist ideology, it must remain upon the fringe. It must live as a taboo subject, laughed at by popular media, and purposefully alienated by the elites who dwell within the halls of power.
In Part 3 of this series, I will conclude by examining the physical structures of Capitalism that keep the UFO debate on the fringe, and what the future may hold for UFO discourse as a whole. I would appreciate your thoughts on the content of this post, as well as the series so far. Please post your comments below.