UFOs and the Mechanisms of the Mainstream
To read Part 1 of this series, click here.
In Part 2 of this series, I explored the fact that UFO discourse is a purely democratic system of ideologies where no governance structure exists. To sum up,
“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.”
Due to the constant shifting of ideologies, and the reality that Ufology as a field of study is alive and kicking, stands at odds with the Capitalist mechanisms of power. Mainstream ideology is regulated, contained, and designed to function within traditional power dichotomies; wealthy versus poor, educated versus illiterate, science and consensus reality (otherwise known as common sense) versus belief and fringe ideas. The construct of UFO discourse does not function in these states of opposition, but engages all of them simultaneously. Take for example the disagreements that exist within the UFO community concerning a scientific Ufological approach versus a mystical approach, neither side holds power or sway over the other. They coexist, not always peacefully as Facebook flame wars often break out online, but both sides continue to extort their own virtues and consistently criticize the other. As with any democracy, the UFO community does not always get along, but it continues to function, and continues to generate a working ideology which does not require a traditional and mainstream power structure.
In this final article for the Feeling Alienated series, I’d like to conclude by exploring further the power structure that affirms the mainstream’s disenfranchisement of the UFO and the subculture at large. The method by which modern Capital entrenches UFO debate into the fringes of social discourse is via the sciences, and by transitive property, an arbitrary ideological construct called consensus reality, or common sense.
Science has taken on an ideological illusion that it is the only way to find “the Truth”. Academia has entrenched science into the social world view as the harbinger of destruction for religion and, if one reads Neil deGrasse Tyson, the destroyer of philosophy. Interestingly, we collectively understand, scientists included, that science does not have all the answers right now. We also understand that future developments will undoubtedly change many of the scientific rules, laws and theories we now “know.” However, science, in some strange ironic twist of ideology, is also able to convince people that some ideas are not worth studying. It is a curious phenomenon. Scientists, and people in general, accept the present limitations of the sciences, and its future potential to grow and change, yet in the same breath, they are able to dismiss other ideas, such as UFOs, as apparent nonsense.
We accept the ideological myths told by the sciences; they “make sense” to us. This almost natural adoption of science as “truth maker” falls into the construct of an idea known as consensus reality, otherwise known as “common sense”.
However, significant scientific “facts” have been proven, and later disproven as human knowledge expands, grows and shifts. Phrenology, for example, was a common practise of measuring intelligence in the 19th century by gauging the size and shape of one’s skull. Until fairly recently, biologists assumed there were only five kingdoms of life (animals, plants, and bacteria, fungi and protists.) We now know there are more, up to eight, and have expanded our classification of life, and thereby our understanding of life. We “knew” Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals never interbred, and never even coexisted. However, modern genetics has proven that all humans have Neanderthal DNA that ranges somewhere between 2 and 4% of our current genome. I am not suggesting that science is some enemy that needs to be slayed. I love science. However, I do believe that the dogmatism of science limits thinking and human development.
That being said, the UFO phenomenon has not been relegated to the sidelines because of scientists themselves. In actuality, scientists do not usually oppose UFO discourse, and undoubtedly like most people, they do not even think about it. It is simply a non-issue they really don’t care about. However, scientists who are interested in Ufological phenomena are definitely looked at with curiosity, and many have definitely been blackballed for their interest in the subject.
How then does modern Capitalism tie into this use of science and consensus reality to relegate the UFO to the taboo fringe?
We must first establish that the sciences themselves are not “done” for the sake of science itself. The physical structures of Capital, typically via corporate and military spending, is truly responsible for active scientific work. In other words, science does not occur in a vacuum. Someone has to pay for research and development, someone has to pay scientists for their work, someone has to pay for the labs, the equipment, and the grants to make the wheels of science turn.
As of 2007, large multinational corporations made up over 65% of all of scientific research and development in the United States alone. Current numbers are difficult to find, but one can probably assume that this percentage has increased.
Between 2005 and 2011, over five thousand scientists were surveyed at nine American federal agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Agriculture. The results of the survey proved that hundreds of scientists experienced direct interference in their work that “stemmed from corporate influence.”
Science is controlled by those in already established positions of power, primarily major corporations whose only fiduciary responsibility is to their shareholders and to the promotion of deregulated free market Capitalism. It begs the question as to what (or whose) ideologies are being preserved, maintained, and developed. We need to understand that the sciences are a collection of socially accepted ideological constructs, methods and mechanisms, financially controlled by large economic and political forces. Scientists do not work in a vacuum, able to explore any project they wish, such as UFOs; instead they are bound to work for various established organizations who have a multitude of agendas. First of these agendas is the promotion of modern Capital, or at the very least, maintaining the economic and ideological status quo; the sciences, without a doubt, have become the tool of multinational corporations.
We typically do not question the scientific establishment, and there is good reason for it. Science is, for the most part, a good thing. It saves lives, creates vaccines, and advances humanity towards a better and easier future. We can not call for some revolution against science because it is ideological, nor that it promotes a primarily Capitalist agenda. All human endeavours are ideological, and all ideologies change over time. More importantly, Capitalism itself is undoubtedly here to stay with no perceivable reality outside of the ideology it establishes. There is simply no place “outside” of our social reality from which to revolt.
UFO discourse is then essentially trapped in this state; democratic and free but reduced to a subculture. A danger to mainstream ideologies, it is forced to be taken with a grain of salt by the mechanisms of the mainstream, such as the general sciences.
Is it then possible for Ufology, and the broader UFO discourse, to free itself from these ideological shackles and expand into accepted mainstream culture? Can UFO discourse thrive in the Capitalist ideological reality currently predisposed to ensure its relegation to the cultural edge? Unfortunately, no. What can only occur then is a grassroots movement which always operates against the current ideological reality. It will take scientists, researchers, investigators, philosophers and critics who exist in the fringe, open to a continuous shaking and fragmenting of socio-cultural order. The mainstream scientific establishment will never adopt Ufology, rather, Ufology must adopt the scientists. It must do the same with theorists, philosophers and other academics who are able to thrive within the fringe, instead of shy away from it. Many of my colleagues in Ufological circles would argue that it is essential for UFO discourse to move away from the theological, and towards the scientific method. I, personally, would agree with them; however, the razor cuts both ways, and the ideological mechanisms of the sciences are as dogmatic as the religious tenets of the UFO believers. The UFO discourse will continue to function in an authentic state, completely democratized, with all of the issues that come with such a relativism.
I would really enjoy some comments on this final part in the Feeling Alienated series. Thank you for your commitment to reading these pieces.