“In physics, as in much of all science, there are no permanent truths; there is a set of approximations, getting closer and closer, and people must always be ready to revise what has been in the past thought to be the absolute gospel truth.”
– Carl Sagan –
Merriam-Websterâ€™s Online Dictionary gives the following definition(s) for the verb, â€œbelieveâ€?:
1 : a: to have a firm religious faith b : to accept as true, genuine, or real -ideals we believe in- -believes in ghosts-
2 : to have a firm conviction as to the goodness, efficacy, or ability of something -believe in exercise-
3 : to hold an opinion : THINK -I believe so-
1 a : to consider to be true or honest -believe the reports- -you wouldn’t believe how long it took- b : to accept the word or evidence of -I believe you- -couldn’t believe my ears-
2 : to hold as an opinion : SUPPOSE -I believe it will rain soon- – beÂ·lievÂ·er noun
– not believe : to be astounded at -I couldn’t believe my luck-
â€œIntransitive,â€? by the way means: not transitive; especially: characterized by not having or containing a direct object.
When associating the verb, believe or the noun believer, “one who has a firm religious faith,â€? or â€œone who accepts something as true or genuine,â€? etc., with any given subject, it puts the â€œonusâ€? on the â€œindividualâ€?; that is it gives rise to â€œdoubt,â€? it leaves room for skepticism, contestabilityâ€”it isnâ€™t accepted as an established fact.
More often then not, when one comes across a â€œnews reportâ€? concerning a â€œUFO,â€? by a â€œmain stream media sourceâ€? (one of the networks, CNN etc.) it usually â€œmeldsâ€? the verb, and or noun, â€œbelieve, believer(s)â€? into the story. Those of us who pay attention see this as a common theme, and for the layperson who can recall anything on UFOs, Iâ€™m sure you remember the connotation implied.
Although the acronym UFO for â€œU.nidentified F.lying S.aucersâ€? can be found in â€œdeclassified Air Force documents,â€? (prior to 1952) it is â€œCapt. Edward J. Ruppelt,â€? Chief of the Air Force’s Project Blue Book who takes credit for making it the popular â€œofficialâ€? term, for then, â€œFlying Saucers.â€?
The underlying importance of this action is that the â€œdescriptionâ€? of what was flying in US airspace (as well as all over the world) at the time went from being a â€œdefinitive object,â€? i.e., a â€œflying craftâ€? in the shape of a â€œflying saucer,â€? to that of an â€œunknown.â€?
There is most certainly a psycho-sociological impact when an â€œadministrative bodyâ€? (particularly back in the 50â€™s) in essence goes from describing what these objects are, to stating, â€œtheyâ€™re unidentified.â€?
Of course we later would see the Air Forceâ€™s transparent objective in giving a â€œconventional explanationâ€? to these â€œnowâ€? unknown objects. To that end, it is much easier to argue that an â€œunknownâ€? was actually â€œball lightning e.g.,â€? then to change a â€œflying saucerâ€? into the same.
Many Ufologists have theorized that this â€œseemingly smallâ€? word change was indeed a calculated â€œpsychological move,â€? in part to de-emphasize the â€œunusual activity over American skiesâ€”whether this is true or not, there certainly was an impact nonetheless.
Although the â€œterm,â€? UFO was introduced to the American lexicon in the early 50â€™s, itâ€™s sibling â€œFlying Saucerâ€? wasnâ€™t quick to leaveâ€”in part because of so many reports describing a â€œdiscâ€? or â€œsaucerâ€? shaped craft in regards to â€œUFOs.â€?
I think it important to note that the media in the early days of Ufology took the subjects of UFOs very seriously, which was of course was a direct reflection of our society; in fact the largest press conference post WWII was in July 1952, and the topic was, you guessed it UFOS!
In a previous article (“UFO Ignorance”) which describes the a fore mentioned event (UFOs flying over Washington for weeks) a reader wrote in to say:
I was fascinated by your account of the 1952 UFO flap around DC. I’m 68 now, but at age 13, I was there, living with my family — temporarily — in the sedate, colonial Alexandria home of my mother’s sister and her husband. (My father was an Army officer. En route to BogotÃ¡, Colombia, Dad was going through Pentagon briefing.) What I recall as most striking about this flap was the ubiquitous excitement on local television, newspapers, and so forth. You didn’t mention this in your piece, but individual sightings seemed to be all but continuous. Cars were piled up along the shoulders of the Mt. Vernon Parkway. Crowds gazing out across the Potomac toward DC and National Airport came and went. [Emphasis added]. I remember my grown cousin — Jim (a broker in the family real estate business) — arriving at the house one day all but breathless with excitement over a sighting.
As a sociologist I’ve long been fascinated by how civil authorities are able to virtually erase the direct experience (in this case) of literally hundreds of witnesses. Years would pass before my own inquiries would lead me to understand that “UFOs” represent a vital dimension of the human picture — hidden though it is behind smoke, mirrors, disinformation and sheer ignorance.
Itâ€™s safe to say that the â€œmediaâ€? back then didnâ€™t associate the phenomenon with terms, such as â€œbelieve, believers enthusiastsâ€? etc., they reported the events as they happened, in a â€œclear and concise manner.â€? And as evidenced by the declaration from the reader aboveâ€”it was quite a hair-raising experience!
For those of us that have been around long enough to watch the transition of the media â€œreportingâ€? the news to the â€œeditorializingâ€? of it, and some would say as of late the â€œpropagationâ€? of itâ€”many of us realize the power the medium wields which publishes this information. I often have said that â€œthe greatest power on the earth is the media, and that the most powerful people, are those that hold the reins.â€?
Most military historians can cite the use of, and agree upon the importance of â€œpropagandaâ€? and its sister â€œcensorship.â€? The layperson may find it surprising that the â€œpowers-that-beâ€? used those very tools from the very introduction (in a public way) to the â€œUFO phenomenon.â€?
When UFOs were reported off the coast in 1941 which set off â€œtwo alarmsâ€? and initiated a â€œblackout,â€? in the aftermath the â€œWar Departmentâ€? over turned â€œeye witness accountsâ€? of their â€œGenerals in placeâ€? and said the actions were â€œonly tests.â€? Similarly, in February of 1942 it happened again, the powers-that-be discounted the declarations of thousands of witnesses, and gave an â€œexplanationâ€? of jittery war nerves.
As the war progressed and pilots were reporting what they nicknamed,â€? Foo Fighters,â€? (UFOs trailing our aircraft) a silence order was quickly put into effect. After the war in 1946, the Swedish officials exorcised â€œcensorshipâ€? with the media in regards to what would be called Ghost Rockets.
Following the death (in 1947) of two â€œofficial UFO investigatorsâ€? (Brown & Davidson) of the Armyâ€™s CIC (Counter Intelligence Corps) in a fiery airplane crash, after meeting â€œflying saucer witnessâ€? Kenneth Arnold the military â€œput a muzzle on the mediaâ€? for weeks.
In 1953, a group was put together by the CIA called â€œThe Robertson Panel,â€? led by its namesake H. P. Robertson, a noted physicist from the California Institute of Technology. The panel consisted of a distinguished group of non-military scientists to study the UFO issue. It included Samuel A. Goudsmit, a nuclear physicist from the Brookhaven National Laboratories; Luis Alvarez, a high-energy physicist; Thornton Page, the deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Operations Research Office and an expert on radar and electronics; and Lloyd Berkner, a director of the Brookhaven National Laboratories and a specialist in geophysics.
Following a very â€œbrief investigationâ€? the panel concluded that the manipulation of information to the public was paramount. The panel recommended to the â€œNational Security Councilâ€? that UFO reports be debunked and a policy of public education instituted to reassure the masses of the lack of evidence behind UFOs. It suggested using the media, advertising, business clubs, schools, and even the Disney corporation to get the message across.
The Air Force terminated its (overt) investigation (Project Blue Book) of UFOs in 1969 with the completion of the â€œCondon Report.â€? The common consensus amongst Ufologists is that â€œBlue Bookâ€? was at the least a â€œweak attemptâ€? at investigating the phenomenon, and at most, an â€œinternal cogâ€? of the â€œdebunking process.â€?
Which brings us back to recent times; back to the media using terms like believe, believers, enthusiasts etc., in regards to reporting the UFO phenomenon. (Noted Ufologist Richard Hall in How to debunk UFOs and Discredit UFO Proponents, writes, â€œAlways refer to them as UFO believers or ETH believers, implying that their position is faith-based.â€?) Some believe that there exists a conspiracy today executed by those whom hold the reins to what Americans read, see or hear regarding the news, specifically in relation to UFO reports.
Whether the latter is true or not, is open for debate; however, in my view, the past actions of the powers-that-be certainly have had a â€œpsycho-sociological effectâ€? on society, as well as the media and this phenomenon has crossed generations.
Imagine if you will a news report about the â€œEmpire State Building,â€? with a reporter stating, â€œEmpire State Building believersâ€? gathered today . . . or â€œWashington Monument believersâ€? stated today . . .. Doesnâ€™t make sense does it. Associating the verb â€œbelieversâ€? with a â€œfactualâ€? thing is nonsensicalâ€”period! The irony of course is that the term â€œUFOâ€? was borne by the very agency that was most fervent in its attempts to discredit it.
Â© 2006 Frank Warren Frank Warren