The Welles fiasco remains just an interesting footnote in history if it doesn’t get caught up in exopolitical matters, namely the truth embargo.
December 24, 2004
Exopolitics: Those Pesky Myths, Misperceptions and Misunderstandings
by Stephen Bassett
Hello, 2005, the 58th year of the extraterrestrial-related phenomena truth embargo. I was born in December of 1946. By then the cover-up, as some prefer to call it, was already underway. While July of 1947 serves nicely as a formal beginning of this policy, there had been sightings during and just after the war, Thus, the truth embargo completely encapsulates my life. What a long strange trip…………
Fortunately the frustration and anticipation which accompanies this issue like few others, somewhat in the fashion of Lt. Dunbar’s approach to life in Catch 22, makes the passage of time seem sooooo much slower. How long can this go on? Should I take out a 401(k)? The prize, disclosure, hangs out there in the hazy future, both inevitable and unreachable at the same time.
It would help to move things along if all of the myths, misperceptions and misunderstandings could be cleared up. Let’s start off the New Year by taking a look at three examples.
The Great Halloween Fiasco of ‘38
On the eve of Halloween, October 30, 1938, Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater on the Air performed a radio play version of H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. It was postured as a “real” news broadcast and immediately entered the realm of myth and legend. While there were disclaimers provided, many of the listening public were dial-hopping back and forth from another popular show, the Chase and Sanborn Hour, thought the broadcast was real and proceeded to panic in various and sometimes creative ways.
The Welles fiasco remains just an interesting footnote in history if it doesn’t get caught up in exopolitical matters, namely the truth embargo. In time the War of the Worlds panic becomes a touchstone for those who wish to make the case the human race “can’t handle the truth.” If you are reading UFO Magazine, you know the issues and have heard this non sequitur repeated many times. It’s baloney.
Here is the ironic but proper inference that should have been taken from the “panic of 1938.” It is not that humans, when confronted with the idea of an extraterrestrial presence, hostile or otherwise, go to pieces. The panic which ensued was unpleasant but hardly rose to the level of the Coconut Grove fire. That was panic. Given how little exposure Americans had had to the extraterrestrial hypothesis by 1938, the reaction was not exceptional.
But let’s assume for the sake of argument people got upset, and that was bad. Here is the inference which should have been drawn: when an institution of public trust (a major radio network) completely fabricates a false and scary scenario, people get upset. The message of 1938 is not people can’t handle the truth, but rather people can be misled into inappropriate response by elaborate lies. October 30, 1938 does not support a cover-up, it supports disclosure.
The Brookings Report
Ah, the Proposed Studies of the Implications of Peaceful Space Activities for Human Affairs, the Brookings Report, what would a truth embargo have done without this fine tome commissioned by NASA’s Committee on Long Range Studies from the Brookings Institution in 1960 Quite a few people in and out of government have used a few sections of this report to justify taking a passive approach to the disclosure process. Such an interpretation is a profound misconception. Take a moment and read the exact material in the private report which did not become generally known until the early 1990’s.
From the Summary: Introduction: Goals and Methods
5. Certain potential products or consequences of space activities imply such a high degree of change in world conditions that it would be unprofitable within the purview of this report to propose research on them. Examples include a controlled thermonuclear fusion rocket power source and face-to-face meetings with extraterrestrials.
4. Though intelligent or semi-intelligent life conceivably exists elsewhere in our solar system, if intelligent extraterrestrial life is discovered in the next twenty years, it will very probably be by radio telescope from other solar systems. Evidences of its existence might also be found in artifacts left on the moon or other planets. The consequences for attitudes and values are unpredictable, but would vary profoundly in different cultures and between groups within complex societies; a crucial factor would be the nature of the communication between us and the other beings. Whether or not earth would be inspired to an all-out space effort by such a discovery is moot: societies sure of their own place in the universe have disintegrated when confronted by a superior society, and others have survived even though changed. Clearly, the better we can come to understand the factors involved in responding to such crises the better prepared we may be.
5. While the discovery of intelligent life in other parts of the universe is not likely in the immediate future, it could nevertheless happen at any time. Whenever it does occur its consequences for earth attitudes and values may be profound. Hence a long-term research effort, which would aid in preparing for this possibility, could usefully begin with:
A continuing determination of emotional and intellectual understanding and attitudes regarding the possibility and consequences of discovering intelligent extraterrestrial life.
From Section 9: Attitudes and Values: Possible Implications for the General Public
Recent publicity given to efforts to detect extraterrestrial messages via radio telescope has popularized -- and legitimized -- speculations about the impact of such a discovery on human, values. It is conceivable that there is semi-intelligent life in some part of our solar system or highly intelligent life which is not technologically oriented, and many cosmologists and astronomers think it very likely that there is intelligent life in many other solar systems. While face-to-face meetings with it will not occur within the next twenty years (unless its technology is more advanced than ours, qualifying it to visit earth), artifacts left at some point in time by these 'life forms might possibly be discovered through our space activities on the Moon, Mars, or Venus. If there is any contact to be made during the next twenty years it would most likely be by radio -- which would indicate that these beings had at least equaled our own technological level.
An individual's reactions to such a radio contact would in part depend on his cultural, religious, and social background, as well as on the actions of those he considered authorities and leaders and their behavior, in turn would in part depend on their cultural, social, and religious environment. The discovery would certainly be front-page news everywhere; the degree of political or social repercussion would probably depend on leadership's interpretation of (1) its own role, (2) threats to that role, and (3) national and personal opportunities to take advantage of the disruption or reinforcement of the attitudes and values of others. Since leadership itself might have great need to gauge the direction and intensity of public attitudes, to strengthen its own morale and for decision making purposes, it would be most advantageous to have more to go on than personal opinions about the opinions of the public and other leadership groups.
The knowledge that life existed in other parts of the universe might lead to a greater unity of men on earth, based on the oneness of man or on the age-old assumption that any stranger is threatening Much would depend on what, if anything, was communicated between man and the other beings: since after the discovery there will be years of silence (because even the closest stars are several light years away, an exchange of radio communication would take twice-the number of light years separating our sun from theirs), the fact that such beings existed might become simply one of the facts of life but probably not one calling for action. Whether earthmen would be inspired to all-out space efforts by such a discovery is a moot question. Anthropological files contain many examples of societies, sure of their place in the universe, which have disintegrated when they have had to associate with previously unfamiliar societies espousing different ideas and different life ways; others that survived such an experience usually did so by paying the price of changes in values and attitudes and behavior.
Since intelligent life might be discovered at any time via the radio telescope research presently under way, and since the consequences of such a discovery are presently unpredictable because of our limited knowledge of behavior under even an approximation of such dramatic circumstances, two research areas can be recommended:
• Continuing studies to determine emotional and intellectual understanding and attitudes -- and successive alterations of them if any -- regarding the possibility and consequences of discovering intelligent extraterrestrial life.
• Historical and empirical studies of the behavior of peoples and their leaders when confronted with dramatic and unfamiliar events or social pressures. Such studies might help to provide programs for meeting and adjusting to the implications of such a discovery. Questions one might wish to answer by such studies would include: How might such information, under what circumstances, be presented to or withheld from the public for what ends? What might be the role of the discovering scientists and other decision makers regarding release of the fact of discovery?
These are measured statements completely in accord with an academic analysis. They clearly could be used to support and intellectual argument in the privacy of government meeting rooms as to why government personnel should maintain strict secrecy controls regarding all things extraterrestrial and honor all appropriate non-disclosure/secrecy agreements until such time as the government felt comfortable with a public disclosure. Perhaps they even tossed in 1938 for emphasis.
But to use these dry, academic projections to assert the Brookings Institution sagely made the case human beings (particularly those in the United States and First World nations) 10, 20, 40 years ahead would fall apart, society would collapse, and the sum of all benefits from global awareness of the truth would be drowned out by some anthropological comparisons, is, well, thin.
Read it again. Does it strike fear in your heart? On a scale of 1 to 10, how does it measure up to the constant drumbeat of government predictions of possible dirty bomb, nuclear, biological and chemical attacks by persons unknown? Said predictions made in the open, not carefully couched in private reports. If the Brookings Report had been made public in the early 1960’s it would have been debated by intellectuals around the world until its more cautionary assertions were as inert as neon gas.
Attack of the 50’ Insane Christian Fundamentalists
Here is a misperception (misinformation?) I am quite tired of hearing. While most people will be able to handle a disclosure event, those crazy disciples of Jerry Falwell will become so upset they will literally bring down society all by themselves. They will commit terrible unspecified acts so heinous the disclosure event will be catastrophic. Pleeeeeeease.
The vast majority of evangelical, fundamentalist Christians are as reasonable in their actions, as demure in their behavior as any run-of-the-mill secularist. The few that are extreme are just that – a few. Nothing new here, and global policy can’t be held hostage to the discomfort of a few.
If there is a government policy basis for concern regarding evangelical Christians it would more appropriately be their end times, Rapture beliefs when in close proximity to the Executive. This issue has been raised by numerous journalists, including Bill Moyers. Why worry about the environment or a “prophecy fulfilling?” war in the Middle East when the Second Coming and the end is near?
Whatever the outcome of that debate, the obvious point to make is such an end times belief structure would only serve to insulate such a worldview from a disclosure event, not incite mayhem. There are other beings in the world. So what? Just one more irrelevant piece of information at the end of days.
It is long past time to stop using fundamentalist Christians as scapegoats to justify continuing the truth embargo
Relevant Web links:
[Stephen Bassett is a political activist, founder of the Paradigm Research Group, Executive Director of the Extraterrestrial Phenomena Political Action Committee (X-PPAC), author of the Paradigm Clock website, and a political columnist and commentator. You can reach him at: PRG@paradigmresearchgroup.org]
Copyright © 2004 Stephen Bassett
|The vast majority of evangelical, fundament-alist Christians are as reasonable in their actions, as demure in their behavior as any run-of-the-mill secularist.|