In UFO theory this week, it’s appropriate to look back to one of the most famous UFO stories in the documented history of the UFO phenomenon. On the eve of the 70th anniversary of the Roswell “UFO crash,” many people are closing the book on Roswell, labeling it as an unknown phenomenon, including a leading UFO researcher. On the other hand, many UFO researchers are still more than happy to offer up a theory on what happened there in 1947.
What has not been discussed in the overwhelming majority of documents asserting a Roswell theory is exactly why the military would have claimed to recover a “flying disc” UFO from the alleged crash site in the first place. Before delving too deeply into the why, it might help to understand what was happening. A solid and brief history of the incident is included in the Skeptical Inquirer from 1997.
Setting aside the conclusions drawn in that piece, a few facts upon which everyone can agree are clear. First, two counter-intelligence agents accompanied Major Jesse Marcel to the property where Brazel worked. Next, everyone has accepted that Brazel reported a “flying saucer,” and the military initially reported it had found a “flying disc.” It is also fair to say that the entire UFO theory surrounding Roswell was conjured in many aspects by a proliferation of “witnesses” whose stories had such blatant inconsistencies that they could not withstand even mild scrutiny.
It is also safe to assert that Roswell went on to become a unique element of pop culture that spawned an industry around it. The Roswell “UFO crash” also spawned an entire family tree of UFO theory. The Majestic 12 documents were alleged to be the government’s top secret documents to support a cover-up of a UFO being recovered at Roswell. But most UFO theory that developed about Roswell developed long after the incident.
At the time of the incident, the UFO hysteria of the early years was only beginning. However, belief in extraterrestrial life and alien visitors did not begin at Roswell, and it is possible that the Army Air Force, in the early stages of jet aircraft development and other weapons testing, wanted to plant a ready-made observation and explanation into the public’s consciousness. In that event, making a claim that a flying disc had been found would have made for the perfect circus on the ground to explain odd UFO sightings that could lead to a theory of a cover-up, but distract from what was actually happening in the sky.
In order to understand exactly what was happening in that era, it is useful to look at the internet of things, and understand why the concept of “viral” communication of memes or information applies to it as strongly within the confines of what is culturally accepted. Extraterrestrial life, giant “airships,” canals on Mars, invasions from Mars, and many other stories had already “gone viral” in the culture prior to the Roswell incident. To say that Orson Welles seeded the soil for the Roswell incident with a radio broadcast of War of the Worlds less than a decade before in 1938 is neither hyperbole nor understatement.
Welles did exactly that, as he opened the door for UFO theory to expand its imagination to little green men. To clarify, one cannot isolate the radio broadcast alone, as it was heard by relatively few listeners. It was the media indignation on a national level that caused that single radio broadcast to become an example of a vehicle to allow for UFO theory in pop culture. The other viral event in the internet of things occurred only a few days before the Roswell “UFO crash.”
Kenneth Arnold, a private pilot, reported that he had sighted a formation of UFO craft. His description included flying saucers. Arnold was both scoffed and heralded for his report. But Arnold’s event was spectacularly viral, and many questioned whether humans could create UFO craft that could travel at the speeds Arnold reported those craft flying. To call Arnold’s sighting a viral event is actually an understatement for a nation still recovering from the trauma of war.
Traumatized people are vulnerable to suggestion. There is a bulk of evidence that supports a theory that both of these sightings in short order hatched the UFO phenomenon that quickly ensued. Hardly a drive-in theater in the 1950s would be without science fiction featuring aliens and flying saucers often. The UFO phenomenon grew out of an imagination already stretching to the solar system in search of alien life.
All of which returns the story to Roswell, and a UFO theory that focuses on a cover-up of a cover-up. Nobody knows what crashed at Roswell. At that time, the military was testing many different types of aircraft and weapons. The skies of rural areas may have been filled with so many UFO sightings that some sort of theory for them had to be managed to keep questions at a minimum.
To move the discussion forward, one could give two counter-intelligence agents a great deal of credit for the pop culture UFO phenomenon of the last century. As a theory, consider that the military just lost a test craft, or a weapon veered off course and landed on a civilian’s ranch. The military needs a cover for this, as aside from bad press, it could attract the attention of Soviet spies.
A local rancher is told that a flying disc, which at that time could easily have been interpreted as extraterrestrial by a significant margin of popular culture, did crash at his ranch. He’s sworn to secrecy and given death threats, which alone should invalidate his testimony, but it doesn’t because a small but growing fringe of culture is ready to discuss and possibly accept alien life as a reality, and a larger margin is prepared to entertain the theory. In the end, the military has a ready-made accusation against it, and an even readier response to debunk the accusation.
Instead of everyone on the ground looking for the latest technology, some witnesses are looking for a UFO from an alien civilization. Like any other outer fringe group, core Roswell UFO believers aren’t quick to dismiss the theory of a UFO crash, because the confirmation bias that informs their theory is palpable. It isn’t a stretch to say that the military would value that kind of a belief in a UFO theory as very valuable. It’s much easier to debunk little green men than it is to explain how a nation is flying around in propeller-driven airplanes while the military is teasing mach speed out of jet aircraft. It’s really easy.
[Featured Image by Keystone Via Getty Images]