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Culture War Roundup for the week of July 17, 2023

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Further developments on the ayy lmao front

You may recall a few weeks ago, former intelligence officer David Grusch came out with claims that the US has several alien spacecraft in its possession, and has been studying and reverse-engineering them for decades. While claims like this have floated around for decades, including from former government employees, Grusch was different because of his undeniable credentials, and because he is going through 'proper' whistleblower channels.

This was the latest act in a drama that goes back to 2017 (well, 1947, but let's not get ahead of ourselves), when Leslie Kean and Ralph Blumenthal published a piece in the New York Times disclosing the existence of a pentagon program dedicated to studying UFOs, known as AATIP (or AAWSAP, depending on when and where) led by a man called Lue Elizondo. This sparked an apparent sea change in government, and UFOs and aliens, formerly dismissed out of hand, began to be taken more seriously.

Everyone from Obama to former CIA director John Brennan started dropping hints that hey maybe aliens might possibly could be here. Some apparently very sober Navy pilots came forward and shared their apparently inexplicable experiences on 60 minutes. Lue Elizondo did the talk-show circuit.

'UFOs' were rebranded 'UAPs' since over the past few decades, 'UFO' had become synonymous with 'flying saucer.' Congress held its first UFO hearings in over fifty years. A new office, AARO, was founded to investigate and classify UAP sightings..

Well, now the latest development. Chuck Schumer has sponsored a congressional amendment with bipartisan support mandating that, if it exists, any alien biological or technological material, or any evidence of non-human intelligence (and yes the bill uses those terms) held by any private or illegal government entity be turned over to congress.

I've been pretty skeptical about this whole thing. NY Post journalist Steven Greenstreet provides an alternative narrative, where this is the result of a small but fanatical, well-financed, and well-motivated group of UFO/paranormal fanatics that has been pushing all of this stuff for years in and outside of government, without any real proof to back any of it up. He has provided evidence that AATIP started out not as a 'UFO program' but as a pet project of senator Harry Reid, who in conjunction with Robert Bigelow, another big-time paranormal fan, wanted first and foremost to conduct a study of Skinwalker Ranch, which they believe(d) to be a hot-bed of supernatural activity, including werewolves and (as Greenstreet never tires of pointing out) "dinobeavers." While the media has focused on the apparently more grounded, sober claims of mysterious craft in the sky demonstrating apparent technological superiority to any known human craft, a lot of people don't realize just how closely aliens and UFOs are tied up with werewolves, bigfoot, demons, ghosts, remote viewing, and every other kind of woo.

That said, now that Chuck Schumer is sponsoring legislation that boils down to "show me the aliens!" it's getting harder for me to believe that this is all down to a small band of committed UFO nuts taking everybody (themselves included) for a ride. I'm still skeptical, and I still don't think this is going to end with a flying saucer being wheeled in front of congress. But it seems increasingly undeniable that something is going on here. The lazy counter is "it's a psyop" but one has to ask, "a psyop to what end?" To increase government funding for the military? I don't think the military needs to put on a dog and pony show like this to squeeze some extra dollars out of congress. To "distract us"? This stuff tends to not be front-page news, actually. I don't think a lot of people have even heard about this new amendment. To fake an alien invasion and use it as a springboard for a one-world government? I kinda doubt it. To scare Russia and China? That would be the most plausible version of the "psyop" hypothesis I think, but it still doesn't ring true for me.

Another possibility is this: it is known that the government has, for ulterior motives, psyopped people into believing in UFOs and ultimately driven them insane.. It's entirely possible that this is all 'sincere' insofar as, within the tangled web that is the US federal government, there are SAPs staffed at least in part by people who believe they're studying or have studied alien spacecraft or alien bodies, even though they aren't, because they've been lied to or misled by their colleagues and superiors.

IMO at this point, that's the most likely explanation.

Or maybe it really is aliens.

As to the culture war angle, interestingly, with the exception of Kristen Gillibrand, who is not the leftiest of dems, most of the representatives and senators who have been vocal and active in pushing for UAP transparency have been republicans like Marco Rubio, Tim Burchett, Mike Gallagher, and Anna Paulina Luna. If some government official does come out and say, "yes, okay, fine we have a flying saucer in the basement" it is interesting to think that aliens might become a new culture war battlefield, with aliens-are-real being right coded and aliens-are-fake being left coded. But seeing how in-flux political alignments were in the early months of COVID, who knows?

As Carl Sagan used to say, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. A single clear picture of an alien spacecraft, a single radio signal listing off prime numbers, a single microbe in a meteorite that shares no common origin with life on Earth, any of these would be evidence of extraterrestrial life, but none have been presented. All we get is a lot of hemming and hawing, winks and hints, and the tiniest crumbs of blurry images or eyewitness reports. Show me the data and we can have the conversation. Otherwise I don't see the point.

That saying is bad because it all hinges on who is deciding what is extraordinary. The king is he who defines the null hypothesis.

Shit, I'd take ANY evidence at this point. A single crumb of empiricism.

I think part of the issue is weird occurrences that have no satisfying explanations given, which people can then attribute to their own pet theory.

Take the Phoenix Lights for example. Super weird, seen by millions, and the only explanations given are "aliens!" and "super secret weird government shit." Given that to many people these are more or less the same thing, or at least connected, you end up with a lot of people that can then point to the Phoenix Lights as evidence of aliens.

Most serious alien believers are, in my experience, equally willing to accept "the government engages in numerous weird programs and experiments, often testing them on the unwitting public (or at least exposing members of the public to them) MK Ultra style," to explain these weird events as much as they will accept aliens, or demons, or synchronicities or kabbalah or whatever.

What they won't accept is "none of that happened, pay no attention to the strange occurrences, nothing happens that is not publicly available information."

No offense but literally just googling "Phoenix Lights" gives you a wikipedia entry that offers fairly mundane explanations relating to pilot training, not "super secret weird government shit". I haven't looked too deeply into this particular incident, but in my experience this is a pattern that has repeated over and over: Alien believers go around claiming that something is being suppressed or that the only other plausible explanation is secret government projects that sound as outlandish as aliens. If you point out the mundane explanations, they are nitpicked on minuscule details in a way that you simply can't do with "aliens did it" (or "god did it", for that matter) since the space of things that can be imagined is always almost infinitely large.

It's like seeing an image of jesus on a toast, doing a statistical analysis on how unlikely that is to happen by chance and then concluding that the only reasonable explanation is an act of god. Sure compared to happening by chance it may seem reasonable, but that's hardly the most sensible explanation.

It's like seeing an image of jesus on a toast

If you understand it as a partly religious phenomenon (the entire UFO thing) that didn't succeed very much, it starts to make sense. Aside from being a folktale that spreads in spite of the lack of any simple and direct empirical evidence, there are literally multiple UFO religions.

It's like seeing an image of jesus on a toast, doing a statistical analysis on how unlikely that is to happen by chance and then concluding that the only reasonable explanation is an act of god. Sure compared to happening by chance it may seem reasonable, but that's hardly the most sensible explanation.

What is the most sensible explanation for jesus appearing on a piece of toast? I thought it was just people pattern matching random chance.

Aliens, obviously.

The example I was thinking about is a news story I heard some years ago about people setting up a shrine - I think in Latin America - with a Jesus on a toast with details way beyond the capabilities of a mere toaster. To my eyes, somebody obviously helped along with a burning needle or something similar (or just directly used a burning iron with a Jesus stamp form). Either way, I could only shake my head at the so-called critics claiming "it's coincidence" and the believers rightfully pointing out that it is almost physically impossible to be so - therefore, god. The people running the shrine clearly seemed to make some money off it.

Now that you made me write it out though, I realize that I nowadays would probably think that the critics are probably also simply paid to look silly. I'll leave it to the judgement of the reader whether I've not been cynical enough back when I was younger, or whether I've become too cynical by now.

Oh yeah apart from aliens of course. No, the direction my mind went was that statistically unlikely - even impossible - things actually happen with some frequency, and using stats as the basis of your reasoning that God/aliens did it is a misapplication of statistics. But I was thinking of the more mundane version where it is just wishful thinking, not the engineered variety.

In this case, without evidence, the phoenix lights are a pilot training program. Why? It’s culturally plausible to you. Nobody claims that it is. There aren’t official government records. It’s just a thing that you think is likely, therefore it’s the null hypothesis and everyone else has to prove why it isn’t that.

via wikipedia:

Both sightings were supposedly due to aircraft participating in Operation Snowbird, a pilot training program of the Air National Guard based in Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona. The first group of lights were later identified as a formation of A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft flying over Phoenix while returning to Davis-Monthan. The second group of lights were identified as illumination flares dropped by another flight of A-10 aircraft that were on training exercises at the Barry Goldwater Range in southwest Arizona. Fife Symington, governor of Arizona at the time, years later recounted witnessing the incident, describing it as "otherworldly."[5][4]

Sounds like people are claiming it was specific, recorded training flights, for which there would be official government records.