Thursday, 18 February 2010

It Came from Outer Space

On slow news days it's inevitable stories normally reserved for the silly season start percolating through the filters and make the headlines. This is one of them:

Thousands of UFOs have been spotted in the last 20 years around the UK, according to newly released documents. More than 6,000 pages of reports describe people's experiences with unidentified flying objects between 1994 and 2000. They include reported sightings over Chelsea Football Club and former home secretary Michael Howard's Kent home.
Details have been released under a three-year project between the Ministry of Defence and The National Archives. The fifth instalment to be released consists of 24 files of sightings, letters and Parliamentary questions, which are available to view online. The reports detail how objects of various shapes and sizes have been witnessed flying over a range of locations. Some drawings by witnesses have also been released.
What the report doesn't say is the craft spotted near Michael Howard's house was John Redwood's favoured method of transport.

Confession time. I saw a UFO once. It was late afternoon in 1995. As I came out of college there was a bright flash in the sky that rapidly faded to a single point before disappearing. Not very exciting, I know. I put it down to a piece of debris burning on re-entry or an exploding meteorite.

But had that happened a few years previously, I would have taken it as proof positive of alien intelligences. For most of my early teen years (and before) I was fascinated by the supernatural generally and UFOs in particular. Nearly every story I wrote in English classes featured extra terrestrial visitations, and I regularly poured over the nine volumes of
The Unexplained my Nana gave me (I knew all about Roswell and government cover ups way before The X-Files were a twinkle in Chris Carter's eye). But as time wore on I grew into the miserable Marxist I am today and turned my back on the fantastical whimsies of my childhood. It seems obvious to me now an absence of hard physical evidence means an absence of alien visits rather than evidence for ultra-efficient conspiracies on the part of the US or a global shadow government.

That said, I still have a residual interest. You will never catch me leafing through a copy of
Nexus magazine, but if a story turns up in mainstream media outlets I'll take a look.

What do you think about this UFO malarkey? Can they explained scientifically with reference to anything but little green men? Are stories of abduction examples of exotic psychological and sociological phenomena? Have you seen a UFO? Do aliens exist, but they're holding off on first contact until we've overcome the barbarism of class society (
Posadas style)? What do you think? (Readers with alien tales to tell are encouraged to stay anonymous - you really don't want a visit from the men in black).


Tristero said...

I have seen a 'ufo'.

First of all, I am not going to claim it is proof of aliens, but what I saw was very strange.

I was on the train to Liverpool to meet my friend. I was sat at a table, and a family got on, and sat next to me. The kid next to me pointed out the window and asked what that silver thing was. I looked, and saw what looked like a silver disc flying alongside the train (a fair distance away). The thing that made this really strange was its motion.

Think of a penny spinning on a table, and the motion it makes just before it stops and falls flat. That was the motion of this 'disc'. Its motion looked really unstable, I cannot imagine anything flying through the sky like that. It was very very strange.

That lasted for about twenty seconds. The view was obstructed by some trees, and then it was gone.

I didn't think much of it at the time, apart from 'wow, that was weird'. I found out later that there had been a lot of sightings of 'UFOs' over those few days over Merseyside.

Again, I just want to say, I am never going to claim that seeing something strange like that is proof of aliens, but it was very odd.

raincoatoptimism said...

I was just as interested as a wee nipper, obviously not happy with the real world I had to make my own one up.As I became older I learned to ask snazzier questions like "isn't it hubristic of me to believe only in the anthropocentricity of the universe?" - And then it struck me: being a pompous wanker is often worse than believing in aliens. It wasn't until I came across David Icke that I realised both wankerishness and illuminati lizard belief could be juggled, and the balance of life restored.

Phil said...

I'm not sure if I've ever believed in alien visitors; I've certainly never believed that alien contact stories were literally true, let alone abductions. But it's an area that's always interested me. That and conspiracy theory (which used to be two separate areas, pretty much). In my more politically radical days I used to toy with the idea that it was all connected - parapolitics, paranormal experience and May-68 instant-revolution-now anarchism; it was all a matter of seeing the world just slightly differently ("Just Step Sideways", in the immortal words of Mark E. Smith).

But I've never seen a UFO.

skidmarx said...

You will never catch me leafing through a copy of Nexus magazine,
Then how do you know what it contains? I sense a cover-up and a conspiracy?
Over the years there is a tendency to move from speculating whether there is intelligent life on other planets to wondering if there is any on this one.

Everyones Favourite Comrade said...

I find this whole thing quite bizarre, I have seen many UFOs because they areexactly that UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECTS so i would imagine everyone has seen a UFO at some point.As to whether they are aliens is another story entirely.

I think as a general the stories of alien abductions a faked, it does seem weird that a species with the capability of traveling to another planet and doing so undetected would continously land in fields of crops to leave a marker.

That being said I think it would be foolish to assume that in the entire universe we are the only species capable of space travel

Do you know if Posada's writings on UFOs are on the internet in English, I remember searching a few years ago but i was unable to find it

Phil said...

It looks like Posadas' texts are being translated in preparation for internet publication. There's a list here.

EddM said...

Definitey proof of the existence of the Intergalactic Soviet of Workers', Soliders, and Space Travellers' Delegates.

How could they not be?

Phil said...

Old Posadas is good for a left knockabout now and then, but his speculation about UFOs aren't too far fetched. Well, at least some of the assumptions informing his view weren't.

I have a real bee in my bonnet over the very real lack of sociological realism in science fiction. Yes, we know that FTL travel is impossible as far as physics is currently concerned, but to have the galaxy teeming with tons of alien species ... most of whom are recognisably capitalist and, in some cases have feudal and slave societies is a real poverty of the imagination, and even more absurd.

SamG said...

Interesting first article post your split from the SP. And what are we to make of this anti scientific, opium for the masses piece?

It is obvious to anyone not subject to wishful thinking that UFO's are not aliens from another planet, only in TV land where creating mysticism is part of their Magna Carta is this bullshit given any credence.

It didn’t take you long to fully integrate yourself into the establishment.

Coming next week: Is this the face of Jesus in this buttered scone?

Jim Lowe said...

"but to have the galaxy teeming with tons of alien species ... most of whom are recognisably capitalist and, in some cases have feudal and slave societies is a real poverty of the imagination"

Agree completely, and the fact that the US can no longer afford to return to the moon suggests that alien civilisations with the capacity to travel across interstellar space must have a higher form of society than ours (socialist, communist or beyond that), and so we have little to fear from them.

It does seem incredibly unlikely that there isn't intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe, given the likelihood of life emerging when the conditions are right (didn't take that long on Earth once it had cooled sufficiently, even if we don't exactly know how it emerged yet).

That said, the whole UFO sightings and abductions business is transparent hooey, and seems to be particularly prevalent in insecure societies with very little social safety net - the southern states of the US and Russia after the end of the Soviet Union are notorious examples of this.

Phil said...

The SWP is not noted for having a sense of humour, so it's difficult to tell if SamG is taking the piss or being serious.

Ms Chief said...

OK here's a discussion in Star Trek has socialism triumphed? I think it has. There is no money, Starfleet appears to be a public enterprise and big business is rarely if ever mentioned!

resumes said...

Where i am on a clear nite you can see all the stars as we move round them, also every now and then a little spec moving faster than we are turning,and then another and another.These little specks come at a regular interval,is that a ufo!no its just the telecom satelite.Great stuff this sky watchin eh!.

Alan said...

Last seen at labour party HQ

Phil said...

Yes, The Federation in Star Trek is a socialist society. Apparently Gene Roddenberry was going to make more of it having outgrown class and money, but old Shatner was dead against it.

Chris said...

In Star Trek they have production without the need for workers. Didn't this blog do an article on that subject some time ago, something about a Bourgeois fantasy?

Star Trek seems to follow a liberal bourgeois agenda to me, Starship Enterprise, always philosophising about individualism, the main enemy (the Borg) being collective.

Phil said...

I think so. Yes, Star Trek is simultaneously a bourgeois fantasy. Human society after a nuclear war in their timeline's 21st century somehow spontaneously developed into a post-class formation of some description. Maybe those kind Vulcans gave us replicator technologies or something.

TGR Worzel said...

Lets remember that an UFO is merely something undentified that is flying.

I saw something strange a couple of years ago. Balls of brilliant, pure white light in the sky, moving very rapidly and in a repetitive pattern, but not changing size or shape as might happen with a projection from the ground. I couldn't explain it, so it's a UFO.

I was surprised that a documentary about a UFO sighting by an Aurigny pilot over the Channel Islands reported something very similar near la Corbiere lighthouse.

And that well-known footage (fake I believe) of balls of light making crop circles looked very, very similar...

But at the end of the day, all I saw was unidentified. It wasn't little green men or John Redwood...

Was it...?

ModernityBlog said...


I am not sure what is worse, a belief in UFOs or joining the Labour Party :)

avvakum said...


It's funny you should mention The Fall's "Just Step S'Ways." I brought it up in conversation yesterday with a Russian rock/political journalist about why The Fall weren't on the radar of underground Soviet rock music connoisseurs during the late-Soviet/early perestroika period. His guess was that if anyone in the SU had come across The Fall back then, they would have thought that it was just some kind of "trash."

Mark E. Smith addresses this at one point in the song: "The Eastern Bloc rocks to Elton John / So just step sideways..." This is undoubtedly a reference to John's tour of the SU in 1979.

I don't want to get into the politics of Mark E. Smith (here we might also recall the line - in "Containers Drivers" - "Communists are part-time workers") except to say that the import of the Elton John line seems to be that "we" (lower-middle class English lads?) can't "step" into a "bloc" symbolically dominated by a sentimental kitsch culture and "outdated" ideological allegiances.

What do this have to do with UFOs? As your younger, more radical self realized, it's ALL connected. That is, interest in UFOs and such things (including conspiracy theory) is more intense in societies where class warfare is more intense and more successfully driven underground or diverted by the powers that be.

It's telling to me in this respect that the three countries that I have more or less solid knowledge of - the US, Russia, and Finland - fit this pattern. The interest of Americans in the paranormal is well known, but even I was shocked, after coming home in 1999 after a long sojourn in Russia, to discover that, for example, the most popular late-night radio program was (and, I think, still is) "Coast to Coast AM," whose heady cocktail of everything "paranormal" under the sun and pointed "populism" is surely a symptom of social/political collapse and frustration. In any case, a sociologist like yourself could do worse than have a listen to this alternative "social forum." That is, if you have the strength.

The same goes for Russia, where an interest in psychics, UFOs, folk religion, etc. took off as the SU collapsed. It hasn't abated today; if anything, the media and parts of the political establishment seem intent on feeding this need for the "ultimate truth" whether in the form of state-sponsored Orthodox obscurantism or pseudo-science (which elements in the embattled Academy of Sciences have finally begun taking a mild stand against) or wildly popular TV shows like "Battle of the Psychics," which features a "jury" of "respectable" celebrities. Even the great "paranormal" pioneer of perestroika, Anatoly Kashpirovsky, has recently made a comeback.

In Finland, where the social-democratic/welfare state contract hasn't been entirely destroyed, all this stuff figures much less prominently in the popular/media culture discourse. I've never seen such silliness on Finnish TV or heard any Finn bring it up in conversation.

So Jim Lowe (whose comment I just noticed as I wrote this) is right. We have to stop stepping sideways. Head-on confrontation will clear the air of UFOs, so to speak.

berty said...

I don't think there is a single subject to ever grace our collective consciousness that so blatantly highlights people's bankrupt epistemologies and un critical acceptance of conventional dogma.
You say your interest in UFOs waned once you learnt a skeptical approach to the world. Well that's great, if you continue the rather odd (albeit ubiquitous) conflation of UFOs with the supernatural. Not only should we deliniate the different evidential requirements between genuinely supernatural phenomena, and the perfectly naturalistic theory that alien civilizations are visitng our planet, but it might also be worthwhile if instead of accepting the mainstream media's line that there's no hard evidence for UFOs, you actually tried looking for it yourself. Lord knows you didn't discover your political talking points from the BBC...

This blog, and this entry in particular, would be a good start -

That is hard evidence of UFOs. In fact there's tonnes of it.

Some of the testimony in the press conference covered in this documentary I would imagine to be at odds with what you consider to be the average UFO "experiencer" -

I only skimmed the other comments to this entry, but I noticed someone mention the idea of aliens visiting us as being scientifically impossible. Well it isn't -

Kaku, in a recent radio interview also mentioned something interesting about the recent Royal society's conference -
He mentioned that the MAJORITY position amongst these academics was that "if in the occasion" of ET contact, it would NOT be desirable to tell the public. For the usual reasons i.e. it would disrupt society/scare people. Of course I'm not suggesting these are the people behind sucha conspiracy theory, but it does offer a precedent that allows us to consider the possiblity that those in certain parts of the military/intelligence services, might just hold similar views.

It's such a shame to constantly see the berating of this subject from the left. While the reason for it is obvious (as a rhetorical device to disassociate yourselves from the conspiracy tag you are often ascribed by the mainstream media), it's the most disheartening, because if even those who would support the open disclosure of such important information ridicule it's very existence, there doesn't seem much hope that such disclosure will soon (or ever) take place.