Wednesday 30 June 2021

The Pentagon UFO File: A Quick and Dirty Sociology

Before entering the ivory tower, a constituent got in touch concerned about a flap of UFOs supposedly spotted over the skies of Stoke-on-Trent. As a conscientious public servant, yours truly penned a letter to the Ministry of Defence to ask if the top brass could shed any light on the matter. Six weeks later the reply came. They denied any knowledge, and proceeded to remind us that "it does not provide an aerial identification service for members of the public." To be honest, I was wondering what kind of official brush off we'd get and this more than delivered.

Moving to the present day, it's arguable that Donald Trump's inserting a clause into the Coronavirus Relief Bill ordering The Pentagon to report on UFO phenomenon by the end of June was the sole, pitiful positive of his brief tenure. On 25th the goods were ponied up. The report's eight pages say nothing about Roswell, cattle mutilations, grey aliens, moon bases, abductions, men in black, nor cover-ups. This would have disappointed some. After all, an absence of evidence is never evidence of absence. It's a sign of a conspiracy. But for those who reject these ridiculous assumptions, the report is nevertheless a fascinating piece of work as a research programme and a face-saving measure by the US military.

There is the subject matter. To avoid dubious associations and cultural residues of The X-Files, Unidentified Aerial Phenomena is the preferred term. This is more accurate than jolly old UFO which, with 'flying', implies a powered object moving under its own speed. Box ticked for the spinners and taxonomists. The report is also clear it is dealing with real sightings and real objects. It notes, "most of the UAP reported probably do represent physical objects given that a majority of UAP were registered across multiple sensors, to include radar, infrared, electro-optical, weapon seekers, and visual observation." The truth is definitely out there, waiting to be explained.

But what is waiting to explained? Aliens? No. The document puts forward a five-fold classification scheme by which sightings/encounters can be understood. These break into airborne clutter (drones, birds, balloons, and supermarket carrier bags), natural atmospheric phenomena (ice crystals and "thermal fluctuations" that might interfere with radar systems), US government and industry developmental programmes (i.e. experimental craft), 'foreign adversary systems' (technologies employed by foreign powers or non-state actors), and 'Other'. The last is the one for the ET enthusiasts, but the report moves to foreclose the possibility by referring to it is a holding pen for objects where data is lacking. It assumes cases can be allotted to the other categories upon further investigation.

What is interesting is watching an arm of the US state come to grips with the downright anomalous, and this leaves the release riddled with tensions and suggestive silences. For example, in a side note on the challenges for data collection it discusses the taboo pilots and other aviators face in discussing their experiences of UAPs with colleagues. This is undoubtedly reinforced by a rigid command and control structure and a super serious combat culture. Not unrelated to this then is the failure to include what should be an obvious classification of object: misidentified aircraft. This is not a flippant point, as a less excitable analysis of recent Pentagon tapes suggests at least two of the objects touted in declassified DoD footage are exactly this. Creating a false positive category and seeing it fill up with cases wouldn't do the professional image of the US Air Force and navy pilots much good. And so they will be left designated 'other', and be sure to fuel UFO chatter for years to come. Another is how the analytical focus will be on those UAPs demonstrating "breakthrough technologies". I.e. The seeming ability to defy physical laws, accelerating to near-impossible speeds, and exhibition of anti-gravity properties. Something to capture the public imagination, but would undoubtedly boil down to, again, aviators' observational error or glitches in the kit. Also not something Uncle Sam would like to shout about considering the money wasted on military spending. Leaving the gate open for paranormal speculation has the handy by-product of sparing the institutional blushes of the world's most deadly fighting machine.

For alien hunters, there's little joy to be found here. But for American politics watchers, whether homo sapiens or extra-terrestrial observers, the only close encounter in the Pentagon's report is with a clever, below-the-radar exercise in reputational management.

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Anonymous said...

There's enough in the report to strongly suggest at the very least that someone has developed technology far in advance to that in the US. Make of that what you will, but why would the Chinese or Russians buzz US warships with it when the technology is so far advanced?

I think this 'why' is the salient point - actually, I can see why they might buzz US warships: to test their reaction time, etc, but in general one has to wonder if there is a sentient alien species monitoring us, surely they could just watch the TV signals and surf the internet?

On the other hand, some of these incidents might be the result of alien TECHNOLOGY coming into contact with our own - consider this, you're an alien species interested in what's going on out there, so you cast a wide net: you launch thousands, or millions of drones, much like we sent Voyager, into the great beyond. It's as much about defence as offence, or even curiosity - the universe will not be explored by living thing but robots, it's so much more efficient.

This might explain the behaviour of the phenomena. They are not 'thinking' per se, so much as gathering data. This might also explain why they 'fly' (and do not walk among us).

Rationally, it is rather absurd to imagine that we are 'alone', surely that must be the domain of religious thinking. The research is out there, and although contradictory, there's certainly enough for a reasonable person to take these phenomena seriously.

BCFG said...

You can't help but notice all the stories about Aliens and Alien life.

Now personally given the vastness of the universe I would find it more weird if Earth was the only place to hold life, I mean when is the answer to a statistic like that ever 1? Zero would makes sense, a million would make sense but 1!

So why don't I believe any of these stories?

Two reasons,
1) If someone had developed the technology to travel tens of thousands of light years across space then i think they would be doing more than flying in an unusual way in front of US military personnel, unless these are teenage aliens doing the cosmis equivalent od trick or treat night.

2)No one has developed the technology to travel that far across the universe because it isn't or ever will be possible. Yes we can send robots out and they can drift in space but make them move in certain patterns after they have travelled a million light years, do me a favour.

The sad fact is that there probably are Aliens somewhere but we will never meet them and probably will never be aware of them.