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TALES FROM THE DARK SIDE
During the 1970s much of middle America was taken with reports of cattle mutilations said to be occurring in the tens of thousands. Speculation focused immediately on Satanic cults, the CIA, and extraterrestrials. In a couple of instances persons who had been hypnotized to "remember" abduction experiences related that they saw not only cattle mutilations but evidence of human mutilations. There is no certain way to judge whether these were true memories or mere confabulation (though the absence of persuasive evidence for a cattle-mutilation "phenomenon" makes the latter the more probable explanation). There is no doubt, however, that the mutilations had created a climate of anxiety in which it was widely feared that human beings would be the next victims.
In 1977, as part of an April Fool's Day joke, a British television network aired a mock documentary titled Alternative Three, which purported to expose a massive international conspiracy. According to the show, the world's leaders had secretly conspired to develop an advanced space program that years ago had led to the establishment of slave colonies on the Moon and Mars, to which they would flee once the greenhouse effect started to destroy the rest of the human race. Meanwhile, needless to say, the ruling class killed or in other ways neutralized all those who suspected the truth. Mutilated bodies were dumped in remote places.
While inherently absurd, the show was presented so straight-facedly that many impressionable viewers took it to be a real documentary. Publication of a paperback based on the show spread the story to the United States and wowed paranoid ufologists,who already had begun to suspect that maybe evil aliens and the U.S. government were working in cahoots to mutilate cattle and people. If we are to credit William Moore's account, some of his military sources at Kirtland AFB even encouraged the delusions of a civilian scientist who believed he was deciphering electronic signals between Kirtland and UFOs and who had incorporated abduction, mutilation, and Alternative Three scenarios into the terrifying fantasies that eventually led to his complete emotional collapse. According to Moore, the military's purpose was to drive the scientist crazy by filling him with fantastic disinformation. The signals he was monitoring were quite real and highly classified, though they had nothing to do with UFOs.
If this is so, this is a genuine case of egregious official misconduct. But it was nothing compared with the yarns that evolved over the 1980s. These yarns revived early contactee Silence Group ideas, sometimes in fairly blatantly anti-Semitic form, and wed them to more modern UFO ideas, such as crashed UFOs, cover-ups, abductions, and mutilations. They also brought in lock, stock, and barrel every lunatic political conspiracy theory the far right had ever hallucinated.
By the late 1980s elements of American ufology were on the brink of hysteria. Puzzlement led to paranoia, frustration, and rage. The first major Dark Side figure, John Lear, the estranged son of aviation pioneer William P. Lear, startled ufologists with some of the wildest tales they had ever heard. According to Lear, years ago the secret government that controls the world (yes, that secret government) entered into an unholy alliance with man-eating aliens in exchange for access to ET technology. The ETs, from an ancient race near the end of its evolution, use materials from human and cattle body parts to rejuvenate themselves, and government and alien scientists are creating soulless android creatures in vast underground laboratories in the Southwest. Not only that, according to Lear, whose political views are far to the right of center; the evil secret government sought to enslave the world's population through drug addiction.
Milton William Cooper soon came along to pick up where Lear left off. According to Cooper, a former navy petty officer who claimed as sources classified documents he had seen while in service, the secret government runs drugs, launders money, and encourages massive street crime so that Americans will be receptive to gun-control legislation. It has also introduced AIDS and other deadly diseases as a method of population control. It plans to round up Americans soon and place them in concentration camps before shipping them off to the secret slave colonies on the Moon and Mars. This of course is right out of Alternative Three.
If the early contactees had a basically benevolent vision, which they presented to the impressionable with no supporting evidence, Lear, Cooper, and their clones did the same with a grim vision for which they had no verification whatever. But such are the vagaries of belief that many of their listeners never thought to question. They assumed that if somebody said it and it was awful enough, it must be true. It is unlikely, however, that before the traumas of the 1960s-the assassinations, the destructive and futile war in Vietnam, the agony of Watergate-the Dark Siders would have done as well. As already noted, the early contactees had their own version of a Dark-Side Hypothesis, but it was relatively tame next to Lear's and Cooper's, and it was a distinctly secondary theme in their preachments.
Americans emerged from the 1960s and the early 1970s in a state of profound disillusionment. Whereas in the 1950s a Senator Joe McCarthy could speak of a government riddled with subversives, he presumed that a basically decent society was under threat from outsiders, in this case Soviet agents and Communist sympathizers. After Vietnam and Watergate many Americans came to see their society and their institutions as fundamentally flawed, cynical, manipulative, even evil. That this view is as unrealistic as its opposite is beside the point. What matters is that some Americans could now imagine their government to be capable of anything, from complicity in the assassination of a president, as Oliver Stone's paranoia-laced (and hugely popular) movie JFK would have it, to the betrayal of the whole human race to malevolent extraterrestrial intelligences.
There is virtually no chance that any of these things are true, and there is virtually no chance that any of these beliefs are going to go away soon. In fact if societal stress in the form of racial tensions, employment insecurity, street crime, and other ills continues throughout the rest of the decade and into the early years of the next century, we will see even more of it. Paranoia is a sign of societal as much as of individual emotional disorder. And it is the ultimate unfalsifiable hypothesis: It explains everything.
In the real world, and that includes the real world of rational UFO research, much remains to he explained. The trivialization and exploitation of the cover-up issue ought not to blind us to the fact that we have good reason to believe officialdom has not been entirely forthcoming about its involvement with some interesting UFO cases. We have testimony from highly credible sources, not the least of them the former base commander of Wright-Patterson AFB, retired Brigadier General Arthur Exon, that the air force has run a top-secret UFO project and that something truly extraordinary did crash in New Mexico in July 1947.
THE THINGS THAT AREN'T HAPPENING NOWIf Moore's story is accurate, we also have a legitimate instance of official misconduct in the Kirtland AFB incident I have briefly described above. Even if events happened as alleged, no one will be brought to account for it. That is not because there is a lawless secret government but because counterintelligence operatives know they can act with relative impunity when they are dealing with individuals on society's fringes.
Several years ago the noted political journalist Murray Kempton wrote these wry and chilling words: "Domestic covert warfare has no existence as a current event. We never know about it until it is revealed to us as the history that government admits only after assuring us that it has stopped. When it is going on, it is noticed by no one who wants to be thought reasonable, and anyone who speaks of it is dismissed as irrational. Our secret wars at home are never said to happen as long as they are going on, and mightn't we wonder whether one is happening right now when all we know about it is that it isn't?"
In the wake of revelations that came out of congressional hearings and journalistic probing during and after the Watergate era, no one doubts anymore that the FBI, the CIA, and other police and intelligence agencies have engaged in illegal monitoring and even harassment of private citizens. Such activity, as Kempton notes, is aid not to be occurring now-or is it? If it is happening to persons interested in UFOs, nothing will be done about it; indeed, those being victimized will have an ever harder time being believed than, say, those Kempton was thinking of when he wrote his words: opponents of Reagan administration policy in Central America. After all, as the conventional wisdom has it, anybody who investigates UFO reports is a kook, and kooks are always paranoids.
Copyright © 1997 by Bill Fawcett and Associates