tv Lectures in History 20th Century UFO Conspiracies CSPAN July 11, 2021 11:00am-12:17pm EDT
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>> wow along with these companies supports c-span 2 as a public service. american history tv continues. next, professor talks about how ufo conspiracy theories have shaped american culture. here a story about escaping the holocaust. later, the work with rosa parks, martin luther king jr., and others in the civil rights movement. find more information on your program guide or at c-span.org. here is the professor of emory on ufo conspiracy theories. felix harcourt: let us start with the question that i am sure no one will have any problem having their answer recorded for television for. a show of hands -- how many people believe alien life exists? a pretty decent number of
people. i am going to throw in their as well. i think so. stephen hawking thinks so. in a giant universe, there is a probability that alien life has evolved and probably looks pretty different from us, but they may be out there. slightly different question. how many of us believe that aliens have visited earth? sergio, the only man with a strength of his convictions. i appreciate that. another question. is the idea that aliens have visited earth, in and of itself, a conspiracy theory? sergio? >> probably not. >> why not? >> if you take into account that we are trying to get to mars, we would technically be alien life there.
the fact that another life form has become intelligent enough to do space travel and visit another planet is not a conspiracy theory. felix harcourt: that seems fair. >> it depends on how you define the scope of a conspiracy theory. it would take a species collaborating together to land on another planet. is another race working together a conspiracy? i would think so. felix harcourt: that seems reasonable. it seems a little odd to indict the entire planet of wherever for wanting to come to visit. even if we are going to say arguably maybe we could consider it a conspiracy theory, it would be a conspiracy of aliens in and among themselves which is not what we talk about when we talk about ufo conspiracy theories. when we talk about alien conspiracy theories. those are theories that include an element of human conspiracy, usually of government
complicity. these ideas that there are not only aliens visiting earth, but that the state is in some way involved with those visits is a really prominent conspiracy theory. it is not really one, but a multitude of conspiracy theories. like the kennedy conspiracy that we talked about last week, to just stand here and name every ufo conspiracy theory would take much longer than we have in this class. tragically, we will not be talking about the fact that nasa is hiding the existence of the planet neberu. tragically, we will not be talking about the fact that we are in secret contact with andromeda and part of a vast intergalactic war. tragically, we will not be
talking about the fact that the earth is hollow and filled with interstellar beings who may or may not have been allied with the nazis in world war ii, depending on who you ask. i see a couple of kind of smiles at those ideas. which is understandable. but these are real ideas that real people fiercely and fully believe in. and we should be clear, before we dig into this too much. as bridget brown makes clear in the reading you did for today. not everyone that believes in ufo's, believes in ufo conspiracy theories. even amongst those that do believe in ufo conspiracy theories, there is a wide variation. we keep coming back to this idea of fringe conspiracism and that is very much in evidence.
in these ufo conspiracy theories, it is worth thinking about. that these ufo conspiracy theories are widely treated as something laughable. in fact, serious discussion of them is really an effective cultural taboo. we talked about the labeling of something as conspiracy as a distancing measure. alien conspiracy theories are possibly one of the most evident examples of the distancing of conspiracist belief from acceptable discourse. and yet, at the same time, even as they are treated as laughable, they are some of the most widely believed conspiracy theories. if we go back to the 1960's, gallup polls find 96% of americans had heard of ufo's. 46% believed they were real. 1973, 57% believed that ufo's
are real. by the 1990's, 71% believe the government is, at least, hiding information about ufo's. they may or may not be real but there is definitely more going on there than the government is letting us know. and those numbers remain relatively stable. a 2015 poll shows that 56% believed that ufo's are real. 45% believed that aliens have actually landed and visited earth, on top of that. to put that into context, 56% believe ufo's are real, in that same survey, 57% said that the big bang theory was real.
this is very much a widely held belief that is very mainstream. at least, the idea that something is going on with ufo's. even if we narrow it into a specific example, like roswell, a majority of americans will repeatedly say that they are at the very least unsure whether or not a flying saucer crashed in roswell, new mexico. and we have this odd disconnect between this very, very mainstream idea, this majority idea, and yet the way that it is treated within our political and cultural discourse. it's not an idea that is new with all. the idea that weird lights or objects in the sky is something to be concerned about is nothing
new. but then, if you are a serf in 13th century europe, what are you going to think the floating lights in the sky might be? aliens? witches? omens of doom? any other guesses? god. devils. witches. omens. overwhelmingly, a supernatural explanation. and it is not really until we start to see that enlightenment rationalism supplant these ideas of divine providence that we move from the supernatural to scientific explanations for these unexplained phenomena. although, even then, we need to
be careful about drawing too wide of a divide between those two, as we will see those ideas remain thoroughly intertwined. matthew? >> 11% of the people here think ufo's are real but do not think that aliens have visited earth. i was wondering, a ufo is just an unidentified flying object -- where is the boundary? unidentified according to who? there are a lot of things i see flying in the sky that i cannot identify but i assume someone can. felix harcourt: the wording is not great in the polls. the way it explains that is not that there is an 11% difference between those that believe ufo's are an extraterrestrial phenomena, or what is commonly referred to as the extraterrestrial hypothesis that ufo's are real and alien
related. the difference is that 56% believe that ufo's are real, 11% fewer believe that some of those ufo's have landed and we have had contact with the aliens. that is the differential playing out there. the differential between something else going on is that 56% going up to 71% from the 1990's. the idea that something is going on with this question. and that idea that there is something going on has a long history. this concern over extraterrestrial contact has a long history. if we go back to 1835, the new york newspaper "the sun" garners major attention in back reporting that an astronomer has found life on the moon. life in the shape of a series of humanoid bat people.
it turns out, unsurprisingly, that it is a hoax. i am sorry to disappoint anyone that was hoping that there are bat people really living on the moon. it points us to the ideas that are already percolating around in the 19th century. that becomes more evident in the late 19th century. in 1891, when thomas blott alleges that a man from mars appeared in the kitchen of his rural home and fully endorsed late 19th century democratic socialist utopianism, which was nice for thomas to hear since he was already a believer in such things. or, in 1896 and 1897, where you see a series of unexplained air ships seen in the skies over the west coast.
there is a really interesting variety of stories that come out about these airships. some of them claim that they humanoid beings inside peddling to make it go. if that is a spaceship, that is a lot of peddling. some allegedly called out to the airship as it goes over and the airship called back down to say that they are from mars. even in the 19th century, people are very fixated about life on mars. but there are those ideas that there is a long history or concern about contact, extraterrestrial life and that extraterrestrial life visiting us here on earth. but when we talk about modern ufo conspiracy some, what we are
really talking about is the post world war ii era. and these conspiracies paint and -- an alternative history of america from the cold war to the present. what we might call ethno sociologies of extraterrestrial conspiracism. that reflect extraterrestrial concerns about agency, state power, about disempowerment and depersonalization. about ideas of expertise and of authority and especially ideas of skepticism. about expertise and authority and about narratives of progress whether social or scientific. that modern ufo phenomenon really gets kick started after world war ii in 1947 by this gentleman, kenneth arnold.
people had seen -- pilots had seen unidentified phenomena during world war ii. they get commonly referred to as fu fighters which is where the band name comes from. but it is not until kenneth arnold's sighting in late june, 1947, of what he describes to newspapers as flying discs. what gets widely reported as flying saucers that the modern ufo phenomenon begins. and it spreads very, very quickly. over the july 4 holiday that year, thousands of men and women contact authorities to report more than 850 sightings of ufo's. that has never been paralleled since.
there has never been such a frenzy of ufo sightings as there was over independence holiday in 1947. although sightings remained fairly common through to the early 1950's. and you get pictures like this from new jersey from 1952 alleging a sighting of an unidentified flying object. unsurprisingly, we see a variety of efforts to try to explain this phenomenon. two of the most influential voices in that process are frank scully and donald kehoe. scully was a writer for variety magazine, who publishes behind the flying saucers in 1950. where he really focuses in on
the story of flying saucers that crash in the american southwest. and where did that crash take place? not roswell. but thank you for falling into my easy trap. scully says that they crashed in aztec, new mexico. neither men ever mentioned roswell. we will talk later about why that is. scully says saucers crashed in aztec. not only did they crash, but bodies are found. 3 foot to 4 foot tall alien beings. really cementing the modern idea of the little green man comes out of scully's books. he also claims that the saucers come not from mars, but from venus. and the 1950's are a really key
time in a mars-venus battle over where these flying saucers come from. scully loses popularity after 1952 because true magazine publishes an extensive article debunking his entire book, pointing out the fact that most or really all of his sources are professional con men and really spending page after page making fun of scully for believing those con men and even making fun of how terrible his writing is. it was a really mean article. and it destroys his credibility. but scully's ideas are really going to have a long shelf life. just in recent years, there has
been an uptick in people trying to attract some of the roswell tourism away over to aztec and publishing new books saying that scully was right and saucers really did crash in aztec, new mexico. a little bit more credible, at leased at the time, than scully was donald kehoe, a retired officer from the marine corps who writes three very popular books. the flying saucers are real, which is released in 1950. flying saucers from outer space , which comes out in 1953. and the flying saucer conspiracy in 1955. and kehoe reports conversations and interviews that he has purportedly had with air force officers and specifically air
force intelligence officers to try to substantiate his warnings that first of all, ufo's are real, and military pilots are encountering them on a semi regular basis, second of all, he thinks are is a very good chance that the aliens have set up a mothership in orbit of earth and the ufo's are coming from that mothership rather than all the way from another planet. and thirdly, that these ufo's are most likely from mars. he is not a venus fan. he is back on the mars train. and what is interesting about kehoe is that he does see a conspiracy. he does see a conspiracy by the military to cover up the reality that earth is being visited by these flying saucers.
but he does not blame them for doing so. for kehoe, what he calls the silence group is acting out of a desire to protect national security and a desire to prevent public hysteria. and while he disagrees with that decision, he sees it as a matter of reasonable disagreement. he does not see nefarious motives at work. and that is an idea that is going to change significantly over the 1960's and especially coming out of the 1970's and into the 1980's. but it is really easy, at the time, to see the impact of writers like donald kehoe who see a conspiracy of silence but
not necessarily a nefarious conspiracy of silence. by 1952, the same year that true magazine is debunking scully, life magazine leads with a big front cover splash of maryland -- marilyn monroe and the headline there is a case for interplanetary saucers and life comes down hard in that issue to say that they think something probably is going on with ufo's. less concerned with credibility but no less influential in putting these ideas into the american consciousness is the glut of alien invasion films in the 1950's. of course, the classic "invasion of the body snatchers" but also "the invasion of the saucer man," "killers from space," "earth versus the flying saucers," and more.
and there are a couple of interesting elements to be brought out from these films. not the least of which is a lot of them deal with aliens either taking control of the minds of humans or of replacing them entirely with simulacra, with look-alikes. and given that these are coming out mid to late 1950's, but other things have we been talking about that coincides with that? marissa? certainly communist infiltration. >> brainwashing of korean pow's. felix harcourt: good. this is very much playing on two simultaneous fears bubbling up in the 1950's. not just that the communists are infiltrating, but that they are infiltrating through this kind
of mind control and pairing that with a fear of extraterrestrial threat as well. it really is an extraterrestrial threats. these films overwhelmingly buy into a donald kehoe styled view of what is happening. the threat is purely extraterrestrial. it is not human. in fact, most of these films, rather than the state being complicit or suspect, government agents, particularly military agents, are the heroes, they are the ones saving us from these extraterrestrial threats. so you have -- >> what is behind the aliens being a threat? is there a thought about why they are doing that? felix harcourt: the why of the conspiracy -- there is not
really a single, unifying idea in the 1950's. other than domination. the plan is always to conquer the world. why they want to conquer the world is open for interpretation. their own planet is dying. maybe it is because they want to make us into slaves. there is a pretty wide latitude there. good question. so we see this donald kehoe style opposite of paranoia at work to some extent. does anyone remember the word for the opposite of paranoia? not quite. security is the kind of middle line. not quite.
what do you call it when a conspiracy is acting for your good and not against you? anybody remember that? no. not paranoia, but pronoia. this is very much an example of that type of conspiracy thinking. that is evident in another thread of extraterrestrial phenomena that emerges in the 1950's, which is an increasing number of people who claim that not only have they seen ufo's, but they have been contacted by aliens. and this is really kicked off by a man named george odamsky. he is the first contactee to publish a book length account of his experience in 1953. and he contradicts virtually everything that has come before him.
he says that they are not from mars. they are from venus. and if scully is right about them being from venus, he is wrong about them being short. he says they are about 5'6", they are humanoid and very beautiful. he also says that they are not a threat. he says the coming was friendly. he is going to lose popular support in the 1960's after he claims that he will be leaving any day now for an interplanetary conference on saturn and somehow never quite makes his appointment for that. but his ideas, his narrative that there are these friendly
visitors has very much caught on. and throughout the 1950's, you see this series of encounters with extraterrestrial beings who have seemingly come to warn humanity about our warlike nature, to warn us that nuclear weapons will destroy us all. a very pure distillation of common cold war fears at the time. cold war fears also bearing no small resemblance to the 1951 film "the day the earth stood still," which is basically the exact same plot that odamsky recounts two years later. no one really picks him off at the time. there is still this pro-noia at work in the early 1950's. the idea that the government might be lying to us about it but for our own good. but yes, that aliens are visiting but they are doing it
for our own good. that increasingly will take a darker turn as we move out of the 1950's into the 1960's. you start to see not least the government's motives and methods become much darker in hiding the truth. that is especially going to become symbolized by the idea of the men in black. the men in black is an idea that is really kind of more or less put into play by an author called gray barker. gray barker is an interesting guy. barker makes a pretty good living publishing books about supposedly true ufo encounters. but to friends, privately calls flying saucers a "bucket of
shit," very much capitalizing on this trend. but he is going to more or less launch this idea of men in black in his 1956 book "they knew too much about flying saucers." a book based on the experiences of a factory clerk from connecticut, albert bender who claimed that three men in black suits had approached him and intimidated him into not telling the truth about his alien encounter. obviously, bender had not been silenced given that he was a, able to tell gray barker about it, and b, publishes own book about it in 1962 in which he explains it is not the martians, or the venusian, in actual fact he had been taken for a ride in a flying saucer to the south pole by grizzly monster like
aliens. despite the -- let's be generous and say skepticism which will we might greet albert bender's story, the idea that government agents and these sinister men in black are working to hide true information really gains popularity, and it really takes off going through the 1960's and 1970's. and there is an interesting phenomenon going on with just the men in black themselves, in the quite often they are characterized as altogether human agents of the state, but at the same time they are oftentimes given inhuman or unearthly characteristics, characteristics that very often elide the difference between these scientific and
supernatural explanations we have been talking about. quite often demonic powers are ascribed to the men in black, walking as if they are not of this earth, not blinking, unnatural powers of persuasion, even up to and including the idea that when they appear, an odor of sulfur also appears. this very literal callback to folklore about demonic appearance. the fact that traditionally they also appear in numbers of 3, also heavily rooted in mystical supernatural texts. it is not just accounts of human action that take a darker turn as we move into the 1960's. increasingly, narratives of alien contact are going to turn away from friendly warnings about war into abduction and
experimentation. that really starts with a couple from new hampshire, betty and barney hill, who claim to have been abducted in 1961. although their story does not receive wide publicity until 1965. and the hill's abduction will set the template for all of the production narratives that come after. in looking at the spread of abduction conspiracism is interesting and we compare it to kennedy conspiracism. this is very much a grassroots endeavor, and is not somebody sitting behind their desk saying, this is what you will need to believe is the truth.
it is all these people going out and trying to uncover the truth themselves. the difference being that in terms of abduction conspiricism, they are not detectives. they are not looking for evidence. they are not turning themselves into experts on bullet trajectories. they themselves are the evidence, their own abduction experience proves the truth of their conspiracy. spencer. >> do you feel that these people are trying to uncover the truth, or just get book deals? it feels like i could make up a story and turn it into a public affair and get a lot of publicity for it. do you have any idea of their motives? were they really trying to uncover the truth or get some money? felix harcourt: it is really too complex of a question to have a
single answer to. while there are certainly criticisms labeled -- criticisms leveled against abductees, while -- or experiences as they prefer to be called, while there are these accusations that they are just trying to profit, trying to cash in and sell books, on the other hand, as bridget brown points us to, a lot of these people who come forward and say they have been abducted, that is a socially devastating phenomenon. they are going to be cut off from groups of friends. they are going to be ostracized. they risk being fired from work. so you can benefit from this, but you are really going to have to benefit from within the world of ufo abduction conspiricism. >> one thing that question gets at is the paranoid style from hofstetter doesn't seem to be enough to explain these
first-person encounters. it is unlike anything we have seen in any other conspiracy. so we need another framework to understand. it could be profit motive or it could be mental illness. is there kind of a third prong to that, a different schema through which we can approach these people? felix harcourt: outside of, they are either crazy or trying to make money? the third prong would be that they have been abducted by aliens, i suppose. the problem is we are never really going to know for sure what their motivations are in this. you are right, it is this fundamental difference between earlier conspiricism that we have talked about, where people are bearing the burden of this conspiracy themselves. it is their own direct experience. pearl harbor conspiracists are
not saying they are the ones that flew the planes to pearl harbor. kennedy conspiracists aren't saying they are the ones that took the shot. i shouldn't say that. there are some that say they took the shot. this is fundamentally different, where they are saying they have been abducted. >> i think some of that could be lack of verifiability. when you claim it is your own narrative and that you are abducted, there is no factual ground point. the kennedy assassination, you have x, y, z happened, those are undisputed. kennedy was shot. you cannot go too far past that. >> unless you have someone that says kennedy is still alive. >> i feel like in these, one of the rhetorically useful things about saying it was your own experience is that no one can deny that. felix harcourt: yeah. and at the root of why ufo
conspiricism can become so expansive, because we have talked about this, the fact that in terms of abduction evidence, that evidence is by definition personal, it is by definition subjective, and once we move away from the objective veracity of physical evidence, what do we get to? what we have been talking about the last couple of classes. >> mistrust of the government. >> yes. but this is a kind of wider issue. >> knowing that we can't ever know what happened, so we are left with how we interpret the things we can personally experience. >> good. >> this sounds a lot like religion. why are we so quick to discount ufo's when we base everything on the word of god and these
personal experiences? >> ok, so to the extent that we talk about mystical angelic visitations, why do we accept those but discount ufo visitations? it is a good question. some people combine the two. some people say ufo's are angelic visitors. some scholars tend to say they are coming from the same kind of place, the people who are saying they were abducted now are the people who would have said they were visited by angels several hundred years ago. >> one troubling thing is the numbers you brought up earlier. like the 1947 spike after kenneth arnold when 850 people came forward with alien stories. the likelihood that these trends of them all of a sudden being from venus or mars followed
verifiable truth, especially when you can't follow up with physical evidence, is certainly problematic. felix harcourt: and it is inscribed into the name, they are literally called unidentified flying objects. the problem is all of these conspiracies are trying to inscribe them with meaning, trying to identify something that is by definition unidentified. and so we do reach that same kind of point of crisis of knowing, as we have been talking about, that epistemological crisis, that rumsfeldian mantra, that there are these known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns, things that you don't know that you don't know. that is what is going to allow ufo conspiracies and to be so expensive.
once you move away from the strictures of any physical evidence, pretty much anything is going to come into play. pretty much anything is going to come into play. but still, the fact that there is this wide latitude of where conspiracies could go, the fact that they tend to track in these trends would seem to suggest something to us about how they are being shaped by their historical context. for example, these abduction narratives, the fact that as they are refined and revised over the following years by authors that they become ever more focused on medical experimentation and focused on graphic and explicit sexual violation.
and scholars like brown draw a direct link between the kind of evolution of these abduction narratives and changing anxieties over sexual and reproductive sociologies and technologies. the fact that these abduction narratives start around the time that new forms of contraception are coming into play, around the time that new forms of sexual liberation are coming into play, the fact that increasingly these abduction narratives focus on reproductive experimentation after the roe v. wade decision in the 1970's and especially in line with the culture wars over abortion in the 1980's. >> do you think there is a
separation between people who look into this as an interest versus the issue of how it relates to religion, and the fact that it almost has a basis in science? that extraterrestrials are here to study us, they are not here to, i don't know, save us or take us back to their planet, but in this case they are here to study reproductive systems of humans or take over your brain. to me, it seems like the opposite side of religion. people who look at this can say there is a basis of scientific evidence, maybe not evidence, but theory behind it. felix harcourt: that there is a rational motive behind why? >> instead of just an angel flying through the air, it is a
machine made by beings who have the intelligence to make a machine are coming with a motive to learn about humans. felix harcourt: certainly. although you could make a fairly good argument that although they are supernatural, angels or divine providence would have a rational reason why they came into play as well. >> my thought about the relationship between angels and aliens has to do with the need to believe in something bigger than yourself and what we have going on here on earth. i think a lot of people that become religious after something bad has happened is because they are looking for reassurance or they are needing to believe that everything happens for a reason. i think you can apply that logic to the belief in aliens, the things people think are happening is because something else exists.
felix harcourt: that phrase, everything happens for a reason. we have talked about that before as one of these founding mantras of conspiracism, that everything happens within a conspiracy for a reason, that it is part of a plan. in a divine providential version of that, it is because of god's plan. in an enlightenment rationalist view of that, it is happening because of a human, or in this case, extraterrestrial agency. but there is a plan, there is something happening. >> i still think there is a difference there because in terms of god's plan, that is completely centered around humans and earth. if you are looking at extraterrestrials, you are recognizing that there is
another planet with a population of other beings, other life and other realities besides just human reality. i feel like the idea of god's plan has to do with only a human reality. that would bring in -- response to something happening, looking to god or aliens would be two different narratives. >> i think alien conspiracies are similar to only a particular type of religion. most religious people i think are similar to the way most of us think or said that aliens are out there somewhere. four religion, it is after death. alien conspiracies we have talked about are more similar to the pre-millenialists we talked about, where it extends to where
we can see. if we thought to go see if only this conspiracy was not muddying the waters. felix harcourt: there are, as we will hopefully get to, there are people that make an explicit connection there as well. there are those that make an explicit linkage between this evangelical pre-millennial dispensationalism and extraterrestrials, usually folding extraterrestrials in as agents of the antichrist within those prophecies. these are interesting questions. they are big questions that unfortunately i don't think we will be able to answer today. but that relationship between extraterrestrial visitation and supernatural religious
visitation is intimately intertwined. and these otherworldly supernatural elements are key parts of these abduction narratives. these alien narratives. it is not just religious narratives playing into this. these narratives have strong elements of native american captivity narratives from the 17th and 18th centuries. fears of white colonists, particularly of white female colonists being abducted and held captive by native americans. in terms of their sexual content, they are almost pornographic detail that these abduction narratives go into. there is a certain rhetorical debt owed to the anti-catholic escaped nun narratives of the 19th, early 20th centuries, some of which we saw advertised in
those klan newspapers we were looking at. there are a lot of different elements coming into this. not just sexual anxiety as well, anxieties about race. the fact that the first abducted couple is an interracial couple is not unrelated. the fact that one of the major fears in the 1960's as interracial marriage is ruled legal by the supreme court. that these fears of miscegenation are very present even as alien abduction stories present new fears of interspecies sex, those are not unrelated elements. and you have this interesting conflation, as brown points to, between the individual body of the abductee, of the
experiencer, and of the national body, of the citizenry as a whole who is being violated by this conspiracy. and it is increasingly a conspiracy. it is something in which the government is complicit in. it is also worth talking very briefly, related to that question of race -- there is an odd eugenicist element that plays into alien abduction theories coming up through the 1970's, 1980's, 1990's as well. while there is this huge taxonomy of alien races that gets constructed, there are three key races, species, whatever you want to call them. one of which is the pledians, who are described as benevolent and loving and beautiful and
highly evolved, spiritual. anyone want to guess what they are meant to look like? caucasians? any specific kind? blonde, blue-eyed. they are incredibly aryan. in fact they are commonly referred to as tall nordics. nordic itself being a term of eugenicist taxonomy coming out of the early 20th century, as opposed to those lower-class southern europeans who can't be counted as being as racially superior as the nordics. you see the short gray as a kind of equivalent of southern europeans to some extent in this taxonomy. the short gray, whose
description owes a debt to those little green men, to the movies of the 1950's, to frank scully explanations, but whose popular appearance culture is cemented by betty and barney hill. not only do they set the template for the abduction narrative, they said the image for what the gray alien with big eyes looks like. it cements that in the popular consciousness. the other big grouping of alien species within these taxonomies are old friends, the reptilians, or to give them their ufo conspiracy name, the draconians, who are these tall lizard people who are probably hiding amongst us, plotting to take over the earth at anytime. anybody remember the english
conspiracist we talked about before who was focused in on these reptilians? >> i don't remember that, but i did read something recently that popped up saying that someone had seen justin bieber turning into his reptilian form. [laughter] that he is a secret giant lizard. >> that he is also one of them. >> yeah, which i had never heard before. >> very talented. >> lizard people are everywhere matthew. we can't discount this. especially if you are david ike, the conspiracist we talked about on her very first day of class, who is thoroughly an advocate of the idea that the lizard people are the queen, the president,
virtually everyone in high office. anyone remember what ike thinks that they do? how do they survive? >> drink the blood of blonde people, basically? felix harcourt: they drink the blood of blue-eyed blonde haired children, these aryan children. again they are this specific racial threat, containing these deep elements of anti-semitic blood libel myth as well. >> is going to ask -- i was going to ask -- i don't know if it is a conspiracy, theory but since they are described as drconians feeding on aryan like children, could they be feeding on pledian children?
felix harcourt: now we are getting into the deep weeds. depending on who you ask the ple iadians and draconians may be working together with the secret rulers of the state. on the other hand, they may be in a millennia long war. on the other hand, we may be the descendents of the pleiadians. on the other hand, the reptilians may have traveled back in time to create us to create a food source for themselves. which is to say any answer is possible to your question. as we have established with this crisis divorced from physical evidence, virtually any conspiracy theory is possible. those conspiracy theories are increasingly going to make the government complicit. and an excellent example of that is roswell.
allegedly, flying saucer crashes in roswell in 1947, right on trend with our other ufo sightings. because it is surrounded by this wealth of other ufo sightings and because the air force pretty quickly declares the wreckage found in roswell to be that of a weather balloon, the media moves on. there are hundreds more ufo sightings to report on. it is not until the boom in ufo conspiracism coming out of the late 1970's that roswell really regains attention in conspiracist circles. we talked about this a little on tuesday. why might we see a boom in antigovernment conspiracism in the late 1970's? >> you have watergate.
then you have the revelation of chaos the church committee. , a lot of operations that the public did not know about that are now in the public. felix harcourt: good. we have watergate, the church committee, all these revelations of cia misdeeds, mk ultra, lending more credence to the idea of secret medical experimentation going on. and there is a very explicit linkage being made in the late 1970's between this post watergate era and a boom in alien conspiracism, particularly abduction conspiracism. you see the establishment of citizens against ufo secrecy in 1977, an organization dedicated to using freedom of information act requests to get the government to reveal the truth
about ufo's, which is a most beautifully naive. the fact that you think the government is planning a huge conspiracy, but but because the law is on your side you can get them to reveal those secrets. it is a nice sentiment. but not only does citizens against ufo secretly come along, but a nuclear physicist turned ufo logist rediscovers roswell. we'll want to drop overly simplistic links between this post watergate national concern and this boom in roswell conspiracism. sometimes the researchers themselves make that subtext text. stanton friedman explicitly says roswell is a cosmic watergate.
other rival researchers like don schmidt describe the kennedy assassination as a formative experience and compare the government statements on roswell to the warren commission report. in neither case can this official document be trusted. philip corso is a firm advocate of the two oswalds theory of the kennedy assassination, and goes further than that to say that the whole cold war is a cover to develop anti-alien defense mechanisms. and you see this flood of roswell literature through the 1980's, the 1990's that says yes, the government covered it up, and they didn't do it for our own good.
instead it is a litany of misinformation and misdeeds. no longer is the air force this benign body trying to protect the public from national hysteria, now president truman sets up magic 12 in 1947 as a special government body to cover up the truth about ufo's, presumably also in charge of those men in black. and this reaches such a crisis point that in 1994, the air force actually releases a report about roswell, 1000 pages long. and you can still find this on the dod website. this is still very easily publicly available. the air force says ok, actually
we did lie to you about it being a weather balloon. in actual fact, it is the wreckage from project mogul, a top-secret project to try to detect long-range soviet nuclear experiments. so it is good, right? all of the roswell conspiracy theorists say brilliant, now we can move on? no. it doesn't tend to work that way. the government saying we have been lying to you for 50 years, but now we are telling you the truth, does not convince these conspiracy theories. in the same way that the warren commission spurs more conspiracy theories. the air force's roswell report spurs more conspiracy theorists. it is not helped by the cia
coming out in 1997 and also say, we have been lying to you about ufo sightings. you did see stuff, but it was top-secret military planes. we could not tell you, sorry, but ufo's still aren't real. it did not have the same impact. saying you have been lying for years is not going to build public trust that you are now telling the truth. over the course of the 1980's as this roswell conspiracism develops and abduction conspiracism in general develops, you see it move not into mainstream acceptance, but mainstream recognition. nobody came to class today never having heard of roswell. nobody came to class never -- nobody came to class today
never having seen a picture of a short gray alien with big head and big eyes. it is strongly at the forefront of popular consciousness in the 1990's. you get best-selling paperbacks that get turned into high rated tv shows. "the truth about roswell" gets turned into a showtime show. you get the classic tabloid covers. weekly world news is all over the clinton-alien relationship in the 1990's. there is even at some point intimations that bill clinton has another sex scandal, but this time with an extraterrestrial in turn. -- intern. and of course television. the reason why "x-files" comes along in the 1990's. it is the pop cultural culmination of a lot of these trends we have been talking about. the fact that these trends
become so prominent within mainstream discourse is also going to open up room at the fringes for even more esoteric conspiracism to develop. >> scully from the x-files, is that a throwback to frank scully? >> very much so. there are a lot of these references. the greater of the "x-files" are very well steeped in this more when the -- this lore when they come along. also steeped in this lore are people like william cooper who releases "behold a pale horse" in 1991. "behold a pale horse" is an odd book in many ways. cooper does not just believe virtually every conspiracy
theory we have talked about today. he believes virtually every conspiracy theory we have talked about all semester. because if you believe in a conspiracy, that conspiracy is in this book, it makes the book very popular and very influential among conspiracist circles. and a wide variety of conspiracist circles. cooper's book is popular with the militia movement. timothy mcveigh is a fan of "behold a pale horse." it is also popular in the hip-hop community, that jay-z is an illuminati mastermind. cooper is held in high regard. part of that is how all-encompassing cooper's narrative is.
and it has to be all-encompassing. he has a very direct philosophy. as he writes, "i do not believe in fate. i do not believe in accidents. i cannot and will not accept the theory that long secrecy's of unrelated accidents determine world events." remind us of anything? cooper is an excellent example of the idea of mechanistic causality, that there has to be a reason. for cooper, everything happens for a reason. there is no contingency. there is no accident. which means that when the question of extraterrestrial
life comes along, it has to be folded into his grand conspiracist narrative. the builder berg group, that shadowy group that supposedly convenes once a year and are the secret puppetmaster counsel of the world. listen to alex jones for more than about 10 minutes on any given day, and it's a must a given date he will get to that group pretty quickly. very much a foundational element of the kind of new world order conspiracies and that -- new world order conspiracism that takes hold in the 1990's. cooper is a key player in the. for cooper, thr group is founded in 1947.
why? manhattan project is mostly done by that point. year of the roswell crash. year of the ufo sightings. for cooper, the bildeberg group is created in direct reaction to the extraterrestrial threat. for cooper though, magic 12 is n't created to cover up the truth about ufo's. he says that friedman and others like him are government disinformation agents. in fact what he says is majesty 12 is created to establish relations with these aliens. and cooper goes further. he says by 1954, president eisenhower is going to sign a treaty with the aliens. that says, you want to come along and experiment on humans, that is fine. we will look the other way. we will even build secret bases
for you to do so, like area 51. but in return, we want secret advanced technologies. the two most commonly pointed to being beam weapons and time travel, which apparently the u.s. has had a hold of since 1954. what they are doing with it i don't know. but apparently they do have it. in case anyone is wondering, according to cooper, the alien ambassador's name is his most omnipotent highness krill. even in alien ambassadorships, the patriarchy still holds sway. anyone wants to take a guess as to which heroic resident is willing to stand up to this? of course jfk.
once again we see conspiracists ascribing the kennedy death with its own meaning. a form of counterfactual history coming into play. whereas oliver stone's counterfactual history says if kennedy had lived, he would have pulled us out of vietnam. cooper's counterfactual history said if he would have lived, he would have revealed the truth about the aliens, and also that the cia controls the world drug markets to fund the secret alliance with the aliens. and also the fact that eisenhower was actually working for rockefeller, who is actually part of the council on foreign relations, who was working for the illuminati, which was part of the bilderberg group, and working in conjunction with european royalists and, as
always, the catholics. >> are their thoughts that aliens are behind the jfk assassination to keep it quite? >> very much so. if you take cooper's telling, he may have been alien, he may have been human, but it is the driver of kennedy's car that killed him in order to silence him on the question of alien conspiracy. as you might tell from that, there is a kind of heavily religious element here as well, the anti-catholic element. where is he getting "behold a pale horse" from? revelations. he is strongly fitting in within this strain of pre-millennial sensationalist apocalypticism, that aliens are their own
satanic agents bringing about the end times. he also folds and ideas of medical and eugenic conspiracism. going back to the question as to why -- why are the aliens experimenting on this? -- experimenting on us? cooper's argument is that alien's genetic structure is deteriorating and they need to experiment on our superior genetic structure in order to save the alien race. which is a really interesting turnabout. you say these beings from another planet who traveled however far to get here are still racially inferior to us. there is a weird racial supremacist at work. that in some way echoes the kind of racial supremacist we saw
with pearl harbor, that we saw with the loss of china, the idea that america couldn't possibly have lost to these inferior races. instead there must be complicity from within that allows this conspiracy to take hold, not -- that allows america to be handed this defeat. cooper operating within those strains as well. while we roll our eyes talking about cooper, he is massively influential. not the least in new world order militia conspiracism. it is no coincidence that cooper and new world order conspiracies both emerge in the 1990's.
there is a strong linkage between the two. that is not to say that the two forms of conspiracism map perfectly onto each other. but a lot of the tropes we see in new world order conspiracism -- the men in black, secret bases -- these are all tropes that are drawn from ufo conspiraciessm. william cooper is one of the key linkages, giving birth to this new form of extraterrestrial conspiracism that we seem to be working our way through now. if anybody has noticed, no one is talking about alien of -- not a lot of people are talking about alien abduction anymore. those narratives have fallen off. it seems to have been a late 20th century phenomenon rather than an early 21st century phenomenon. and instead we are more and more
seeing the dark side hypothesis in play, these new fears of an alien-human alliance that is deeply reflective of contemporary fears of terrorism, of state sovereignty, and of the national security state. unfortunately we are out of time, so we will leave it there. we will pick up with some of these threads tuesday, particularly with ideas of structures of race and conspiracism. have a good weekend. i will see you then. announcer: follow american history tv on twitter, facebook and youtube for schedule updates. watch videos and learn more about the people and events that have shaped the american story.
>> watch book tv now on sundays on c-span2, or online anytime at book tv.org. it is television for serious readers. ♪ next on american history tv, a personal remembrance about escaping the holocaust. then, civil rights attorney freddie gray will discuss his work with rosa parks, martin luther king junior and others. find more information on your program guide, or c-span.org/history. edna: good morning. thank you for joining us for another episode. i am your host, historian edna friedberg. during each program, we explore an aspect of holocaust history and its relevance to our world today. this month, as we commemorate asian american and pacific islander heritage month, we do so at a time while witnessing a