UFOs and Deepfakes

History began with the written word. It was this technology that made a record possible. As our means of documentation developed, this record became more reliable. Manuscript, printed book, newspaper, telegram, radio, film, television, cell phone video – now the means of documentation are ubiquitous. Everyone’s a historian.

And yet, at this stage of maximum diffusion, history itself is threatening to implode.

The deeepfake is here, and our distrust of the media is at an all-time high – soon, no fact will be verifiable.

Right now, of all times, the UFO phenomenon has gained unprecedented credibility. Before now, anyone who peddled these ideas was written off as a crank – and often rightfully so. But according to this article in The Atlantic:

From 2007 to 2012, the Department of Defense operated a top-secret, $22 million program dedicated to investigating UFO reports, known as the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program.

And there’s a New York Times article reporting on this program. The Times article states:

In the $600 billion annual Defense Department budgets, the $22 million spent on the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program was almost impossible to find.

Which was how the Pentagon wanted it.

For years, the program investigated reports of unidentified flying objects, according to Defense Department officials, interviews with program participants and records obtained by The New York Times. It was run by a military intelligence official, Luis Elizondo, on the fifth floor of the Pentagon’s C Ring, deep within the building’s maze.

The Defense Department has never before acknowledged the existence of the program, which it says it shut down in 2012. But its backers say that, while the Pentagon ended funding for the effort at that time, the program remains in existence. For the past five years, they say, officials with the program have continued to investigate episodes brought to them by service members, while also carrying out their other Defense Department duties.

You heard the name Luis Elizondo. Let’s see what he has to say about UFOs:

The Times states that Elizondo ran the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATI, for short), but did he? According to The Intercept:

Whatever the truth about otherworldly UFOs (cue a collective eye-roll from scientists), there is one crucial detail missing […] There is no discernible evidence that he ever worked for a government UFO program, much less led one.

Yes, AATIP existed, and it “did pursue research and investigation into unidentified aerial phenomena,” Pentagon spokesperson Christopher Sherwood told me. However, he added: “Mr. Elizondo had no responsibilities with regard to the AATIP program […] up until the time he resigned[.]” 

That sounds pretty bad – it paints Elizondo as just another fraud. But, according to Politico:

Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White confirmed […] that the program existed and was run by Elizondo. But she could not say how long he was in charge of it and declined to answer detailed questions about the office or its work, citing concerns about the closely held nature of the program.

So maybe he did work there, and they’re covering it up. But maybe they’re not. If The Intercept is right about Elizondo, they do offer another tantalizing quote:

“We know that UFOs exist,” Chris Mellon, a deputy assistant secretary of defense for intelligence in the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, pronounced on the show. “This is no longer an issue. The issue is why are they here? Where are they coming from? And what is the technology behind these devices that we are observing?”

A deputy assistant secretary of defense for intelligence, and one who worked for two administrations. That sounds pretty official.

But remember The Disclosure Project? When they held an event at the National Press Club, it sounded pretty official, too. This is how it was announced:

An event with historical implications, the Citizen Hearing on Disclosure of an extraterrestrial presence engaging the human race, will take place at the National Press Club, April 29 to May 3. Forty researchers and military/agency witnesses will testify for thirty hours over five days before former members of the United States Congress. Committee Members include Senator Mike Gravel, (Dem/Lib, AK), Congresswomen
Darlene Hooley (Dem, OR), Carolyn Kilpatrick (Dem, MI), Lynn Woolsey (Dem, CA) and Congressman Merrill Cook (Rep, UT). One more Committee Member may be added.. The CHD will attempt to accomplish what the Congress has failed to do for forty-five years – seek out the facts surrounding the most important issue of this or any other time.


But then, like so much in UFO culture, it devolved into the ridiculous right away. Let’s take a look at some remarks from the introductory speaker:

Perhaps it is this amalgam of the revelatory and the preposterous, more than any other feature, that defines the UFO phenomenon in the public consciousness. Attempts to legitimize UFOs are misguided. Like everything truly demonic, UFOs walk the line between ghastly and tangible.

All devils traffic in lies, and the best lies contain just enough fact to be poisonous. Like deepfakes. Soon enough, we’ll be unable to confirm or refute the veracity of any information with which we’re presented. Then history will be dead, and we’ll be in a truly alien landscape – extraterrestrial or otherwise.

Lord, have mercy on us.