Getting Inside Your Head:
Media, Mind Control, and Marginalization of UFOs
Such as the incident from the summer of 2002. On July 26, 2002, at around 2 a.m., very close to Washington, D.C., two F-16 jets were seen in pursuit of a blueish object which outmaneuvered and outran them. The object also disappeared from Air Force radar. How is it that we learned of this event?
It turns out that while the chase was in progress, the local radio station in the area, WTOP, received a half dozen phone calls about the sighting from area residents. It was this little radio station, not Reuters or AP, which broke the story. In addition, FOX and CNN each aired the story once on local television.
The next day, The Washington Post ran a normal-length article on the event, based primarily on one eyewitness and the Air Force public relations desk. While the Post article was not dismissive, it failed to question the Air Force’s statement that nothing was seen by the pilots visually (the jets were obviously chasing an object seen by many people on the ground). Instead, the Post essentially repeated the Air Force claim that the object could have been "any number of things" (what things?). Nor did the Post article ask such indelicate questions as, what could be invading American air space this close to the Capitol in the post-911 era?
A handful of major papers reprinted the Post story, and that became the sum total of media coverage on the incident. Reuters and AP never did get around to it. Indeed, no wire service did, a very important fact. As Terry Hansen discussed in his book, The Missing Times, the wire services act as media choke points. Without being picked up by the wires, a story is sure to die. Indeed, even the CNN and FOX websites neglected to carry any news on the UFO encounter, despite the fact that they had broadcast the event on television.
It is as though the event never happened, except that it did happen. A UFO invading American air space, in the post-911 era, chased by two interceptors near the Capitol. Think about that for a moment. And the story promptly falls into the black hole of media silence. Gone forever.
Most people don’t realize that bizarre, unexplained, aerial phenomena go on all the time. This is most definitely not a mere remnant of cold war culture, but as much a part of our world today as it was during the era of so-called flying saucers in the 1950s and 1960s. Normally, not a week goes by without something extraordinary being seen by people somewhere around the globe. Many of these sightings are of high quality, in terms of factual details observed and the caliber of the witnesses. But hardly ever a word on this appears within the mainstream media, in which UFOs appear to be a quaint, cute, and very dead issue.
In fact, mainstream media, and American media in particular, is incapable of handling this issue in a detached way. A very convenient situation, if you’re part of a national security apparatus that has been incapable of dealing with unexplained aerial objects for more than fifty years. Despite the many air space violations and failed attempted intercepts that have taken place over the years, the sum total of media coverage registers a few degrees above Absolute Zero.
It’s a reasonable conclusion that someone is trying to influence your perception of reality.
Thought control sounds like something ominous, and it is. But it’s also a universal fact of human society. Centuries ago, churches were the prime instrument for shaping our thoughts, holding a virtual monopoly of access to the souls of men and women. Rulers used churches to mold submissive minds and enforce obedience. Napoleon understood this as well as anyone, observing that "religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."
Today, ruling elites have something better than churches: a centralized mass media that dispenses and manages information and entertainment for billions of people. Churches were effective at what they did, but the star of any mind control team today is the electronic mass media: namely, the television which occupies the prime spot in your livingroom.
So while you go about your daily business, assuming that you are a free agent in the game of life, remember that there is a never-ending struggle waged for influence over your mind, and indeed the shaping of your reality. Clearly, it is a reality meant to be UFO-free.
Everyone knows that the UFO phenomenon goes back further than 1947, but this was the year it definitely tapped some shoulders in America’s national security leadership. It was the year General Nathan Twining said that UFOs were "real, not visionary or fictitious," and that they engaged in evasive maneuvers from our military. German scientists at Wright Field and White Sands Proving Grounds scratched their heads over who and what could be behind the technology of flying saucers.
Was this merely a bizarre psycho-social phenomenon, as the military occasionally told the public, and as many today still believe? The U.S. intelligence community doesn’t appear to have thought so, as evidenced by this 1949 classified memo from the FBI:
"Army intelligence has recently said that the matter of ‘Unidentified Aircraft’ or ‘Unidentified Aerial Phenomena,’ otherwise known as ‘Flying Discs,’ ‘Flying Saucers,’ and ‘Balls of Fire,’ is considered top secret by intelligence officers of both the Army and the Air Forces."
I have never understood why more is not made of this memo. It states that UFOs were considered Top Secret. (It is interesting that, of the thousands of documents released through the Freedom of Information Act, all but the smallest handful are not Top Secret, but rather at lower classifications like Restricted or Secret. Where are the Top Secret documents? Presumably somewhere, and not likely to reach the prying eyes of outsiders like the public.)
By the early 1950s, secrecy regulations such as AFR-200 and JANAP 146 were in place, effectively silencing military personnel and commercial airline pilots about UFO sightings. National security circles were obviously taking UFOs very seriously.
While the problem of UFOs dropped, as it were, into the laps of those people running U.S. national security, a silent revolution was occurring, independent but on a parallel course. 1947 was also the year of the National Security Act, which created an independent Air Force and the CIA, and also unified the military services under a Secretary of Defense. Years later, President Dwight Eisenhower warned America about the dangerous growth of its "military-industrial complex." That complex received its baptism with this Act.
Several people studying the late 1940s (myself included) have used the term "National Security State" to describe what happened in America. I think this phrase is entirely appropriate, as what really evolved at this time was a State within a State, above the normal laws of the land.
Occasionally, UFO writers try to connect the National Security Act with the crash at Roswell, or more loosely to the UFO phenomenon itself. Strictly speaking, this is not a tenable position. The efforts to unify the military can be traced directly back to 1945, as a result of the frustrations from fighting a global war, and then the beginnings of a little thing called the Cold War. UFOs were not necessary to get these efforts going, and the crash at Roswell was too recent an event to be a factor.
But even though UFOs were not the prime motivator in the National Security Act, the agencies affected by the Act certainly had to deal with them.
Let us play a "what if" game. Suppose you’re back in time, living through that fateful year of 1947, and furthermore, that your name happens to be Harry S. Truman. Let us also suppose that, somehow, your military gained access to ‘hardware’ (say, Roswell) that was "not from our world."
What would you do? Would you inform the world? Would you tell a few select allies? Or would you keep it as an ultra-black secret, tucked away from all but the most essential eyes?
Before answering, think about how you handled secrecy over that other big-ticket item of the day: the atomic bomb. We know something about this one. In 1947, the United States still held a monopoly of functional atomic bombs. The rest of the world, meanwhile, knocked at the door, demanding that control over this radical new technology revert to the United Nations. This was a prominent issue at the time, all but forgotten today.
The American answer to such requests? Nothing doing. Handing the bomb over to the U.N. would have been tantamount to gift-wrapping it for the Kremlin.
Unwilling to share nuclear secrets with the world, you certainly would not share something as exotic as alien technology. Instead, you would probably classify the subject (in the words of Canadian Wilbert Smith back in 1950) "higher than the H-bomb." Above Top Secret. Especially so, since the KGB had already penetrated the American defense and scientific establishments (enabling them to detonate their own atomic bomb as early as 1949). You might even establish an ultra-secret group (MJ-12, anyone?) to study the technology, find out what exactly is going on, and keep it secret from everyone else.
Historians generally don’t like to play ‘what if’ games. Such speculation, after all, doesn’t give the illusion of rigorous objectivity most of them crave. But UFO researchers don’t work "on a level playing field." We cannot read the records in Langley or hack into the DIA files. We have to study what facts we have and make the best sense of them we can. In my view, those facts support the scenario outlined above.
By 1947, radio had fully grown up and television had arrived. Many American policy-makers believed the new media technology heralded an unprecedented opportunity to mold the right kind of public spirit. Indeed, the concept of an American "consensus culture" became a dominant motif among social theorists in the universities, industry, and government.
CIA Director Allen Dulles certainly believed in using media to assist the National Security State. By the early 1950s, he had established close relationships with most of the heads of the American media establishment. We know something about this thanks to Carl Bernstein’s 1977 article in Rolling Stone. Bernstein revealed that during the 1950s and 1960s, the CIA had at least 400 working journalists on its payroll. These were placed in the elite journalistic institutions, as the New York Times, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Saturday Evening Post, CBS News, and elsewhere. The CIA also had journalists from the wire services -- those media choke points -- such as Reuters, AP, and UPI on its payroll.
What did CIA-paid journalists do? While abroad, they often gathered information for the Agency that would have been difficult to obtain otherwise, and often established useful relationships with foreign nationals. The cover of journalism proved to be very useful for this.
More serious, however, were instances in which news policy was influenced, or even set, by a news organization’s relationship to the CIA. This would include something as stark as the planting of disinformation, or something as subtle as the decision not to publish certain types of stories, or influencing editorial policy.
Does this mean that the CIA controlled the mainstream media? Not exactly. But, you might want to ask yourself how much influence you would gain over the media with 400 well-placed journalists secretly working for you.
The CIA, by the way, later stated that it no longer engages in such activities. What it means by this is that it no longer has a policy of putting mainstream journalists on its payroll. This does not mean that it has no close working relationships with American journalists. In fact, many journalists deliberately nurture relationships with highly placed "secret sources" assuming that in the course of these contacts they’ll be privy to important, exclusive information.
The result of all of this is effective news management. This includes the UFO issue. Since 1947, while the Air Force worked to remove the UFO problem from the public domain, the media has typically ignored the topic. When it doesn’t, the topic is frequently the subject of humor. As I have written elsewhere, the release of every major Air Force and CIA statement about UFOs has, with strikingly few exceptions, been met by uncritical media acquiescence.
And lest we forget: when the CIA-sponsored Robertson Panel offered its recommendations in 1953 on how to manage the public dimensions of the UFO problem, its members took it for granted that mainstream media would work closely with the government (secretly, of course) to debunk UFOs and educate the public on what to believe.
Some people believe that with an Internet-based global communications network, it should be harder for a UFO coverup to exist today. Actually, the reverse seems to be true.
The reason is that nothing is independent, anymore. Fifty years ago, if you drove across the United States, you could listen to truly independent radio stations, which (can you believe it?) actually had local people reporting local news. You could read an independently-owned newspaper (which competed with several other independently-owned newspapers in the same city). Journalists competed to ‘scoop’ each other, to get that inside story no one else could get. In other words, muckrakers could still work for a major newspaper.
To put it mildly, that’s not how it works today. What people need to realize is that there is no longer a free market for news.
This is not a facetious remark, not hyperbole. America no longer has a free press. Not the kind, at any rate, we grew up believing in.
Media consolidation in the last twenty years has completely transformed American journalism. While it the press was generally subservient to the government in earlier years, we now have something so different that we still lack the conceptual tools to wrap our brains around it.
The global media market is now dominated by seven multinational corporations: Disney, AOL-Time Warner, Sony, News Corporation, Viacom, Vivendi, and Bertelsmann. Between them, they own the major U.S. film studios; all but one of the U.S. television networks; more than 80 percent of the global music market; most satellite broadcasting worldwide; a large share of book publishing and commercial magazine publishing; most of America’s (and the world’s) commercial cable TV channels; the lion’s share of European television, and much more.
These organizations, of course, don’t exist in order to do the bidding of the U.S. national security apparatus. They exist to make huge profits, which they do very well. The paucity of genuine news available to the average world citizen is less due to their conspiratorial intent and more due to action toward their bottom line. In general, they have gradually weeded out ‘hard news" from their priorities, and replaced this with light entertainment. News today is packaged, managed, and inextricably intertwined with entertainment. It is a product. Why? It sells advertising better.
The CIA is hardly necessary for weaning the American public away from its former mania for public discourse. Americans once were a deeply civic-minded society. But rampant commercialism and consumerism, presented as a false "individualism," have eroded this. "Buy this, have this, get that thing now, because you deserve it!" And just as important as the message is the medium itself: television, which doesn’t merely promote passivity, it hypnotizes.
That is, advertising uses images skillfully designed to trigger certain associations and emotional responses, which are then reflected in changes and effects on the brain’s physical processes and, perhaps, structures. It happens by a rapid succession of arresting images, blasting their way into the recesses of our brains before we can analyze or process the message, which is, of course, the entire point. They are truly getting into our heads, changing us, and even pacifying us.
Here’s a newsflash for you: the average person in the United States watches 37 hours of television a week, including an average of 714 commercials. That's 1,856 hours and 37,000 commercials per year. Think they’re not getting into you, yet? The amount of commercials we watch, incidentally, is about 50 percent higher than a generation ago, thanks to ever-increasing de-regulation of the market.
While the media giants have their own agenda, it surely is convenient from a power elite point of view that there are so few of them. If you are faced with the task of managing public opinion, wouldn’t it be better to have relationships with, say seven major entities, rather than a hundred smaller ones? Yes, I think it would.
The relationship between Big Media and the National Security State is symbiotic. Big Media more closely resembles a cartel than the competitive entities we read about in economic textbooks. They lobby together, for instance, at regional, national, and global levels. Their ownerships are frequently intertwined. They are notorious for getting their way with politicians, and even wrote substantial portions of the horrific Telecommunications Act of 1996, which has essentially placed the last nail in the coffin of public service oriented media in this country.
The Telecommunication Act was lauded by its proponents as a great step toward an "open, competitive, and largely unregulated communications marketplace." If this statement were not so self-serving and galling, it would be laughable. Just six years later, history has borne out the fears of those who opposed the Act. Media consolidation has accelerated, power is more centralized, and programming especially for radio and television are more pre-packaged than ever. Indeed, radio has reached its final destination as a centralized, automated, and tightly formatted entertainment medium. In that medium, at least, the transformation is complete.
Big Media certainly gets its way with the government. But nothing comes for free. In return, our ruling establishment is blessed with a compliant media that gives it the freest of rides. Since television newsrooms around the country have cut back on their number of reporters, they now gladly air pre-packaged government produced video news releases (VNRs) as "news."
Media experts estimate that roughly 50 percent of all news for newspapers, radio, and television come in the form of press releases from public relations firms. Some put the number as high as 75 percent. The situation is worst with television. According to Medialink study from 2001, 90% of TV newsrooms now rely on VNRs and B-roll provided by outside sources as a regular part of their newscasts. Much of this is simply self-serving corporate or government propaganda.
The world has always been a repressive place. Elites have always found a way to manage public opinion. But the erosion of the public realm by Big Media is especially alarming. The global control of information by a handful of mega-corporations is allowing for ever-easier selection, manipulation, packaging, and distortion of reality to consumers, who become ever-more passive recipients of an "info-tainment culture" in which it is difficult to separate entertainment from advertisement, news from propaganda, or truth from lie. As Rage Against the Machine put it so well: we’ve become "just victims of the in-house drive-by; they say jump, you say how high?"
True, elites don’t last forever, and as long as a repressive system of control exists, there will always be people willing to fight the power. If history can teach us anything, it teaches us this.
The problem is that it’s more complicated now than it used to be. Once upon a time, if you wanted to start a revolution, you had a general idea of whom to fight and what to do, like kill the king and take back your land from the clergy. It certainly wasn’t easy, but at least it was a plan.
But how does one turn the tables on an all-pervasive media culture that is inextricably intertwined with the power elite, which parcels out the very information you need to move forward? Which is able to penetrate your mind, confuse and distract your analytical processes, and manipulate the reality you experience? Which has replaced a socially-aware, political culture with an atomized, consumer culture, comprised of people sitting alone, in their living rooms, watching television?
I don’t know. But just as the intelligence and military communities are not monolithic, neither is Big Media. Not only are there always going to be some internally competing elements, but there will always be people inside who don’t agree with the party line. They can be allies. Most important, though, is for people who are on the outside to organize with each other, to share information, and to keep corporate-government-media culture at arm’s length. Impossible and unwise to ignore this culture, we can nevertheless begin to reclaim sovereignty over our minds by knowing whom to fight, and clearing out our realm of freedom.
Think of your life as a river. At your birth, you’re dropped into a boat. Not all the boats are of equal quality, nor equipped equally. While some have maps, cushy seats, and even drivers, most of us have just a single oar. Even if you do nothing at all, the river’s current will take you to some destination, although the chances are that it won’t be especially nice.
Which means that you have to navigate. And the first step toward doing that -- the step that many, unfortunately, never take at all -- is recognizing that you need to navigate. Next, that you can.
Even if it means going upstream.
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