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Denial, Belief and Semantics, and UFOs

Hal McKenzie

original source |  fair use notice

Summary: 'Do you believe in UFOs?' This annoying question, asked of me more times than I would like to count, is, in my opinion, the most oppressive sentence in the English language. In particular, the words 'believe' and 'UFOs' form a semantic straitjacket which makes up a large part of that frustrating wall of confusion and denial that confronts almost everyone involved in serious UFO research. I believe there is a way, however, to break out of that straitjacket and bring down that wall.

'Do you believe in UFOs?' This annoying question, asked of me more times than I would like to count, is, in my opinion, the most oppressive sentence in the English language. In particular, the words 'believe' and 'UFOs' form a semantic straitjacket which makes up a large part of that frustrating wall of confusion and denial that confronts almost everyone involved in serious UFO research. I believe there is a way, however, to break out of that straitjacket and bring down that wall. The answer lies in semantics and politics: semantics, because the terms popularly used to frame the UFO controversy tend to euphemize and confuse the issue; and politics, because it was political leaders making political decisions whose cowardice threw the entire issue of extraterrestrial contact into its present intellectual limbo. To clear up the fog and solve the UFO mystery itself, we must first explain plainly what we mean, and second, throw the entire issue into the political arena.

Consider the word 'believe'. The whole point of Unidentified Flying Objects is that they are seen, which puts them in the category of facts, not belief.It is in one's reaction to the facts that belief plays a role. One can either deal with the facts rationally, drawing the most direct and logical conclusions from them without fear or favour; or one can allow personal conceits, myths and/or social conventions to intervene.

Here emerges a gross abuse of language and a semantic fraud of major proportions: UFO researchers, as well as ordinary people whose lives have been turned upside down by close encounters of whatever kind, are labelled UFO 'believers' when, in fact, they are only drawing the most logical conclusions from the data, or reacting with normal human emotions to bizarre or terrifying sense-experiences.

The real believers, in fact, are those who keep insisting that what is happening can't be happening; who deny, ignore or cover up the facts because the facts would upset their cherished belief systems.

THE DENIAL SYNDROME -------------------

Psychologists have a word for this kind of stubborn, irrational belief that flies in the face of facts: denial. The denial syndrome is all too common in human life and history, where we can find innumerable examples, and not just in the area of UFOS.

Consider, for example, the tragic and all-too-common case of a little girl who reports to her mother that her father often comes into her room at night and sexually abuses her.The mother angrily rebukes the child and tells her to stop telling 'lies'.The truth is so painful to the mother that her mind rebels against it or blocks it out: she is in a state of denial.

The child, facing this wall of rejection and with no one to turn to, goes into a denial of her own to survive; she blocks out the painful experiences, suppressing the memories of them deeply in her subconscious.Yet the memories cannot be suppressed forever, and when the child reaches adulthood they force themselves to the surface, causing psychoses.

Today, an understanding therapist would help such a patient come to terms with the fact of her victimhood as a step towards healing. There was a time, however, when incest victims faced a wall of denial, even from so-called psychoanalysts. The late great Sigmund Freud often dealt with women who revealed under analysis that they were raped by their fathers. The good Dr Freud just couldn't believe it - the societal taboo against even discussing incest was too strong. So he denied the truth of his patient's testimony and concocted a nifty theory to explain it: the famous Oedipus complex. Freud theorized that these women as little girls, driven by their infantile libidos, fantasized that they had sex with their fathers! Nowadays, incest is no longer kept 'in the closet' but is openly discussed on television programmes.No longer do victims of incest have to suffer as in the past.The age of denial has ended and truth and understanding have dawned; at least as far as incest victims are concerned.

The same is not yet true of those claiming abduction by aliens, whose stories are recounted, for example, in Budd Hopkins's books, 'Missing Time and Intruders', and in Whitley Strieber's best-selling Communion and the movie based on it.

Most big-media reviews of the above- mentioned works express the fervent belief that Strieber and hundreds of others all independently fantasized the same thing.So learned men keep coming up with half-baked theories to explain this mass 'fantasy', while its victims continue to suffer from their terrifying experien- ces under a cloud of official rejection.

In other words, our society, in particular the intelligentsia, is locked in a state of denial when it comes to evidence of 'off-world' contact.It is not that there aren't enough facts to prove the case, it is that the facts themselves are being ignored, suppressed and ridiculed because they point to a conclusion too threatening for many to contemplate.

TERMINOLOGY -----------

Getting back to semantics, ask yourself the question: How do you end the state of denial of, say, an alcoholic? The answer is, you get the person to say 'I am an alcoholic' - not a tippler, not a social drinker, but an alcoholic.Once the person accepts that key word, he or she is on the road to recovery.

Ending the fog of denial regarding extraterrestrial issues may also involve nothing more than a change in terminology.'UFO' is an acronym originally coined by that boundless fount of obfuscatory language, the US Government, for the very purpose of euphemizing the evidence of alien spaceships in our atmosphere. The word 'UFO' can mean different things to different people. To some it means off-world craft, but to others it might mean 'misidentified natural phenomena'or even'hallucinations of crackpots seeking escape from their problems'. In other words, the word 'UFO' helps society evade the real issue of extraterrestrial contact, just like'tippler'and social drinker' evades the reality of alcoholism.

I propose, therefore, that from now on, researchers and activists phase out the word 'UFO'. I would use 'off-world craft' instead. Perhaps one day, when we see one, we will know enough to be able to say something like 'There goes a Reticulan laboratory ship' or 'That looks like a Pleiadean surveillance drone', but until then, let's just accept the fact that what we really mean when we say ,UFO' is some form of off-world craft. If we frame the issue in the clearest, most direct terms possible, then the truth will come out much faster.

GOVERNMENT DISINFORMATION -------------------------

To reiterate, our task is not to gather enough evidence to prove off-world contact, but to end the denial of the evidence that is already readily available.Proof comes from evidence, and the evidence is all round us - truckloads, boxcarloads and mountains of it.There is the UFO data collected since the late 1940s, including the unknown quantities known to exist in secret government files and warehouses; the historical and archaeological records dating back to prehistoric times; the common experience of mankind recorded in ancient religious scriptures; and what science has taught us about life in general, i.e. that life never develops in a vacuum.It is just a matter of putting two and two together.The problem is, as in George Orwell's 1984, that we are labouring under a manipulative government policy designed to make two plus two equal five!

In public reports like the Air Force's 'Blue Book' and the Condon Report, the US Government says UFOs are no big deal, they are no threat to national security - just forget it.In secret, however, they are very concerned, as revealed by documents released under the Freedom of Information Act and recent books like New York Times investigative reporter Howard Blum's Out There3. Blum exposes a covert'UFO action group'in the Pentagon, and a cabal of Air Force intelligence spooks who recruited famed UFO writer William Moore to monitor the effects of hair-raising disinformation fed to a midwest UFO researcher [Paul Bennewitz] who was getting too close to secret doings at an air base.The bogus stories nearly drove the poor researcher mad'.

Thus a great deal of the paranoia attributed to the UFO community can be traced to the government's policy of secrecy and deliberate disinformation.It is very much like the bad old days in the Soviet Union, where before Gorbachev's policy of glasnost the government kept information so tightly controlled that the average citizen had to make do with rumour, hearsay and speculation.In such an atmosphere of mistrust, when what the govern- ment says officially conflicts with what the people know to be true, a schism develops in the body politic itself, a kind of social schizophrenia that is harmful to the mental and social health of everyone.

The original failure of nerve that got the denial syndrome rolling can probably be traced back to 1947 or thereabouts, shortly after the' Roswellsaucer' crash, when US political and military leaders decided to keep the off-world debris and bodies under a tight lid of ultra- secrecy.Through the years, further webs of deceit and obfuscation were woven to protect the original policy, and like a cancer the denial syndrome metastasized to the media, to the scientific establishment, and to society in general.

Ironically, America's intelligence establishment, which has performed like Keystone Kops throughout the rest of the world, apparently succeeded all too well in this domestic disinformation scheme.One of its successes could well be the very disunity and factionalism that today plagues America's UFO community, rendering it incapable of taking effective action in countering the government's policy.America's UFO research groups [and those of the rest of the world! - Ed.] behave like prisoners in a mental gulag: they fight among themselves for scraps of information like prisoners fighting for scraps of food, while the real source of their problems is the totalitarian system that both restricts and doles out the information as it pleases.

POLITICAL ACTION ----------------

This is not a problem that can be solved by further collections of UFO sightings.The denial syndrome began with a political decision; only through politics can it be brought to an end.UFO investigators should become political activists, because only a good, old-fashioned political campaign will end the government's policy of UFO secrecy.They could, for example, form 'truth squads' to follow the President around and to ask such embarrassing questions as, 'What do you know about secret UFO files, Mr President?' and 'Why the cover-up?' That's the way to get on the evening news!

Abductees should do what other aggrieved groups have done with great success: form a lobbying group.

Imagine bus-loads of abductees descending on Capitol Hill to lobby for an investigation of the alien abduction syndrome and an end to UFO secrecy. The fact that they are a relatively small group of victims should not deter them. The highly successful 'Mothers Against Drunk Driving' (MADD) began with only one determined lady. If, as many UFO research groups say, their goal is to ,educate' the American people, then nothing is more educational than a political crusade, both for the public and the participants, as many people learned during the Vietnam War. With more media people per capita than any other city in the world, the place to begin such an educational process is Washington, DC, and I have become involved with Operation Right to Know, an organization dedicated to ending UFO secrecy, whose first demonstration took place in Washington in March 1992 [see Editor's Note].

Furthermore, it is a matter of public record that Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Barry Goldwater, to name but a few politicians, either saw UFOs or expressed an interest in the subject.However, most politicians would never gain the courage to buck longstanding policy unless they felt they had a con- stituency behind them.

If the government finally opens its secret data banks, then the off-world denial syndrome will quickly end and relative sanity will prevail - unless, of course, the truth is so horrible that it causes mass hysteria, which is one hypothetical explanation for the secrecy.

History shows, however, that mankind has never been harmed by the truth, despite fears of bureaucrats and potentates who tried to 'protect' the public from reality. Quite the contrary, in my opinion: the greatest obstacles to progress have come from official lies, myths and efforts to keep the people in the dark.For example, the ecclesiastical authorities of the Middle Ages were so afraid of Marco Polo's true accounts of the spiendours of far Cathay that they threatened to burn him at the stake if he didn't keep quiet.They feared that if people found out that a 'pagan' civilization could in some ways outshine Christendom, there would be hell to pay. The same thing happened to those who tried to spread Copernicus' findings that the Earth revolves around the Sun, rather than vice versa. Dislodge mankind from the centre of the universe? Never!

An enormous revolution occurred in the Soviet Union because the truth of democracy and human rights, which the Communist party tried to keep from the people, finally could not be contained. In all these cases, the truth-deniers came to be recognized as reactionaries who tried to keep the people in the Dark Ages.

When new truth is given to mankind, it always brings about new and unforeseen advances in human progress. Even if the truth holds dangers, it is better to face the truth with our eyes open like the sentient, spiritual beings that we are.

The politician or statesman who finally succeeds in breaking the off-world denial syndrome will go down in history as a greater liberator than Boris Yeltsin or Mikhail Gorbachev.It is time for us to prepare the ground for such a figure to emerge.

[Hal McKenzie worked as an editorial writer, reporter and editor at the News World newspaper in New York City from 1976, and first became interested in UFOs in 1981, when he was made editor of a weekly supplement called 'UFOs and Cosmic Phenomena'. In 1983, after the paper changed its name to the New York City Tribune, he edited the Commentary and Science sections until it cesed publication in 1991. He is now Current Issues editor at the World & I magazine, a publication of the Washington Times Corporation, in Washington, DC.]

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