Photo by Adam Baker.
You’ve heard it all before; blaring ridiculous headlines popping off the cover of the local tabloids: “Man Abducted By Aliens, Returns an Expert Chef”, “Child Can See UFOs After Getting New Eyeglasses”, and so on and so on. The issue of ‘unidentified flying objects’ or ‘UFOs’ as they are popularly referred to, has often been a topic relegated to the conspiracy theory fringe culture, or “Weird America”. In mainstream society and any type of professional agency, the issue is in effect considered unquestioningly taboo. But a deeper look into the facts behind the phenomenon reveals that the UFO believers may not be as radical or off-point as they seem at first glance.
Though to the naked eye, the general public may seem brusquely dismissive at worst or begrudgingly skeptical at best concerning the topic of UFOs, hard polling numbers reveal something quite different. According to a study conducted by the University of Connecticut 60% of Americans believe in the existence of alien life forms. To boot one 1997 CNN poll on the 50th anniversary of the famous Roswell sightings suggested that 80% of the American public believe that the government is hiding knowledge of the existence these extraterrestrial life forms. These numbers indicate that Americans are not nearly as close-minded to ideas about aliens visiting Earth as it might seem. Indeed, these figures certainly do not represent any “fringe culture”. This begs the question: Why is there not a more open and serious discourse on the subject on the part of the government, aviation agencies, and the scientific community?
The website “We the People”, begun by the Obama administration, allows any petition that garners sufficient signatures (now changed to 25,000 from an originally proposed 5,000 within 30 days) to be officially responded to by a White House delegation created to address any overarching concerns by the American public. This alien disclosure petition, which asks the government to “immediately release into the public domain all files from all agencies and military services relevant to this phenomenon”, received the then-necessary 5,000 votes within the first 3 days, going on to more than double the lowest prerequisite threshold to require a response by the government. While the precise wording of the petition might have ruined its chances for being taken seriously, the fact that it received so much backing so quickly does show that the American public feels slighted by the government on this issue and believes that they are not being forthcoming enough by any means.
Here we should differentiate between an admission by the government that we have had contact with alien life versus that we have had documented and real encounters with UFOs. Admitting that people have seen ‘unidentified flying objects’ which could not be explained away by aviation or government officials is not the same as saying those UFOs were controlled by aliens, though of course, that would be a possible explanation.
Hundreds of documented and substantiated reports from respected members of the military and aviation agencies have written and spoken about their encounters with UFOs. One such case occurred at in December of 1980 at a U.S Air Force Base in Suffolk, England when dozens of USAF personnel witnessed the “crash” (and subsequent rising) of what they themselves deemed a UFO. An Air Force colonel and sergeant even had first-hand contact with the strange flying machine, and reported that once they got near the machine they both began experiencing problems with their hand-held military radios. After administering an electromagnetic test radioactive levels were found to be at peak levels.  This extraordinary encounter, which came to be known as the “Rendelsham Forest Incident“, resulted in some internal correspondence (solely within the U.S. Air Force) and some media attention, but amazingly was never deemed worthy of an in-depth investigation.
There have been many many other incidences of encounters with UFOs by both military personnel and commercial pilots which have also gone essentially without any investigation by the U.S. government. For claims of UFO sightings, even when reported by members of the military and/or corroborated by hundreds of witnesses, the protocol response by the government has always been a brush-off, contributing the sightings to weather phenomenon or airplanes. Upon further investigation by outside sources it is generally found that there really was no government investigation conducted at all. 
It is upon the repeated dismissals by the government in the face of testimony by highly esteemed professionals (who often work for the government themselves) that conspiracy theories are born, leading some to believe that the U.S. government is indeed investigating these UFOs in secret, and in fact knows a lot more about them then they let on. Many are left to wonder if there is no conspiracy of hidden information, then what is the truth? That the U.S. government has no real interest or concern about strange and unexplained flying phenomenon experienced within U.S. air space? This conclusion, given national security concerns alone, is obviously preposterous.
In light of the lack of in-depth analysis in the face of so many reputable sightings many believe there is a policy of information suppression concerning UFOs in the U.S. government. According to a History Channel special on the subject within the Federal Aviation Agency handbook its states that, if a “pilot does see a UFO he/she is not to speak about it to the FAA” (32:20), outright silencing even the report of a sighting itself. The issue is considered closed before it is even uttered. Is this how the government is supposed to work? Amongst a populace that increasingly demands transparency on every other government issue the clandestine nature of the government’s actions when it comes to the topic is grossly overlooked here.
The same government that has historically spent billions upon billions of dollars on space exploration through NASA refuses to entertain the mere possibility that those same otherworldly life forms NASA (and SETI) has spent so much time and energy looking for might actually be more intelligent than us and have already visited our planet. In no other area of science is a subject so immediately dismissed by mainstream academia — this, despite the fact that the very backbone of great and expansive discoveries has always rested on an open-minded perspective and a willingness to look at the available data. This is how science progresses. Yet this is the exact opposite angle taken by the U.S. government when regarding the science of UFOs.
A former Arizona governor, Fife Symington, who was in public office during the famous UFO-related Phoenix Lights incident of 1997, put it this way, “There is a tendency in government to always want to come across as knowing exactly what’s going on. To say, ‘I don’t know’ is to admit complete vulnerability.” But to say that we don’t know is not to say that we believe in alien visitation. This huge jump of rationale is one that unfortunately renders the UFO phenomenon so untenably taboo and unable to be approached in any type of serious or progressive manner.
1. Kean, Leslie. UFO’s: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials go on Record. New York: Harmony Books, 2010