By Apuleius Charlton
Special guest blogger
As a reader, when I go over Jacques Vallee’s warning about the UFO phenomenon “creating new religions, cultural and political concepts” my mind immediately goes towards such obvious freak cults such as Scientology, Raelism and even the quaintly batshit Unarius Academy “of Science.” Yet, that might not be the best place to begin contemplating the gravity of Vallee’s warning.
Belief in the UFO phenomenon is something that many people seem to think is a prerequisite for taking it seriously, but it is inarguable that the UFO phenomenon has helped to shape our mass perception of the world around us. It should be remembered that along with “I Want To Believe,” another tagline of The X-Files was “Trust No One.” If one accepts the proposition that the whimsical conspiratorial thinking of the Nineties gave way to the deluge of paranoia fostered by the Internet in the Bush era onwards, this helps to explain a certain mode of thought prominent on today: paranoia and mistrust.
The belief that the government is “obviously” hiding knowledge about UFOs leads to an easier acceptance that the government is “obviously” hiding other information from the masses. In the same way that New Agers can become rabid anti-vaxxers, the belief that the government was covering up something at Roswell can lead to a belief in some grand Illuminati-adrenochrome- harvesting-cabal. Thus we see that far from warning about the nefarious efforts of The Church of Scientology to manipulate the law to serve their own means, Vallee’s alarm about new political concepts are far flung and often-as-not end up being about something completely different than flying saucers.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe that thinking about the UFO phenomenon is a worthwhile pastime to exercise the mind and the boundaries of belief, but without the constant reflection and doubt prescribed by Robert Anton Wilson, can lead to stark raving mad ideas. Instead of revealing that there is no governor anywhere and the entirety of the human race is making up reality piecemeal as we traverse through time, conspiratorial dalliance can give way to the false idea that someone, somewhere is in control. The contradicting stories that surround the history of the UFO (now UAP, a term that means exactly the same as the now unfashionable, unscientific moniker) phenomenon should indicate that there isn’t some solid counter-narrative to the rational conception of the universe but that all narratives are kinda tatty and lacking.
One mode of thought will lead to the liberating notion that reality is a construct that can be toyed with and improved upon by the individual, the other leads to the opposite idea where we have been duped and press ganged into some unholy prison. Of course, I should note that there is a lot of nuance between these two extremes but I think it is fair enough to set them up as the two different ends of our dichotomy. Personally, I disagree with the idea that we “should never ascribe to malice what can be blamed on incompetence” as there is no reason to believe that continual incompetence isn’t born of obstinacy and ill-will. Inattention and sloppy handlings of matters can easily be malicious; if you don’t believe me, try working with adolescents, or revisit the Flint Water Crisis.
One of the great tasks of the conspiracist is not to end up in an armed showdown with the government, or spend one’s life in intellectual squalor, surrounded by the rats and mites of the darker corners of culture. As I’ve pointed out in many posts before, Wilson’s constant reminders of the dubiousness of our own perspectives is a vital tool for preventing such an outcome. It should be noted that the positive use of conspiratorial thinking, as exemplified by the fifth exercize for this chapter, is a strong preventive measure against ending one’s days wearing a tinfoil hat, armed to teeth, awaiting the New World Order to start sending troops into your home to steal your valuable research.