Monday, January 14, 2008

The UFO as Political Smear

I've already blogged about US Presidents and presidential candidates with UFO interests or connections. One of these is Dennis Kucinich, whose UFO sighting came to a head after it was mentioned in memoirs by his friend Shirley McClaine. While the initial interest in the topic is understandable, the subsequent revisiting months later by the Wall Street Journal is puzzling.

Well, not really. First off, UFOs in politics has become an increasingly popular topic in the media and amongst internet readers. Second, the Wall Street Journal was already a bastion of right-wing media in the US before it was bought by Rupert Murdoch, the owner of Fox News. On the one hand, Murdoch knows how to make money, as Billy Cox suggests by noting that the article was straightforward and got a lot of attention, and he has made a lot of money off UFOs (with little-known media properties like The X-Files, Independence Day as well as hosting UFO shows like Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction and Sightings on the Fox Network).

But a credible subtext of the piece, given its timing days before the presidential primary season is: Democrats are crazy people. While it would not matter much regarding the low-polling Kucinich, the story (combined with Bill Richardson's, who recently ended his presidential campaign, promotion of Roswell and UFOs on and off the campaign trail) has the potential to create guilt by association. It's a political smear, specifically at Kucinich but in general at the more progressive end of the Democratic party Kucinich attempts to represent.

A similar piece crossed my desktop today, from, entitled "James Woolsey: Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind." The piece is a hit piece on one of the architects of the Iraq War and a member of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). The first half focuses on Woolsey's history of interest in UFOs, after having had a sighting himself in the 1960s, and associating this interest with his failures as head of the CIA. This is the background, in turn for demonstrating Woolsey's lying and conspiring to create a war in Iraq, a war in Iran, and his efforts to start what he calls "World War IV." Here, there is no subtext, the obvious point is that Woolsey is paranoid and obsessed with the unreal, be it in UFOs or in WMDs.

Last year also saw interest in another alleged use of UFOs as a political weapon, this time by George Bush I's CIA against newly elected President Carter. I am somewhat skeptical of that story, though there are some hints that it may have happened. Louis Farrakhan's contactee-esque story of being taken into a spaceship and being warned of the 1986 American attack on Libya is also mentioned prominently when attacking his claims or activities.

The association with the subject generally seems to go in one direction only. Just as with academics who study the topic, other than as folklore or popular culture, advocacy or even interest in the topic can damage (though likely not be the sole cause of dooming) a politician. By contrast, this interest will find someone ready to embrace a well known figure, even if they are already known as a fringe politician or figure, such as in the case of Canada's Paul Hellyer.

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