It’s rather hard to fathom — at least, for me — that some 12 million Americans buy into the argument that an alien lizard species controls the United States. These reptilian ETs, which include Henry Kissinger, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, not only govern us but also move freely within elite circles.
But this reptilian hegemony is not confined to the United States, according one of the principal proponents, David Icke. Even the seemingly benign and endearing Queen Elizabeth II is a shape-shifting, blood-sucking, flesh-eating reptile. And — perish the thought — some of the world’s most beautiful Oscar and Grammy winners are bearing dry, scaly reptilian skin under all that texturized and deodorized fake mammalian flesh.
An even larger number of Americans — some 66 million — cling tenaciously to the belief that an alien spacecraft crashed almost 70 years ago near Roswell, New Mexico, and that the U.S. Government has been desperately struggling to conceal this fact.
A Preoccupation of Losers
Needless to say, experts have advanced several explanations for how for this deep-seated paranoia takes hold of so many of us. Some psychologists contend that conspiracy theories are the preoccupation of losers, people who feel helpless in the face of a rapidly changing, increasingly complicated world.
That seems plausible. But for me, the most intriguing facet of conspiracy theories, particularly those involving UFOs and alien reptile conspiracies, is how they start.
Hatched from a Meme
Memes certainly seem to play a role, particularly in UFO folklore.
In fact, I think the strong case could be made that the UFO phenomenon was hatched from a meme. Private pilot Kenneth Arnold’s July, 1947, account of strange flying objects was quickly characterized by the media as an encounter with “flying saucers” and “flying discs.” Out of this reporting came an unusually absorbing meme, one that could be easily visualized and passed along by the public.
But then, memes alone can’t account for highly complex narratives.
Emergence: A Theory
Emergence theory, I think, explains many of the more complex UFO narratives. It is based on the premise that complex systems — entities, regularities and patterns — are the result of much smaller, simpler interactions. No one (or thing, for that matter) directs these processes; they just occur spontaneously.
The example I often use to explain emergence involves a professional queen bee producer I met many years ago who mailed his queens in ventilated wooden boxes that also bore two workers and a block of sugar. Once introduced to hives, these tiny trios ultimately produced entire colonies. But bear in mind that the queens were not in charge. The hives grew out of a comparatively simple series of interactions among the queen and worker bees that became more complex over time.
The Mother of all UFO Accounts
The mother of all UFO accounts, the Roswell incident, which not only compasses a purported 1947 crash of an extraterrestrial space craft but also the retrieval of alien bodies, strikes me as a textbook example of emergence.
Roswell skeptics contend that the so-called UFO incident grew out of several disparate events entirely unrelated to UFO’s that occurred in Roswell in 1947 or in later years. Most of these events were associated in some way with the military’s national security efforts which had nothing to do with UFO’s and everything to do with the Soviet nuclear menace. These memories, shared and discussed over decades, eventually morphed into the most complex and highly reported UFO narrative in history.
The strong case could be made that the political and cultural context of the 40’s and 50’s provided an unusually favorable environment for such a narrative to develop.
Americans were living in exceedingly dark and perilous times in the 1940s and 1950’s. They were adjusting to life in the aftermath of the bloodiest war in history while also contemplating the unthinkable: the prospect of an even deadlier war with the Soviet Union, and, even more horrifying, the possibility that this war could be carried to their doorsteps by Soviet long-range nuclear bombers.
Focal Point of the Cold War
Walker Air Force Base, located near Roswell, was the focus of several Cold War-related undertakings, including the launching of sensor-equipped balloons high into the atmosphere to monitor vibrations caused by Soviet nuclear detonations. One of these ultra-secret balloons crashed in July, 1947, on a ranch near Roswell, scattering shiny, lightweight, pliable debris that likely would have struck many people in the 1940’s as material from another world.
To research the effects of high altitudes on human physiology, the Air Force also sent balloon-propelled gondolas manned by servicemen outfitted in pressure suits to the deepest reaches of the atmosphere. One of these servicemen crashed a few miles northwest of Roswell, sustaining a massive head injury, resulting in swelling that resembled the large craniums later depicted in science fiction accounts of extraterrestrials.
This incident seems to bear a strong connection to one Roswell account about an extraterrestrial survivor walking from its crashed spacecraft to seek treatment at a military hospital.
Humanoid-looking dummies were also dropped from high altitudes to test parachute prototypes that were being considered for use aboard the high-altitude jets under development to reconnoiter the Soviet nuclear complex. A few of these dummies were lost in the desert and disfigured in ways that bore striking similarities to accounts associated with retrieved alien bodies.
The Roswell UFO accounts also seem to have been influenced by events stemming from the 1959 crash of a KC-97G military plane near Roswell, which claimed the lives of 11 servicemen but that remained classified for years. The victims’ remains were so charred and permeated with the stench of plane fuel that they were removed from the military hospital and placed in deep freeze in a large refrigerator at the Walker Air Force Base commissary so that body identification would not be delayed.
The accounts of the plane crash bear a remarkable resemblance to a widely circulated story about small, badly charred extraterrestrial bodies retrieved from a alien crash site. They emitted such an awful stench that they were eventually moved from the hospital to another facility for autopsying.
I’ll also offer this fact for consideration: Over the course of a 29-year career as a Cooperative Extension news and public affairs reporting on the spread of invasive species such as the red imported fire ants, I learned that many of these species require as long as a generation to marshal the resources to spread beyond their points of introduction.
Could it be that complicated conspiratorial narratives such as the Roswell UFO incident require a period of time — years, perhaps even decades — to gain sufficient traction? Whatever the case, the full Roswell UFO account encompassing the crash and the retrieval of alien bodies did not attract much attention until the mid-1970s, following the release of numerous books, articles and TV reports.
From my humble perspective, the Air Force’s 1995 titled “The Roswell Report: Case Closed” not only debunks the Roswell UFO incident but also provides an unusually compelling account of how disparate accounts stretching back for decades and involving fading memories are conflated with other accounts to form complex, highly riveting narratives.
Indeed, I think that the Air Force report makes a strong case for emergence theory.
I’ll even go one step further: I believe that emergence largely accounts for the development of many of the most complex and compelling narratives in history, including those that form the bases of major world religions, but I’ll take up that subject later.