Tag Archives: conspiracy

“There are Lots of Lights…” But Are They All UFO CONSPIRACIES?

UFO CONSPIRACIES on Science Channel


(1.5/5)

Pros: This topic always fascinates


Cons: Recycled stories; lazy formatting; lack of any evidence; over-reliance on narration

The latest entry in a genre that’s become a staple of cable educational channels, Science Channel’s UFO Conspiracies is yet another program dedicated to exposing various incidents involving unidentified flying objects. Since there have been so many undeniably similar shows of this nature over the years, the main thing that I’m looking for in a new UFO-related program is new, previously unheard information. While History Channel’s Hanger 1, arguably the best UFO/alien-related show currently airing, does provide information that I hadn’t come across before however, UFO Conspiracies seems like a complete retread, one that’s quite content to regurgitate various stories that have been covered elsewhere. As such, it would by and large be worthless for UFO enthusiasts: most viewers would have heard these stories before.

now THIS is a UFO conspiracy
…now THIS is a UFO conspiracy…

The initial episode of the program (aired on November 19, 2014) presented a trio of UFO reports, and it appears this is how most/all episodes of the show play out. First off, we have an incident from 2008 in which a large, fast-moving unknown craft was pursued across the Texas sky by a pair of F-16 fighters. Though investigators from MUFON (the Mutual UFO Network, probably the most comprehensive and well-structured UFO investigatory board) acquired radar footage that seemed to corroborate the stories of various eyewitnesses who saw this event, the Air Force has repeatedly denied that such an incident took place, relying on the tried and true methods of explaining what people saw. Next up, we’ve got a story from Peru, in which a group of journalism students investigating the sightings of strange lights in the Amazon actually wound up filming them. This segment is the only one presented that actually presents video evidence to document its story, but I simply didn’t find the story all that compelling. Finally, we’ve got the somewhat more interesting story of the disappearance of pilot Frederick Valentich off the Australian coast in 1978. Valentich had reported an unknown craft in the area surrounding his small one-engined plane while flying over the ocean, but shortly thereafter, disappeared without a trace, leaving behind only a mysterious final radio communication in which grating metallic sounds were heard.

newspaper
Newspaper reporting Valentich’s disappearance.


As is normally the case in these types of shows, the stories in UFO Conspiracies are related to the viewer with the help of reenactments along with actual eyewitness accounts. The format of the show is entirely unexceptional, and I think the worst element of it is the over-reliance on the frequently cryptic narration of John Schwab. Schwab’s third-party descriptions of the events detailed in the program are featured much more than any of the actual first-person accounts, which makes it seem like the show is force-feeding the viewer information instead of allowing him to make up his own mind. It also seems pretty obvious that the producers of this show are skeptical about UFOs since a significant amount of time is devoted to providing alternate explanations which debunk the possibility that unknown craft were involved (I could almost argue that this is amount the few alien conspiracy shows that more tries to debunk the extraterrestrial hypotheses rather than confirm them or at least leave the door of possibility open). This approach seems definitively odd even if it does ensure that UFO Conspiracies is more objective than normal for a program of this nature. I would suspect that the vast majority of viewers would want this show to be more ambiguous in its conclusions rather than providing an “easy out” of sorts. Sure, these incidents may be explained away by helicopters, flares, and military aircraft, but let’s face the facts: people watching a show called “UFO Conspiracies” want to hear about aliens living on military bases, men in black threatening witnesses with corporal injuries, and secret government files buried in a vault in central Wyoming.

weather balloon

More damning than the condescending tone of the program though is the simple fact that I’ve heard every story presented in this first episode before in other UFO-related television shows. It really seems as though UFO Conspiracies was thrown together hastily using very accessible, well-documented, and well-known UFO cases – the Valentich disappearance, for instance, was covered more comprehensively in the past year or two on Science Channel’s significantly more worthwhile The Unexplained Files. Combine this fact that nothing presented would be new information for what I would assume would be the show’s target audience with the fact that the program actually downplays the element of the unknown that exists in these stories, and UFO Conspiracies winds up as a show that alien conspiracists would not only be bored by, but actually scoff at.

i'll just leave this here
I’ll just leave this here…


I admit it: I certainly believe in the existence of extraterrestrials (it would be pure ignorance to assume that humans are the only intelligent life in the infinity of the cosmos) and even think there’s something strange going on in the skies here on Earth (as Finding Bigfoot’s Bobo says: “I’ve seen ‘em. They’re here,” though I don’t claim to have any idea what “they” are). It’s likely there will always be a place for shows like UFO Conspiracies since these sorts of topics do capture the imagination of myself and incalculable other people out there. No attempt has been made on the part of the show’s producers to bring any amount of freshness to a now-tired formula; In Search of… debuted in 1977 after all and the format of the “speculative documentary” hasn’t significantly changed since then. UFO Conspiracies really has nothing to offer the viewer other than an semi-tolerable time-waste. Due to the absence of actual evidence, there’s a noticeable lack of credibility and the entire show seems lazy. Skip it.

History Channel’s Wide World of Conspiracy! HANGAR 1: THE UFO FILES

HANGER 1: THE UFO FILES on The History Channel

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(3.5/5)


Pros: Well-made; more credible than some similar shows; fascinating, thought-provoking information

Cons: Lack of hard evidence; conspiracy theories galore!

Considering the almost absurd number of UFO and alien-related shows on television in general and The History Channel in particular, the channel’s 2014 series Hangar 1: The UFO Files would need some element to not only give it some credibility but also distinction from the crowd. This show’s producers found just that when they set up the entire series as an expose type of program that revolved around an investigation of certain files from the archives of the , or MUFON. MUFON was founded in 1969 (precisely the time when the Air Force’s official inquiry into the UFO phenomenon, the much-maligned , was ending), and has over the years compiled some 70,000 case files relating to encounters with unknown craft and/or extraterrestrials. Each hour-long episode of Hangar 1 focuses on a specific facet of the UFO argument, with files pulled from the MUFON archives used to further illustrate and examine the topics. Unfortunately, this isn’t enough to make the program stand out all that much from the dozens of vaguely similar shows, though I’d have to say that Hangar 1 would be about the perfect show for UFO and alien conspiracists.

archives
The actual, shadowy MUFON archives, or just a creepy-looking set – you decide.


Season one of Hangar 1 (eight episodes in length) would be an ideal “introductory course” in modern ufology and also could be taken as a excellent “refresher course” for those already interested in the subject and related theories. Episodes during this initial season dealt with such subjects as space weaponry being designed by government-sponsored deep black programs, the notion that the examination and “reverse engineering” of crashed flying saucers could yield new human technology, and the existence of deep underground military bases which could be used both to hide that sort of technology or even disguise extraterrestrial settlements on earth. The entirety of the first season of episodes ties back to the premiere which dealt with presidential encounters with UFOs and government policy relating to the subject. Ever since the late 1940s, there have been rumors about government involvement in hiding the existence of extraterrestrial life from the general public, and numerous presidents appear to not only have some knowledge about the existence of these beings but a few even have had their own first-hand encounters with aliens. I suppose you could say that the government UFO conspiracy is the “glue” that holds this show together – although this is hardly a revelation in the world of UFO-related television shows.

the start
Where everything started…

Hangar 1 is generally set-up like dozens of vaguely or explicitly similar shows. This program basically provides specific examples of human contact with unknown craft and/or beings which are based on actual reports provided for and investigated by MUFON. Various experts including scientists, MUFON researchers, and journalists discuss these incidents and the larger picture issues involved in the examination of UFOs and aliens. During the course of this examination, various scenarios are reenacted for the camera, and statements from the individuals involved are recited. Technically speaking, the program is well made, with a constantly interesting visual scheme that mixes up dramatizations with interview footage and a typically cryptic collage of declassified government documents, archival photographs, and eyewitness sketches.


What would any conspiracy program be without a segment devoted to the ?

Given the number of similar shows out there (many of which air on the very channel this program is broadcast on), the main thing I was looking for here would be the presentation of incidents and evidence that I hadn’t seen elsewhere. In this regard, Hangar 1 is a mixed bag: this show’s presentation of material is well-organized and obviously well-researched, but I have heard most of these stories before, either in other television programs or during the course of research I’ve done on my own. The program then might seem to many viewers like (another) rehash of information that’s been revealed other places; despite the fact that we’re told MUFON is “opening up its file archive for the first time,” I highly doubt that this is actually the case. All that said, the show certainly does cover some of the more fascinating UFO cases I’ve ever heard about, including quite a few which aren’t exactly common knowledge. For instance, segments that deal with a in which Iranian military aircraft encountered an apparently hostile UFO or one which focuses on former government contractor who claimed to be attacked by aliens when he accidentally entered into their underground base – and had horrific scars as proof of his encounter – aren’t featured in too many UFO shows.


Phil Schneider – the man who supposedly confronted aliens in an underground bunker…then died under mysterious circumstances after he went public with his claim. Notice extensive hand injuries reportedly sustained in the firefight.



On the downside, this show gives plenty of credence to various conspiracy theories and almost assumes a viewer would be willing to do the same. Additionally, I detected a bit of “fear-mongering” going on in the show during a few segments: to me, this seemed cheap and completely out of place in a program of this nature. Finally, and perhaps most damningly, even if many of the incidents discussed in the program are at the very least intriguing, I was genuinely shocked by the lack first-hand evidence. There are relatively few images of alien craft (at least ones directly related to the subject of the episodes) and virtually no eyewitness interviews; most all the information here is presented either by the narration or the third-party commentators. Thus, Hangar 1 seems mostly to be made up of hearsay: a programmed designed to be viewed by those who already believe in the existence of UFOs and alien life. The program does make a pretty good case for its claims (at least if one is inclined or able to follow the string of sometimes vague “evidence” referenced in the narration and believe the endless “accounts” related to the camera), but I don’t think a skeptic would be at all convinced by the arguments put forth in this program simply due to the fact that there’s very little hard proof provided.

iran
Yeah…I’m not sure this kind of “proof” is really going to cut it…

This, of course, is the problem with almost every UFO-related program, crypto-reality and/or “monster hunt” show, and generally, most things on TV: without seeing the evidence for oneself, it’s difficult for anyone to believe extraordinary claims. Granted, many people anymore subscribe to the whole X-Files “” thing – and many of today’s more speculative documentaries certainly play into that sort of mindset. I’d probably compare Hangar 1 favorably to a more level-headed program of the Unexplained Files variety rather than to the increasingly goofy monster hunt shows out there; if nothing else, Hangar 1 would provide an open-minded viewer with plenty of food for thought. In my mind, this is the best thing about shows like Ancient Aliens – though I can’t buy every argument put forth in these programs since they very obviously have their own agendas, they definitely get a viewer thinking, which is commendable even if the programs overall are not. UFO enthusiasts would probably enjoy Hangar 1: The UFO Files quite a bit: it’s a well-produced and perhaps more credible companion piece to some of History Channel’s other speculative programming. It’s not the best UFO program I’ve ever seen, but it’s not the worst either; in the end, I’d give the series a moderate recommendation.


Lunar Conspiracies Revealed! ALIENS ON THE MOON: THE TRUTH EXPOSED

ALIENS ON THE MOON: THE TRUTH EXPOSED on Syfy Channel

(3/5)

Pros: Cool images of the lunar surface; compelling information…

Cons: …unfortunately, I just can’t buy all of the arguments made by this program

Continuing in much the same way as History Channel’s much-discussed (and derided) Ancient Aliens, the slickly-made and rather compelling original Syfy Channel “documentary” Aliens on the Moon: The Truth Exposed (which premiered on July 20,2014) mainly examines a series of NASA photographs of the lunar surface that may just show anomalous structures built by unknown beings for unknown purposes. Various “experts” of one type or another – from astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Edgar Mitchell to imaging expert Marc D’Antonio, to former government researcher Dr. John Brandenberg and even Ancient Aliens veterans Nick Redfern and Mike Bara (among others – I was expecting Giorgio A. Tsoukalos to turn up at any moment) turn up to offer their own perspective on the images, and analyze the notion that extraterrestrials have visited (or indeed still inhabit) the moon. As its goofy (DUN DUN!) title suggests, Aliens on the Moon is one more in a ongoing (endless?) string of at best speculative, at worst downright phony supposed feature “documentaries” that have played on TV in the last few years. In the end, the program might be interesting and is certainly thought-provoking, but I’m not sure I’d honestly believe everything (or maybe anything) it has to say.

1

Undoubtedly, the best element of the two-hour special (produced in commemoration of the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing) is the wealth of actual NASA images compiled from both the classic lunar expeditions and more modern flyovers showing various unexplained (or perhaps unexplainable) lunar anomalies. It would almost be worth it for many viewers (particularly those with some interest in astronomy in particular or science in general) to watch this program just to see these stunning, fascinating images while ignoring the somewhat suspect context surrounding their presentation. While I’ve seen some of the images and video footage projected here (even footage taken from Earth’s orbit that appears to show a sort of space battle going on between an unknown craft and missiles that seem to be fired from the planet below), this program does showcase some visual materials that I was previously unfamiliar with, and certainly examines the lunar surface with a more critical eye than some other programs dealing with astronomy.

2

Unfortunately, the scientific value of the program comes with plenty of baggage: as a straight-faced documentary, Aliens on the Moon is (surprise!) highly suspect. Writer/producer/director Robert C. Kiviat clearly has no intention of making this a well-rounded examination of its subject since there’s virtually no opposing opinion progressed during the course of the piece. This program doesn’t so much make a convincing argument as just pile on supposed evidence, proposing and advancing it’s own theories suggesting that aliens inhabit the moon while “leaving it up to a viewer to decide.” Really, this is all fine and good for the seasoned viewer who’s willing to take this program with the healthy dose of salt that it very much deserves, but things could be more problematic than that. For a more typical viewing public that now believes that mermaids are real, yeti’s are dangerous, and fifty-foot sharks prowl the South African coast (after Animal Planet and Discovery Channel aired “mockumentaries” suggestive of those ideas), Aliens on the Moon could be taken as absolute truth – which it quite obviously is not.

3

Don’t get me wrong: I love pure edutainment programs like Aliens on the Moon on some level because they do get people talking about and interested in science and the world we live in, but taking this show’s assortment of really iffy “evidence” at face value is not only ill-advised, it’s just plain ludicrous. It’s ironic that one of the program’s main points is to direct questions at NASA regarding their possible doctoring of various photographs taken on space missions in order to cover up evidence of UFO’s and alien structures – what would this show be without a good ol’ government coverup after all – given that many (and very nearly all) of the images presented in AotM as evidence have very clearly been manipulated and toyed with by the show’s producers.

4

It’s VERY DIFFICULT if not impossible to locate or identify any one of the supposed “alien structures” that we’re led to believe exist in the full-sized photographs of the lunar surface that are the centerpiece of this program – until the producers choose to colorize key portions of said photographs, thus making the program play similarly to a black and white game of Where’s Waldo where Waldo is still wearing his trademark red and white outfit and stocking cap. OBVIOUSLY we as viewers are going to see whatever the producers what us to see when they come close to pointing a huge, flashing neon arrow at various points of the moon’s surface while providing us with a (sometimes preposterous) potential explanation of what we’re looking at. It also helps that the producers decide to virtually beat a viewer over the head with their analysis – we’re almost brainwashed into submitting to the producer’s assertions due to constant repetition of the program’s main points. Whether any viewer believes wholeheartedly what this program is attempting to convince him of largely comes down to said viewer’s natural skepticism and level of gullibility – the actual scientific process going on here is almost nonexistent, and the program honestly seems more like propaganda than honest-to-goodness documentary.

5

I should also point out that the program’s tendency to be extremely critical of on-camera statements made by Apollo 11 astronaut (and second man on the moon ) Buzz Aldrin – who it should be pointed out, had the balls to appear in a program like this knowing full well that his credibility would likely suffer as a result of the appearance – is none too classy and actually pretty low, even for a show of this nature. Aldrin actually does make a few statements relating to the insinuations of this producers, but when he (perhaps rightfully) refuses to directly speak about or address specific photos of the lunar surface that supposedly show a satellite dish, nuclear plant with some sort of huge weapon pointing out as a defense mechanism, or a landed spacecraft near the moon landing site, suddenly (duh!) Aldrin’s in on the conspiracy that’s taking place. As much of a conspiracy buff as I am myself having watched just about as many alien coverup shows as I can stomach, there comes a point when shows like this that direct all sorts of blame in the direction of NASA and the US government as a whole push credibility beyond the breaking point – and come close to simply be making their assertions in plain bad taste.

6

At the end of the day, as I hinted at previously, I would want a program like this to prompt discussion and serious thought, and Aliens on the Moon, questionable as it is, certainly does this. Though the constant speculation about what various extremely grainy and difficult-to-interpret photos of the moon’s surface actually show is obnoxious and borderline redundant, the program does pose some intriguing questions and examine some perplexing possibilities. I was pretty intrigued, for example, by the story of a needle-like anomaly photographed surrounding the Martian moon of Phobos in 1989. This unknown object supposedly was responsible for the disappearance of a pair of Russian space probes examining the Martian atmosphere in the late 1980s and was photographed again by NASA’s Curiosity rover that’s currently exploring the Red Planet, suggesting that whatever the thing is, it still patrols the Martian sky. The major talking point of the program for those who watch it will no doubt be footage supposedly taken during a hypothetical (and officially, completely fictional) Apollo 20 mission which appears to show astronauts recovering a female alien body from one of the unknown lunar structures. This footage (which turned up in the internet in recent years along with a pretty bizarre story from supposed astronaut ) is certainly enigmatic; easily the most provocative contained in the documentary, though one would have to accept A LOT of conspiracy notions to believe that it is indeed authentic. If the footage is faked though, it’s ….

yikes
YIKES! Female alien supposedly recovered during Apollo 20.

At the end of the day, Aliens on the Moon: The Truth Exposed barely sits above its contemporaries like Mermaids: The Body Found, Russian Yeti: The Killer Lives, or Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives as a purported documentary designed not necessarily to tell the truth but instead, to get people talking. Considering that the public is increasingly fascinated with all things UFO and alien-related (hence why Ancient Aliens’ Giorgio Tsoukalos has his own new UFO-related show In Search of Aliens starting up on History Channel on July 25th), it’s not entirely surprising that Syfy Channel would produce a thing like this and frankly, I’d rather see more programming of this nature on the channel instead of the endless Monster Coelacanth versus Mecha Salmon type of made-for-cable trash the channel is known for these days. Aliens on the Moon certainly isn’t the best, most well-rounded and believable documentary I’ve ever seen – the narration has an inappropriate, semi-pompous tone and the program sometimes seems little more than a lengthy advertisement for a handful of books written about the subject.  Nevertheless, the show does what it’s supposed to: any viewer would be talking about it afterward, and that’s about the best that could be hoped for. Don’t necessarily take every one of its claims seriously, but if you’re bored and this thing happens to be playing on TV, it’d be worth checking out.