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UFO debate outgrows Tucker Carlson, Fox
As journalism confronts an unprecedented opportunity
“What was actually surprising, and we can’t quite get over, even now, is how they responded when they were caught lying. They didn’t seem embarrassed, they didn’t apologize . . . and then as liars tend to do, they doubled down – they told the same lies they’ve been caught telling but with even greater aggression this time” — Fox News UFO expert Tucker Carlson on the failure of congressional leadership.
Remember February? How thrilling all that was, just last month? Three UFOs shot down on consecutive days? And jeepers – those eager beavers in the media? Getting authority figures to deny on the record they hadn’t blown ET to smithereens at 40,000 feet? Bam! And that windfall of solid-gold sound bites – my god, man, if you dub those snippets onto 1950s sci-fi flicks at the part where the Pentagon Know-It-All ridicules rumors of an alien invasion after we’ve already seen flying-saucer death rays take out toy trains in Tokyo, you’ve got a TikTok monster. Even the mainstream news culture appeared jolted by the velocity of events that occurred on Feb. 3-5 – or at least, jolted by official acknowledgement of what occurred.
Writing for Columbia Journalism Review in the immediate aftermath, media analyst Jon Allsop focused on senior House Intel Committee member Jim Himes’ widely shared concerns over the info lockdown, as well as what a lack of transparency might portend: “In the absence of information, people’s anxiety leads them into potentially destructive areas.”
Where exactly? Allsop didn’t elaborate. But official confirmation of having destroyed “unknown” flying objects – an admission that likely never would’ve seen the light of day had mostly red-state lawmakers not started howling about American “weakness” during the Chinese spy balloon cross-country tour – has crossed a bright line. In fact, Allsop says last month’s order to open fire, with allegedly tangible results, has an even “more grounded” feel than the landmark status report issued by the Director of National Intelligence in June 2021. That’s when DNI and the Secretary of Defense made it formal: They have no effing idea about what’s making our top-shelf warplanes look like square-wheeled tricycles in a Class 1 Powerboat Grand Prix.
One more time: Where are the videos?
Between the official bewilderment and the actionable military response to it, Allsop’s CJR colleague Lauren Harris wondered if this was the moment the press finally decides to reevaluate some deep-seated biases.
“When a premise that was once considered taboo becomes permissible,” Harris wrote, “the relative subjectivity of our industry is revealed. The recent spate of UFO coverage points toward the difficulty of reporting on things that we, as a society, don’t yet know or understand – or things we don’t interrogate because we think we already understand them.”
Better late than never, guys, so interrogate this:
Fortress America has no ability to stop the phenomenon from punking ICBM systems, or from ignoring restricted air space over a sitting American president’s residence in Texas, or from taking leisurely joy rides over busy metropolitan centers and airports like Phoenix, Westchester County and Chicago. Therefore, the U.S. Air Force runs the long con on UFOs by simply doing nothing, saying nothing, acknowledging nothing, in hopes that the Fourth Estate will go away. Which it always does. And, after what happened last month, the USAF is wagering it’ll disappear again. Because it always has.
CJR published Allsop’s piece on Feb. 13, and we’re not any smarter about those live-fire encounters than we are right now. That’s because the USAF refuses to release or even discuss the shootdown videos – and the media isn’t demanding access every chance it gets.
But this time, things really are different. This time, we know there’s gun-cam footage documenting the first hostile action inside NORAD airspace since Canada and the U.S. signed the mutual defense treaty in 1958. We know where and when the shootdowns occurred, their altitude, speed, the types of planes and ordnance. We have anecdotal descriptions of the targets – cylindrical, hexagonal, grayish, but not balloons. None emitting signals. All unmanned. No debris recovered, but assurances that ET and terrestrial adversaries are not suspects. Assurances that flight safety dictated the shootdowns. And we’re told not to worry, because retroactive radar tweaks on archived databases show our skies are apparently cluttered with harmless unknowns similar to the ones that deserved getting explosives shoved up their asses a month ago. Like, wtf . . .?
Let’s talk about the elephant
So, what sort of embarrassing factors might account for the USAF sequestering visual evidence of its successful operations? Fears of compromising ways and means? Nah, those details can be scrubbed (see the three Pentagon videos released in 2020). Could more than one air-to-air missile have missed its target? That wouldn’t set well with JCS Chief Gen. Mark Milley, who copped to a single misfire. Bad optics, maybe? The idea of dispatching a $143 million stealth Raptor to take out a nerd-club’s jerry-rigged solar-powered thingamajig with a $430K weapon is an SNL comedy skit. Or maybe there’s audiotape of the pilot questioning management: “Say again? You’re ordering me to shoot down a garbage bag because why?”
Bottom line: the Washington press corps has, or should have, a litany of specific questions that demand specific answers. They can’t afford to let the Air Force off the hook, not again, not this time, not with bipartisan Congressional momentum continuing to squeeze institutional resistance for transparency. And with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand applying steady pressure on military intelligence in open congressional sessions, the debate is reaching an unprecedented level of maturity. And that’s why now, more than ever, we need to talk about the elephant in the room.
Well before 12/17 empowered the mainstream media, Fox News superstar Tucker Carlson was on the UFO bandwagon. He wasn’t breaking any headlines in his five-minute segments, and he didn’t go there often, but his informed and ostensibly well-intentioned curiosity was a small oasis amid the desert of corporate apathy. Carlson went all in after the NY Times broke the news about the Pentagon’s secret funding project; instinctively, he reached out to the major participants from that caper, and he followed the trail of a story that skews neither left nor right. Yet.
In maybe his most impressive contribution, Carlson devoted an entire hour to a Fox Nation streaming chat with Stanford immunologist Dr. Garry Nolan. Among the highlights was a reasoned discussion of potential UFO links to brain science – a new and intriguing frontier. The Q&A worked so well because Carlson stuck the theatrical political rage in a box, took his ego out of the way, and let Dr. Nolan talk.
Now, suddenly, this. Caught red-handed playing suckup to Trump’s face and knifing the MAGA king in the back with a personal text message to his producer at Fox News: “I hate him passionately.” And that’s just for starters.
Making good on the IOUs
If you’re not tuning in as Fox News weathers gullywashers of vomit from having its lies turned inside out in court papers, then you must be watching Fox News. Which means you wouldn’t believe what’s happening even if I explained it here, so I won’t. But the coordination of damage control between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and phony Trump cheerleader Tucker Carlson has foreboding implications.
McCarthy, the eunuch who gave up more than his soul to be the floor boss, is in hock to Fox News and/or elected colleagues auditioning for lucrative future career gigs on Fox News. The price of the gavel includes slipping 40,000 hours of largely unseen Capitol Hill video of the J-6 attacks into the exclusive hands of Tucker Carlson. Knowing his concealed contempt for Trump and his suckers is about to erupt in public scandal, Carlson doubles down and goes full Goebbels with a diversion – an Age of Aquarius reinvention of the insurrection, where trespassers become reverential sightseers and cops are patient tour guides. It’s brilliant in the way that D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” was brilliant.
Well, the First Amendment is a marvel in its capacity to sustain and protect Saudi-scaled gushers of pure bullshit – we’ve all benefitted from it, maybe in ways we’re not even aware of. But as a result of Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation suit, the resulting tidal wave of in-house emails, text messages and depositions does the full monty on Fox News for bamboozling the coprophagist legions it created and now fears. Swapping out the MAGA hordes’ dietary demands for apologies and journalism at this point would be the death of the empire. Newsmax and OAN can’t wait.
Try to imagine, then, with its pipeline to House majority connections, how the Murdoch racket might manufacture novel approaches for stoking new fears and insecurities. How about taking aim at the one great bipartisan issue now animating both parties, and grinding it into juicy red meat? Is it so hard to imagine how the duplicitous and self-debased Tucker Carlson – who at least has a conversational appreciation of the UFO debate – might weaponize the “absence of information” in order to salvage his professional skin (and that yearly $8-10 million paycheck)? I’d put my money on religious fervor.
The UFO controversy is way too big now, too critical, to be trusted with Fox News, fully vested in the monetization and expansion of America’s political anger map. Whistleblowers and fence-sitting insiders contemplating going public, regardless of political inclinations, would do well to work with professional journalists and steer clear of the propaganda assembly-line now tearing our democracy apart. Not only would cooperating with the scorpions at Fox raise questions about their motives, as Trump himself just discovered, the joke could easily wind up being on them.
In the meantime, let’s just hope the real reporters in Washington are smart enough to follow congressional leads into where they appear to be going — into the biggest news story of all time.
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