Every society needs to believe in shared values. One of those values is the notion of truth, which in its simplest iteration means non-contradiction with reality. We humans need to believe that there are some things we are certain no reasonable person will contest. This extends from basic natural facts about the natural world to our convictions about what forms of government are legitimate.
Beyond the undisputed facts and uncritically shared beliefs we find variations that we label either as stories, exaggerated accounts, fantasies, innocent lies, deceptions, outright lies or conspiracy theories. Every society establishes its complex hierarchies of truths, legends and myths. Societies also elaborate the necessary criteria for distinguishing, as best they can, between these categories of discourse. Where the “truth” lies will always appear somewhat ambiguous.
Linguistic philosophers agree that there is no valid, universally applicable criterion to establish the truth of any statement. But, even when acknowledging the difficulty of fixing our notions of truth, societies have a fundamental need to fabricate what could be called “areas of agreement” and promote the population’s belief in them. These areas of agreement stretch across shared beliefs about the nature of the universe (science), human destiny (religion, history) and interpersonal behavior or transactional norms, including the rules of commerce and the law. All these shared assumptions serve to define our means of understanding the world and relating to our fellow beings. Empathy plays a significant role in their success. Social stability is the reward.
In other words, societies create a variable system that guides their perception of what can be thought of as both true and legitimate. It ultimately produces a system of “normative behavior.” This doesn’t mean variations from the norm will not be tolerated. A healthy social system permits and may even encourage a range of variants that deviate from the norm while at the same time referencing it. In so doing, they validate the very norm they from which they deviate.
This may sound abstract, but in an epoch in which individuals, parties, governments and media are now vying with one another to categorize what they consider as contrary to the truth, labeling it “misinformation,” “disinformation” or “malinformation,” the failure to understand the relativity and complexity of truth may prove fatal to society itself.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has now added another category of deviation from truth that goes beyond misinformation, disinformation and malinformation. In July 2022 DoD released its initiative to counter a range of phenomena that deviate from accepted norms. The title of the press release reads: “DoD Announces the Establishment of the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office.”
Today’s Weekly Devil’s Dictionary definition:
The process of establishing truth in relation to any question that may be ambiguous, following the principle that all ambiguity must be resolved into an acceptable norm.
AARO states its mission in bureaucratically ambiguous terms as it claims to focus on “objects of interests” without giving any sense of the nature of such objects. It does however provide one oblique cue to its meaning.
Here is its official formulation. “The mission of the AARO will be to synchronize efforts across the Department of Defense, and with other U.S. federal departments and agencies, to detect, identify and attribute objects of interest in, on or near military installations, operating areas, training areas, special use airspace and other areas of interest, and, as necessary, to mitigate any associated threats to safety of operations and national security.”
In other words this isn’t so much about either anomalies or “objects of interest” as it is about military secrecy. This is the opposite of science. The only anomalies it is interested in are ones that occur “on or near military operations.” It appears to be an exercise in imagining what our enemies look like, without really knowing whether they are enemies. The default position seems to be: if we can’t account for it its presence, it must be a threat.
Though the term “objects of interest” hides their meaning, the DoD’s implied message links to a campaign that our media is currently exploiting: an invasion by alien beings. The traditional UFOs of the past – unidentified flying objects, which the public translates as “flying saucers” – have been renamed Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP), meaning they have lost the status of “objects.” They could be mere illusions.
But the public and the media prefer thinking of them as objects. Just this past week, former intelligence official David Grusch, a supposedly highly credible expert, came to the fore, identified as a “whistleblower.” He revealed that “the government has possession of ‘intact and partially intact’ alien vehicles.” Interview on TV, Grusch has taken the risk of blowing the whistle – an act usually treated as a treasonous crime – without ever having personally seen any of the phenomena he describes. Instead he bravely explains that he is reporting what other people have told him they’ve seen.
This then is a true anomaly. Grusch is violating the law by revealing military secrets but the military establishment and the Justice Department appear indifferent. Can it be that because he has no evidence to present, they consider he is simply exercising his first amendment rights? Or can the real explanation be that this is an act of kabuki theater staged by the military itself, who want the public to fear an alien invasion but dare not say so directly? The obvious purpose would be to seek funding from Congress for a top secret program they have cooked up in the name of protecting the world – but first of all military bases – from the continued assault by anomalous objects.
One of the accomplices in this theatrical production is Jonathan Grey, a current US intelligence official at the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (Nasic). The Guardian quotes his assertion that “non-human intelligence phenomenon is real. We are not alone. Retrievals of this kind are not limited to the United States. This is a global phenomenon, and yet a global solution continues to elude us.”
Now this merits some reflection. If this is a global threat – Grusch himself has asserted that aliens have killed humans – one might think there would be a movement towards preparing a global response. Let’s get the Chinese and Russians on board. Oh, but they are enemies. We can’t do that. Instead, the central motivation appears to turn around the need to maintain secrecy and refuse to share anything, including physical evidence purported to be real.
The carefully managed fear of UFOs began during the Cold War. This is not a coincidence. Americans needed to fear the Soviet Union. But that wasn’t enough. They also had to fear the widest range of threats, all in the name of justifying the rapid, uncontrolled expansion of the American military-industrial complex. Russia has once again become the privileged evil enemy of the US, via its aggression against the shining democracy of Ukraine. American hegemony is vacillating. Fear has become more essential than ever in our militarized culture.
All this has ver little to do with the supposed logic of an alien invasion. It belongs to our now familiar culture of hyperreality. Hyperreality always seeks smooth surfaces. It does so by striving to limit or cancel anomalies.
In the current furor about captured non-human spacecrafts and even, as Grusch claims, some of the crashed pilots, no one has presented an iota of evidence. Nevertheless, the media happily reports what is clearly, for the moment, hearsay.
TV coverage now routinely displays in the background of its reporting images of UAPs, suggesting that they constitute visual proof of their reality. These reports never bother to mention any of the actual scientific analysis that has been conducted in an attempt to understand what appears in the video. In a document produced by Insider science writer Mick West offers a detailed scientific explanation of those same images. West’s analysis may not be complete, as he has no access to physical evidence, but it is credible, whereas the very idea of visitors traveling hundreds of light years and crashing their spacecrafts on earth should strain anyone’s “normal” exercise of rationality.
Here’s the real problem: Truth loses its meaning in a society that prioritizes hyperreality over reality. The social instincts that allow us to situate what is tangibly true in our storytelling capacity have been neutralized. Where is the truth in all that? Follow the money.
*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.
Read more of Fair Observer Devil’s Dictionary.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
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