Credit: @ETsAndUFOs, twitter.com
On February 13, John Podesta – a senior advisor to presidents Clinton and Obama and founder of the Center for American Progress, a D.C. think tank – tweeted:
- Finally, my biggest failure of 2014: Once again not securing the #disclosure of the UFO files. #thetruthisstilloutthere cc: @NYTimesDowd
A few media outlets, major and minor, have reported on this tweet – see, for example, an item in the Washington Post.
Podesta reportedly is about to run a Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.
Podesta’s UFO tweet was retweeted 2,075 times as of today. (Podesta also uses @JohnPodesta on Twitter – no mention of UFOs there….) That is, it hasn’t gone viral.
Meanwhile, at MoveOn.org, a petition has been posted to solicit support for UFO “disclosure”:
“It’s been 45 years since Congress held a hearing on extraterrestrial phenomena. The evidence is now massive. Hold new hearings. #Disclosure
On November 5, 2014 538 video copies of the full record of the Citizen Hearing on Disclosure (CHD) were shipped to all members of the United States Congress. Shortly after these 10-DVD sets are received, PRG’s [Paradigm Research Group’s] registered lobbyist, Stephen Bassett, will renew direct engagement of the U. S. Congress for the first time since 2000 seeking new congressional hearings on extraterrestrial related phenomena. http://paradigmresearchgroup.org, http://youtu.be/WZBN_9NMhUA.”
As of today, the petition has 145 signatures and is shooting for 200.
In 1988, John Podesta and his brother Tony Podesta formed a lobbying company, known over time as Podesta Associates and PodestaMattoon. Since 2007, it’s been known as the Podesta Group (and headed by Tony Podesta). John Podesta is not currently listed as “talent” on the Podesta Group’s web site. According to Wikipedia, the Podesta Group “has close ties to the Democratic Party and the Obama administration.”
I wrote about one of John Podesta’s earlier UFO disclosure efforts in my dissertation (“Sex! Aliens! Harvard? Rhetorical boundary-work in the media, published 2005). Here’s the story.
But first, a few words about “UFOlogy.”
All “ologys” are social constructions. Not all are legitimate. One strategy that UFOlogists have employed to establish credibility for UFOs as a legitimate research subject and themselves as legitimate researchers is to rhetorically construct UFOs as phenomena in the natural world, thus locating them inside the boundaries of legitimate science. Another strategy has been to locate the UFO phenomenon outside the boundaries of conventional science, where the authority of conventional science does not apply.
Now the story….
A project undertaken by cable television’s Sci Fi Channel (now known as Sy Fy), framed as an effort to construct scientific authority for UFOlogy, appeared to me to be a media campaign that served the purpose of promoting TV programming. In 2001-2002, Sci Fi initiated a series of activities that Sci Fi officials said were intended to convince government officials to take UFOs seriously. These activities were part of a publicity campaign for “Taken,” a Sci Fi mini-series about alien abduction broadcast in 2002.
Elements of the campaign included a series of online “chats” with UFO “experts”; the commissioning (and publicizing) of a Roper public opinion poll on UFOs; a symposium in Washington, DC, on “interstellar travel and unidentified aerial phenomena”; a symposium in New York on “the reality of the abduction phenomenon”; and a National Press Club briefing in Washington on the formation of a Coalition for Freedom of Information (CFI). The CFI – founded by self-described “investigative journalist” Leslie Kean, who continues to write about UFOs for the Huffington Post – was a Sci Fi-sponsored project of PodestaMattoon, which orchestrated the network’s UFO campaign. My friend Leonard David, reporting for space.com, described Sci Fi’s campaign as “seeking the truth through savvy marketing.”
Sci Fi’s Washington symposium took place on the campus of George Washington University. I attended this event to observe the rhetoric of UFOlogy in action. The university’s vice president for academic affairs said GWU and Sci Fi had a common interest in promoting interdisciplinary scientific research and “dispassionate discussions” about controversial subjects. The panel of seven experts assembled for this UFOlogy symposium included five Ph.Ds, among them physicists Michio Kaku (a science popularizer and ubiquitous media talking head), Stanford University professor Peter Sturrock and UFOlogist/venture capitalist Jacques Vallee. Given the importance of labeling in constructing authority, I should note that while I am referring to this event as a UFOlogy symposium, Sci Fi did not use this term in publicizing the event, and speakers at the event avoided use of the term “UFO,” employing the alternative term “unidentified aerial phenomenon” (UAP). Credentials, expertise and authority were emphasized in speaker introductions, biographies and presentations.
In 2003, the Associated Press reported on a Sci Fi Channel-backed lawsuit to make NASA divulge records of “a UFO that reportedly crash landed and was recovered by government workers” in 1965. “The cable network announced in June,” the story reported, “that it was backing the effort to research the Kecksburg incident in promoting a documentary, ‘Out of the Blue,’ which examined various UFO reports…. Sci Fi…officials said they’re looking for an explanation of what occurred. They’re also looking for viewers. A November 2002 documentary on the suspected 1947 UFO crash in Roswell…was the highest-rated special in the network’s 11-year history…seen by nearly 2.4 million people.”
Back to 2015. My advice to you, dear readers, is to question authority. How many of these “experts” have constructed their authority by using the media to frame themselves as “experts”? Just because John Podesta has worked in the White House over two administrations, does it mean he has inside information on government knowledge of UFOs? And as far as “the truth” goes, most of the “truth” that’s out there is claims dressed up as “facts.” IMHO.
Consider your sources.