Mirage Men, Disinformation, and The Kernel of Truth

I figured out something important by watching the documentary “Mirage Men” last night. It’s a flick about Richard Doty and company at the Air Force planting fake alien stories in ufology to ferret out Russian spies during the Cold War. In the process, they drive scientist Paul Bennewitz mad (actually, he was the catalyst for the process) and screw over some ufologists. Unless I’m forgetting something I saw or read, it would appear that nobody documenting this through the years has bothered to ask if it worked. Was it worth driving Paul Bennewitz insane? Did we catch any spies with this tactic?

That gripe aside, the film is quite good. Very well done. Arguably the most important ufological doc to come along in ages. In other words, it will not be winning an EBE award anytime soon.

I won’t bother with a full review of the flick. If you’ve got Netflix streaming, pretend I wrote a glowing review that swayed you and go watch it. It’s that or pick up Birdemic where you left off–Am I right?

All I really want to say here is that I’ve figured out how to keep the disinformation stories going even after they have been exposed. It’s by telling ourselves this little deceptive phrase that we take as a truism. Richard Doty says it a number of times and others repeat it in the film as well. It is this: Any good lie contains a kernel of truth.

Therefore, you see, even the disinformation contains a truth. Therefore, you see, there really are aliens being covered up–we just don’t know what in the fake documents is real information about them and what is bogus.

Ho-hum, ufology.

Here’s the truth about that truism: Sometimes the kernel of truth is not contained within the structure in question but in the interplay between giver and receiver. Let me show you what I mean….

The same thing is said about comedy–every joke contains a kernel of truth. So, if you tell a racist, sexist, or homophobic joke, that means you’re secretly a racist, sexist, or homophobe. While that can be true, it can also be true that you are not and that the truth of the joke lies in its taboo nature. The danger of it is what’s true and what makes it funny–and that’s how you can tell, for example, a racist joke from a racist slur. That’s what makes one funny and the other offensive even when, on paper, they’re both offensive. Taboo + faux naiveté and/or irony = magic formula to getting away with it. The truth to a racist, sexist, or homophobic joke, then, is that both you and the comedian know the comedian shouldn’t be saying this.

In the case of disinformation about aliens, the kernel of truth isn’t found within the documents claiming that aliens shook hands with the president, took over an underground military base, or created homo sapiens in a lab. No, in this case, the truth is that enough of us don’t want to let it go and so we will latch onto the trusim Any good lie contains a kernel of truth and have it mean what we want it to mean because that’s all we have left to believe in.

The truth is, some of us refuse to be shattered by facts and move on. In that way, we willingly continue the disinformation campaign for the Air Force. We do their job for them. The papers and the stories are smoke and mirrors. Doty is a magician. We’re the act. Beyond and apart from all of that sits a great mystery. A mystery we’ve loosely based this act on. We’ve taken the shape of it and endowed it with details and a meaning we can comprehend–good guys/bad guys. Good aliens/bad humans or the reverse.

The real Trickster joke of it is that people who engaged mystery didn’t want to do it on mystery’s terms and so they gave it a definition. Then they were duped by a sophisticated disinformation campaign tailor-made to fit their definition and executed for relatively mundane reasons. Not fit the mystery, but fit their definition of it. For all we know, nobody organizing that disinformation campaign understood, cared about, or believed in that mystery at all. They only cared about that which ufologists believed in: alien technology at military facilities. There’s no kernel of truth to any of it.

Meanwhile, there is a shape in the periphery walking away. If you know how to look you can see it through the smoke. Barely, but it is there. It has no relationship to the smoke, the magician, or the act. A Trickster theorist might say that this is how it hides. I’d say this is how we hide it.

Those who scoff at this, those who say this is nonsense and that there are aliens and so why don’t they just land already and declare their intentions–because we’re ready for the truth, damn it, we can handle it… those folks don’t know it but they are only interested in talking to themselves. And there’s a military agency all set to write them their monologue. But do they even need to anymore?

Coverup? Disinformation? Thanks, but… we’ll take it from here. That’s been the ufological motto since Doty.

Shall we abandon the script?


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