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Pilkington the hoaxer gets conned by the mirage men
on 5 March 2011
Some wit once observed: "The trouble with confirmation bias is that once you know about it, you begin to see it everywhere." This is the fundamental fallacy which Mark Pilkington falls for in this widely-publicised and well-written book. Whilst `Mirage Men' is not without merit and contains a few small nuggets of interest, its governing premise - that most reported UFO encounters have been the work of the US intelligence agencies in order to either delude the research community or hide secret hi-tech aerospace projects by making witnesses mistake them for alien spacecraft - is completely untenable. No-one acquainted with the evidence at close quarters could possibly be so gullible as to fall for such nonsense.
Unfortunately UK-born Pilkington has a major credibility problem right off the bat, as he admits to being a serial (no puns please) crop-circle hoaxer; a trespasser causing criminal damage, a charlatan and a deceiver. This admission tells us something about the author's character, and should put any attentive reader on his guard about taking anything in the book seriously.
The book is written in `this-is-our-story' format whereby Pilkington and colleague John Lundberg journey round the USA meeting and interviewing a handful of individuals working for or connected to the intelligence agencies - Richard Doty from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations in Albuquerque has pride of place - who variously claim to have been involved, one way or another, in perpetrating deception on the American public (who BTW pay their salaries) about the UFO/ET issue, for stated reasons which simply don't make sense. On the way they take in the annual Laughlin UFO conference (where they arrange to meet Doty who claims to be there as a `private citizen'), investigate the MJ-12 and Serpo hoaxes, hear about crash retrieval and aliens-in-US-government-custody myths, and detail a few of the better known INTEL operations carried out in the past 60 years.
Though reports of UFO/UAP encounters, abductions and cattle mutilations are global, little attention is given in `Mirage Men' to any case outside the USA; so the astute reader will immediately see that no meaningful conclusions can ever be drawn about the nature of these ubiquitous phenomena from such a parochial line of enquiry as simply looking at the supposed deception work of intelligence agencies in the USA. However, that's what Pilkington and Lundberg do, so conclusions are presented through this small prism.
The `cattle mutilation' phenomenon (though many thousands of different animals including urban domestic cats and dogs have also been so mutilated) is a good example of where Pilkington comes across as demonstrating his apparent naiveté. I personally inspected a mutilated heifer in SW Ireland in August 1970 with what later came to be recognised as having all the classic markers: part of the jaw, an ear, an eye, the entire rectal/genital area, and udders all seemingly excised with what we would now, 40 years later, see as something approximating precise laser-like surgery; no blood in or on the carcass, the animal discovered half way up a hillside one mile away from where she had been fenced in with the herd the previous evening, evidently dropped from above. (The local vet pronounced that the cow had "probably died of anthrax"(!)) This worrying phenomenon is global in scale, has been going on for more than 40 years and is repeatedly linked to sightings of UFOs reported by farmers everywhere from Australia to Kenya to Romania to Switzerland.
Now, fast-forward to how intelligence agencies try to manage an issue like this, which they can neither control nor predict. Jacques Vallee in `The Invisible College' (1975) investigated the case of a close encounter experienced by two fishermen on the French Atlantic coast which attracted newspaper and TV coverage. To defuse the story and debunk it, diving gear was planted on the beach nearby, together with a radio transmitter, widely publicised to suggest human agencies were involved; to plant seeds of confusion and doubt. Again, when a gigantic black, boomerang-shaped craft was seen by thousands of witnesses over Phoenix AZ in March 1997, to confuse witnesses a squadron of A10 aircraft was tasked to fly over the city later that evening and drop flares against the mountains, so the earlier sighting could be explained away as `military flares.' Want to convince the suckers that structured craft of non-human manufacture are not infiltrating our skies, but people are seeing your own secret and very human technology? Then design, test-fly, film and give widespread publicity to disk-shaped or triangular-shaped planes, many with no possible practical or military application (the ridiculous and completely useless `Avrocar' for example was almost certainly built for precisely this purpose) and suggest that's what people are seeing. These techniques are well tried and tested, and part of what Budd Hopkins has recently referred to as "the hydra-headed debunking machine and its many busy attendants."
So it doesn't seem to occur to Pilkington that surgical equipment, rubber gloves and other paraphernalia might have been planted near the carcases of cattle discovered to be mutilated by unknown entities, and that helicopters might be ostentatiously flown over the territory at low level, in order to give the impression that these activities are somehow performed by human agencies. The message seems to be: "We're in control, we're in charge; there is nothing exotic going on here." Some people are going to be suckered by this kind of activity: one such appears to be Pilkington who admits to falling for the ruse hook, line and sinker. He ended up believing the mirage men's deception that human agencies are performing the cattle mutilations, just as he believes "all" crop circles worldwide are man-made (which can hardly be stated as certainty unless you literally make every single one yourself).
Pilkington also admits to being seduced by a preposterous yarn spoon-fed to him by Rich Reynolds that the Villas Boas abduction in the remote region of Minas Gerais in Brazil in 1957 was somehow staged by the CIA using a helicopter disguised as a flying saucer, and a so-called `brain-washing machine' - all this trouble and extravagance with US taxpayers' money for purposes obscure, as Villas Boas might well have told no-one about his experience. The idea is completely absurd, almost rivalling Vallee's `Control System' hypothesis for sheer unsupported nuttiness. He even gets conned into believing that the 1952 daylight flyovers of Washington DC by dozens of disk-shaped craft, witnessed visually by thousands of spectators, might have been some kind of `radar hoax'. To his credit, Pilkington admits to the possibility that some UAP encounters may be unknowns; he just doesn't bother to investigate any of the compelling evidence, as doing so might threaten his underlying ideology. He displays little interest in the phenomena themselves, restricting his narrative to the few instances where staging by the intelligence agencies can be demonstrated and implying that this explains it all.
The book however is well written and edited, with a populist style and good chapter organization. It reads (intentionally, Mark?) almost like a film script. The hardcover from Skyhorse Publishing with a great dust jacket design makes for a quality artefact.
So at the end of the book, are we more enlightened about the `mirage men'? Not likely, unless you're an even bigger sucker than Pilkington and Lundberg appear to be. `Mirage Men' reveals little that is new, and taken as a whole there is more noise here than signal. However as entertainment, as intrigue and gossip about the UFO scene (the intended target audience) it's OK. Then again, the purpose of this project might be to knowingly disseminate yet more disinformation, as Doty admits to having spent years of his taxpayer-financed Air Force career doing. Pilkington has a long history as a persistent crop circle hoaxer and pretends to believe most of this rubbish from his mirage men - so who knows?