on 10 August 2010
The Mirage Men by Mark Pilkington is probably one of the most important books on the UFO phenomenon ever written. Not only an indepth field investigation into the role played by the Intelligence Agencies in the development of the UFO Mythos from 1950 till the present time, but also a complete alternative history of the evolution of the phenomenon.
The revelations, often from the horses mouth, are stunning, a catalogue of disinfomation organised by Air Force Intelligence (AFOSI), the CIA, NSA and the FBI, sometimes in coordination but often in parallel, autonomous operations with diverse, and still mysterious motives. The immediate shared aim being the popular dissemination of stories of UFO 'crashes', alien contact and the reverse engineering of extraterrestrial technology. The main purpose of which appears to include the generation of cover stories for accidently observed secret technology or covert intelligence operations, as well as utilisation of the international UFO research community for psychological experiments / operations (and sometimes as a front for plain, old fashioned spying). The mythos appears to have become a general off the peg mirage for a variety of purposes, not surprisingly one aviation researcher at the infamous Area 51 refers to its 'UFO projects' as 'UnFunded Opportunities'. But there are stranger motives too, ranging from Cold War propaganda about captured alien technology (the Soviets always took the possibility of ET visitation seriously), through the infiltration of alternative and countercultural subcultures (deemed as 'subversive'), to bizarre plots by unknown inner groups (the Illuminati??) to influence global culture and politics through a new mythology. And of course to hide the 'real truth about the alien presence', whether we interprete that literally or just as a more sophisticated lie within a lie (it being a claim often made by the spooks themselves in moments of 'private whistle blowing'). There are some odd facts here too, such as the absurd aspects of the basic Disinfo, much of which is lifted straight from Hollywood, with plot elements from CE3, ET and the Day the Earth Stood Still plagiarised unashamedly. On the other hand many of the inside Intelligence sources seem totally convinced of an Extraterrestrial presence, even when admitting much of what is written about UFOs was fictional (though these men are of course trained liars, if not chosen for their 'paraphrenia', and info layering an established ploy). Perhaps most startling of all the deception being the fabrication of an 'alien base' in the New Mexico desert to reveal to the projects dupes. Along the way we are treated to a complete history of the American UAV Drone program and the USAF's attempts to build 'Flying Saucers', tales of Ed Lansdale's CIA backed project to create fake 'vampires' in SE Asia to terrify native insurgents (even killing a few fake 'victims' in the process), the secret behind 'cattle mutilation', and some possibly fabricated 'alien abductions'. Much mystery and high strangeness remains amongst all these revelations though, for instance the rivalry between different Agencies (particularly the spooks of the Air Force and Navy) which extends to an apparent conflict of agendas (sometimes even apparent between factions within each Service itself), something which may even have led to actual or attempted murder in the case of the Maury Island affair. The oddest element for me being the fact that the OSI agents in the latter case always refused to use the Air Force's base phones, prefering pay phones! Even wierder is the apparent emergence of 'real' UFO phenomena amid all the faking.
My only reservation with the book is despite the author's sensible position between scepticism and open mindedness (even revealing one of his own mysterious UFO encounters, predictably explained by a high ranking spook as 'one of ours') he none the less by the end of the book has swung into a sceptical stance regarding the entire UFO Phenomena. Though not surprisingly as it seems the vast majority of the classic UFO encounters may have been hyped, if not faked, by the spooks. Unfortunately this may be exactly what his informants wanted. One classic ploy in Intelligence operations is the 'Double Bubble', where an inner core of truth that needs to be hidden is surrounded by a bubble of Disinfo, which gets increasingly implausible as times goes by, or has obvious falsehoods planted within it, until the outer bubble 'bursts', and with it deflates the inner bubble of truth, discredited by association. Many commentators on both sides of the fence believe the UFO Phenomena is genuinely 'culturally destabilising' (for good or ill) and burying the whole thing would greatly please many frightened people in the Establishment. Given the end of the Cold War, and the scaling down of secret research and covert operations (to some extent), and the gradual exposure of this kind of Disinfo, we may be moving into the final phase of the fabricated UFO Myth, its use as such a 'double bubble' to terminate both the project and the unnerving phenomena behind it. While myself a committed sceptic regarding the ET hypothesis (and especially the ludicrous 'crash and contact' stories) my own experiences have led me to believe in an intelligence behind the phenomena that appears to be operating a policy of cognitive dissonance amongst us. Thus the author may have unwittingly been drawn into this operation. Though to his credit he does briefly hint in this direction, even if only to preserve his agnostic credentials and an atmosphere of mystery.
In conclusion this book is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the UFO phenomenon and its history in all its many dimensions.