It’s never been a better time to believe in UFOs. Barack Obama talked last week about inexplicable footage of unidentified aerial phenomena, and former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) wrote about his trip to Area 51 in a recent op-ed. In June, American intelligence agencies are set to release an unclassified report on what the government knows about UFOs.
For “ufologists,” long mocked as tinfoil hat-wearers obsessed with little green men, some measure of vindication may finally be at hand. But for many UFO enthusiasts on the right, this new round of UFO disclosures is nothing to cheer about. Instead, they’re claiming the new videos of possible UFO sightings are meant to distract people from Donald Trump’s baseless voter fraud allegations and conspiracy theories about the coronavirus pandemic.
“There’s no doubt that this mainstream UFO disclosure push is offering a convenient distraction for the Deep State to turn our attention away from important issues like the Scamdemic and the election fraud getting exposed,” Jordan Sather, a UFO and QAnon conspiracy theorist, complained on social media network Telegram on May 19.
Sather, who has griped that interest in UFOs has just become a way for left-wing “social justice warriors” to “virtue signal,” typifies the response. At a moment when longtime UFO promoters are soaking in the mainstreaming of UFO discussion, many conspiracy theorists on the right instead see the sinister hand of a global cabal at play.
Conspiracy theory hub InfoWars often posts articles about UFOs. But more recently, InfoWars has started to see the prospect of extraterrestrial revelations as a deep state plot. In an April video, InfoWars staffer Greg Reese posited that the UFOs were being faked using technology from inventor Nikola Tesla and the Nazis, with the ultimate goal of faking an alien invasion to enslave humanity in “the most dire false flag imaginable.”
In QAnon-heavy language about a nefarious “cabal” and a “Great Awakening,” Reese claimed that the new UFO videos were meant to convince people, wrongly, that the aliens are real, before vaporizing much of humanity with energy weapons.
“We know the cabal has the will to do this, and it seems they have the means as well,” Reese said.
The claims that an evil cabal is behind the new wave of interest in UFOs reflects the growing overlap between the UFO “disclosure” community and other conspiracy theory movements, especially QAnon. Believing in UFOs means buying into what Syracuse University professor Michael Barkun, an expert on conspiracy theories, has dubbed “stigmatized knowledge”— embracing a universe of ideas that’s been dismissed by the mainstream. People who have already embraced one form of stigmatized knowledge often find it easy to sign on for another, according to Barkun—going from New Age healing crystals to UFOs, or from anti-vaccine activism to QAnon.
Ufologist Steven Greer, for example, has claimed that other UFO promoters were assassinated by intelligence agents to prevent them from telling the truth about UFOs. But with the prospect of some genuine disclosures in the offing, Greer has decided that whatever comes from the government now is in fact a trick meant to hide the genuine facts about UFOs.
“This is the ramping up of the false disclosure that we warned about,” Greer warned his fans in a YouTube video last week, claiming that the UFOs were wrongly being portrayed as a “national security threat.”
Sather and other QAnon conspiracy theorists who have promoted UFOs are challenged by the prospect of more widespread UFO interest, according to Travis View, the co-host of QAnon-tracking podcast “QAnon Anonymous.”
“QAnon promoters gain an audience by claiming that they have access to information that the mainstream media doesn’t,” View told The Daily Beast. “When major outlets report on their pet topic, such as UFOs, it’s actually damaging to their brand because their audience has been trained to distrust everything that comes from the mainstream media.”
The idea that UFO revelations are being used to distract people has also been embraced by white nationalists in the United States. One cartoon that’s become a popular meme on extremist Telegrams channels shows slack-jawed UFO believers excited to see aliens who urge Earthlings to unite behind a single world government. Behind the scenes, though, the cartoon reveals that the aliens are the creation of a projector operated by a man wearing a blue United Nations helmet.
The UFO-as-distraction theory has also gained more mainstream traction on the pro-Trump right. On May 19, Newsmax White House correspondent Emerald Robinson tweeted that the UFO footage was a diversion meant to draw attention away from, among other things, the controversial, Republican-led recount of presidential election ballots in Arizona’s Maricopa County.
“They want you talking about aliens because they don’t want you talking about Maricopa,” Robinson wrote. “They want you talking about UFO’s because they don’t want you talking about stagflation, the collapse of the dollar, the crisis on the border, and Biden’s mental health.”