High Strangeness: UFOs are Really Real

Monday, September 12, 2011

UFOs are Really Real

I have finally gotten my wife and daughter to sit still for some hard-hitting interrogations about our UFO encounter last month, but before I analyze and report on their testimony, I have to clear up one thing:

UFOs are real.

Got that? They are real. It makes no sense to question the reality of UFOs, because, guess what? If someone sees it, it's real. Just because a UFO witness can't identify what he or she saw, that doesn't mean he or she didn't see anything. If I look up in the sky and see a jetliner flying overhead but I can't identify whether it's a Boeing or an Airbus, does that mean there's no jetliner up in the sky? You really want to go there? There's a big difference between "unidentified" and "nonexistent," and yet most UFO conversations in American media and culture rarely seem to get beyond this basic, idiotic point.

I bring this up in part because of my fantastic new cable TV package. For a very reasonable $10 a month, I recently upgraded my cable lineup so I could start getting the best channel around: BBC America. If I could only choose one cable channel in the whole wide world to get, this would be it. Top Gear. Doctor Who. Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. Those three shows pretty much constitute my world view in its entirety.

But another channel came along with the package, one I had never heard of until Friday: Planet Green. Planet Green was airing multiple episodes of a show called "UFOs Over Earth," which turns out to be "CSI: UFO." The show follows a crack team of MUFON Field Investigators as they tackle the toughest UFO encounter cases around, from Mexico to Philadelphia and everywhere inbetween. And what a team they have! There's the cerebral mastermind, there's the zany photographic analyst, there's the quiet special effects genius... What could be more fun? But after watching three episodes in a row (have I mentioned how much my wife loves our Friday night "date nights?"), I sensed an unfortunate theme emerging: every show starts out with the MUFON Field Investigators talking excitedly about how this case could be "The Big One," the case that proves to the world once and for all that "UFOs are real!," and ends with those same Investigators looking like someone just took away their candy and bemoaning the fact that this actually wasn't The Big One after all...

It's all rather sad, really, but you see my point: even the MUFON Field Investigators on "UFO's Over Earth" can't help but slip into the "Are UFOs Real?" mode of thinking. And I think that's wrong. It's the wrong question to be asking, and if MUFON Field Investigators can't ask the right questions, then I'm not very confident that the UFO conversation can ever rise above the most rudimentary, meaningless levels. Instead of talking about whether UFOs are real, we should be talking about what they mean. At least that's my opinion.

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