Can’t let 2014 get away without taking a parting shot at that little year-end CIA dustup last week, the UFO click monster cited by the Agency as its most widely circulated tweet of 2014.
This is one of those instances where you can’t really blame the spooks for turning a non-story into the cacophony of urgent drivel it became. I mean, they weren’t even trying this time around, and these are pros who’ve been so adept at drenching UFOs in polecat stank since Ike was president. Misdirection, marginalizing variables they’re not on top of, supplying facts to fit a narrative — it’s just what we pay the Langley crowd to do. But don’t blame them for this one.
|“You mean to tell me the CIA has been using UFOs to cover up its spy planes 50 years ago? And the story came out when Clinton was president? By god, I want a scoop, Parker, and I want it YESterday!”/CREDIT: vinylmationkingdom.com|
To recap: Last Monday, the Agency announced its most popular tweet of the year was a link to an old report titled “The CIA and the U2 Program, 1954-1974.” (At least they said it was. But can we really be sure?) Anyhow, it’s a largely unremarkable accounting of the secret spy planes that snooped on the commies for a generation. It’s so unremarkable there’s no way in Hades it would’ve made 2014’s top tweeted item were it not for a couple of buried throwaway graphs about The Great Taboo. You can probably quote the key clause by heart now. Without providing any statistics to support its argument, official history blamed “more than half of all UFO reports in the late 1950s and most of the 1960s” on high-altitude surveillance birds. The assertion was immediately challenged upon its release in 1997. Chief among its critics was former Navy physicist Bruce Maccabee who, after receiving a review copy, actually decided to do some research. He compared the CIA’s unsubstantiated pronouncement with Air Force records. The results prompted him to label the Agency’s claim “preposterous.” He noted how, except for a five-incident rise in reports during a single month in 1955 — the year the U-2 went operational — UFO incidents logged during 10-month spans directly before and after the U2 launch began showed no uptick in sighting reports.
“Even if all of the increase of five reports was a resut of reports of the U-2,” Maccabee stated, “it would be nowhere near ‘half of all reports.’” He added, “If flights of the U-2 were to add to the basic average sighting rate before the U-2 started flying, 43 per month, surely there would be a noticeable increase in the sighting rate after the U-2 started flying, but there is no indication of an increase during the 10 months after the start of U-2 flights!”
Actually, multiple critics pounded the CIA’s credibility, not the least of whom were retired Air Force officials themselves. As veteran Bill Coleman — a former Project Blue Book agent who went on to become the USAF’s top PR flack — restated the obvious for De Void in 2007, “I don’t know how you could make a claim like that, because (spy planes) flew so high and were so seldom seen.”
So: old news, right? Clinton era. Yet, with the mere stroke of the keyboard, the CIA dumped a phony, 17-year-old disinformation exercise back into the news cycle, but only because a credulous media blew it up. The cynical part of De Void might attribute the move to a cultural experiment designed to test the MSM’s reflexes. Of course that would never happen. But look what did happen. Corporate media opened wide and ran with this chewtoy like a pack of little Jimmy Olsens scrambling for the nearest pay phone and a direct line to the rewrite gang at The Daily Planet. From Newsweek (“CIA Behind UFO Sightings …”) to UPI (“CIA admits to being responsible …”), from USA Today to Fox to the New York Post, the Fourth Estate aimed to reassure Americans, once again, how The Great Taboo was mostly a man-made sleight of hand. However, these are the usual suspects, and how the usual suspects handle UFOs isn’t even disappointing to De Void anymore.
What is disappointing is listening to public radio take a bath in it. NPR’s track record with UFOs may be superficial or whimsical, but it’s usually not careless and/or wrong. A week ago, however, being willfully uninformed paid off with a breezy little lead-in for the real news:
“Good morning. I’m Steve Inskeep with an explanation for UFO sightings in the 1950s. The CIA released a document this year which it calls its most-read document of 2014. It reports on flights by U-2 spy planes. The document says those secret planes flying higher than anyone thought possible were mistaken for alien spaceships. Normally, a conspiracy theory would say the CIA is behind some mysterious activity. In this case, the CIA really was. It’s Morning Edition.”
Jeepers, thanks for catching us up to the 20th century, Scoop — take a bow.
In the meantime, what else are we missing?