Monday, March 11, 2013

Adjusting Your Host’s Right/Left Balance, plus UFOs

Tonight’s the big 8pm discussion about the drones controversy, featuring Mary Madigan and Pamela Stubbart and hosted by me at Muchmore’s (c’mon, Manhattanites, it’s just one L stop into Williamsburg, at 2 Havemeyer St., three blocks east of Bedford Ave.).

(And remember, there’s a Dionysium down in Austin, TX, too, where they, somewhat like us, had a discussion about the 80s last time – and may discuss the ethics of drones among other things next time.  That’s also the home state of Rand Paul’s new Senate pal Ted Cruz, who co-filibustered about drones a bit last week.)

I’ve been trying to reassure people on Facebook that I can be a balanced moderator in spite of my fellow libertarian Rand Paul last week emphasizing opposition to recent drone policy.  It occurs to me, though, that some might instead need reassurance I’m not a completely warmongering right-winger, since I certainly haven’t embraced all antiwar arguments in the past.

Please, allow me to oversimplify:

•As with the unspoken (and perhaps unspeakable) feminist sympathies I described in my blog entry before last, I’ve at least had reservations about militarism since childhood – even before being a libertarian.  You just might not have noticed them, since I had even bigger reservations about, for example, Naziism and Communism.

But despite recognizing that there are some menaces that must be faced militarily, I’ve never liked the triumphalist, parade-throwing form of militarism – hewing more to what might be called the grim necessity mode captured in some action films and in (the more serious) superheroics.  I’m not ashamed to say (in a reversal of conventional wisdom) that I find that mindset healthy but always found gung-ho military recruitment ads and, even more so, soulless and disingenuous-sounding defense industry ads a bit creepy – not necessarily wrong, just embarrassingly upbeat about something that should be a tragic last resort. 

And without being one of those leftist conspiracy theorist types who thinks the CIA secretly runs the whole world, I have to admit I’ve wondered – even before Rand Paul’s dad was in the Republican presidential primaries – whether a politician who openly opposed the CIA (or, say, their drones) might risk an untimely accident.  Don’t put such things past the government. 

Looking back on it, I don’t think I understood, as a young moderate-conservative, how left/anarchist/libertarian those thoughts were (and I use those political labels rather than “liberal” for good reason, since that term has more complacent, pro-establishment connotations – and perhaps should, given the sudden celebration of drones by some knee-jerk Obamaphiles over the past couple days).

Furthermore, lest I sound too marginal, we conservatives don’t entirely like McCain or David Frum anyway – so let ’em fume at Rand Paul; they’ll just confirm that they were destined all along to be seen as tangential to the main current of conservatism.  May the paradigmatic conservative henceforth be Rand Paul, regardless of drone policy (which, again, will be decided tonight at Muchmore’s).

Comparably ambiguous, I suppose, is the issue of what we can do by way of watching the government if they’re going to insist on watching us with drones and such.  Doesn’t the public need WikiLeaks as much as it needs a free press?  And if it needs WikiLeaks, doesn’t it need whistle-blowers like Bradley Manning?  And yet an army can’t just leak info like a sieve.  And having groups like WikiLeaks and Anonymous become influential on foreign policy is almost as unsettling as letting governments decide foreign policy – but I’ll still take the Rand Paul Era over WWII any day.

•But what about the space aliens, you ask?

Or rather: a longtime skeptic, I’ve been asking myself whether many UFO-spotters are less crazy than we all thought in the following sense: We now know that the skies are filled with government drones and stealth aircraft (some of them black and triangle-shaped and launched from Area 51 in New Mexico, as alluded to in Oscar-nominated Zero Dark Thirty). 

Between the government’s drones, the way-cool remote toy flyers that enthusiasts are radio-controlling all over America, and the very convincing computer graphics that half the nation’s teens can add to any footage right in their bedrooms now, why on Earth (so to speak) should anyone be surprised by apparent lights in the sky (or purported footage of same) anymore?  It’d take walking, talking aliens in Times Square to cause a stir at this point, or should. 

And that means that Russell Crowe recently posting footage of some odd lights should not cause profound bafflement (TMZ also says the Crowe footage is baloney – but links to video of lights in the sky near a military facility, as if that should be deemed more eerie or surprising, and notes elsewhere that Van Halen lead singer Sammy Hagar claims he’s been abducted – and returned, I assume). 

Russell Crowe should instead be investigating the unexplained phenomenon of him singing in Les Mis (much as I liked that movie – and much as I hope Sydney will not be damaged by alien invaders).

But I will confess to being fascinated recently by purported YouTube videos of paranormal phenomena for the simple reason that (easy as this is to forget) humanity didn’t really have unlimited constant access to video clips until a few years ago, and it’s interesting (and mostly dismaying) to see what people find persuasive. 

In much the same way that (I contend) the idea of God evolves over time so that god-claims cannot be easily tested (instead of being seen atop Mount Olympus, now he’s invisible and intangible and works quietly and mysteriously, etc., etc.), the pressure of having to put up or shut up has clearly driven video-makers who believe in the paranormal in some strange new directions I would not have predicted back when I was a not-yet-skeptical child watching In Search Of. 

Bigfoot has gotten blurrier, for one thing.  There was a time when I thought Bigfoot was done for as a pop culture meme, in part because he’s so concrete that (I thought) people either produce a body or shut up about it – but on the contrary, now they obsess, like patients examining Rorschach blots, over thousands of videos of what might sort of be some vaguely dark something or other for maybe a split second over behind that tree third from the left, no that one back there, see right there, maybe like an elbow or something...

And then of course there are all the OCD videos attempting to prove something’s fishy if you stare long enough at low-resolution-enough video of 9/11...or the Dark Knight Rises massacre...or Sandy Hook...or...

I question whether (in a world of imperfect technology and flawed human minds) we should even be impressed by radar professionals who swear that they spotted large weird unidentified blots, so I’m not going to believe the YouTube paranoids, shockingly numerous though they are. 

But if – purely as an exercise in my indomitable open-mindedness – I were forced, in this era of drones and hopelessly ambiguous YouTube videos, to come up with the Three Things Best Calculated to Make a Skeptic Think UFOs Might Still Be Worth Investigating, after my hours of half-assed research, I would have to go with these (and if you want to eat up your precious finite life by investigating further, go for it, and if you end up insane, you can tell the other believers that a skeptic sent you):

1. the Ariel School incident (in 1994 in Zimbabwe, over sixty children ran in from a school playground insisting they’d seen a hovering craft and a small non-human figure with slanty eyes emerging to observe them – and we have great footage of the smart-sounding kids of varied ages explaining in perfect English what they say they saw...and footage of them sticking to their stories sixteen years later in 2010)

2. some odd NASA footage (this can be blurrier than the average YouTube item, but it was often broadcast live and thus is likely unaltered – and there are definitely some odd things floating around up there during NASA missions, albeit things that are presumably bits of crap from prior missions, meteors, or even ice crystals sliding across the camera lens...though several such lights forming a circle at one point is a tad odd, as is a much-discussed clip of what looks for all the world like something darting out of the way to avoid a missile shot from Earth, which needless to say would raise several other troubling questions)

3. Gary McKinnon (he is but one of countless people, most utter cranks or well-meaning confused people, who claim to have inside knowledge of government doings with UFOs, but his story is unusual: you may’ve been a bit distracted around 9/11/01 by bigger things in the news, but around that time McKinnon hacked into numerous government and military computers and almost got extradited from the UK to the U.S. because of it, escaping only because the UK decided his mild autism made him unfit for trial – great news for half my brainy acquaintances if they are contemplating lives of crime – but he mentioned almost as an afterthought in interviews that while hacked into NASA he found them touching up photos to remove UFOs, possessing a picture of a large cigar-shaped object seemingly of non-human design hovering over what he assumes is the Earth, and keeping lists of “non-terrestrial” Air Force officers)

None of those items requires the existence of extraterrestrial life, of course, and the last thing skeptics should do is fit anomalous facts into convenient, entertaining, ready-made narratives.  But again, nice to know what one is dismissing if one’s being dismissive, at the very least.

•Now I’m way off the topic of drones (but may bring this stuff up tonight at Muchmore’s anyway!), obviously, but if one wanted to look into a few conspiracy theories simply for their mind-bending potential, as a sort of cheap substitute for drugs – and I’m definitely not saying you should – I also have five favorites in that department, here offered without even an attempt at giving you details that would help explain why numerous people believe each of these things:

1. The sky is merely a hologram.

2. Up in the sky right now, that’s no moon, that’s a space station...inhabited by shapeshifting reptile-men who control the government.

3. The traditional sketch of recent history, containing about 2000 years since Christ’s birth, is way off: Many of the events described therein are really variant descriptions of a smaller handful of historical events, and in fact only about 1000 years have passed since the time of Christ and the early Roman Empire. 

4. We do not live on the surface of the Earth but rather on the inside of a hollow Earth (and those aren’t stars, just spots of phosphorescence). 

Alternatively, there’s a comedian in Quebec named Math Boylan who I think – despite him being a comedian – sincerely believes the Earth is flat and that Antarctica is actually a roughly circle-shaped fringe of ice surrounding the habitable center of the nigh-infinite flat plane on which we live (oh, and NASA is lying about everything, needless to say, not just the moon landing...).

5. And this one sounds mundane by comparison at first, but it gets weirder and trippier the more you think about it: the government is planning very soon to fake an alien invasion.  Now, for a split second you hear that and it sounds less weird than a real alien invasion.  But then start thinking about what sorts of things you would look for as evidence for this theory and it gets a tad confusing. 

Anyway, if you’re fascinated by these claims, please don’t contact me about them.  But by all means come to Muchmore’s tonight if you have a serious interest in those comparatively mundane drones.  


Unknown said...

The question is, how would you know that Antarctica isn't a circular border of ice around us on an infinite flat plane? Columbus thought the world was flat, and he wasn't such a dummy!

Todd Seavey said...

You could just walk or fly across the South Pole -- so it becomes crucial for Boylan's theory to claim that no one really has and that no one ever will.