Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mirage Men: An Adventure into Paranoia, Espionage, Psychological Warfare, and UFOs

If your favorite X-Files episodes were always the ones with the Cigarette Smoking Man and the Spy versus Spy endless backstory, then Mirage Men is your kind of UFO book.

You'll probably eat it up in a single sitting and not even need an antacid afterward.

If, on the other hand, you were there for the supercool monsters and the overall hotness of Gillian Anderson, then you might find yourself feeling kind of woozy about a third of the way into this well-written, uncharacteristically rational ufology treatise.

In fact, you might need to lie down for a bit afterward. Just for a few minutes. Just until the room quits spinning and you no longer feel like you're going to hurl.

In case the title isn't enough of a tip off, Mirage Men chronicles the various and sundry methods used by the U.S. intelligence community to f**k with the general public (and more specifically, the UFO community), using specific examples that stretch all the way back to the 1940s, before Roswell.

In the movies this is the stuff that is always "on a need to know basis."

Well, if you are a UFOnut or naut, you need to know. Read the book. Most of it is probably even true.

Having made that necessary disclaimer--that yes, you should read this book and pay attention to what it says because a lot of stuff that passes for fact in UFO lore really is disinformation and nonsense--I have to also say that about a third of the way in I began to have, well, qualms.

Like so many UFO adventures, the beginning of my journey into their journey was promising. I was beyond happy when author Mark Pilkington straight up validated my pet theory about the Roswell myth, right out of the gate. Nobody is ever nice to me when I ruin Roswell for them, and that gets so lonely. So when that specific topic got a thorough and early deconstruction,  I was all like, "Oh cool! I KNEW it!"

Who doesn't like to feel right? I know I do.  

But things quickly went south.

For a tiny taste of why, contemplate the following statement for just a minute or two:

Everything I say is a lie.

What does it mean? When I say that I'm lying am I actually telling the truth? But how can I tell the truth ever, even by trick or deception, if I have stated as a given that everything I say is a lie?

Back and forth, back and forth.

That feedback loop is fun for about as long as it takes you to realize you're trapped in it, at which point it's time to pull down the shades, take a Percocet, and pull the covers over your head.

I got my first queasy feeling early on when, not long before the splendid Roswell deconstruction, Pilkington explains that he and his friend John are longtime members of a group of pranksters who make crop circles. From there he goes on to boldy declare that "...yes people make crop circles--all of them--and have done so since the early 1970s."

Seriously? Every single crop circle since the 1970s? These guys weren't even born until the 1970s!

I mean, I like to dress up like Rue Paul on Halloween, but that doesn't prove that drag queens--all of them--are really women pretending to be men pretending to be women, and always have been, ever since the invention of Spandex sometime in the late 1960s.

All I'm saying is, A does not equal B simply because C said so.

That's all I'm saying. (Is this ride moving already?)

By the time Mark and John set off for a Nevada UFO conference to meet the infamous UFO spook Richard Doty (if, as they themselves openly wonder, this guy really is the *real* Richard Doty, assuming a *real* Richard Doty exists anywhere except in Spy versus Spy lore and legend)--by the time they show up at this conference to drink beer and make snarky comments about the heavy American food (which is awful, yes, and who would know awful food better than the British?)--by the time they are quaffing brewskis with the possible Richard Doty and swapping opinions on film clips of purported Grays--by that time, I'm lovin' it all just a little bit less.

They discover that they really, really like this Doty guy. It's like love at first bullsh*t, and the longer they listen to his ever-evolving disinformation monologues and plausible denials, the more deeply they all fall in love with each other.

That blossoming love affair is weird for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that Richard Doty (or someone who plays him in this book) is a pasty-faced, sweaty, middleaged life insurance agent sort of guy who wears outdated polyester clothing that barely covers his enormous ego.

Richard Possibly Doty is kind of a jerk. His jokes are not funny, he drinks a lot, and as if what I've said so far isn't already enough to send any sober woman running to the ladies room and out the back door, it turns out that Doty's most impressive UFO intelligence achievements involve undermining, falsifying, or totally destroying UFO films, books, documentaries, and investigations before they are ever fully completed.

Doty does this by approaching the investigators/authors/filmmakers and feeding them BS, which he is, you know, doing with these very guys as you read their very book.

Tums, anyone? Percocet?

Bottom line: The truth is not out there, and it's not in here either.

Seriously, stop looking for it before your brain falls out. Lighten up. Those rubber rooms are so hard to decorate. 

I wish ufologists were more skeptical. Or skeptical at all. I wish skeptics were more imaginative. Or imaginative at all. I wish debunkers were more open to creative tension and possibility, instead of so mean-spirited and autocratic. If wishes were horses, I'd have finished my own book by now.

Alas, I'm just a girl who loves monsters. And Gillian Anderson.

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