Saturday, May 21, 2011

Area 51: A New Book by Annie Jacobsen

The sad thing about the publication of Los Angeles Times Magazine reporter Annie Jacobsen's carefully researched book about Area 51 and the history of covert aerial U.S. intelligence operations, is that all readers will take away from her treatise is the very last bit about where the three little bodies recovered at Roswell really came from.

And no wonder!

As alien/ufo stories go, it's a doozy.

That's what bothers me most about it, actually.

It's impossible to tell whether any part of the surprise ending of Area 51 is true, and though Jacobsen's explanation makes compelling fodder for conspiracy theorists (as if they needed any more compelling fodder), the claim itself is problematic.

Why?

Well, for lots of reasons. Here are just a few:
  • U.S. military intelligence has a long, well-documented history of screwing with people who are writing UFO books. They approach then with juicy tidbits, then feed them disinformation. Right now, there are so many bits of fantabulous false info out there--all of them planted by 'reliable inside sources' and all of them contradicting one another in some way, that it's hard to know which way is up. Every author believes his or her particular source is unimpeachable, and swears that that person would never, ever lie. OK. Whatever.
  • I'm pretty sure that a series of X-Files episodes featuring Jacobsen's revelation were televised fifteen years ago or so. If you are an X-Files geek like me you probably remember them: They were the ones in which Mulder finds a bunch of railroad cars filled with alien bodies buried in the Arizona desert and the Cigarette Smoking Man shows up and torches them. 
  • The revelation itself is internally inconsistent in some ways, which is to say, some details make no sense and the answers to questions about them are unconvincing. 
In short, Jacobsen claims that the bodies recovered at Roswell were genetically and/or surgically altered human children, made to look like aliens by using the insane 'research' of Nazi doctor Joseph Mengele. Jacobsen's source claims that when the Soviets saw the internal chaos created by the Orson Welles broadcast of War of the Worlds, they hatched a covert operation to create chaos within the U.S. by faking an alien landing. Roswell was the first attempt.

The dates are off though. Roswell happened in the summer of 1947. The Nazis abandoned Auschwitz in 1945. How could children have been genetically altered for such an experiment in two years? When NPR hostess Terry Gross put this question to Jacobsen, she had no answer.

But a bigger problem with the story is why keep it secret then? If the U.S. meant to discourage UFO stories after Project Blue Book ended (as many assert), why not just disclose what really happened? People would be appalled, but once proof was produced they would accept it and write it off to the horrors of Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany. The end. Mystery solved.

Jacobsen's source had a strange answer for this, one I personally find less compelling than the timing issue. (Mengele did do a lot of horrifying surgical 'research' on dwarves, so it is not inconceivable that the Soviets could have replicated this in two years, although it is quite distasteful to think on it.) He said that the U.S. has not disclosed this information because we have continued the genetic research. 

Why? To what purpose?

It makes a good conspiracy story or X-Files episode, but beyond that, it's hard to understand what the U.S. government might gain by genetically changing children into creatures that look like aliens.

Still, it's good to see serious books being written about UFOlogy as various files become declassified. If they catch on, perhaps we will get serious books that ask harder questions and avoid sensatonal cliffhanger endings.