By Billy Cox2008 started out as just another mediocre year for the mainstream media’s ineptitude with UFO issues. But boy, did that ever change.
It began reliably enough early last January, when Editor & Publisher, the exhausted industry watchdog monitoring the extinction of newspapers and their advertising revenues, found time to chide The Wall Street Journal for wasting 1A real estate on UFOs. The WSJ actually played that story straight by tracking down fellow eyewitnesses to Dennis Kucinich’s 1982 UFO sighting. The E&P was just doing what it's supposed to do. Zzzz.
A few weeks later, the libertarian Cato Institute — those stalwart sentinels for government transparency — decided to terminate the services of adjunct scholar Dom Armentano for writing an op-ed piece in the Vero Beach News-Press. The economics professor’s crime? Advocating the declassification of federal records on UFOs. Had Armentano gotten the hook for writing about racism or some other more conventional corruption, this would’ve been news. But it was only UFOs. So who cared?
And as the months went by, UFOs continued to provide the media intelligentsia with easy rhetorical devices in which to gauge the stupidity of the American people. Eric Alterman flogged the horse in March: “Vastly more Americans believe in flying saucers and 9/11 conspiracy theories than believe in the notion of balance – much less ‘objective’ – in the mainstream news media” Nicolas Kristof took a whack in April: “There’s this embarrassing fact about the United States in the 21st century. Americans are as likely to believe in flying saucers as in evolution.”
So 2008 was shaping up as a garden-variety yawner. Until the drama over Stephenville, Tex., shook down. And as a result of the MSM’s evaporation in the aftermath of this still-unresolved national security fiasco, De Void has proclaimed 2008 as The Media’s Worst UFO Year Ever.
To be sure, there was an initial stampede to the Stephenville region shortly after Empire-Tribune reporter Angelia Joiner’s accounting of the Jan. 8 UFO incident made the wires. TV crews came from as far away as Japan to get the story, and why not? There were plenty of loquacious witnesses to the lit-up, bigger-than-an-aircraft-carrier flying machine that glided silently over the little cow town and reversed its course. Eyewitnesses included cops and a pilot. Better yet, several reported military jet fighters scrambling after it.
An Air Force Base at nearby Fort Worth denied it had planes in the air that night, which was good enough for Newsweek. The emaciated weekly magazine didn’t waste any precious print on the story, but it did run a “Web Exclusive” by a “lecturer in English at Yale University” who attributed the suppertime sighting to sleep deprivation.
But then, not quite two weeks after the incident, as the hoopla subsided, Carswell Field made the surprise announcement that yes, it did indeed have warplanes in the air on the 8th. Not one or two, but 10. Ten F-16s. “Routine training missions.” Its press release said nothing about the UFO. Which raised another question – why bother with issuing a press release at all? Why not just let the event die a natural death? The official statement went against the USAF's own interests. It meant the eyewitnesses were credible.
Carswell’s reversal generated another brief wire-service cycle, but it had nothing to fear from the media.
In May, Dateline NBC promoted a UFO ratings-month special called “Ten Close Encounters Caught on Tape.” Host Hoda Kotb was more into rhymes (“Tonight, an extraterrestrial creature feature!”) and lame cliches (“The experts can argue until they’re as green as the little men whose existence they debate”) as she reviewed UFO cases from as far back as half a century ago. This lady had network resources to work with. And she said nothing about Stephenville. Zilcho.
The reason for Carswell’s embarrassing press release became clear in July when the Mutual UFO Network uncorked an online bombshell – a 77-page evaluation of radar records from 4 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 8 near Stephenville.
In response to MUFON’s Freedom of Information Act request, the FAA produced a 139-meg CD tracking 2.8 million radar hits during that time span along the UFO flight corridor on a southeast beeline toward Crawford, site of President Bush’s “Western White House.” The timeline tapered off at 8 o’clock sharp, the end of MUFON’s request window – with the UFO just 10 miles from Bush’s ranch, and six miles from its restricted air space.
Although the F-16s ventured into unauthorized civilian air space and pulled to within a mile of the object, which carried no transponder and flew at speeds between 49 mph and 2,100 mph, they were nowhere near the craft when it reached Crawford. Neither Carswell nor any other Defense Department entity released radar data, but the former turned over its flight logs for that evening, all of which had been redacted.
“Four days after our FOIAs hit the FAA, they (the military) knew we’d show they had planes all over the place that night,” MUFON investigator Glen Schulze told De Void. “They didn’t have much choice. Fort Worth radar data shows the F-16s from takeoff the landing at Carswell Air Force Base.”
This was an incredible story. Especially the non-responses from various military bureaucracies. There was a brief allusion to the MUFON report on Larry “non sequitur” King. But no wire service coverage. Not even The Wall Street Journal. During the first public presentation of the data in San Jose, Calif., in July, the San Francisco Chronicle showed up, but its reporter didn’t have a clue.
“A chart full of purple dots and black arrows that may or may not indicate aliens flew over President Bush’s Texas ranch in January,” wrote Steve Rubenstein. “The dots and arrows on the chart are as plain as day.”
Schulze, a resident of Littleton, Col., couldn’t even draw ink from the hometown media. But he pointed out that the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News managed to cover Denver rez Jeff Peckman’s press conference, which advocated spending municipal funds on an extraterrestrial liaison committeee.
During the September sweeps, ABC Prime Time aired a rehash of Peter Jennings’ “Seeing Is Believing” report from 2005. There was a brief mention of Stephenville, but reporter David Muir didn’t bother to question military authorities about the FAA records. Which appear to have documented a serious breach of national security. Just for the record, when contacted by De Void, Carswell PIO Maj. Karl Lewis says his employer has no comment on what he describes as MUFON “speculation.”
Finally, in November, during the last ratings period of 2008, CNN’s Miles O’Brien filed a week-long UFO series (pre-empted by the terror attacks in Mumbai) without mentioning the Stephenville case once. Internet cassandras charge O’Brien was terminated immediately thereafter because he dared to venture into The Great Taboo. CNN said it canned O’Brien and its entire science staff as a cost-cutting measure, and there’s no reason to doubt that. No sinister government agency could've possibly been threatened by O’Brien’s UFO reporting.
Stephenville was the only UFO story that mattered in 2008, because it was one of those rare instances where federal records supported eyewitness accounts. It showcased a military response to a threat against the home of the United States president. And the Air Force got away with its lack of accountability (again) because the press wasn’t interested.
Which raises another question: If the MSM’s stunning financial collapse hits critical mass this year, will anyone notice?