“The Missing Times: News Media Complicity in the UFO Cover-up”
Reviewed by Richard Thieme
IUR, International UFO Reporter, Spring 2001 (Volume 26, Number 1)
a publication of the J. Allen Hynek Center for the Study of UFOs
It is a staple of the modern era of propaganda and public relations that people can best be convinced of things they already tend to believe. Our information about the larger world beyond our immediate experience is filtered through many media. An external event is like a tree falling in the forest: there is no sound until the vibrations arrive in our minds. Each stage of the journey inflects or bends the vibrations and when they reach our ears, the event has been shaped into a jigsaw puzzle piece that fits what’s already there. We believe what we hear when the context that gives a story meaning is reinforced and there is no other point of reference from which to judge.
Terry Hansen’s “The Missing Times: News Media Complicity in the UFO Cover-up” provides another point of reference. It makes a reasonable case for the use of mass media as part of the UFO cover-up that began with the CIA’s Robertson Panel in 1953.
Hansen and I have seen some of the same world, talked to some of the same people. We are part of an ongoing exploration of UFO phenomena and we do not take that exploration lightly. “The Missing Times” is written in that context, within a set of shared assumptions. If the reader shares that same contextual understanding of UFO phenomena and its modern history, this book will resonate, it will more than make sense. Insights will suddenly socket formerly disconnected bits of knowledge and knit them into a script.
If one does not share that context, one might find oneself translating “complicity” into “conspiracy” without noticing the difference and dismiss Hansen as just another “UFO buff.” But then one would miss the point of this well-conceived, well-executed exploration of a hypothesis stated clearly on the first page: “News organizations sometimes cooperate with government authorities to deceive the public about the nature and scope of the UFO phenomenon.”
Understatement like that rumbles throughout this book like thunder.
Hansen establishes a single probable event – the appearance of UFOs over Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) sites near Great Falls Montana in 1975. He documents detailed coverage of the event in local media. He further documents the way a growing intelligence establishment used mass media as willing partners in the deception of the American public. Using the Robertson Panel as a baseline, he makes a case for the same behaviors, the same techniques, being used in the Great Falls incident in particular and UFO phenomena in general.
Hansen explains how subtly and effectively propaganda is managed and disseminated through the elite media, creating a climate in which influence and nuance are more important that overt actions. He shows that the “intentional forgetting” of significant events happens far too frequently not to be part of a design. He shows that one need not spin outrageous “conspiracy theories” to see how collusion and complicity can spin a web of influence far beyond its primary agents. In short, Hansen explores in depth and detail the hypothesis that the same means used effectively in other areas – self-censorship by a willing press, acceptance of government propaganda as factual news – were used to manage UFO phenomena ever since the Robertson Panel initiated decades of intentional deception.
Maybe it’s synchronicity that I read this book and Richard M. Dolan’s “UFOs and the National Security State” about the time that Dr. Stephen Greer held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC at which twenty people, many of them breaking secrecy oaths, volunteered information about radar and visual sightings, blocked information, and various disinformation campaigns. Those of us who have explored UFO phenomena seriously were not surprised because we share the landscape described by Hansen’s and Dolan’s books and by the Greer witnesses. We have read many of the same cases, many of us have talked at length to witnesses or investigated similar cases, and we have come to the tentative conclusion that many witnesses are credible, sincere and mostly accurate in describing encounters with anomalous vehicles and sometimes with the intelligences that make them go.
In that context, Hansen’s book is a thoughtful, intelligent, deliberate exploration of a single case in light of what we know of the intelligence establishment and how it has used the news media to advance its designs for social control.
The problem with journalists like Terry Hansen is that they just won’t grow up. They retain the youthful idealism that motivated them to go into the truth-uncovering and truth-disclosing business in the first place. When an event occurs that deals a blow to this idealism, it is a real shock to the system. They take it personally. They feel betrayed and write books like this to even the score.
Hansen may have been motivated to write this book in part because for so many years we have lived in a force field of intense deliberate disinformation. We have come to doubt our own eyes, our own ears. We have been told to believe what we are told, rather than what we experience. As a counselor with sixteen years experience, I know what this does to people, whether in families or societies. We clam up. We become almost ashamed of our own experience, like children who have been abused, as if we are responsible for what others have done to us. We struggle simply to articulate the truth we know to be true in the face of the opposition, ridicule, discouragement, and worse that we have internalized, turning ourselves from prisoners into our own guards.
So beneath the understatement of this book runs an undercurrent of outrage (or am I projecting?) because our history has been taken from us by unelected officials who replaced it with a false history.
It should not take so much energy and hard work, in other words, simply to affirm that something that obviously took place … took place. That is the swamp through which an independent self-publishing journalist like Hansen must wade, step by slow step, simply to document what would otherwise be the obvious truth because it was reported by so many people in the same way at the same time and is congruent with similar reports that agree in the small details from all over the world for over fifty years.
In 1975, a friend of Hansen’s living in Montana told him by telephone of a series of UFO events at Minuteman ICBM silos in Great Falls, Montana. Hansen had not heard anything of these events through the media in Minnesota where he lived, yet all of his investigations then and since support his conclusion – using “the most stringent standards of evidence commonly applied in journalism, law, and science, they certainly did occur.”
They certainly did occur. So why, he asks, were those local reports not filtered through various media into the public mind?
Local media did report the events, as Hansen shows they often do. Those local accounts constitute what Hansen calls “folk reality,” things we know and believe on a level of shared experience and common sense. But between those local reports and national coverage in news media, there is a great gulf of silence.
Once we know that the truth is being withheld, we wonder what other truths are being withheld. In the absence of reality, we make it up, projecting fears and hopes onto a blank screen. Before that can happen, however, the masters of deception step into the vacuum and create a “pseudo-environment,” as Walter Lippman, an early twentieth century theorist of propaganda and PR called it. First censorship, then the creation of a seamless weave of images, pseudo-facts, and explanatory narrative that knits them into a coherent script, creating virtual cages in which we real birds can flap our wings and have the illusion of flying. That pseudo-environment expands like a gas until it becomes the very air we breathe.
Hansen calls the pseudo-environment “official reality,” a consensus manufactured by the engineers of social control. While the “folk reality” was documented and hidden in Air Force archives that didn’t surface until FOIA requests unearthed them years later, the pseudo environment became a belief system. For two years, there was silence until the 1975 sighting found its way into national media. It surfaced in a story in the National Inquirer.
Hansen mentions the sly reference in the movie “Men in Black” to the use of tabloids to hide the truth in plain sight and suggests that this might be exactly what happened. Now, this is where those not contextualized by years of in-depth UFO and cold war studies might snicker. Their consensus reality identifies this kind of thinking as Fantasyland. But Hansen documents CIA connections to the National Inquirer – its founder even lists the CIA in his resume – and notes that papers like it are often used by the intelligence establishment to discredit stories around the world. Planting a true story in a disreputable rag discredits the story forever. No one will quote it and anyone who repeats it is vulnerable to ridicule.
Hansen’s book is also testimony to another phenomena: official reality sails in a leaky boat. Through the multiplicity of communication channels that we share, enough bits of “folk reality” escape the wrap-around media filter so we can trade them in a black market in truth, eventually building a model of an alternative reality. There is a critical difference, however: Journalists like Hansen adhere to principles of documentation, corroboration, and plausible reasoned arguments, while those engaged in propaganda use every weapon in their arsenal.
Alternative models of “unofficial reality” stand or fall, therefore, by virtue of the integrity, methodology and discipline of the practitioners. That’s why intentional disinformation agents or “useful idiots,” making UFO Studies look like the work of charlatans, con artists, and hacks, are so effective. Lacking the support of societal structures, UFO Studies are marginalized. No university has a Department of UFO Studies with government funded fellowships and grants.
That’s why work like Hansen’s is so important. His solid methodology and judicious, deliberate reflection on what is plausible in the Alice-in-Wonderland world created for us by the culture of secrecy provide an antidote for intentional deception.
The Missing Times is a question, not an answer. It asks the reader, so what do you think? Which of these scenarios makes the most sense, knowing what you now know? Hansen trusts the reader to think it through. Because reading this book must begin a process of deconstructing the seamless weave of images, ideas, and narratives that we innocently inhabit, this book is genuinely subversive. When you put it down, the echoes continue … and you do not, you realize, love Big Brother. You do not love Big Brother at all.