Government cover-ups and conspiracy theories

The idea that the U.S. government, perhaps in cooperation with other national governments, is covering up evidence related to the paranormal, particularly in regard to UFOs, extraterrestrials, cattle mutilations, and mysterious creatures that appear to be half-human, half-animal has circulated for many years. Such conspiracies are said to include a combination of government officials and individuals from the private sector, such as leaders of major corporations. In regard to UFOs, some people believe that the U.S. government is working with extraterrestrial beings to hide information from the public.

Skeptics dismiss claims of government cover-ups, saying that many who believe in them are mentally ill. On the other hand, some psychologists say that such theories are not necessarily symptoms of mental illness; instead, they are created simply because people find comfort in the idea that everything happens for a reason. In other words, when faced with a mysterious, seemingly unexplainable event, people prefer even a far-fetched explanation over none at all. Psychologists go on to note that the government, because of its power, its often impersonal nature, and the occasional case of misconduct on the part of some officials, is seen as having the means of perpetrating a cover-up.

The most conspiracy theories are based on the notion that the U.S. government does not want people to know that extraterrestrials are visiting Earth because this information might cause mass panic and chaos throughout America. Fueling such theories is the fact that, during the 1950s, U.S. officials did take certain actions to squelch rumors that aliens were visiting Earth, and their stated reason was indeed that they feared mass panic. In 1953, for example, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency created the Robertson Panel, whose job supposedly was to examine evidence that UFO sightings were of spacecraft. However, the panel clearly made no serious effort to investigate such reports; after only four days of meetings, in which they neglected to examine many of the UFO reports they were charged with studying, the panel’s members concluded that most UFO sightings were due to the misidentification of ordinary objects like airplanes and weather balloons, and the rest of the sightings were due to hallucinations, mass hysteria, or outright fabrications. The Robertson Panel then recommended that the U.S. Air Force aggressively work to dismiss or discredit these sightings, so that “UFO hysteria” would end.

The Robertson Panel’s recommendation has been cited as proof by many UFO enthusiasts that the U.S. government will not hesitate to lie, intimidate witnesses, or engage in other illegal and/or unethical behavior in order to keep the public from knowing the truth about UFOs. Also cited by UFO enthusiasts are accounts by people who claim to have been intimidated by government officials, or “Men in Black,” after they tried to report a UFO sighting.

Even the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, which is designed to limit the government’s ability to keep information from the public, fuels speculation that officials are hiding something. UFO enthusiasts note that one section of this federal law allows the president to keep certain matters secret, providing this secrecy is, in the opinion of the president, necessary to protect and defend the country. Most people, UFO enthusiasts says, would agree that efforts to prevent mass panic over UFOs would meet this criterion.

Some UFO conspiracy theorists, however, propose a more sinister reason for government secrecy surrounding UFOs. They suggest that government officials have made a deal with the extraterrestrials, promising to keep their activities on Earth secret in exchange for access to advanced technologies. This idea is central to an elaborate UFO theory known as the Dark Side hypothesis. Under this theory, after finding the wreck of an alien spacecraft in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947, the U.S. government established a twelve-member council, known as the Majestic Twelve (MJ-12), to handle any communications between the aliens and humans. Distinguished scientists, politicians, and military officials, the men of MJ-12 are said to have met with the aliens in 1954. At this meeting, they supposedly learned that the aliens, called the greys, were one of nine alien races who needed human DNA in order to reverse a physical decline due to inbreeding and other genetic problems. Consequently, the MJ-12 agreed to allow the aliens to conduct their genetic research on unsuspecting humans. In exchange, the MJ-12 received alien technology, including spacecraft. In some versions of the Dark Side hypothesis, the MJ-12 agreed to help the aliens conquer and colonize Earth; according to this version, when then-president John F. Kennedy learned about this plot, MJ-12 had him assassinated.

There are other versions of the Dark Side hypothesis as well, and many of their elements can be traced back to a government effort designed to discredit ufologist Paul Bennewitz during the 1980s. Apparently an Air Force officer, said to be acting on orders from his superiors, provided Bennewitz with false documents related to an alien/human plot. Supposedly the plan was to make Bennewitz seem insane, and indeed, after he became convinced that the plot was real, Bennewitz did suffer a mental breakdown. Believers in the Dark Side hypothesis and/or the existence of MJ-12 say that the theory that aliens conduct genetic experiments would explain abductions of humans and mysterious cattle mutilations. This idea has also spawned several theories related to the notion that sightings of mysterious, seemingly halfhuman creatures are actually sightings of products of these alien genetic experiments.

In some of these theories, the aliens are said to be planning to take over Earth. However, theorists then have problems explaining why government officials would cooperate with such a plan. Some say that the officials simply fail to grasp the implications of the aliens’ plans, while others say that the officials cooperate because they have been promised high positions in the new alien government. Still others have suggested that the officials are cooperating because they are really aliens themselves. Some of the believers in this idea, including former British Green Party spokesperson David Icke, have said that, in ancient times, a reptilian form of extraterrestrial established a colony on Earth, mated with humans, and after a few generations had children who either looked human or could shape-shift, so that they sometimes looked human and sometimes reptile. In either case, the theory goes, their ability to look human is allowing the aliens to take over the planet by placing alien-human hybrids in high positions in government, the military, business, and banking throughout the world.

A few UFO conspiracy theories, though, suggest that the government is covering up something other than the existence of aliens. According to one such theory, the government has created the myth of extraterrestrials in order to hide its own genetic experiments. In another such theory, the government has created the myth to hide the fact that angels and devils are visiting Earth. There are a few other conspiracy theories related to religion as well, including one that suggests the government is hiding the existence of aliens because it is run by religious people who want to preserve the biblical idea that humans, created by God in his image, are the only intelligent beings in existence.

Skeptics dismiss all these conspiracy theories, saying that none is supported by any solid evidence. Moreover, skeptics say, these theories are not only illogical but are also so complex as to be extremely unlikely. Supporters of such theories are unmoved by such assertions, saying that the lack of evidence to support the conspiracy theory simply means that the government has hidden, destroyed, or otherwise suppressed the evidence. SEE ALSO:

  • Men in Black
  • the Robertson Panel
  • the Roswell incident


The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning

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