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Digital Subscriptions > Skeptic > 22.3 > The Real Origin of UFOs and Aliens

The Real Origin of UFOs and Aliens

How the Media Shaped Our Ideas About Extraterrestrials

EXCERPT

Were this the only example of a “close encounter” with aliens that reflected imagery and themes previously appearing in films, television and other media, the resemblance of Orthon to Klaatu could by explained as mere coincidence. Likewise the assertion that Adamski based Orthon on Klaatu could be easily refuted as an example of the logical fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc (“after this, therefore because of this”). After all, Orthon’s shoulder length blond hair is nothing like Klaatu’s fairly short dark hair.

However, every major trope of the modern UFO mythos can be traced to previous media images and themes. The three major types of aliens of UFO literature— Nordics, grays, and reptilians—can all be traced to media prototypes, as can tales of alien abductions, alien implants, and the imagery of flying saucers. The chief media sources of these tropes are movies, television, pulp magazines, and comic strips. But earlier literature and even ancient myths were also precursors of the modern UFO myths. That this new mythology came into being in the 20th century reflects the greater emotional and visceral impact of film and television compared to that of the written word. Particularly in the 1950s, film and television focused primal fears activated by the threats of nuclear war and brainwashing through the medium of science fiction.

The Threat of Nuclear War

Klaatu, a wiser version of a human being representing all that is noble in our species, landed on Earth to warn humanity that if it failed to find a solution to the threat of nuclear war, an interstellar robot police force, over which Klaatu and his fellow advanced aliens had no control, would annihilate the people of Earth. The United States had destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atomic bombs in August 1945 but had then lost its monopoly on nuclear weapons when the Soviet Union exploded its first atomic bomb in 1949, just two years before the release of The Day the Earth Stood Still. Thus, the movie reflected the growing fears generated by the nuclear arms race.

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SPECIAL ISSUE: Did a Mysterious Unknown Advanced Civilization Help Ancient Peoples Build Their Monuments? SPECIAL SECTION — EVALUATING THE EVIDENCE FOR AN ADVANCED LOST CIVILIZATION: Debating Science and Lost Civilizations: My Experience on the Joe Rogan Experience by Michael Shermer; Conjuring Up a Lost Civilization: An Analysis of the Claims Made by Graham Hancock in Magicians of the Gods by Marc Defant; Lost Civilizations and Imaginative Conjectures: An Analysis of the Myths and History of Graham Hancock’s Magicians of the Gods by Tim Callahan. SPECIAL SECTION — AN ACADEMIC HOAX: Failure to Communicate: Why We Published the “Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct” Hoax Exposé by Michael Shermer; The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct: A Sokal-Style Hoax on Gender Studies by Peter Boghossian (aka Peter Boyle, Ed.D.) and James Lindsay (aka, Jamie Lindsay, Ph.D.); More Fashionable Nonsense Some thoughts on “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct” Hoax by Alan Sokal. ARTICLES: Big News on Homo naledi: More Fossils and a Surprising Young Age by Nathan H. Lents; The Real Origin of UFOs and Aliens: How the Media Shaped Our Ideas About Extraterrestrials by Tim Callahan; Publicly Funded Stem Cell Research: California’s $3-Billion Experiment in Public Science by Raymond Barglow; How to Tame a Fox and Build a Dog by Lee Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut; Science, Facts, and “Provisional” Knowledge by David Zeigler. COLUMNS: The SkepDoc: Juicing for Health or Torture by Harriet Hall, M.D. The Gadfly: Our Angry Era by Carol Tavris. JUNIOR SKEPTIC: Zombies: The Gruesome True Story of Zombies by Daniel Loxton
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