Modern Warfare and Alien Conspiracies


Summer 1947, somewhere outside of Roswell,
New Mexico. A rancher named W.W. “Mac” Brazel and his son Vernon
are driving on their land about 80 miles outside of town when they come across a collection
of unusual debris. Officials from a nearby army base claim that
the strips of rubber, tin, and paper are the remains of a crashed weather balloon. But the idea soon spreads that the material
was actually evidence of a UFO that had crashed to earth. The Roswell incident is still one of the most
famous alien conspiracy theories out there. But it’s actually just a part of a long
historical relationship between alien conspiracies, warfare, and the fear of foreign invasion. This relationship shows up in our literature
and popular culture from the end of the 19th century, through World Wars I and II, right
up to today. So, the history of alien conspiracies can
teach us a lot about the modern legacy of warfare, globalization, distrust of the government,
and paranoia about protecting borders from foreign invaders. The public fascination with the idea of life
on other planets, little green men, and shady government cover ups actually stretches back
way before 1947 New Mexico. You can actually see it as early as the late
19th century, in the genre of fiction called “Invasion Literature.” Works in this genre, which really caught on
in England, usually depicted Great Britain getting stormed by hostile neighboring countries,
primarily France and Germany. So, not Mars. Or whatever planet the guys from “Independence
Day” and “Men in Black” are supposed to be from. But even though the fears found in Invasion
Literature were expressed in fiction, they were grounded in some very real historical
precedents from decades earlier and the Napoleonic wars. In 1785, French pilots — I guess you’d
call them “pilots” — crossed the English Channel via hot air balloon into Britain. And soon came the growing worries among the
British that new technologies would leave them susceptible to aerial attacks. Invasion novels often drew on real advances
in military technology — like submarines, chemical agents like anthrax, and hot air
balloons — to tell stories about hostile governments or terroristic mad scientists
that used these tools to hold the world hostage. From the 1870s to the onset of World War 1,
the fear of war becoming more lethal often found its way into the popular imagination
of England. Invasion lit is largely thought to have kicked off with a novella by George Tomkyns Chesney called
The Battle of Dorking: Reminiscences of a Volunteer , in 1871, which tells the story
of a successful foreign invasion in England. But the genre had its first major foray into
“outer space” with H.G Wells’ War of the Worlds in 1897. Wells’ novel is considered by many to be
the crux of two important genres: invasion literature and science fiction. It tells the story of aliens with superior
weaponry coming to earth and creating fatal chaos until they’re ultimately stopped by
the deadliest weapon of all: a tiny germ. But Wells and other writers of invasion literature
were reflecting very real concerns that were also showing up in the headlines of the day
— concerns that weapons were becoming more lethal and that neighboring countries could
be drawn in to ongoing conflict by hostile governments. And with the beginning of World War 1, these
fears materialized in reality, not just in fiction. In 1914, World War 1 spread across the globe
with the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand. The conflict continued until 1918. But in addition to the sheer scope and devastation
of the conflict, the first world war also introduced new forms of military technology. We see the widespread introduction of things
like armored tanks, airplanes and aerial bombings, chemical weapons, submarines, and machine
guns. And around the same time, battlefield photography
was coming into its own, producing images that spread around the world. These images of war machines and human devastation
become especially significant as the war came to a close. And by this time, the genre of “invasion”
fantasy and literature had started to wane in popularity, because the fears that had been articulated there had already been realized. There was no need for fantasy anymore. But what does this have to do with alien invaders? Well, when you think about it, some of the
imagery of sci fi and alien conspiracies borrow heavily from the images captured on the battlefields
of World War 1. Aliens attacking from flying machines. Protective gear that resembled gas masks. Lasers that could fire multiple rounds, like
machine guns. In the years between the wars, these became
a greater part of the cultural imagination. And as countries around the world began to
rebuild, aliens started to rear their little green heads once again in a mix of reality
and urban myth. In 1938, Orson Welles decided to put on a
broadcast of War of the Worlds. As part of that retelling, Welles had the
radio announcer for Columbia Broadcasting System interrupt the news to declare that Martians had invaded New Jersey! But today, it’s debatable how seriously
people took this stunt, and how much chaos actually followed. Some sources, like WNYC’s Radiolab, state
that the panic was widespread, with as many as 1 in 12 listeners believing the hoax was
real. But reporters at Slate note that the panic
may have been overhyped, since of the 5,000 people polled by the C.E. Hooper ratings service on the night of the
broadcast, only about 2% said they were listening Welles’ broadcast. Instead, Slate posits that the reports of
mass hysteria that are now associated with that broadcast could have been promoted by
print newspapers, which viewed radio as their primary competition. But regardless of the fall out from Welles’
War of the World, the uncertainty in and of itself is illuminating. Because, if 1 in 12 people really sprinted
from their homes into the streets after the broadcast, or if millions of people who didn’t
even hear the broadcast believed the news that they read in the paper, either way it
was because the fear of attack was a present fear that was animated by the shadows of WW1. It also marked one of the first major alien
conspiracy theories that combined fiction with reality. Or rather fiction becoming reality. Because, the idea of aerial attack was a reality. Hostile foreign soldiers crossing country
borders was a reality. And in 1938, the terror of alien hysteria
was about to escalate once again, as the world crept closer to World War 2. The warfare technology that developed in World
War 2 resembled some of that introduced in World War 1, namely chemical agents and gas
masks, aerial bombardment, and invasion of other nations. But along with this, the world was also reckoning
with the systematic killings of the Holocaust and the dropping of the first atomic bombs
in Japan by the US in 1945. The use of nuclear bombs brought new waves
of terror about the advancement of military technology in the post war era. The decimation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought
about waves of fear that, for the first time in military history, we had the ability to
not only wipe out soldiers and civilians caught on the frontlines, but to drive humanity into
extinction. As a result, the fears stirred up by earlier
wars — of invasion, bombardment, and superior technologies — were now amplified in the
aftermath of WW2. But atomic bombs didn’t only usher in public
fear of military technology. They also brought with them fierce international
rivalries between various countries looking to gain access to these new weapons. Which brings our timeline right back around
to Roswell in 1947. The whole conspiracy that arose from the Roswell
crash marked an important point in the alien frenzy timeline, because it’s one of the
first instances where distrust of the government becomes wedded to the public’s fears and
theories about aliens. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the Air Force
finally came forward and clarified that the debris found near Roswell was actually part
of a US espionage program called “Project Mogul.” The program designed, tested, and flew giant
high tech weather balloons equipped with sensors that could pick up reverberations of
atomic tests around the world. Couple that cover up with the secrecy surrounding
the Manhattan Project and so many other World War 2 initiatives, and suddenly we start to
see a growing suspicion held by many that government officials have something to hide. The common logic among the alien conspiracy
faithful went: “If the government can lie about so much, then why wouldn’t they lie
about aliens?” This line of reasoning seems far fetched to
those who might not believe that a few pieces of paper and tin foil in New Mexico means
that there’s a larger plot afoot. But keep in mind that the suspicions weren’t
only about what was found in Roswell but also what was being tested out in the Southwest. After all, the secret government program known
as the Manhattan Project, which led to the invention of the atomic bomb, was working
in Los Alamos, New Mexico. And the first successful test of the weapon
on July 16, 1945, took place at the Trinity Site, in southern New Mexico – whole lot of New Mexico. So people who were swept in to the alien mania
of Roswell were, rightfully, suspicious that government bases had something to hide from
the public, because they had been hiding something from the public for years. And of course, soon after this came the “space
race” between the US and the Soviet Union, in which the cold war rivals turned their
attention from domination on the ground to domination in space. With the launching of Sputnik I in 1957, the
Soviet Union sent the first successful object into earth’s orbit, followed by the US’s
Explorer I in 1958. And as stories about space dominated the headlines,
so did more earthbound conflicts between the two adversaries, including the construction
of the Berlin Wall in 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. So conflict over space domination and earthly
efforts to build military superpowers were at the forefront of the public’s mind. And while satellites and astronauts began
to circle the globe, so too did stories of alien sightings and government cover ups. This includes a reported sighting in Tehran
in 1976, Rendlesham Forest in the UK in 1980, and Belgium in 1989. Although in each of these cases government
officials were asked to investigate and found no evidence of aliens….or did they? Just kidding, they didn’t. But the human imagination is an incredibly
powerful, and adaptable, engine of theories, from the plausible to far fetched. And in times of earthly crises, when things
like war, government secrecy, and the threat of invasion have weighed heavy on the public
imagination, it seems that the threat of extraterrestrials can feel increasingly real. So what do you think? Have anything else to add? Want to argue passionately with an anonymous
stranger in the comments section about why every alien conspiracy has some merit (because
I know there’ll probably be more than 1 of you out there)? Drop all of those comments, questions, and
conspiracies down below, point us to your favorite piece of nerdy sci-fi, subscribe
to Origin on Youtube and follow us on Facebook and I’ll see you guys back here next week.

48 thoughts on “Modern Warfare and Alien Conspiracies

  1. What I look for in conspiracy theories isn't the central event or object itself, but the (often many) layers of context, association and "spin" applied to eventually achieve relevance within a larger audience. I look at arguments and reasoning used to tie the central idea to its connected issues, as well as the interplay between plausibility and fear as it reaches its audience.

    In particular, I try to see how the theory may segment the general audience and pursue specific parts of it rather than the whole. For example, the conservative audience segment often called the "MAGA Trumpers" have been shown to be particularly ripe as fodder for conspiracy theories. Not due to the "type of people" in that segment, but due more to the common language and idiom used and the high level of shared identity that support highly contextual communication with an audience that has become largely unaware of that very context (which some have likened to the "How to boil a frog" story).

    Some of this effect has been covered by folks such as Marshall McLuhan ("The Medium is the Message."), among many others. Much of this also hearkens back to classical techniques of debate, rhetoric, argument and persuasion (Appeal to Authority, Post hoc ergo Propter hoc, etc.). Seeing which techniques are used, as well as when and how, reveals that conspiracy theories have their own set of tropes, just as movies have tropes for adventure, drama and rom-coms.

    Taking the above as a whole provides a way to start separating the "conspiracy theory" from its central event or object. Never attack a specific theory, but rather inform about communication in general, and how we ALL are vulnerable when these techniques are used to deceive rather than inform.

    For example, I tend to take "debunking" stories with a grain of salt, since they are not targeted at the specific audience of the conspiracy theory, but instead focus on convincing other groups that the conspiracy theory and it's believers are both worthy of ridicule, rather than focusing on just how that audience was won in the first place.

    How best to challenge conspiracy theories in general? It's easy to start with "their" conspiracy theories, but harder to look at "ours". That means it all must start with self honesty and self education. To see how we ourselves have been, and can be, taken in, and build the analytical skills needed to detect and prevent it. Then share those skills, independent of the Conspiracy Theory du Jour.

    Which brings me full circle to this video and the OOE channel in general: Danielle goes to great lengths to show not just how things are connected, but why and how those connections became relevant to their audiences, from the earliest instances to the present. For me, Danielle's videos have more pause-worthy moments than any other (tied with only a few, such as SmarterEveryDay). If you aren't pausing to review and ponder some of her points, you're missing chances to learn about your own awareness, thinking and feeling.

  2. You poor thing! Them lights look like they are just blasting heat at you! Thanks for the video!

  3. You should do a video on how Americans got their accents. Or a video on the orgins of high school proms.

  4. Ayyy for real tho…. i’m not worried about any of that other shit, I just wanna know who told you that outfit was a good idea…..

  5. Two things. First, A friend at work pointed out something that I hadn't ever realized, but I think may be true. Vampire movies, books, and shows come into popularity when Democrats are in power, and Zombee stories do when republicans are in power. If true it might have something to do with people's attitudes towards the parties.

    Second, I actually wrote a novel based on what if all the alien abduction stories were true, along with the conspiracy theories relating to aliens visiting us in the past. The story isn't about alien invasion, but a request for help.

  6. That lil foil hat in the bottom right corner is lit, I wanna buy, how much? Throw in the shades too? Great video πŸ§πŸ‘πŸ½

  7. Hi there Danielle, I'm a big fan. I love your videos and the way you presente them. Congratulations!

  8. It's a little unnerving how cheery she sounds when talking about atomic bombs and destruction.

  9. The origin of Islam next please i would love to hear your insight and knowledge on Islam

  10. Lmaooo aliens are real people dont believe these crazy folks who dont do research and go and talk to a historian about the birth of human being being that the first people were the zulu tribe

  11. So newspapers hyped up war of the world's, like TV journalist hype the dangers of yourubers like pewdiepie.

  12. Never thought of connecting UFO crazes with invasion fears. Especially if the feared threat might cause them to abruptly start watching the sky closely. I’ve been in love with the night sky since I got my first pair of glasses when I was six. You watch the night sky for a while, you’ll see strange things, you find out what they are. For example, Sirius changes color. A sizable percent of UFO reports are folks seeing that for the first time. Given what I’ve seen it do a few times, not an unreasonable thing to put on your list of possibilities.

  13. There are antigravity craft that seem like science fiction in the skies above us. I don't know if they are foreign or domestic or extraterrestrial or extradimenstional but they are out there. Soundless and defying know principals of friction and inertia. They can exhibit localized influence on electronics.
    Btw the term conspiracy theory was created to discredit disclosure of secrets by tying the term to absurd stories and ideas.

  14. The interesting thing is that there was a conspiracy and lies told about what those guys found in Roswell. The nature of what was hidden was wrong, but there was in fact a government cover-up.

  15. I love a good conspiracy theory, but I know when enough is enough.
    If you fall too deep into those rabbit holes, you'll easily find yourself losing
    all tangible ties to reality.
    Thus, we find ourselves in this modern day "Truth isn't truth" debate…

  16. Only vaguely relevant but the American conspiracy theory aesthetic is somehow very neat? I mean like, mixing in that 80s nostalgia with urban horror and the like πŸ€” I'm thinking shows like Stranger Things, Gravity Falls and Welcome to Night Vale. Neat aesthetic.

  17. i dunno sounds alittle narrow minded to me. Anyone who's seen enough knows that reality is far more bizarre than most conspiracies or stories.

  18. I really really love your videos! Just my two cents: Anthrax is not actually a chemical agent, it is a biological weapon, a particularly nasty strain of a bacteria called Bacillus anthracis, responsible for skin anthrax (a black spot-like lesion, usually found in the hands or feet of people, specially people that work with cows) and pulmonary anthrax, which is an infection that can be quite dangerous and lethal. "Anthrax" means "Coal" because the lesions of skin anthrax look like, well, coal. Have a nice day! Keep the excellent content!

  19. This lady: making fun of the thought of living on Mars

    NASA months later:I'ma bout end this girls whole career

  20. Pretty cool video. BTW anthrax isn't a chemical agent, it's an infection.

  21. Roswell has a really cool alien museum. They even have an awesome alien parade!

  22. Roswell, area 51, these FARCES!!! Mahsiih would never slip up! Idiots, fools. There will be no secrets at the time of reckoning. I have seen visions, masses will be purged!!! SHUT UP

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