Published: 1:00 PM 9/3/2010
David Corn, Columnist
Okay, where are all the UFO pictures? And the UFO videos?
In recent years, the world has exploded with photographic and video equipment. There are about 5 billion cellphones in circulation throughout the world -- many, if not most, equipped with still and/or video cameras. (The number of mobile broadband subscriptions will probably top a billion globally this year.)
And there are millions, if not billions, of easy-to-use video cameras in circulation, as well as billions of still-picture cameras. Essentially, billions of people are able to snap or otherwise shoot the least bit interesting thing that happens at a moment's notice.
So with all this gear in use, I'm wondering, why has no one captured clear and unambiguous evidence of UFOs from outer space? And why have none of the humans abducted by aliens flipped out their Flip video cameras and shot a minute or two of the historic moment -- and later uploaded it to YouTube? After all, any time a celebrity does something really dumb, a cellphone video is on the Internet before he or she can check into a rehab center.
Recently, there were notable UFO incidents in China. One shut down the Xiaoshan Airport for 40 minutes, and photos hit the Internet showing the unidentified object. Days later, another unidentified flying object was sighted in eastern China, and a video was circulated showing a plume in the air.
Physicist Geoffrey Forden dismissed the photos of the first incident as either Photoshop tomfoolery or photographs of a Chinese ballistic missile launch. In any event, neither episode yielded an undeniable shot of a spaceship.
As each year goes by in our easy-to-record era with no hard video or photographic proof, we have to ponder the possibility (or probability) that there are no UFOs visiting from out there. For me, this has political ramifications. I came of age during the wonderful 1970s, when politics seemed to equal conspiracies. Exhibit A: Watergate.
But there were others: for instance, past CIA assassination and mind-control plots and coups were revealed. More important, at the time I was convinced that President John F. Kennedy had been "neutralized" by some cabal of CIA bad guys, mobsters, and who-knows-who's.
(Now, I lean toward the simple belief that Oswald did it by his crazy self.) One key part of the grand swirl was UFOs: Roswell, Area 51, crop circles, cattle mutilations, men in black, abductions, Chariot of the Gods, and the government coverup of all this. Secret government seemed to be the name of the game. And what could be a bigger secret?
But nothing undermines conspiracy theorizing better than reporting. And after reporting in Washington for over two decades, I came to the conclusion that the government is generally not capable of mounting extensive and complex, years-long conspiracies that transcend administrations. The bureaucrats are just not that good, and risk-averse political leaders often don't have the guts to do so.
There are indeed secret programs -- remember the Iran-contra affair? -- and all sorts of classified skullduggery.
But over the years -- even though I once saw an unidentified flying object when I was about 12 at sleep-away summer camp in New Hampshire (I'll tell you that story another time) -- I've come to believe that some covert misdeeds are beyond the reach of government officials, such as covering up alien visitations for decades. (9/11 conspiracy theorists, please don't e-mail.)
I'd certainly prefer to hold on to my once passionate adolescent view that UFOs carrying extra-terrestrial tourists were turning the Earth into a veritable celestial truck stop. But that brings me back to the question: Where are the photos?
The other day, I was discussing this with a scientist -- yes, really -- and she raised a couple of possibilities. Perhaps the UFOers had the ability to defeat photographic detection. They would have to be damn technologically advanced to reach the Earth from wherever. Think of stealth technology on steroids. Then she paused for a moment and offered another theory:
Maybe they've stopped visiting us precisely because there are now too many ways they could be caught on film (or in pixels), and they prefer not to be seen (for the obvious reasons).
In other words, the rapid global spread of technology has not provided proof -- via the absence of proof -- that UFOs are not dropping by from far-away galactic destinations; it has scared them away.
Though I doubt that to be the case, it was a rather sad thought. So now I'm hoping that if someone was able to grab video of a whale attacking a sailboat, then somebody else will soon nab a close encounter of the third kind with the new iPhone.