Paranoid About UFOs

When the Condon Committee was sampling public attitudes toward UFOs they gave this statement to a cross-section of the American Public: "A government agency maintains a Top Secret file of UFO reports that are deliberately withheld from the public." The respondents were supposed to answer TRUE or FALSE. A substantial majority, sixty-one percent, thought that the statement was true while only thirty-one percent said it was false.

Among teenagers, the credibility gap was even wider - 73 percent believed the statement to be true. General opinion studies conducted by the Condon Committee, and other surveys about UFOs came up with the rather paradoxical facts that there were more people who believed in a conspiracy of silence about UFOs than believed in UFOs in the first place. It has often been said that we Americans today are a bit paranoid; that we always tend to believe that something is out to get us, or something is being kept from us. It certainly seems that we were a bit paranoid about UFOs.

Most people thought vaguely in terms of an Air Force conspiracy or a CIA conspiracy or even of a world-wide scientific conspiracy. It was generally acknowledged that the reason behind such a conspiracy was a desire on the part of those in power to hide the "truth" from the public because people would panic if they knew that we really were being visited by superior creatures from another world.

Conspiracy theorists constantly hearkened back to the old "War of the Worlds" broadcast, and the panic it started. Such a belief, however, is rather too simple for the true connoisseur of conspiracies. He has long ago rejected the simple, straightforward Air Force-CIA-science establishment cover-up as too obvious, and really rather ridiculous. The conspiracy connoisseur pointed out quite correctly that no government or group, no matter how powerful, could possibly suppress so much sensational information for so long - no earthly group that is.

If the extraterrestrials WANTED to make themselves known then they would land in a central place, and all the feeble earthly cover-up would simply be blown away. It is out of this sort of background that the legend of the Men In Black arose. It concerns strange little men in dark suits who drive around in big shiny cars and harass people who claimed to have seen a UFO.