This article sums it all up. Geez.
Low expectations from CNN
A “smoking gun,” as jurors in the criminal trial of O.J. Simpson reminded us, is in the eye of the beholder. So when CNN’s Miles O’Brien warned “American Morning” audiences on Friday that his upcoming “In Search of Aliens” series “landed a little bit south of smoking gun proof that we are not alone,” it sounded like all the other noise emanating from the network sausage factories.
O’Brien is one of the brightest lights in network journalism. A licensed pilot and award-winning investigative sleuth in the fields of space and technology, his agility in translating the violent physics of shuttle Columbia’s catastrophic re-entry into a riveting comprehensible narrative left competitors sucking wind in 2003. And that’s why it’s so disappointing to hear him pumping his piece on the SETI radiotelescopes — part of a five-installment series — by saying he’ll tell us “where they’re listening for alien signals – yes, I said alien signals.”
Wow. That’d be news to an old Japanese soldier hiding out on Gilligan’s Island, but the rest of us have been beaten over the head with SETI “revelations” since Senator William Proxmire bestowed his notorious “Golden Fleece Award” on government appropriations for it in the 1980s. Even if you’re not into politics, you couldn’t miss “The X-Files” spin on the massive Arecibo dish, or “Contact” at the movie theaters in 1997, which featured Jodi Foster listening for alien signals. Yes, I said alien signals.
So here we’ll go again on Monday morning, revisiting the same hack format we’ve seen too many times before on Larry King or ABC in September, another ratings month: Pretend nobody’s ever heard of any of this stuff before, do your alien abduction piece, balance it off with SETI’s level-headed, faith-based pragmatists, throw in some titillating ambiguity from the surface of Mars, get Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell’s shocking revelations on camera (he’s only been talking about the UFO coverup since 1996), defrost a little Roswell action – voila! – a nice bounce in the Nielsens.
Is it too much to ask, just once, to get one of these projects to put a single compelling element beneath a microscope and study its texture? O’Brien evidently had that opportunity with retired jet fighter pilot Milton Torres, who reportedly makes a cameo on “In Search of Aliens.”
Now retired in Miami, the 77-year-old made headlines last month (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article4974540.ece) by confirming his role in an attempted shoot-down of a UFO over Great Britain in 1957, which was disclosed during the declassification of Ministry of Defence papers.
Back in the Fifties, when the military was marginally more candid than it is today, authorities admitted engagements with UFOs involved potentially profound national security consequences. In 1953, Gen. Benjamin Chidlaw, who ran America’s Air Defense Command, stated, “We have a stack of reports of flying saucers. We take them seriously, when you consider we have lost many men and planes trying to intercept them.” Former Project Blue Book director, USAF Capt. Edward Ruppelt, tried to disentangle a popular impulse to embrace them as “space brothers” by writing that UFOs pursued by military pilots sometimes resulted in “lurid tales of death.”
If CNN wanted to perform a public service, it wouldn’t have to dig back half a century. It could simply focus on the Stephenville, Tex., incident from January, where radar analysis by MUFON investigators caught the Air Force with its pants down in its inability to prevent a UFO from violating restricted airspace at President Bush’s Crawford ranch. And those regional sightings continue, having disrupted a football game in October (http://www.earthfiles.com/news.php?ID=1488&category=Environment) and distracted motorists (http://reporternews.com/news/2008/nov/20/another-unexplained-sighting-in-stephenville/) just this week.
This isn’t news anymore: UFOs can go wherever they want, and the military can’t stop it. The media’s inability to cover this reality outside sweeps-week stunts — that’s news. In fact, it’s a scandal.