The Role of the Media in the Politics of Disclosure

June 1, 2001
Stephen Bassett

For the best part of 50 years, when the biggest story of all time and the seminal event in human history phoned in, the ‘fourth estate’ was screening its calls.”

Discovery vs. Disclosure

Discovery is the end process of the scientific method. In an ideal world it would not be political. Three generations of Americans have passed through and now coexist in the greatest age of discovery in history. The sum of human knowledge doubles in but a few years. We revel in the fruits of these discoveries and take them to be our heritage. We create and trust institutions to carry out this process and pay them handsomely to do so. We expect science to be pursued openly and fairly. Often it is.

And often it is not. Huge portions of science and technology were secretized by the military industrial complex to service the prosecution of the Cold War. More portions were secretized by businesses protecting their commercial interests. So now much of science is hidden from us – only to turn up when and if it is considered appropriate for it to be disclosed. The act of disclosure is almost always political.

The greatest scientific discovery in history, the existence of non-human, intelligent life forms with interstellar propulsion technology, has been hidden from the general citizenry for over fifty years. The justification for this has varied from decade to decade and the methodology has at times violated the laws and the Constitution of the nation.

For disclosure to take place on the public’s terms, the grassroots investigative efforts of the last half-century must marry up to institutional action with political initiative presiding over the wedding. If we are to regain our trust in societal structures which have failed us, those same structures must be part of the process of correction. Right now, the most critical of these is the media.

A Quick Look at the Overall Record

Someday, in the aftermath of disclosure of the extraterrestrial presence there is certain to be an intense assessment of how our formal institutions, the ones we have spent 224 years and billions of dollars perfecting, acquitted themselves.

The military and civilian agencies will be severely criticized, but a host of reasons will be brought forward in their support.  National security, the Cold War, the specific circumstances in 1947 at the beginning of the cover-up and fear of destabilization will be considered as acceptable justification by many.  Of particular interest will be the actions of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. However, NASA will be able to point to the intelligence community and its obligations to the Department of Defense under the 1958 Space Act, and claim a damned-if-we-came-forward-damned-if-we-didn’t dilemma.

As for the elected officials in the House and Senate, their near complete failure to pay attention will be laid to the campaign finance demands of the modern “politics of money” where votes are bought as never before.  With some House seats going for millions and Senate seats for tens of millions, the fear of alienating funding sources with anything approaching independent thinking has become paralyzing. This paralysis translates into a Seinfeldian “politics of nothing,” with Congress awash in petty, personal bickering, and all major social/political change hostage to vanity and loathing. [Note: to minimize metaphorical confusion, let’s borrow from the music of Dire Straits and refer to this period as the “politics of money for nothing.”]

Religious bodies will claim ignorance and point to the “separation” doctrine to explain their non-involvement in the disclosure process. It was, after all, a message they were not particularly eager to hear anyway.

The university system and the research structures it contains will be targeted for some of the heaviest rebuke.  After all, the very essence of the science is a continuing exploration of new facts, new understanding, new perspectives on nature and the universe.  The department heads, university presidents and individual scientists will plead their hands were tied.  Science in America is now as much about money and grants as it is about unfettered search for understanding. They will profess their sheer terror at the prospect of losing grant monies and reputations had they dared show any public interest in the unfolding extraterrestrial phenomena.   Scientists, by nature conservative, were largely defenseless against the government driven disinformation campaigns that created the infamous “laugh curtain.”

The institutions of politics, religion and science have indeed dropped the ball.   But another in particular has failed spectacularly. This institution has violated every fundamental precept upon which it is founded.  It has gone against a host of self-interests – money, prizes, huge increases in customer base – and rammed its head into the sand.

The role of the news media in our society is much more than story coverage.  The fourth estate is an essential part of the check-and-balance system created by the Constitution.  News media are the eyes and ears of the public.     Sometimes they are its voice.  They are paid to tell us what the public institutions are doing and to convey our concerns to those same institutions in the form of commentary.

For the best part of 50 years, when the biggest story of all time and the seminal event in human history phoned in, the “fourth estate” was screening its calls.

For those who attempted to make those calls, the voice mail menu was easy to understand – “This is your favorite, mainstream news desk.  If you have information about anyone who has ever slept with the President, press one and a reporter will be with you immediately. If you have any information regarding UFOs and other extraterrestrial phenomena, press two and leave a message.  We might get back to you when and if we stop laughing.”

Every top-tier news venue in this country has been approached countless times by citizens and researchers with events and evidence relating to extraterrestrial phenomena. These editors have not done their job, and in this instance have abrogated their mandate to report and investigate a most critical matter impacting our society.

The New Media Structure

As we begin the 21st Century the circumstances of coverage have changed.  While the most respected news organizations such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and ABC/NBC/CBS/CNN news television still steadfastly refuse to properly investigate extraterrestrial phenomena and the process of disclosure, there has been an explosion of alternative media to fill the vacuum created by their absence.

To the surprise of no one a multi-tiered news/media structure has evolved simultaneously with the most important technological innovation in history – the Internet.  The acceptance of this structure by the general public has meant that any news story, regardless of its controversy or inconvenience to established authority, has a point of entry into the national news marketplace. (A representation of this media structure, which is a work in progress to be updated over time, is available at Media Structure.

It has become commonplace for particularly controversial news stories to break in with lower-tier media and then progress upward when always nervous, higher-tier editors are forced to follow up or lose story position.  During the 90’s this was certainly the case with extraterrestrial related phenomena.

Examples abound. The April, 1997 Phoenix, Arizona event was one of the most spectacular set of UFO sightings in American history. The top-tier media wanted nothing to do with it, and might have ignored it completely had it not been for the candid comments and queries by Phoenix Councilwoman Frances Barwood, which drew renewed attention as a political story. However, it was the second-tier USA Today which came forward with an excellent piece on the event by Richard Price.

By now 50 million plus cable television subscribers have figured out that the third-tier TLC and Discovery Channels (Discovery Communications, Inc.), Arts and Entertainment Channel (A&E), and the History Channel have established a library of UFO/ET documentaries which they are airing and re-airing. New ones are being added and will appear later this year.

The “Face on Mars/Cydonia” story, which has now been covered by every tier level at one time or another, was first introduced to the larger public in tier-six and tier-seven tabloids.

Are Journalists Finally Getting It?

Such trends notwithstanding, it still takes courage for any journalist to address the extraterrestrial phenomena subject matter – the higher up the tier structure the greater the courage. While their number is not commensurate with the magnitude of the story, slowly reporters, with the support of some editors, are stepping to the plate. They deserve to be recognized.  Examples would include Paul Hoversten (formerly of) and Richard Price of USA Today, Billy Cox of Florida Today, and Julia Duin of the Washington Times. (A tracking chart of American journalists, who have written about UFO/ET phenomena and treated the core material with circumspection and reasonable seriousness, is located at Journalists.

Meanwhile, as America’s editors ponder whether to get their act together, can a breakthrough from one or more top-tier sources take place?  Yes.

While it may not yet be apparent to most of the public, the editors and producers of some top-tier news outlets are taking meetings behind the scenes on the matter of the extraterrestrial presence and the government cover-up of same. The relentless pressure of the public to know and the increasing media competition makes an investigative breakthrough by at least one top-tier news outlet, inevitable.

For ten years the disclosure boat has been taking on provisions, passengers, crew and cargo. Now the turbines have been primed and the docking ropes are being untied. The boat is about to set sail. Every editor, every reporter and every living person, who has had any connection with the UFO/ET issue during the past 50 years, has the same decision to make – get on board or remain on the dock and wave goodbye.

Right now, Dan Rather, Ted Koppel, Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, Donald Graham and Arthur  Sulzberger, Jr., are standing on the dock.  Should the disclosure issue hit critical mass, don’t make the mistake of standing between them and the gangplank.

In fact, by the time this issue of UFO Magazine is published, two major press conferences with the power to create that critical mass, will have taken place in Washington, DC.  If all goes well, they will be the subjects of the next “World View” column.

Once ET/Disclosure issue is formally in play at the top tier, the subject will be fully engaged by the whole of the media structure. The fourth estate will finally fulfill its role, leaving the government with nowhere to turn but outward to the waiting public. Under tremendous pressure from investigative reporting, the cover-up, already weakened by internal defections, will collapse. The new paradigm will begin.

[June 2001 UFO Magazine version.]