Communications Strategy: Are We Being Prepped for Major UFO News?

During the pandemic I’ve been watching an old favourite show on Amazon Prime – the X-Files. It’s a 90’s era gem filled with conspiracy theories often about UFOs and alien life forms, with the plot of each episode usually summed up about one-third of the way through by Scully, the rational disbeliever, saying “Mulder, are you saying that…” aliens/monsters have done something horrible to someone, often aided and abetted by devious governments.

And that’s always what Mulder is saying.

But as I’ve been watching this show for the second or third time (it’s been a long pandemic), I’ve started to see some interesting similarities in our current reality. Over the last few years there has been a slow, creeping normalization of talking about UFOs – serious government types and serious media types giving the idea that we are not alone in the universe a serious airing.

When I look at this evolving narrative with my communications hat on, it starts to look planned and coordinated, like humans are being prepped for a reveal that aliens actually exist.

Now, I’ve never been abducted by little green men, and I’ve never seen a UFO.

But people smarter than me say there could be 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 planets in the observable universe. It seems doubtful to me that a planet that produced Donald Trump is either the only civilization or the most advanced. So, I am open to the idea that other planets might have intelligent life and maybe, just maybe, they’ve figured out how to cover the vast distances of space.

A series of news stories, parcelled out over the last few years, have got me thinking that there may be some shadowy “Cigarette Smoking Man” in the background, pulling the strings and getting humanity ready for the idea that we are not alone. “If people were to know the things I know, it would all fall apart,” the Cigarette Smoking Man once said on an X-Files episode.

If a UFO did choose to land on our planet and ask to “speak to our leader,” how would humans react? It would probably all fall apart.

Stock markets would crash, underpinnings of various religions would likely collapse, and humans would be overwhelmed by the idea that we are not alone. It would be world altering.

From a communications perspective, it would make sense to slowly trickle out the information so it didn’t arrive with the psychological damage that a massive reveal would deliver. That’s how I would do it.

Many point to a 2017 New York Times article about the US Defense Department’s “Aerospace Threat Identification Program” as a tipping point to a more serious consideration of the existence of extra-terrestrial life. The story also included an official, declassified US Navy video of a fighter plane’s encounter with something unknown.

Since then, it has become less taboo to discuss alien life. Serious people have raised the issue without the default mockery discussion of UFOs often engenders. Of course, reasonable consideration of the possibility of alien life runs up against a lot weird and wonderful commentary. Ancient Aliens, anyone? And the question of why UFOs can travel the vast distances of space yet always seem to crash when they reach Earth is worth exploring.

Still, it feels sequenced in a way that calls to mind the PR tactic of “pre-conditioning,” helping to frame an issue over time to ensure it is more favourably received by the public. As Edward L. Bernays, often called the father of public relations (and the nephew of Sigmund Freud), once said, “If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without them knowing it.” (Yes, this is very creepy.)

Earlier this year, the New Yorker took a long-form look at “How the Pentagon Started Taking UFOs Seriously”. Florida Senator Marco Rubio and former CIA director John Brennan allowed that there are things being seen that can’t be identified.

That was the TL/DR of a much anticipated, unclassified report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on UFOs, or UAP (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena) as they prefer to call them. The report concludes that “limited data leaves most UAP unexplained.” They note that in 18 incidents they reviewed, “some UAP appeared to remain stationary in winds aloft, move against the wind, maneuver abruptly, or move at considerable speed, without discernible means of propulsion.”

The report suggests it could be advanced technology from the Russians or Chinese or another state, but no one seems to believe that other nations have successfully leapfrogged America’s technology. The report has a fifth category of explanation for these UAP encounters, “other,” that strenuously avoids concluding this is alien technology while still holding open the possibility.

But it was a recent comment by former president Barack Obama that really got me thinking. On an appearance on The Late Late Show, Obama admitted that there is “footage and records of objects in the skies, we don’t know exactly what they are, we can’t explain how they move…”

The casual way this information was shared (James Corden?) makes it seem like it might be deliberate, part of a longer-term plan to reveal the existence of alien life in a way that helps humans get used to the idea, so we don’t have a collective freak out.

All of these serious people – presidents, senators, generals – are using the same language (what we in the communications world call “key messages”): “it’s not us and we don’t know what it is.” But they are all holding off the conclusion that we have been visited by aliens. Maybe they are trying to get us to conclude this for ourselves?

So, as a species, are humans being prepped for the disclosure of the existence of alien life forms?


Have I been watching too many X-Files episodes?

Also maybe.


Allan Gates

Allan Gates is the president of Bonfire.