May 16, 2017

#05-043: World UFO Day

drawing of what looks like a hat but is apparently a UFO with handwritten descriptions
Drawing of an alleged UFO from a CIA file

Note: July 2, 1947. Something strange happens in the skies over Roswell, New Mexico, and the rumors begin almost instantly, resulting in... is a holiday!

Get Ready: Do you believe that some UFOs are piloted by visitors from outside of the earth? Why or why not?

On July 2, 1947, a fairly routine event took place. The U.S. Air Force had sent a weather balloon aloft in the area, to take readings in the atmosphere. And on that night, it crashed on a ranch about 75 miles from Roswell, New Mexico.

At least, that's what the U.S. government wants people to believe.

But there's another narrative, a far more fantastic one, that has come to be known as "The Roswell Incident" (cue the scary music). Believers in this tale hold July 2 to be "World UFO Day."

In the late 1970s, self-styled "ufologists" started producing reports--some would say "spinning yarns"--that allegedly "proved" that the remains found were not a weather balloon, but a spacecraft from another planet. (There may indeed have been some secrecy on the part of the Air Force, as there were nuclear tests in the area in those days.)

Never mind that the claims of the conspiracy theorists have been debunked. "Cover up!" they cry, all the while coming up with more and more outlandish tales.

Not only, they say, have the remains of the craft (or crafts) been spirited away to a clandestine site in the Nevada desert code-named "Area 51," but in fact the remains of the aliens themselves were also recovered!

Both sides have their boosters--and their detractors. The town of Roswell, which even today boasts fewer than 50,000 people, has become the focus of a crash-related cottage industry--not to mention the thousands of books and films featuring part or all of the story.

Skeptical folklorists have even described a phenomenon called the "Roswellian Syndrome," a myth-making process that has five phases: 1. the original Incident; 2. its Debunking; 3. the Submergence of the narrative over time, as most people forget about it; 4. its Mythologizing as "true believers" allow it to grow in importance; and 5. its Reemergence and the subsequent Media Bandwagon Effect.

Joe Nickell and his co-author James McGahan, who first identified and described the Syndrome, claim that it will "play out again and again," not only in regard to Roswell, but in stories of other UFOs and even other conspiracy theories.


Read more:

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. aloft
  2. bandwagon
  3. clandestine
  4. cue
  5. debunked
  6. detractors
  7. outlandish
  8. routine
  9. self-styled
  10. spinning yarns

  1. insert in a certain place (used humorously here)
  2. strange; bizarre
  3. opponents
  4. describes something that attracts many followers
  5. secret; hidden
  6. in the air
  7. telling untrue stories
  8. common; everyday
  9. proved false
  10. described by oneself (but not necessarily anyone else)

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for May 16, 2017

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. f; 2. d; 3. e; 4. a; 5. i; 6. c; 7. b; 8. h; 9. j; 10. g