Maybe the Sky is Really Green, and We’re Just Colourblind:
On Zapping, Close Encounters and the Commercial Break

 

 

The Springfield Files , The Simpsons, season 8, 1997

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A New Fear Factor

 

When re-runs of the popular sci-fi classic The Twilight Zone were programmed in the early nineties, they had to compete for airtime with the monster-hit
The X-Files
,52 the show that propelled conspiracy theory into mainstream. Challenging the authority of official truth and reality that kept a lid on corporate frauds and governmental lies, conspiracy culture simply mirrored the political inadequacies of a system that failed to offer alternatives to a world that was being bargained off by greed. UFO communities were now convinced that the powers-that-be were covering up all evidence of aliens.53 And, worse still, as governments were in league with alien powers, they couldn't be trusted to protect their citizens from being spacenapped right out of their beds. A Roper Poll claimed that at least one in fifty Americans, whether conscious of it or not, had been abducted by aliens.54

As the Cold War gave way to the Gulf War and the New World Order, America found itself refashioning its imaginary "other". With the fall of the iron curtain and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union, America's war industry was running out of villains55 and had to look elsewhere to cast a next fear factor. The political unknown and the insecurities around big-brother technology and the imaginary other, had yielded infowar56 and the image of the hostile alien. No longer was it the James Bond-versus-Russia scenario, but Mickey Mouse versus an evil ET. Nevertheless, the US government was already speculating to sell its ideology on an interplanetary level as a National Security Agency (NSA) Report on Alien Contact suggested: "What if someone from another world demanded to be taken to our planet's leader? That leader, the report insisted, must be the President of the US. There are economic concerns. Suppose the US purchased, on an exclusive basis, say, antimatter fuel from the alien trade representatives—in return, to neatly tally up the intergalactic balance of payments, we might cut them a deal. All the Pepsi they can drink, all the Big Macs they can eat. From the first moment of contact, the report recommended that the US government exclusively supervise, monitor and control all communication with other planets."57

Yet, on a micro-political level alien abductees came out of the closet to populate small-screen talk shows. Quickly ridiculed as tabloid sensation, they were readily debunked by a society that underscored a fear of the unknown. The "ontological consensus" had to be held in check. In a 1999 study John E. Mack remarked that our western society is perhaps as "reality deprived" as the main character of the Hollywood movie The Truman Show (1998). Trapped inside a seamless bubble, Truman's life is scripted by television corporate executives who profit from the limitation of his horizon. "Abductee experiencers might be thought of as ontological pioneers, who not unlike Truman, break out of the bubble of a constricting worldview."58 Mack cited physicist Michio Kaku, who described our universe like a bubble, created within a "multiverse" of bubbles. Perhaps someday we may leave the bubble of this universe to enter other universes, where the laws of physics could be quite different, not unlike Alice stepping through the looking-glass or Truman pricking through his bubble.59