Even after the U.S. government assessed last month that some unidentified flying objects are likely to be "physical objects" of unknown origin, intent, and capability, the UFO topic remains rife with skepticism and stigma.
At least, that is, in the military, media, and scientific fields. For a military aviator, reporting a UFO sighting to higher command is to invite frustration from senior officers. Maybe an unhealthy degree of teasing from fellow squadron members. Perhaps even a mandated visit to the flight surgeon.
It's striking that Luis Elizondo and Chris Mellon, who once headed UFO-related Pentagon research efforts, are just about the only intelligence community officials who have had the courage to come out and say so publicly.
It's also striking, at least to me, that for a journalist to ask UFO-related questions to a Cabinet rank official in the company of other journalists is to provoke embarrassed laughter. And the skeptic scientists still find much more media attention than those asking more unconventional questions.
Some of this is understandable, of course. The UFO topic carries far more questions than easily available answers. And the topic has always had an affinity with somewhat odd individuals.
Why pursue something that produces raised eyebrows instead of head-nodding conclusions?
Contrary to the claims of some UFO enthusiasts, history is also an imperfect ally to serious study of the subject. True, UFO sightings date back thousands of years. For example, Plutarch tells us of a first century B.C. encounter between Roman and Pontic armies in modern-day Turkey.
The historian claims that as the two armies took formation for battle, "with no apparent change of weather ... the sky burst asunder, and a huge, flame-like body was seen to fall between the two armies. In shape, it was most like a wine-jar, and in color, like molten silver. Both sides were astonished at the sight, and separated."
Proof of aliens or extradimensional beings? Not by a long shot.
Like many historians of his education and time, Plutarch blurred his histories with embellishments that proffered a philosophical message. And while the surge of late 1940s-1950s UFO sightings is certainly compelling, that surge came without the data we have today.
Because what has changed in the last 20 years is the evolution of technology to a point in which it can provide a parity partner to the most credible eyewitnesses. Meaning, situations in which highly advanced satellite, sonar, radar, infrared, and other electromagnetic spectrum collection systems provide highly accurate, reliable data on UFOs. And doing so alongside military personnel trained to eyeball-identify objects on or below the water or in the air and space.
What's strange, then, is that many in the media, scientific, and military communities remain reticent to address this truly extraordinary segment of UFO sightings. Those which, after exhaustive data gathering and analysis, cannot fit conventional explanation.
Ideology is sometimes an issue. For example, the Air Force has a reputation inside the military for being more reticent than the Navy to talk about UFOs because of a tradition of senior officers who believed UFOs had negative theological implications.
We should also recognize the need of those in the scientific community to access research grants and peer-reviewed credibility. Although things are slowly changing, UFOs haven't always been pleasant partners to such ambitions. Nor a domain for grant-heavy opportunities.
What of the media?
I've previously written about why most legacy media journalists don't want to cover UFOs. There are notable exceptions here. Yet, they are isolated dots on a massive media landscape. My point is, with the high credibility sources I've been able to talk to, I struggle to understand why more senior journalists still laugh this subject off. Sometimes literally. After all, at least some of these reporters must have sources as good, if not better, than mine!
I do not believe the answer is, as some suggest, that these journalists are proceeding more prudently than I am. I have documented the charlatans who fraudulently take advantage of those who "want to believe." When you have active and former government folks who don't know each other telling you the same thing and sometimes showing you imagery, that's worth reporting.
Sure, the top line is often, "We just don't know what it is." But if the top line is also, "We are highly confident it's material-technology not belonging to China, Russia, or Elon Musk," surely that shouldn't preclude reporting to that effect?
There is as much journalistic relevance to recognizing the unknown as there is to the identification of the known. I am the first to recognize that some source claims require verification before reporting. I hold to that standard and have held back from reporting what would be some very interesting things that I believe are likely true but cannot yet confirm. I also recognize why some sources and methods the government has used to collect data on UFOs should remain secret for national security reasons.
However, there should be more reporting on UFOs for a simple reason: Enough credible sources now testify to otherwise extraordinary things. We trust these sources when they tell us about North Korea, Iran, China, and Russia. So, why not report it when multiple sources say a variation of "X, Y, Z UFO is a true unknown indicative of being an intelligent, controlled machine of unconventional capability. Oh, and like its UFO friends, it likes our nuclear forces."
The government's UFO report provides at least some of the answers. It notes, "Narratives from aviators in the operational community and analysts from the military and Intelligence Community describe disparagement associated with observing UAP, reporting it, or attempting to discuss it with colleagues."
Regardless, this stigma concern is something the media and military must do more to overcome. As Tim McMillan (probably the best journalist on the UFO subject) put it to me on "The Debrief," when it comes to both the media and the military, "Any stigma should be irrelevant because national security is the Department of Defense's job and the only way you're going to solve this mystery is by providing opportunities to investigate it."
Whether it's the scientific community, the military, or the media, the mission requires more aggressive consideration of this subject. And not just whenever the Pentagon decides to make a statement about UFOs.