Following UFO/anti-Semitism conspiracy theories research, and tied to theme of ‘Fear of the Other’.
Rhetorical link between aliens and foreigners in the media:
In April 2017, prank callers spammed Trump’s new immigrant hotline with reports of UFO sightings. Clearly, there are many Americans who would link immigration anxiety to conspiracist thinking, and who want to suggest such thought is paranoid, ridiculous, and unfounded.
‘Activists rallied on social media under the hashtag #AlienDay to encourage others to flood the hotline with fake calls.
‘Wednesday happened to coincide with Alien Day, which commemorates the 1986 sci-fi classic starring Sigourney Weaver.’
Thomas E. Bullard, ‘Other than Ourselves’, in The Myth and Mystery of UFOs (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2010)
- The imaginative link between outward space travel and colonisation means that we view any evidence of incoming aliens with trepidation, as an act of colonisation. Outer space offered what JFK called the ‘New Frontier’, a framework which will inevitably conjure aliens as potential outsider colonising forces.
- ‘God and monsters, fairies and devils, wild men and extraterrestrials hold little of appearance or habit in common, but all share the quality of alienness. […] They are outsiders to our familiar personal, social, and cultural inside yet close at hand with necessary but unsettling reflection and commentary. They are the Others who remind us of who we are by exemplifying what we are not—or hope we are not.’ Monsters and aliens represent something external which threatens to become internal: incoming aliens or foreigners, or else alternative belief systems which threaten to proliferate and take over.
- ‘whether UFO aliens are visitors from outside or are an inside job, ideas about them match the contours of countless myth-based preconceptions of what the Other should be.’
- A history of monsters: ‘Time and again the idea of a base savage or enemy of mankind has arisen to threaten civilization and justify drastic measures to stamp out the supposed evil. The European witch hunts enacted an archetypal crusade for social puriﬁcation against a cabal of enemies.’ ‘The anti-Semitic propaganda of the Nazis harnessed similar themes of a malevolent and destructive conspiracy eating at the heart of society’ ‘A similar tactic dehumanized Native Americans as so cruel that the only good Indian was a dead Indian, and African Americans as lazy, dirty, oversexed, and violent. The Irish, Jews, Italians, Chinese, and many other ethnic immigrants faced accusations that they brought disease, crime, anarchy, promiscuity, economic ruin, or un-American religions and values.’
- Thus, ‘Aliens from space take up where monsters of the past left oﬀ’ and ‘extraterrestrial hybrid-makers replacing the undesirable foreigners that were once the focus of concern’
Peter Knight, Conspiracy Culture: From Kennedy to the X Files (London: Routledge, 2013)
- ‘Conspiracy theories in American society have traditionally served to cohere a sense of the mainstream (“we, the people”) who are under threat from a sequence of “alien” dangers, from Catholicism in the nineteenth century to Communism in the twentieth. As David Brion Davis explains, “movements of countersubversion have thus been a primary means of restoring collective self-confidence, of defining American identity by contrast with alien ‘others,’ and achieving unity through opposition to a common enemy.’
Conspiracy theories, particularly those pertaining to alien outsiders, are especially relevant in the US because of a need for a coherent sense of identity.
A less scholarly source, from a writer who buys into UFO phenomena:
Budd Hopkins, ‘Aliens Here and Now,’ in Sight Unseen: Science, UFO Invisibility and Transgenic Beings, ed. Budd Hopkins and Carol Rainey (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004)
- ‘Xenophobia—the fear of foreigners or strangers—is unfortunately basic to man’s essentially territorial nature. To show how deeply this xenophobic fear of the unknown infects us all, let me use myself as an example. In 1964, I had a daytime UFO sighting on Cape Cod, an incident which led to my subsequent research into the UFO phenomenon. At the time I remember regarding the circular, hovering, dull-aluminium-coloured object as a thing, an artificial craft of some sort, but I did not for a moment think there might be intelligent nonhuman beings inside. That was too exotic a thought to entertain even for a moment—and on some unconscious primitive level, far too disturbing.’
- ‘UFOs were supposed to be out there somewhere, looking down maybe and flying around, but essentially leaving us alone. The closer the phenomenon seemed to come, the more my natural self-protective, xenophobic objection manifested themselves.’
- Xenophobic thought does not take issues with foreigners themselves—‘out there somewhere’ they are seen as benign. It is the threat of closer proximity which inspires anxiety.