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Close Encounters Of The Fourth Kind

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates.nul>
Date: Thu, 30 Aug 2007 08:55:41 -0400
Archived: Thu, 30 Aug 2007 08:55:41 -0400
Subject: Close Encounters Of The Fourth Kind

Source: The New Statesman - London, UK


30 August 2007

Close Encounters Of The Fourth Kind
Ziauddin Sardar

In the age of the internet and instant communications, aliens
have become irrelevant

It has been a bad summer for aliens. The last UFO sighting in
Britain (the only one this year) was in April, in Guernsey, and
- alas - it was not a real UFO. But it's not only here. The
United States accounts for more than 99 per cent of all UFO
sightings. Yet, while fence-building has failed to staunch the
flow of illegal immigrants from Mexico, the department of
homeland security has somehow managed to deter illegal aliens of
the intergalactic kind.

Maybe the visitors have been put off by the increasing number
and ferocity of hurricanes. Whatever the reason, UFO sightings
in the US have almost disappeared.

My friend Kevin Fitzpatrick, who spends a great deal of time
thinking about these things, says there is a simple answer. He
suggests an exact parallel between the rise in the use of the
internet and the fall in UFO sightings. Logical: the amount of
time spent staring at the sky must be in inverse proportion to
the amount of time available to stare at a computer screen.

But Kevin, a philosopher-cum-psychologist from Cardiff
University, has a more elaborate explanation for it. He thinks
aliens are a projection of our inner irrationalities, anxieties
and fears. The spaceships arrived as a cultural device for
making sense of things incomprehensible to ordinary folks. Now
we have a new, all-encompassing tool. So, instead of projecting
our fears of the inexplicable on to outer space, we project them
into cyberspace.

This is a major shift in our cultural references for explaining
the "inexplicable" in our lives. Belief in aliens emerged during
the Cold War and the early days of space travel. Before that, at
the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, the
cultural references available to people were steeped in
religious belief. It was quite natural for people then to
explain their "inexplicable" experiences in religious terms.
Visions of the Virgin Mary were common.

However, with the rise of science and the decline of
Christianity, the advent of science fiction about travel to the
moon and then the actuality of moon travel, it became more
culturally relevant for people to couch their strange
experiences in terms of science and UFOs. So, mass sightings of
aliens replaced mass sightings of the apparition of the Virgin

Something similar is happening now, says Kevin. Instant global
communications have changed our cultural reference points. Now,
our hallucinations are located in cyberspace. People seek to
explain the inexplicable through the internet - by developing
virtual communities, in chat rooms, through exploring virtual
worlds and playing games where they can actually take on the
persona of visiting aliens. With the internet, we have become
self-absorbed and inward-looking. UFOs have become irrelevant.

Last autumn, the French television channel ARTE produced Cosmic
Connexion, a special programme designed to persuade the aliens
back. It was broadcast to Errai, a star located in the Big
Dipper, some 45 light years away. Presented by two naked hosts,
the show tried to explain the mysteries of the human body and
humanity to its target alien audience. ARTE also asked viewers
to submit messages to be beamed into space. Replies are due
around 2096.

I hope I'll still be around. I believe we are not alone and I
pine for First Contact, like in Star Trek. Where are Vulcans
when you need them? Mr Spock, in his logical way, was a great
deal more humane, compassionate and opposed to the arrogance of
human self-absorption than that model of pan-galactic paranoia
and the American Way, Captain Kirk. Maybe there's more to learn
than just about ourselves - out there among the stars.

Listen to 'Strange Days... Indeed' - The PodCast