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Mar 8, 2024, 3:56pm EST
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‘No evidence of aliens,’ Pentagon tells a disbelieving public

Insights from The New York Times, The Hill, and The Washington Post

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The News

A new report from the Pentagon found no evidence of alien spacecraft — or that the government has covered up evidence of such technology.

The Department of Defense said it went into the congressionally mandated inquiry with an open mind, but simply found nothing indicating the existence of extraterrestrials or secret programs about them.

“All investigative efforts, at all levels of classification, concluded that most sightings were ordinary objects and phenomena and the result of misidentification,” a DoD spokesperson said in a statement.

Many reports of so-called Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena remain unresolved, but the government took pains to tell the public these sightings are not alien spacecraft, something it has been reluctant to say overtly in the past.

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Interest in unexplained sightings is growing

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Sources:  
The Pentagon, The Hill, Gallup

Public interest in UFOs is greater than ever before, the report found, attributing the increase to the increased availability of information, like purported sightings, via the internet and popular culture references to aliens.

The percentage of Americans who think UFO sightings are likely proof of alien life has risen over the last few decades, from 20% in 1996 to 34% in 2022. A 2019 Gallup poll found that 68% of Americans believe the U.S. government knows “more about UFOs than it is telling us.” However, 60% think reported sightings are explainable without stepping into extraterrestrial territory.

Report unlikely to dispel alien theories multiplying online

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Sources:  
The New York Times, The Pentagon, The Washington Post

“Amid widespread distrust of the government, the report is unlikely to calm a growing obsession with aliens,” The New York Times reported. “The report will not be the last word.”

The report’s investigators seemed to anticipate that their work would reach a skeptical audience, The Washington Post reported, and tried to get ahead of the inevitable naysayers by explaining why so many people believe the government is hiding proof of extraterrestrial life — and why those views are misguided.

“The proliferation of television programs, books, movies, and the vast amount of internet and social media consent centered on UAP-related topics most likely has influenced the public conversation on this topic, and reinforced these beliefs,” the report read. The Pentagon noted that it’s now more difficult to rebut claims of extraterrestrial life and technology, which are spreading faster than ever thanks to social media.

UFO ‘truthers’ could be normalizing other conspiracy theories

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Sources:  
Duke University, The Pentagon

A 2021 study found that when the government partly validates a conspiracy theory — for example, by launching a serious inquiry into the existence of UFOs — people view conspiracy theorists on the whole more positively. “When government leaders publicly walk back a long-held consensus that a particular issue is not worth serious consideration, they may cause people to feel more favorable toward those perceived to hold other fringe views,” the Duke University study found.

The Pentagon report went to lengths to affirm that there are large sections of the population who truly believe they’ve seen alien spacecraft, saying “many people sincerely hold versions of these beliefs which are based on their perception of past experiences, the experiences of others whom they trust, or media and online outlets they believe to be sources of credible and verifiable information.”

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