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A History of UFO-Spotting

Eyewitness Accounts and The News – 1940’s on


I’ll start when the modern day ‘flying saucer’ story started, although recordings of UFOs go back to BC times.

The first UFO to start the ‘flying saucer’ trope in America actually wasn’t a saucer – it was a squad of ships shaped like boomerangs that rotated like saucers. Newspaper telephone turned the banana-shaped ships into simple circles.

The person who saw them was a trusted, reliable pilot, so the story ended up in the news – the year was 1947, and although he was a private pilot, the job was difficult and garnered a lot of respect. He saw it with his own two eyes! There were very few instruments on board to help him define what he saw. The logical conclusion, therefore, is that the other crafts had something to block the extremely basic radar available at the time, leaving his eyes the only tools he had left. Who wouldn’t trust a hardworking, honest pilot? Especially after so much went into juicing up their public reputation during the second World War.

As time goes on, more pilots report strange phenomena upon landing, stuff they couldn’t have possibly recorded, otherworldly stuff. They had nothing but the equipment in their crafts to help them describe what they saw. Phantom ships that only the radar saw, visible ships that the radar didn’t, ships somewhere in the middle that were visible, but only briefly, strange glows, odd behavior in the clouds, the list goes on. They could record height and approximate location via a map and their travelling speed, but otherwise, they were completely and totally alone. Cameras could go up in planes, yes – but that wasn’t as simple as it is today, and seeing this stuff was rare. Nobody blamed cameramen for not catching anything when they went, and they couldn’t go up all the time on every plane.

Part of this is that print media itself was old and well-respected. It was one of very few ways to get news at the time. TVs weren’t quite everywhere, and radio wasn’t 24-7, but print news was cheap and accessible. Images were ‘trustworthy’, as many people didn’t grasp how easy photos were to manipulate, especially back then when rural folks could go their entire lives without touching a camera, or getting their own picture taken – a photo of a blur in the clouds when someone did happen to catch something strange was taken as fact. Rebukes were slow, and not as sensational. Aliens, as far as newspapers were concerned, were visiting Earth. Not everyone cared, and not everyone believed it, but this seeded an unshakeable belief in aliens in America.


The Blurry Photo Era – 1960’s to 1980’s


Once handheld devices were more available to people out in the sticks, bizarre, blurred images of things floating in the sky alongside blurred images of cryptids in forests began appearing. They were published to magazines, shared among groups, pictured on tabloid TV, and discussed publicly. Unlike before, though, these people worked all sorts of jobs, often less glamorous than pilots. The participants soon earned a reputation for being crackpots, crazy, or liars – after all, the best evidence they had was often barely better than an eyewitness statement. A blur.

It didn’t help that mental illness wasn’t really a ‘thing’ during this time period. Paranoia, schizophrenia, PTSD, etc. were all under the same umbrella of ‘insane’. People suffering from untreated illnesses were deliberately picked on alongside believers who were of sound mind to discredit all believers as ‘insane’. Even if someone did see something unexplainable, they’d be fighting uphill against the stigma set up by news sources. Eyewitness accounts become meaningless except to other people already looking for a reason to believe.

At the same time, professionals were also more connected to the public than ever, and so common phenomena that would have been UFOs (ball lightning, sun dogs, the green flash over the ocean during sunset, etc.) were now much more easily described and identified as natural, terrestrial stuff. Someone could come forward with a strange picture and get themselves shot down publicly.

However, many were also able to identify and picture real non-natural objects that they just didn’t understand. Weather balloons are much bigger than most people think they are, and the US is always trying to improve its arsenal with tech the other guys don’t have yet, so stories of mysterious super-sonic vehicles that appeared and disappeared in the blink of an eye aren’t necessarily lies. They just came at an inconvenient time for the militaries of the world, and aliens were easier to dismiss than manmade crafts were.

Clarifying that this was a real craft, therefore, was not going to happen. It was in everybody’s best interest to say that the witness said it was aliens. You wouldn’t want a cold war to turn hot over some amateur’s photos of your spy balloons, right? While TV watchers found them entertaining, it was more comfortable to assume witnesses saw whatever they saw wrong, even when they didn’t.

UFOs had more stories, but less credibility.

Mobile Phones (And Smartphones) 1990’s to 2006


Mobile phones capable of taking pictures started popping up in the late 90s and early 2000s, and with them, even more blurry, bad photos of cryptids and UFOs started appearing online – but they were less blurry than the previous generation, and the appearance of the internet meant that people who had experienced something otherworldly could share it alongside the photo without having to get onto TV or Radio. The sheer number of these stories lent them some credibility. Plus, their stories couldn’t be chopped up into something incomprehensible by someone else, like it sometimes was earlier. The story came straight from the horse’s mouth!

Smartphones made most of them disappear, however, during the transition from an offline world to an online one. I haven’t seen a ‘new’ photo of a UFO since 2006, not counting DoD videos and the like. Average, ordinary people can’t seem to snap pics of alien craft anymore. The quality of the camera is a big part of that! Suddenly, it didn’t make sense that images were blurry.

In the 90’s, cameras had a natural sort of fuzz to them unless it was professional equipment, and that fuzz made it easier to disguise altered photos. Edges could be blurry back then. They can’t be blurry now. It also no longer made sense that multiple eyewitnesses “Saw something in the sky” and none of them thought to take a picture while it was hovering. And now we don’t get any more half-blurry, half-filtered images of UFOs. Instead we get more eyewitness accounts and really well-photoshopped fakes.

Tech improves, and suddenly sightings are rare, but the ones we do get are much more believable, or come from trustworthy sources… like the military.

Modern era – 2007 – Now


And military tech is always improving. All this new tech to see things is actually often blinding. Hear hoofbeats? Think horse, right? Well… when the tech allows you such incredibly fine-tuned detail of the animal, it’s possible to confuse yourself with things you’d never have to worry about if you were just using your eyes to see that the animal is brown. Imagine being able to see the exact temperature and speed of a four legged animal, but not it’s color, because it’s too far away. You may even be able to see size… but horses come in all kinds of sizes, so if it’s the same size as the zebra, you still haven’t solved the mystery. You record it and avoid it like a smart person would, and when you get back, they’re trying to identify it with you.

The three videos released recently by the DoD, for example, could be a number of things, but they are UFOs until someone identifies them. But not all UFOs are equally unidentifiable, and many have simple, easy explanations. A duck can be a UFO. Another plane can be a UFO. A weather balloon can be a UFO. If you can’t identify the flying object with certainty, it’s an unidentified flying object. That’s it. The tech of today just allows pilots to see things from several kilometers away while moving at mach speed, so they’re able to pick up moving things they wouldn’t have been able to see before. Unfortunately, this often means that they’re seeing specks with heat signatures. The public then conflates an unidentified speck with a full-blown zebra, even though at the distance it was filmed at, it could have been a friendly dog.


Tic Tac


If the pilot is especially crafty, they may help the perception of the zebra along even if they don’t know either. The Tic Tac video and its story are some of the most contentious UFO ‘evidence’ available on the web today, and for good reason. The Tic Tac video and the two Tic Tac eyewitness accounts are all different from each other. One pilot only caught a glimpse of it, one says that the Tic Tac behaved aggressively for five or so minutes (and that keeps changing), and the video just shows a small white dot at a great distance moving in front of the ocean.

We can’t see color, we can’t see shape, we can’t see anything about it other than its relative speed and temp. It could just be a seabird. It could be a tiny personal craft, like a glider. We have no video of the thing actually darting around in the way the pilot describes later – ways that defy physics. Jerks in the video are due to the camera not being able to turn anymore, or the auto-lock simply losing the object, not the object itself ‘jerking’.

I’d like to trust the pilot, I really would – but which makes more sense? An otherwise ordinary man in a high-profile job lied to get some time in the spotlight, or an interstellar traveler came from space without being detected until it got onto the Navy’s turf, behaved in ways that broke the laws of physics as we know them in front of observers, and then disappeared, again, without being spotted?


We can only hear hoofbeats, and the pilot swears it’s a zebra with no evidence other than “trust me”.




All of this tech is great, but it also enables lying by being specifically vague. People who really, really want to believe in aliens cherrypick relevant details out of these videos to get the conclusion they want. They then share this narrative that it must have been an alien because the information in the video that could argue against that is so critically important but so easy to ignore. Speed. Temp. How far the camera can rotate. Laymen don’t often have to look at readouts like this, so easy-to-miss details like the speed being relative instead of absolute sometimes drifts right by. Proving them wrong as a layman is nearly impossible because they’ve told the truth – just not all of it.

The most infuriating part of this is that the DoD would never release these videos if they didn’t know A) what they weren’t and B) whether or not they were a threat. They specify that the videos don’t reveal any sensitive data. The context of these videos is just as important as the content – you never see videos of UFOs threatening US pilots, because it would cause unrest if such videos ever made it to the public.

You never see videos of something clearly manmade and powerful but unidentified either, because releasing those videos would be as good as admitting that some other nation has a craft on par or superior to the US’s, and the US can’t have that. Maybe interstellar UFOs do exist – but if the Navy has seen them, that footage isn’t just out in the open. Regular boring old UFOs that are just unidentified flying stuff aren’t as exciting.

A Side Note


Tech reduces the reliance on interviewers. This is a good thing, because a poor interviewer can completely wreck a case or story before it’s even gotten off the ground. It’s well-documented that people, especially children, can misremember things if the interviewer isn’t careful. “What color of shirt was he wearing?” Vs. “And he was wearing a dark blue shirt, right?” Produce different responses. If the person doesn’t know for certain what shirt the suspect was wearing, they may misremember it as dark blue instead of simply saying they don’t remember or didn’t see.

Humans are social creatures – children especially will react to what they perceive as positive attention from a caring adult (the interviewer) by fibbing or subconsciously altering their story to get more of that positive attention. They may not even be aware that they’re doing it, and they’ll definitely remember it wrong after the fact. For this reason, you also shouldn’t conduct interviews in groups to avoid memory cross-contamination.

Conducting interviews like this, therefore, is undeniably bad for justice and truth. Look for it when watching documentaries on UFOs – do they interview in a group? Do they ask strangely-worded follow-up questions designed to get a certain, soundbiteable response? Does the interviewer lead the interviewee?



Using Memes to Market? You Better do it Right

Elizabeth Uncategorized August 9, 2021

The era where anyone could make a meme and guarantee laughs is gone. Nowadays, marketing experts are finding themselves trying to make memes for teens and young adults without offending or confusing the rest of their potential audience.

Still, sometimes they do a good job, and the line between naturally sourced and artificial memes becomes blurry.

Artificially Created Memes

Firstly, let me define what I mean by ‘artificial memes’. A normal, “organic” meme is normally made by someone unaffiliated with the brand of said meme. For example, the team behind Among Us is not making the majority of the memes about Among Us, and any memes they do make are source-able right back to their Twitter or webpage. Ordinary, crowd-sourced memes dominate Among Us’s meme presence online, and the team’s contributions are welcome because it’s apparent that the memes are meant for fun, not advertising.

And then there’s the opposite: artificially made memes are memes that were made by someone within the brand the meme is affiliated with, and they try to hide the meme’s source so it seems like a natural, ordinary meme. There’s nothing wrong with a company flooding their own page with their own memes. That’s completely fine. It’s their account, whatever.

However, if those memes aren’t good or are too bland, most people recognize them as marketing first and memery second. It won’t ‘catch on’, and people won’t start creating and circulating their own, which is usually the whole point of artificial memes. Some companies mistakenly believe that by supplying memes to third-party Twitter accounts (and paying them to post the memes) that the memes will catch on that way. This assumes that the account is the problem, not mediocre, unfunny, or out-of-touch memes. Additionally, in an era where money ruins art and jokes, people generally recognize advert memes unless they’re really well done – they’re already primed to spot them and hate them almost on instinct. If they were good, they would have survived on the real account’s page. All advertising, no fun.

There’s a certain anti-corporation bend to most meme consumption. “I came to laugh, not to be advertised to. Silence, Brand.” If an organization really wants to seed their own memes, they have to do it discreetly. They have to hit the right notes. The era where a brand could just scatter-shot poor quality memes all over their own Twitter and guarantee a hit is gone.


Lil Nas X


Lil Nas X got it. He had (and still has) his finger on the pulse of Twitter. He memed on his own Top 40 song leading up to its release, Old Town Road. If you saw memes about it, that was no mistake, or happy accident – he did a lot of that himself. He’d spend hours a day just trying to pump up his presence online, using his content in hot formats. Eventually, they caught on. This is the ultimate goal of marketing with memes – people latch on to an idea the creator had and run with it, and then it begins circulating by itself.

It helped that the music was good and the man is funny, and able to tap directly into hot Twitter memes and accounts as they appear. Old Town Road was catchy, but campy! It was pop-country, too, and tapped into a segment of the population that didn’t hear that much of it. Twangy guitar and Billy Ray Cyrus with a hip hop vibe to it sounded very fresh and interesting, even to people who didn’t like pop-country.

Hard work. Good content. Fresh memes. It all worked in his favor.


Bird Box


The movie was alright. There were holes in it, but for a Netflix Original movie, it was decent. That being said, there were a lot of memes being made about it. A lot. A suspicious amount. Some of which used formats that were already dying out by the time they appeared on meme Twitters. Where Lil Nas X is posting himself, and creating memes himself, Bird Box had a marketing team trying to recreate what 15-30 year-olds find funny online.

It had moderate success; Angelina Jolie looks goofy in a blindfold, and that imagery is part of what made even this middling attempt work. They weren’t trying to recreate jokes written in the script, they were trying to meme angles of the movie that weren’t funny on their own – and a lot of the time, that’s how memes happen! Random scenes, lines taken out of context, funny expressions – still-image memes are rarely about jokes the movie made, they’re usually jokes about the movie. The campaign only felt fake because the movie has mixed reviews, so it’s unbelievable that this many memes would be made about it by that many dedicated fans… but they had to really pump up their online presence to sell it, so that’s a flaw of the method, not the memes themselves.

Hard work. Mediocre content. Decent memes. It worked out well, but was eventually recognized as a campaign and not an organic movement.


Fast and Furious


So, funny thing – when people joke about bad movies, they joke about how bad they are. Or they sarcastically say it was life-changing. “Sharknado is a cinematic masterpiece”, that’s what they say. They don’t say anything about the insides of a bad or mediocre movie, because that would mean that they actually watched the movie. Most memes for these ones only have information gleaned from the trailer.

Fast and Furious 9’s marketing department has obviously tried to dump memes into the meme ecosystem to boost marketing. The problem is that the memes don’t match ordinary meme formats, or even act as good jokes. Dom says “family” a lot. And? So what? He doesn’t say it enough for it to be a gag. The memes are attempting to reinforce an idea within the movie, not use it as a joke, which is not what memes do.

Memes are often transformative -but they’re usually transformative in a way that’s not to the show or movie’s benefit.

Secondly, F9 spoiled it’s own memes. Back when F6 came out, people joked about them going to the moon to somehow beat gang violence on Earth. You can’t seriously use suggestions from memes without making them tongue-in-cheek, and F9 didn’t do that. They honestly, intentionally, completely straight-facedly, went to outer space. F9 jumped the shark. How can you make fun of something that wasn’t joking, but knew that what it was doing was stupid? They knew going to space was stupid. They did it anyway, in some sort of pseudo-irony that makes memeing on it unfunny.

Anyway, the foundation for their memes is inherently weak. While it may seem nonsensical which scenes in what movies get memed and which don’t, there’s a complex system to the humor that sorts some memes to the top and others into the trash. Trying to isolate it and identify it is possible… but marketing experts get hung up on ‘understanding’ it above actually making it funny. Anything that people without Twitter could understand is immediately too bland for the regulars on Twitter.

Lack of research. Lack of content. Stale memes. It was recognized as a campaign immediately.

People were confused about Bird Box, but they were downright annoyed by the F9 memes!


Sonic The Hedgehog


Sonic’s original design was so completely awful that CGI artists had to work around the clock to ‘fix it’ and replace him with a cuter, less uncanny Sonic. The script didn’t have to change, but a totally digital character had to be replaced with another, differently proportioned digital character. That is a nightmare. And yet, the team pulled through after some delays and a lot of very long weeks, and the Sonic Movie came out right before quarantine set in across the US.

Sonic didn’t set out to make memes. Memes happened about Sonic.

Good memes praising the studio, or memes neutrally making fun of the old design scattered Twitter. The conditions to achieve such a positive campaign are very rare! It’s much harder to make fun of a team that’s genuinely trying than it is to make fun of a team that’s clearly phoning it in, and Sonic came across as earnest enough to earn its underdog story and the memes that came with it. F9 could never admit going to space was a bad idea. Even if it did, it would never redo the scene. Sonic The Hedgehog was willing to admit that the first design was a mistake, and spent a lot of time and effort fixing it so that audiences would like it more. Memes were poking fun at a bad initial decision, not the movie or the franchise itself.

Hard work, on the right things. Good content. Good memes.