Why is the American Right obsessed with UFOs?

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Everyone from Tucker Carlson to Tyler Cowen is talking about extraterrestrial life

by Peter Franklin

Is there more out there? Credit: Getty

A fascination with UFOs is en vogue for US conservatives. Tucker Carlson has recently led the discourse, this week speaking in a Breaking Points interview about his belief in UFOs, not to mention the involvement of parts of the US government (and the Vatican) in the ensuing cover-up. This followed comments made on the Redacted podcast shortly before Christmas, when he was asked whether there were any stories he was afraid to cover.

Carlson mentioned two. The first was the 2020 election; the second was what he called “the UFO story”. Indeed, he said he was so disturbed by some of the things he’d heard he won’t even tell his wife about them. To date, he hasn’t told his viewers either — or at least not in full. Unsurprisingly, the details that might allow one to engage with this topic like any other are frustratingly incomplete. 

It isn’t just Carlson teasing us. For instance, the Christian conservative author Rod Dreher said in response to Carlson’s comments that “I had zero interest in this stuff until three months ago, and then… it got real crazy, real fast.” At the time of writing, Dreher is yet to expand on his tantalising comments.

Joe Rogan is another influencer on the Right (though he would likely resist that label) who’s taking UFOs seriously. The same goes for some of his podcast guests, including the tech investor and dissident physicist Eric Weinstein.

Nor is it just the controversialists willing to put their heads above the parapet. For instance, the super-rational and widely respected economist Tyler Cowen contributes articles on the potential UFO threat to national security, while New York Times columnist Ross Douthat openly — and open-mindedly — engages with the available evidence.

There simply isn’t an equivalent level of engagement on the British Right. Former PM Boris Johnson mentioned UFOs in an article last week, but was unwilling to reveal much having had access to British state secrets. All readers learnt was that “there is no evidence whatsoever […] to suggest that alien lifeforms have ever existed.” Never mind, then.

Of course, the US Right is not entirely in agreement on the matter. For instance, while Cowen takes a cautiously logical approach, Carlson inclines toward a supernatural explanation: “there’s a spiritual component there that I don’t fully understand.” Nevertheless, there’s a lively debate among American conservatives that does not exist among their British counterparts. And so, unless we get some firmer evidence about the UFOs themselves, the more interesting question concerns the gulf in attitudes between the US and the UK. 

It could just be that Britons are too small-minded for the biggest issues. Yet at least some of the explanation lies in the extraordinary polarisation of US politics. Large parts of the American establishment are now controlled by ultra-progressives organised into rapidly expanding activist-bureaucracies. From the point of view of conservatives (and old-fashioned liberals), it might as well be an alien invasion. 

It’s not too much of a stretch to suppose that, subconsciously, this metaphor might manifest itself as elements of literal belief. In any case, the American Right needs to be aware of a danger to which those facing unreasonable opponents are always exposed. When the other side goes mad, the problem isn’t only their state of mind, but what it might do to yours.

Por Ovnis

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