Aliens, UFOs, Conspiracies, Bah!

Usually I don’t talk on this site about my work in the federal government, but something happened this week that makes me take exception. I was planning a project with an academic researcher -a perfectly intelligent person, I should say -and during a break I got asked, ”Hey, what about Roswell? What about the top secret extra-terrestrial exchange program? You got aliens secretly working in government, right? Don’t you? Don’t you?” This happens pretty regularly. I know my colleagues can get flustered when they’re accosted by some wacko government-conspiracy nut. I mean, how are you suppose handle something like that?

It’s time to end these rumors once and for all, so let me be perfectly clear about this:


Fringe conspiracy theories all start the same way. Take an innocuous fact, isolate it from its context, repeat it in the reality distortion field of a tight community of paranoids, and you got a conspiracy. However, if you go back and review the actual evidence and documentation within its historic context, there’s inevitably a perfectly logical and prosaic explanation.

In the case of the secret-aliens-in-the-government, it started when someone heard something about the so-called “OPM Memo.” Somehow, this boring clarification of personnel policy became, “Oo, censorship about aliens! Oo, top secret program!” If you actually read the February 29 1967 memo from then-acting-associate-director of the US Office of Personnel Management Henry Randolph Nemo, you see it actually dispels the notion of any government cover-up, rather than proves it. Here’s the key passage:

In the interests of a productive workforce and responsible stewardship of government accounts, it is the policy of OPM to promote a workplace that is respectful and accommodating of cultural differences among all employees and contractors. To this end, all government employees are strongly urged to forgo discussion of any extra-terrestrial when it is not present. While it’s understood this involves breaking common habits of human conversation, and slip-ups will be inevitable, a good faith effort in interstellar etiquette is warranted in the name of smooth working relations. We ask no less from our alien counterparts.

There you have it.

It’s not secrecy. It’s courtesy. As everyone knows, the aliens are telepathic. In the aliens’ culture, it’s rude to talk about an individual without (telepathically) inviting it in on the conversation. Well, we humans aren’t telepathic so we can’t ask aliens to join a conversation unless they’re in earshot. Thus, we adopt the etiquette of not talking about any one of them if it’s not there.

BTW, they’re perfectly cool about us talking about them collectively (as I’m doing now). It’s when you single out one or a few that they take offense.

I hope I’ve put this silliness to rest.

One Response to “Aliens, UFOs, Conspiracies, Bah!”

  1. Rob L. says:

    I was, no kidding, about to post to Twitter that none of the April Fool’s Day posts/web pranks I’d seen this year had amused me at all, when I ran upon this in the feedreader.

    There, that’s better. Thanks.