The Politics of the Hoax

UFOs attend marginal events, or appear during episodes of upheaval, chaos and disjointedness, when inhibition is low in a population, when disorderliness rules the day, when rational resistance is belated. Then, an unveiling occurs, when a collective’s experience is most interstitial. It adopts the UFO or is made to adopt the UFO as the flag which represents an occurrence for which words are inadequate — an event that undermines everyday expectations, when beliefs are uprooted. The image of the UFO may not originate in the group, the witness, but may be a projection from without, a concealment strategy by that force caught, so to speak, in an unguarded moment, or as a cloak that was presented intentionally in an effort to reinforce preconceived notions about something that is otherworldly. Though perceived as a disc or cigar-shaped dirigible or what Charles Fort referred to as ‘superconstructions,’ a UFO, in fact, may be none of those things. That is merely the impression that is left with the observer, the witness, the group.

Or the world truly is not as it appears, and some intervention takes place on a fairly regular basis — an intervention from without — and evidence of the illusion is presented, the projection mechanism revealed, but men know not what they see. They leap into the arms of a tried and true trope: the UFO. The notion of nuts-and-bolts spacecraft is then reinforced and the raw revelatory experience occluded totally.

Or the world is exactly as it appears, and one is party to a pernicious hoax, perpetrated by one’s peers.

The effective hoax must be timely and must strike hard and fast; it must achieve an upper hand when the socio-cultural girdings by which a collective is bound are loosened, as by revolution, war, rapid technological change, or disease.  It is chaos of which the hoax and the hoaxer must take advantage and its aims are almost always propagandistic. The hoax must at once appear substantial and supernatural, such that it will readily assume legendary status, conveyed orally, and most importantly, imperfectly. The hoax must quickly find endorsement. The endorsee must be considered reliable from a historical perspective and she must contribute to the hoax a handful of facts that may be verified when the hoax comes under scrutiny, as the hoaxes which are designed to endure inevitably do.

Hoaxes are a special type of deception. They are not required to possess a kernel of truth. In fact, unlike disinformation, the hoax is not typically designed to conceal so much as it is to distort or augment a preexisting worldview. Hence, its own premise may be a complete fabrication and it will continue to function as promised because it has been wrapped in, very often, an uncountable number of layers of facts, all of which are verifiable but unrelated to the event in question. The study of the facts alone ensures that the hoax remains a function of a culture for an extended period of time.

That being said, the hoax itself becomes less important over time, certainly less important than the facts in attendance. What remains of significance is the subtle change induced in a population by the hoax, though the change may not be an explicit one. Interestingly, it is the point at which an obsession with the facts diverges from the hoax from which they originated that the hoax is finally, effectively, mythologized. Once mythologized, it is safe to assume that opinion associated with some fundamental aspect of human affairs has been and will continue to be … managed.

There is a word for this type of opinion management: queuing. The aim of queuing is predictability. In a systematically queued population, the outcome of the sum of most human action is known, even when adjusted for extreme outlying events. And the hoax is that method whereby which a host population’s native and dynamic regard of the world is subverted and supplanted with trained expectation.

✖ From the Novel, Orchard Park and Other Works

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