The UFO-article described in Part I of this post does not exemplify anything about Hollywood science or natural disasters, but it does provide a good example of why critical thinking is important when dealing with information in the media today. There are a number of things that make the information in this particular article implausible.
The first paragraph of the article is potentially deceiving. The way it is written could easily fool people into initially thinking that all those thousands of documents were about the crashed UFO’s, while in fact only one of the documents is related to the flying saucers. Furthermore, the picture of the dead alien is completely unrelated to the document, and a little bit of research quickly revealed it to be an old picture that has been debunked by skeptics as well as UFO-enthusiasts as a hoax.
At the bottom of the article, there are two videos from Aftonbladet’s TV-archive that show two examples of previous alleged UFO-sightings. Conveniently for me, these videos were discussed and analyzed in my Honors-class “History’s Mysteries” from last semester. Both have been more or less debunked by other, less sensational explanations. The first video, showing mysterious objects hovering over New York City, turned out to have been a cluster of errant party balloons. The second shows examples of a few alleged UFO-sightings in China. These have not all been completely debunked, but there are strong indications that at least one of them was caused by the launch of a rocket from a nearby space center.
As mentioned, the article talks about how some people believe that the U.S. Government has been trying to cover up the alleged UFO-crash outside of Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947. This is an example of a common type of conspiracy theory that has become widely popularized in the last decade. There are a few reasons for the increased popularity of modern-day conspiracy theories. First off, conspiracy theories are exciting; they are mysterious and intriguing, and easily attract people’s attention. At first glance, the usually sensational nature of these theories make people take an initial interest in them, an interest that increases as people read more and learn more about the seemingly detailed and often almost shockingly thorough explanations to certain events. These theories are sometimes just as sensational as things are often depicted in movies. This is also a reason why we appeal to these theories, as we feel the same excitement and intrigue that we feel when watching a movie that deals with similar, almost always highly sensational theories.
Reading the comments to the article in Aftonbladet, hearing different opinions from people, is pretty amusing. Look at the article, found at http://www.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/article12859128.ab, use Google Translate – if not for the article then for the comments, some of them are actually pretty funny. One reader is pretty spot-on about how ridiculous the article is when he asks the writer to “remove the article and then apologize for insulting your readers’ intellects”.