“Alien Encounters” — The subtle propaganda of a pseudo-documentary

The Science Channel’s Alien Encounters is a two-part pseudo-documentary that interweaves footage of real scientists and novelists talking about possible alien encounters, with faux footage of the world dealing with an actual alien encounter.  Alien Encounters has gotten decent press from the usual suspects.

I disagree.  As a science show, it’s not impressive.  The children, who are sophisticated media consumers, were perpetually confused about what was real and what was faux, and eventually walked out on the show in frustration.  We grown-ups didn’t fare much better, as we kept falling asleep.  A show that induces narcolepsy probably isn’t a very good show.

I did stay awake long enough, though, to be concerned about those children and those adults who stuck it out despite the show’s muddled story line and sleep-inducing presentation.  In addition to having some vaguely scientific content (Cue Twilight Zone music and repeat after me — “We are not alone”), the show has a very strong Progressive tone.  This is stealth politics. A rumination about aliens contacting earth should be about space and science.  As is typical, though, for anything Progressives touch, their politics and biases  just kind of ooze out.

In pertinent part, the plot goes as follows:  The SETI Institute, which was established to monitor the cosmos for other life forms, picks up a signal from space that is quite obviously meant to communicate with earth.  It proves, as the SETI people have long realized, that we here on earth are not the pinnacle of evolution — someone else (or something else) obviously is, because that other culture can communicate with us.

At least, that’s what Jill Tarter, who’s head of the SETI Institution and one of the show’s writers, says.  She also says that we’re not ready for alien contact because we have pollution or wars, or something like that.  (She was a bit muddled there.)  Tarter’s fascination with outer space may have come about because she obviously doesn’t like us here on planet earth.

Tarter’s statements about war and pollution, and her general disdain for humanity, have the virtue of being explicit.  Tucked into the show were other messages, however, ranging from silly to mean.

The first more subtle political message showed itself in the usual “global warming” stuff that is by now par for the course for any non-conservative production.  Indeed, bows to global warming appear in shows with the same frequency as Obama’s “ums” and “uhs” and “ers” when he’s speaking off teleprompter — which is to say, way too often.

In Alien Encounters, we learn that the alien beings have included in their message a code sequence that is light years (pardon the pun) more sophisticated than any computer code ever devised here on earth.  The hip young things paying attention to this cool alien invasion immediately appreciate the ramifications of this code.  The words “reverse global warming” are flashed across the screen at least twice.  (I may have slept through subsequent iterations.)  Yes, the secret to resolving global warming is . . . wait for it . . . an alien invasion.  Woo-hoo!

That’s the obvious propaganda.  It’s heavy-handed, but probably harmless, because it’s just another piece of white noise in the Progressive universe.  Although I must say I find rather amusing that an ostensibly scientific institution (that would be the SETI Institute) so blindly accepts global warming, despite the burgeoning body of evidence to the contrary.  But that’s another story….

The less obvious propaganda is what really irked me.  In an obvious effort to stretch a thin one-hour show into a two-hour show, the writers repeat themes, images and words over and over and over again.  Thus, we hear repeatedly that some people will be excited and open-minded about this invasion, while some will be scared and hostile.

“Scared and hostile” is represented by a moustachioed old white man who sits alone, drinking, and writing “end of the world?” and “danger” on reports about the alien encounter.  Later, he is shown stockpiling booze and weapons for his survivalist retreat.  And still later, the show finally reveals the hitherto cryptic writing on his baseball cap:  “82nd Airborne.”

Yup — the only ones who might be somewhat worried that a vastly more intelligent life form is heading towards our seriously imperfect (and overheated) world are the crazy, drunken, old militarists .  The show hints, although it’s too tactful to say, that drunken old survivalists are the scarier of the two invaders.

I haven’t actually seen the aliens land yet.  When I finally succumbed completely to sleep, they were still making their way to planet earth.  I’ll watch the last half hour tonight on my TiVo and get back to you on whether or not we survive our contact with this fine alien culture.  I do wonder, though, whether these aliens, who clearly have the potential to bring about the “moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal,” will bear an uncanny resemblance to Barack Obama.  After all, there are those who have posited that, based upon his fixed smile in official state photos, he might not be of this earth:

Barack Obama’s amazingly consistent smile from Eric Spiegelman on Vimeo.

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  • jj

    I don’t know why – with two exceptions that occur offhand – it’s always assumed that the aliens will be lovably inclined to us wayward chillun, and very disappointed in our stewardship of the poor old planet.  (The exceptions are HG Wells, and more recently, whoever came up with Independence Day.)  It’s the trusting assumption of a four year old that those who are more technologically adept than he is are also somehow endowed with greater wisdom and compassion.  I guess it would come as news to these soulful yearners that greater technology does not invariably equate to wisdom and compassion – sometimes it just equates to more efficient slaughter, as one wold have supposed the Nazis amply demonstrated.  The fact that you are smart enough to cross the galaxy does not necessarily demonstrate that you are a fount of swell qualities or judgment: it just makes you smart enough to cross the galaxy.  Attila the Hun was smart enough to get from one end of the known world to the other; it didn’t make him anybody’s ideal dinner guest when he arrived in Toulouse.  You have to laugh at the assumptions – more properly referred to as ‘projections’ – of our childlike friends on the left.  Or maybe weep at them.

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    A friend of mine, who has made a serious study of Marxism, says that the “alien as savior” is a standard Marxist trope.  Stands to reason that those who hate their fellow man would look beyond the human race for salvation.


    From the site, Board of Trustees. Not to be outdone by the “Yeti” hunters.

    John Gertz is the president and CEO of Zorro Productions, Inc., which he founded in 1977. He has been responsible for four Zorro motion pictures including Zorro, the Gay Blade (1982), The Mask of Zorro (1998), and The Legend of Zorro (2005), the last two starring Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta -Jones. Also under his tenure, five different ZORRO TV series have been produced, as well as about twenty ZORRO stage productions.

  • gpc31

    All those world leaders pictured with Obama punch above their weight. 

  • gpc31

    BW wrote:
    “A friend of mine, who has made a serious study of Marxism, says that the “alien as savior” is a standard Marxist trope.  Stands to reason that those who hate their fellow man would look beyond the human race for salvation.”
    That makes sense, because Marxism is an inverted Christian heresy.  Rather than God becoming man to save humanity, Marxists recast the role with an alien.  (Whose the alienated one now?)

  • Charles Martel

    Book, I’m with you on being irritated at all the padding that goes into these pseudo-documentaries. It’s a sign that the producers have taken a tissue-thin premise and added a lot of Hamburger Helper to it, both to pare expenses and give the TV channel a two-hour time killer that doubles the number of ads they can peddle.
    It’s the equivalent to what’s going on in the supermarket these days. Cans get widened to look bigger, but are a few centimeters shorter than before—all the better to hide that what once contained 32 ounces at $1.69 now contains 29 ounces at $1.79.
    Speaking of the Marxist hope for a non-divine savior, I remember how I used to crack up at Arthur C. Clarke, a brilliant sci-fi writer who could always be counted on to rail against the implausibility of God and the immaturity required to believe in Him. Then he wrote his classic “Childhood’s End,” where a benevolent Overmind guides humanity to its racial culmination as a sort of hippie Borg collective. I was nine when I first read the book, and as unschooled and naive as I was, I saw through Clarke’s blind spot: God is out of the question, but a galactic mind that bends the laws of nature at will and can’t leave people alone is A-OK!
    When the Marxists’ long-awaited god from space arrives (think of Obama as his Barack the Baptist), it is almost certain that he will be sporting a Lenin beard and a Mao worker’s hat.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar


    This reminds me of To Serve Humanity.

     If aliens do invade, they’ll probably bombard from orbit using kinetic strikes all urban areas. Which is where the Left has most of their power, actually…

  • Mike Devx

    > When the Marxists’ long-awaited god from space arrives (think of Obama as his Barack the Baptist), it is almost certain that he will be sporting a Lenin beard and a Mao worker’s hat.

    He’ll be wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt, too.


     On the back of the Che t-shirt ….(and only $30)
    “Stand with President Obama by reminding your friends and family that health care reform is still a BFD,” a description of the shirt says.

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  • Mike Devx

    And on the back of the alien’s other t-shirts:

    “Sometimes you have all the planets you need.”

    “We have to invade this planet, to find out what is on it.”

    Then the seond alien steps out from the spaceship.  Looking at the human welcoming committee standing respectfully a few yards away, he says, “My goodness, you all have such wonderful eyes.  I can’t wait to munch on them.”

    The first alien turns to him with irritation.  “Bidenjrrfglstrk,  you are SUCH an idiot.”

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    “We have to invade this planet, to find out what is on it.”

    LOL :)

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  • Charles Martel

    Then the seond alien steps out from the spaceship.  Looking at the human welcoming committee standing respectfully a few yards away, he says, “My goodness, you all have such wonderful eyes.  I can’t wait to munch on them.”

    The first alien turns to him with irritation.  ”Bidenjrrfglstrk,  you are SUCH an idiot.”

    Be right back. Making replacement pot of coffee. Thanks to Devx, most of first pot unexpectedly expelled violently through my nose.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    That was a good one joke line, Mike D.

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    My cut and paste of the day…(Mike Devx, do you have a script for this?) 😉
    Simon Parkes, a Labour party politician elected last month to the Whitby Town Council, stunned colleagues by claiming his “real mother” is a 9 ft green alien with eight fingers, the Northern Echo reports.

    Although he has had “hundreds of close encounters with extra-terrestrials,” he insisted “it will not interfere with his mission to help residents at the seaside resort.”

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  • Danny Lemieux

    Parkes must be from the intellectual wing of the Democr…er..Labor party. 

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  • Hube

    JJ: Interesting POV. I’ve always essentially bought in to the notion that most interstellar civilizations would be friendly. The rationale is that if they were not, the likelihood that they would have destroyed themselves before achieving the technology to travel the stars is huge. Exceptions would be civilizations that received advanced technology before they were “ready.” Sci-fi is replete with such scenarios: Larry Niven’s Kzin, who almost subjugate humanity to slavery in his “Known Space” universe is one; Marvel Comics’ Kree is another; Star Trek’s Ferengi is yet another. Acquiring advanced technology without the necessary cultural advancement and cohesion could lead to an aggressive interstellar civilization.

    Back to Niven, I always scoffed at the notion that his Pak race would ever achieve what they did in his novels. They’re brutally war-like, and their homeworld was always at war, never having known peace. Yet, they managed not to annihilate their own planet and devised Bussard ramships to journey elsewhere in the galaxy. And their very nature remained intact!

    Ah, I could write forever about this … !

  • Danny Lemieux

    Hube…the very warlike Mongols and Aztecs did pretty well for themselves by preying on other human beings. Besides, who’s to say that some intergalactic civilization wouldn’t just see us as food (e.g., War of the Worlds)? 

  • Hube

    Danny: The Mongols and Aztecs were extremely far from being a highly technological civilization. If they happened upon advanced tech (like Niven’s Kzin), I’m sure they’d likely export their cannibalistic ways to the stars. However, I believe it highly unlikely that thousands of years later, these civilizations — had they advanced naturally without being wiped/dying out — wouldn’t have been what they once were. What civilization has?

    I also find it unlikely that a naturally advanced civilization would prey upon another intelligent civilization for food. Intelligent life appears to be extremely rare in the universe, and by the time a species reaches sufficient technological advancement there would be no need to eat other advanced species (or even non-advanced species).

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    I know I have a one track mind, guys, but when I read you discuss how successful primitive, violent civilizations can be using technology more sophisticated than their own culture could naturally develop, all I can think of is Islamists, with airplanes, IEDs and, God forbid, nuclear devices.  In other words, we’re getting a real time preview of just how successful (or not) they can be.

    Of course, it would be a better experiment if we were actually defending ourselves against their aggression, rather than making some feints at self-defense in far-off corners of the world, even as the main culture engages in preemptive surrender.

  • Hube

    but when I read you discuss how successful primitive, violent civilizations can be using technology more sophisticated than their own culture could naturally develop, all I can think of is Islamists

    Book — I once put up a blog post about just this at my old blog, many years ago. I compared Islamists, though, to the Klingons which, according to Trek lore, makes sense. I believe it was in the series Enterprise that Capt. Archer learns that the Klingon civilization was once replete with scholars and scientists, but then later regressed to become more barbaristic.

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    That sounds about right, Hube.  Star Trek, incidentally, is also a good example of a Leftist production that denies God but looks to space for salvation.

    I used to be a big fan of Star Trek Next Generation.  Now I’m a fan of about half the shows:  the ones that are clever shows about time and space.  The standard Leftist template shows in the series make my skin crawl — and make me realize how anyone who watches television (and that would be every young person in American since 1955) is constantly being indoctrinated.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    I don’t make intel analysis based upon Star Trek mythology.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    Book, if I was designing the episodes in Star Trek the Voyager, do you know how it would come out? It would almost be exactly the same as the Evil Janeway episode.

  • Mike Devx

    I haven’t encountered any evidence that technological advancement leads to peaceful intentions.  Nor does a high level of cultural advancement (literature, poetry, music, visual arts).  WWII makes that clear.

    There are assumptions – usually leftist – that a one-world government leads to peaceful intentions.  I don’t see evidence for that either.

    I’m not saying violent predatorial intention is likely either.  At this point, I’d say that either is equally likely.

    As Reagan said, “Trust – but verify!”

    • Wyldstar

      First impressions,
      Many here seem to bemoan “Leftist Influences/Indoctrination”…yet it reveals an inherent Right Wing bias.

      To be fair and as even-handed as possible: Both camps, liberals and conservatives alike are equally predisposed to using the same (or at least equivalent) tools to lure more individuals into their ideological camps. For every Avatar-like movie produced by liberal elements, you have hours of indoctrination-by-repetition blasted at us by network TV (Fox News for example).

      End result? It’s a wash. What disappoints me is how many here would rather decry social values than discuss the intriguing implications of the show’s hypothetical elements.

      No desire to criticize anyone individually, but as someone whose found the Alien Encounters series 1-3 quite thought provoking, I’m much more interested in discussing the elements of the show rather than re-hash political white noise I’ve heard a thousand times, in a thousand slightly different packages and from a thousand different sources.

      One of the beauties of Science Fiction is its various articulations of Futurist concepts/theories. I’d rather see someone critically deconstruct any and all elements of the series without resorting to a political tangent, that’s all I’m saying.

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  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    I went back and reread this “I also find it unlikely that a naturally advanced civilization would prey upon another intelligent civilization for food.”

    I’m reminded of  the Left and their slaves. Preying on other people, gaining power from aborting fetuses, uses fetuses to make their big corporations make more money selling PEPSI… yeah, sure, a “naturally advanced civilization” certainly can’t prey upon others for food.

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