UFOs: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver | Transcript

Main segment: UFOs. Other segments: Israel–Hamas war protests in the United States, confirmation hearings of Adeel Mangi
UFOs: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Season 11 Episode 9
Aired on April 21, 2024

Main segment: UFOs
Other segments: Israel–Hamas war protests in the United States, confirmation hearings of Adeel Mangi

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[Cheers and applause]

JOHN: Welcome, welcome, welcome to “Last Week Tonight!” I’m John Oliver, thank you so much for joining us. It has been a busy week, from Trump apparently falling asleep during his hush money trial to Tesla recalling all cybertrucks thanks to a faulty accelerator pedal, meaning the list of things that can break a cybertruck now includes “driving it.” And all over the country, there continued to be protests over the war in Gaza. This week, protestors shut down the Golden Gate Bridge, and in Chicago, blocked the road to O’hare airport, leading to coverage like this.

Some missed their flights because of the traffic from the protest.

I’m gonna miss my flight, yeah.

What do you think about this?

It’s– it’s wrong. It’s wrong. I hope the protesters are put in jail. I mean, it’s… The cause is maybe right. You know, one side is– there’s two sides to every situation. But it’s not the way to do it. They’re not gaining any fans.

JOHN: Okay. First, quick travel tip: if you think you’re gonna miss your flight, maybe try running to the gate instead of stopping to talk to the press. But I do get that it’s annoying. Although, for the record, protest is kind of meant to be disruptive– it’s a little bit the point. As for “the cause is maybe right,” that’s putting it mildly. Because the situation in Gaza is horrific. At least 34,000 people have been killed, most of them women and children. Many Israelis are also protesting their government’s actions, which have– for all the bloodshed they’ve caused– failed to secure the freedom of the remaining hostages. And yet, the U.S. continues to supply Israel with funding and arms for all this, even as Gaza sinks into famine. If that’s not worth protesting, I’m not sure what is. And to be fair, even some of those disrupted passengers seemed to concede, when pressed even slightly, that the inconvenience wasn’t that bad.

I think Chicago police department failed. They should’ve anticipated this, they should’ve known about it in advance. What are they doing?

And what’s going to happen to you and your flight now?

I’ll just get another one. It’ll be fine.

JOHN: Yeah, it’ll be fine. That deescalated fast. Although I guess it was always going to, because what kind of question is “what’s going to happen to you and your flight?” What else is he going to say? “Ever seen “the terminal”? Yeah. I have to live here now.” And look, I’m not saying every protest has been universally well-executed. But it’s notable the degree to which demonstrations concerning Palestine tend to get shut down, and how comfortable some have happily advocated violence against protestors. Just this week, Senator Tom Cotton– a man with, I think it’s fair to say, entirely too much neck– called in to Fox News to say this.

If something like this happened in Arkansas, on a bridge there, let’s just say I think there’d be a lot of very wet criminals that have been tossed overboard. I’d encourage most people, anywhere, if they get stuck behind criminals like this, who are trying to block traffic, to take matters into their own hands.

JOHN: Okay, it’s the least important part of this, but: you don’t say overboard when you’re talking about a bridge. You’re thinking of a boat, bitch. If you’re gonna advocate for vigilante bridge murder, at least get the terminology right. And it’s not just protestors feeling pressure. Even Muslims who’ve expressed no public views on Gaza have come under attack. And for a high-profile example of that, look no further than what’s been happening to Adeel Mangi, one of Joe Biden’s nominees to the federal bench. He’s a Pakistani-American who’d be the first Muslim appointee to the federal appellate courts– it’s one of those moments we refer to as a “historic first” because it sounds a lot nicer than “we didn’t consider Muslims for this job until shockingly recently.” Mangi is a respected attorney, unanimously rated as “well qualified” by the ABA. His nomination’s been supported by all these organizations, among over 100 others, and he’s done pro bono work in cases involving Muslim and lgbtq rights. But in his confirmation hearing last December, republicans didn’t ask about any of that. Instead, they did this.

Do you believe that zionist settler colonialism was a provocation that justified Hamas’s atrocity against Jews in Israel?

Does Israel have a right to exist?

My question is simple, do you condemn this event that was celebrating Palestinian Islamic jihad? Yes or no?

JOHN: That is a shocking display of islamophobia, even for these three, some of the least likable people in human history, and– perhaps scientifically– the ultimate nightmare blunt rotation. I’m sure you can think of other people to put into that list, but who are you taking out? That’s my point. And I should explain what those questions were based on, because it’s ridiculous. Very basically, Mangi was on an advisory board for this center at Rutgers university. And those senators were grandstanding about some speakers who’d been invited to its events, including one marking the anniversary of 9/11. Something that prompted this extraordinary question.

Is this the way you celebrate 9/11? Have I said anything that was inaccurate?

Yes, senator.

JOHN: Yes, you have. You just asked a Muslim man how he celebrates 9/11, and unless you’re absolutely sure that’s also his birthday, that’s completely inappropriate. The questioning around that event was so relentless, Mangi felt he had to make two compelling points.

Number one, on 9/11, I was in New York, I saw what happened. It was my city that was attacked. Number two, I’ve never heard of this event prior to today. It was never brought to the advisory board, which met once a year to talk about academic issues.

JOHN: That’s a pretty solid answer. And congratulations to those Republicans, who’ve outed Mangi as two of the most sympathetic things you can be: a New Yorker who was attacked on 9/11,” and “a guy who signed up to do the bare minimum at a college function.” Uh, I can’t really meet most weeks, or ever, but if you need someone to show up once a year and nod off in an office chair, I’m your guy for that. The hearing was a total disgrace. And it’s not just me saying that even the ADL– an organization not reticent about leveling charges of antisemitism defended Mangi, saying the senators’ questions, appear to have been motivated by bias towards his religion” and that “it was profoundly wrong.” And yet, those Republicans still refused to vote for him, even as outside groups launched bonkers attacks on him like this ad, which aimed to pressure Democratic senators to follow suit.

President Biden wants to remake the courts with the most extreme judges he can find. But antisemite Adeel Mangi might be the worst of all. Mangi’s organization blamed America for the September 11th terror attacks and has hosted speakers with terrorist connections, including a convicted terrorist. Mangi’s organization even blamed Israel for the Hamas terror attack on October 7th. Tell Jon Tester to vote no on giving antisemite Adeel Mangi a lifetime position in our courts.

JOHN: Wow. Between the gross fearmongering and the actual footage of 9/11, that ad feels like you told an AI program to make something that’d give the average Fox News viewer a heart attack, an erection, or both. Although there are some unforced errors in there, like including the tweet they were referencing, which clearly doesn’t say anything like what they just claimed, and saying “the most extreme judges he can find” over pictures of these two. And come on. These are the faces of two people whose hobbies are “books.” Those are two people whose favorite vacation destination is “books.” They look like in high school they were voted most likely to “books!” They look like if you asked them if you could bring anything to a pot luck dinner they’d say “a vegetable platter.” They don’t eat books. They know you can’t eat books. But because Democrats control the Senate, the confirmation should’ve been a non-issue. Unfortunately, not all Democrats are holding firm. Because while they may not have embraced the Islamophobic attacks, some have gotten suckered in by a different sort of racist dog-whistle instead.

Democrats against Mangi worry about his ties to controversial organizations, including the Alliance of Families for Justice. The New Jersey State Patrolmen’s benevolent association says the group calls for, quote, “cop killers to be freed from prison.” That is a concern of mine, not only as a former prosecutor, but somebody who’s married to law enforcement.

JOHN: Okay, first, I’m not sure why you’re bringing up who you’re married to. You could be married to Ronald McDonald and it wouldn’t be relevant to the situation at hand. It’d certainly raise other questions, like– why Ronald when grimace is unquestionably hotter? How’d you end up with a clown dressed like a traffic cone instead of six feet of pure purple sex? When Ronald is talking about fries or whatever does your mind drift to this oblong stunner with an ass that goes all the way out? But again, that’s a distraction from the key issue here. And that is that, as with the Islamophobic attacks on Mangi, the evidence for claims that he’s somehow “anti-police” are laughably thin. It’s yet more “six degrees of separation” nonsense, again focused on an advisory board he serves on for this group that calls for the release of an 85-year-old man with dementia who’d been convicted of killing a police officer in 1973, a decision I’m assuming Mangi had nothing to do with, because the board– fun fact– has never even met. And yet, not only is Cortez Masto refusing to support Mangi over this accusation, so is her fellow Nevada senator, Jacky Rosen. And on top of all of this, Joe fucking Manchin is saying he’s probably a “no” vote, too, saying, “if my democratic colleagues and friends can’t get one republican vote, don’t count on me.” “I’m not leaving this place unless I can practice what I preach and I’m preaching, basically bipartisanship.” Which sounds benign, until you think about what we’re dealing with here. Because at a moment when this man is being targeted with a bigoted smear campaign, you can’t be offering to meet those bigots in the middle. Because when you do that, guess what that makes you? And to Bidens credits, Dave stood by him. And Manchin’s argument speaks to what can be so dispiriting about our current politics. Because while there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with civility and compromise, it does depend on who you’re being civil to, and what you’re compromising with. Because remember, this is a moment when one of the leaders of the senate campaign against Mangi is happily encouraging people to “take things into their own hands” when it comes to those they don’t agree with. It’s it’s pretty scary to think that in the name of “building bridges”, some democrats appear to be perfectly fine compromising with republicans willing to throw protestors off of them.


JOHN: Moving on. Our main story tonight concerns UFOs. They’ve brought us great album art, classic movie moments, and of course, Hugh Jackman. I can’t prove it yet. But I’m close. Lots of people have reported seeing UFOs– from Ke$ha, to Russell Crowe, to even this guy.

I was gathered in a– in a schoolyard with about 20 other men, and we saw a– a bright light appear in the distant western skies, and it got closer and closer, and when it was just above the treetops, it changed color, and then it stayed there for a while, and then it disappeared into the distance. And none of us could ever imagine what it was, and I still don’t know what it was.

JOHN: You know, between the folksy, rambling story and the goofball smile, he kind of reminds you of Joe Biden there, doesn’t he? The only thing Biden would’ve done different was name each of the 20 men he saw the UFO with. “There was corn pop, floppy Jeff, wet Doug, Mexican Rick, and a bunch of other names my advisers told me to stop saying out loud back in 2004.” But the point is, Jimmy Carter saw a UFO. And while skeptics pushed back, saying it was probably a space cloud or Venus and that “no other object generates as many UFO reports as the planet Venus,” Carter doubled down, saying “we know what Venus looks like. It was not Venus.” And he’s right. Everyone knows what Venus looks like. Not that, of course, because that’s Titan, one of Saturn’s moons. It doesn’t look anything like the real Venus… Which that also isn’t, that’s Jupiter’s moon Io. I got you so good! You thought you were safe, because we were talking about space, and you were wrong. The fact is, though, a lot of people think they’ve seen something in the sky. In fact, 16% of Americans say they’ve personally witnessed something they thought was a UFO. And right off the bat, let’s acknowledge: this can be a difficult subject to talk about, because UFOs tend to get discussed in one of two ways. The first is “wildly speculative,” like this.

This Renaissance painting of Madonna and Child seems perfectly normal. However, closer inspection reveals a strange craft hovering in the background with an earth-bound observer witnessing the event.

JOHN: Look, far be it from me to quibble with the voice of “unsolved mysteries,” but that’s a painting, not a photograph. Stuff in them can be real or made-up, and given that’s a painting of the Virgin Mary, I’m guessing it’s the latter. The second way UFOs tend to be discussed is with borderline contempt, like in this 1973 news report.

There were more reports today of unidentified flying objects. Reports from Minnesota, Florida, California, Louisiana, and other places. A man in Columbus, Ohio took these photographs of four strange lights in the sky Wednesday night. They were seen by scores of people. Two women in Texas said they saw an object with the letters “UFO” painted on the side.

JOHN: Well, I’m glad he’s having such a good time laughing at them. And I’m guessing it would stay funny, right up until that UFO opens up and an alien labeled “alien” hits you with a death ray labeled “death ray.” But in recent years, you might’ve seen UFOs getting some more mainstream attention– starting with this report in 2017.

These haunting images, part of a bombshell first admission by the military of a government program investigating sightings of UFOs.

Look at that thing. It’s rotating.

This mysterious black object spotted off the coast of San Diego by Navy fighter pilots in 2004.

My gosh.

JOHN: I don’t know what’s more surprising there, the UFO, or the pilot responding to it with “my gosh.” In that situation, I might have gone with “holy living shit,” or “Jesus backflipping Christ,” but credit to him for keeping it G-rated. There might be kids watching this navy footage. That story was the beginning of a cascade of revelations– including the DOD revealing that it had 11 reports of documented instances in which pilots reported near misses with UFO’s. And a few years back, congress even held its first public hearing on UFOs in more than 50 years. So if the subject is this ubiquitous, with such major questions being asked, now might be a good time to– and I can’t believe I’m about to say this– talk about UFOs: what we know, what we don’t know, and some of the problems with how we’ve gone about trying to find out more. And right up front, let me say: talking about UFOs doesn’t necessarily mean you’re talking about aliens. UFOs are simply objects that are unidentified. That’s it. Many researchers actually prefer the term UAP, for “unidentified anomalous phenomena,” possibly to avoid the whole alien connotation. Because while you can believe aliens exist or not, when it comes to UFOs, belief doesn’t really come into it. Whatever they are, people are seeing them. That poster in Mulder’s office shouldn’t have said, “I want to believe,” it should’ve said, “believe, shmelieve, what the fuck is that thing.” And the fact is, UFO sightings long predate any contemporary associations with extraterrestrials. For as long as people have been around, they’ve been seeing weird things they can’t explain. Ancient Roman and Chinese texts speak of people seeing fireballs, spears, soldiers, ships, and chariots floating above them. Plus, there were sightings near Rome in 218 B.C., and in Germany in 1561. And you’re probably thinking that doesn’t mean much, because everyone knows 16th-century Germany was suffering from a rapid increase in population combined with an increase in grain prices, so a lot of Germans were tripping balls due to starvation. Everyone went through their German confessional age obsession in their early teens. It’s not news. But our modern conception of “flying saucers” took off in 1947, when private pilot Kenneth Arnold spotted 9 oddly shaped objects while flying past Mount Rainier in Washington.

It wasn’t until 1947 when a private pilot reported seeing a group of pie plate-like objects flying near Mount Rainier that the term “flying saucer” entered the vocabulary and fueled the imaginations of movie producers.

JOHN: Now, that’s almost right. Arnold didn’t describe seeing flying saucers, though– what he actually said was, the objects “flew like they take a saucer and throw it across the water.” But reporters shorthanded that to “flying saucer,” and the name stuck. It’s one of those fascinating historical corrections like “Viking helmets didn’t actually have horns,” “Napoleon wasn’t that short,” and “George Washington didn’t really exist, he was just a reflection of moonlight off swamp gas that fooled early Americans.” Now, skeptics have introduced various theories as to what Arnold might have seen, from water droplets on his aircraft window, to a meteor breaking up, to a flock of pelicans. And for the record, marry, kill, and obviously, fuck. Deep mouths. We can’t know for sure what Arnold saw. What we do know is that his account– and the news that broke shortly afterward, supposedly of a “flying saucer” crashing in Roswell, New Mexico kicked off a public obsession and hundreds of UFO sightings began pouring in. Just a month after Arnold’s sighting, a poll asked respondents if they’d heard or read about flying saucers, and 90% said yes. It reached such a fever pitch the “L.A. Times” ran the headline: “flying ‘whatsits’ supplant weather as no. 1 Topic anywhere people meet.” Discussions of UFOs started cropping up everywhere, from tabloid outlets, to even discussions with network newsmen.

Good evening. Tonight, we go after a fantastic story. The story that flying saucers from other worlds are visiting our planet, just as we are exploring outer space with our own rocket satellites. Our guest is former Marine Air Corps major Donald Keyhoe and his campaign to prove that flying saucers exist. My name is Mike Wallace. The cigarette is Parliament.

JOHN: Wow, I honestly can’t think of anything more 1950’s than interrupting your news report to introduce yourself and your cigarette. It’s just not something you could pull off today. “My name is Lester Holt, and the vape is bubblegum melon.” UFOs became a pop-culture phenomenon. In fact, Roswell has done a lot to cash in on its association with UFOs. It’s home to a UFO museum, a UFO festival, and alien-themed streetlights. It even has the world’s only UFO-themed McDonald’s– which somehow has only three and a half stars on Yelp, despite, again, being a UFO-themed McDonald’s. That is madness. I could get stabbed in that McDonald’s and my Yelp review would still read: got stabbed in a UFO! Four stars.” Roswell has gone out of its way to make itself a UFO mecca, and as this coverage from the ’90s shows, a lot of people make the pilgrimage.

Here, the town’s two UFO museums have become magnets.

For the committed– I have been taken aboard spacecraft by these two gentlemen. You have?

The curious. You think they’re like these guys behind you?

Something like that. But I think they’d be just like normal people.

The government hides things from people.

Government distrust.

If they are real, they’re probably evil.


It’s just– it’s got to be– there’s got to be something to it.

All are part of this all-American mystery.

Many a night I have looked up at the sky and said, “come and get me.”

JOHN: Okay, hard to pick a favorite person there, from the man looking for a word to describe aliens and settling on “gentlemen,” to the guy at the end who’s spent “many a night” staring at the sky and saying “come and get me.” That’s a man who’s run the numbers and figured out abduction is cheaper than divorce. “Come and get me! Or my wife! Not both of us, though, that’s a deal-breaker.” But it’s worth addressing something that woman said there “the government hides things from people.” Because, from the very beginning of our modern obsession with UFO’s, there’s been a belief that our government is keeping something from us. And that mistrust has been well earned. The history of the U.S. government’s study of UFO’s is one ranging from the unsatisfying, to the actively misleading. And it began not long after that first “flying saucer” sighting. Just a year later, the Air Force formed something called Project Sign, which evaluated 243 sightings over the course of a year and ultimately said it could find “no definite and conclusive evidence” to prove or disprove the existence of actual unidentified aircraft. That effort was then renamed, Project Grudge, which evaluated more sightings, and concluded they didn’t threaten U.S. security. That was then followed by a massive investigation called Project BlueBook, which took 17 years and looked at more than 12,000 sightings, finding no evidence that they were extraterrestrial or a security threat. And as you probably sensed, because these were all “military” investigations, whether or not these things posed a threat was the primary concern. But toward the end of Project BlueBook, the government also funded a parallel scientific investigation known as “The Condon Committee,” led by physicist Edward Condon. But even while underway, there were signs it wasn’t exactly being conducted in a spirit of free inquiry.

Condon was a respected scientist but was hardly impartial about UFOs. Before the study even began he said in a speech that “the government should get out of the UFO business, there’s nothing to it.” He later wrote, “the authors of UFO books should be horsewhipped.”

JOHN: I mean, he doesn’t seem like the most objective analyst there. The scientific method doesn’t go 1. Hypothesis. 2. Horsewhip anyone who disagrees with you. 3. Conclusion. You’re thinking of religion. Now unsurprisingly, Condon’s study concluded that nothing has come from the study of UFOs in the past 21 years that has added to scientific knowledge, and that further extensive study of UFOs probably cannot be justified. And it’s worth noting: other scientists at the time, including Carl Sagan, pushed back on the tone of Condon’s report. But his attitude prevailed, to the point that, by 1977, a survey of over 1,000 scientists found that a majority thought UFOs were worthy of further study, but only two were willing to waive anonymity to say so. But it’s not just that the government hasn’t covered itself in glory, when it comes to studying UFOs. It’s also actively engaged in coverups about them– though not necessarily in the ways, or for the reasons, the History Channel might have you believe. Take the crash in Roswell. For years, the government maintained that what had crashed was actually just a weather balloon, which many found suspicious. And that fueled a lot of rampant speculation, to the point where, in the mid-1990s, this New Mexico congressman started pressing for answers. And the inquiry yielded a surprising admission from the government that they had indeed lied about the object being a “weather balloon,” in order to conceal what it actually was.

What was recovered near Roswell New Mexico in July 1947 was debris from a formerly top secret Army Air Force research project, code name Mogul.

Project Mogul was so secret it had the same security classification as the project to build the atomic bomb. These high-altitude balloons with their instrumentation, where designed to detect Soviet nuclear tests, they were tremendous in size, as long as 650 feet, and in 1947 nothing else on earth looked like this.

JOHN: Right. That does make more sense. Although it is hard to take the government’s word for it, given they just admitted they’d been lying for 50 years. It’s frankly no wonder people still speculate about Roswell, to this day. It’s basically “the boy who cried wolf,” if the boy was the Pentagon, the wolf was a 600-foot spy balloon, and the moral of the story was “we got up to a lot of stupid shit during the cold war.” And that wasn’t the only time the government’s done this. A CIA study found that “over half of all UFO reports from the late 1950’s through the 1960’s were accounted for by manned reconnaissance flights,” which “led the Air Force to make misleading and deceptive statements to the public in order to allay public fears and to protect an extraordinarily sensitive national security project.” And on some level, you can see why they did that. If someone sees your top secret plane, it’s not like you can just say: “that’s not a UFO, that’s our top secret plane.” No, that’s when you need to roll up your sleeves and gaslight the hell out of them for Uncle Sam. And some have argued that even when the government’s not protecting its own top-secret projects, it may have other reasons for trying to shut inquiries down.

You can cover up knowing something, or you can cover up not knowing something. And I think it’s– it’s just as likely that the Air Force is covering up not knowing anything.

Why would they do that?

Because they can’t– they can’t afford to look incompetent. They can’t admit to the public that they don’t know what these things are in their sky.

JOHN: That John C. Reilly character makes a good point. When you’re in charge of something, you have to project a certain level of authority and control. It’s the same reason I can’t tell my audience how “I don’t know where my snake is.” It’d cause a panic, even though there’s no need, because he’s not venomous, I assume, the website I bought him from wasn’t in English, but it’s a moot point anyway because, relax! I definitely know where my snake is! And there have been examples of government officials downplaying UFO sightings that they couldn’t explain. Take the case of the Phoenix lights. On the evening of March 13, 1997, thousands of people saw these bizarre lights in the sky, followed by a second set of lights a few hours later. Understandably, people freaked out, and wanted some answers. The state’s governor even promised an inquiry. And when he called a press conference to announce his findings, many got their hopes up. Which is why it was so disappointing for them when he did this.

I issued a call for an investigation by the Arizona Department of Public Safety. And I’m happy to report we already are getting results. We may all look upon the guilty party. But don’t get him to close to me, please.

JOHN: What are you doing? You can’t just introduce a mascot any time you don’t know what to say. And I’ll tell you why: it’s lazy. It’s condescending to your audience. They’re adults. They don’t need a fucking puppet show from you. They’ve come with real questions and deserve real answers. Shit, sorry, we cut this bit for time. I’m sorry. It just didn’t seem right. I said I’m sorry! He’s fine! And the thing is, that governor later admitted that he actually saw the lights, too, and didn’t know what they were. He just didn’t feel like he could say that, publicly. I guess he was much like me with my missing snake. He’d much rather people stop asking questions about it, so he made a joke out of something that deep down, he worried might actually be a serious problem. But again, I know where my snake is. Later on, an official explanation came from the Air National Guard, saying that the Phoenix lights were caused by military flares. And while that’s not necessarily a satisfying explanation– and believe me, a lot of people still don’t buy it– at least it’s preferable to having your governor dunk on you in a press conference for even asking the question. And that brings us to the more recent revelations that have generated so many headlines and hearings. Because that video of pilots startled by what they were looking at, was part of a larger series of stories concerning a government program called Aatip, which was described in news coverage at the time like this.

That encounter documented by Aatip, the advanced aviation threat identification program, a shadowy office in the Pentagon. It examined so-called anomalous aerial vehicles.

JOHN: That’s incredible. You don’t expect to hear about a “shadowy Pentagon UFO program” on primetime news. You expect to hear it screamed at you on a webcast in-between ads for canned rations and herbal Viagra. That initial coverage, along with the releases of other startling videos like this one, understandably, got a lot of people extremely excited, especially with the revelation that Aatip’s existence had been made public with the help of a Pentagon employee, Luis Elizondo, who later said he’d resigned from the program to protest “excessive secrecy and internal opposition.” And for many, it seemed like finally, after years of dead-end, bad-faith government inquiries, this could be a genuine breakthrough. But unfortunately, as people looked into that program, they found themselves coming away with more questions than answers. For instance, while Elizondo maintains he led this program– and has documents that seem to support that claim– the Pentagon insists that Elizondo actually had no assigned responsibilities for Aatip. And even if you don’t trust the Pentagon– which as a general rule, I definitely don’t– reporters who’ve dug into what aatip actually did, have often found themselves underwhelmed. Because it turns out, a lot of the research wasn’t done by the government. It was contracted out to a company owned by Robert Bigelow a budget hotel mogul, space entrepreneur, and Ron Desantis donor– who used to own a property in Utah that’s known as a hotbed for paranormal activity. That’s where a lot of the research for Aatip took place. Bigelow also once said that aliens are already on earth, “right under people’s noses,” and founded the Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies whose main goal is to determine whether or not there’s an afterlife. And this is beside the point but it says something that, for a guy who is willing to throw millions of dollars at the pursuit of aliens and the discovery of an afterlife, his worst financial decision still might have been supporting Ron Desantis. Now, as for what Bigelow’s company actually produced for Aatip, from what’s been made public so far, it seems to be little more than a series of 38 research papers, speculating on technologies like invisibility cloaking, stargates, antigravity, and a “never-carried out proposal to tunnel a hole through the moon using nuclear explosions.” They also composed a paper on traversable wormholes that includes this actual illustration which, and this is crucial, features a man saying hello to a dinosaur. And look, I am not saying scientists can’t or shouldn’t study things like wormholes. But it doesn’t look great when your research ends up looking like a teenager’s Rick and Morty fan art. And I’ll say, if that’s the kind of work that program actually produced, it is really disappointing. Because people deserve serious answers to these legitimate questions. Especially, as it takes courage to even ask them, or talk about what you might’ve seen. Naval pilots who saw an object in one of those aatip videos, zipping and darting around them, have talked about how they were made fun of after coming forward, and that the stigma attached to this subject is so strong that they considered not coming forward at all.

You know, I think that, over beers, we’ve sort of said, “hey, man, if I saw this solo, I don’t know that I would have come back and said anything,” because it sounds so crazy when I say it.

You understand that reaction?

I do.

I’ve had some people tell me, you know, “when you say that, you can sound crazy.” I’ll be– I’m not a UFO guy.

But from what I hear you guys saying, there’s something?


Oh, there’s– there’s definitely something that– I don’t know who’s building it, who’s got the technology, who’s got the brains, but there’s– there’s something out there that was better than our airplane.

JOHN: Yeah, “there’s something out there that’s better than our airplane.” It is chilling to hear that from a navy pilot, and not the usual place, the executive board room at Boeing. “I’ve run the numbers guys, and pretty much everyone’s doing it better.” But there clearly should be room for a sober assessment of UFO sightings. And I’ll acknowledge: when you do that, the answers you get, can sometimes end up being less fun. Skeptics in this field urge people to keep several killjoy points in mind when discussing UFO sightings. Everyone is vulnerable to misinterpretations, human vision is often unreliable, human memory is imperfect, and people’s prior beliefs influence perception– which is to say, what you think you saw might depend on what you expected to see. Historians have pointed out “UFO sightings in the ’50s and ’60s in Germany very rarely had the sort of alien-extraterrestrial bend. Instead, germans saw things they couldn’t explain and assumed that they were American or Russian technology.” On top of which, a lot of unexplained sightings can turn out to have rational explanations. Take this striking video, of floating pyramids in the air above a navy ship, shot through nightvision goggles. It understandably got a lot of attention when it was first released. But in congressional testimony last year, a Navy official offered a pretty banal reason for it.

The hypothesis is that those are commercial drones that because of the use of night vision goggles appear like triangles, is that the operating assessment?

Some type of drone, some type of unmanned aerial system and it is simply that that light source resolves itself through the– through the night vision goggles onto the SLR camera as a triangle.

JOHN: Huh. I’d rather believe those are triangle aliens who live on a distant triangle planet, and this is how they communicate in their triangle language. But I guess an optical illusion caused by night vision tech can be satisfying, too, even though it really doesn’t feel that way right now. And the good news is, there does seem to be a movement toward more careful consideration of UFOs. And it’s encouraging that NASA recently assembled a small team, made up of experts in everything from science to aerospace safety, to examine UAPS. And last summer, we got a glimpse of what it’s like to have them break down a UFO video. Specifically this popular one– which appears to show a mysterious object– nicknamed “go fast”– moving extremely quickly. The panel explained, at length, as part of a four-hour press conference, how they figured out that the object actually wasn’t moving that fast at all. Here’s just a small sample.

So, knowing the jet’s altitude and the bearing to the target we can apply basic trigonometry to figure out where that object is in the altitude space. So it’s the ocean that looks like it’s right behind it is actually 4.2 miles away. And this is our first indication that some or most of the motion that we observe, the apparent motion of the object, is in fact due to the rapid motion of the sensing platform.

JOHN: That was boring as fuck. No one in their right mind would want to go to a McDonald’s themed after that explanation at all. But that’s kind of the point. In that, again, four-hour video, they set out what they know– the object’s speed– and concede what they don’t know. Which is, what that object is. And they make the argument that to get a better understanding of UFOs, a rigorous, evidence-based, data-driven scientific framework is essential. And they’re right about that. It’s both promising, and long overdue, to see people approaching this issue soberly, scientifically, and perhaps most importantly, boringly. And I know that’s hard. This is an area where it’s easy to fall into one of two camps: hardcore skeptics, who roll their eyes at the whole subject. And true believers, who are convinced everything has a fantastical explanation the government is keeping from us. You will see, in comments below this piece on YouTube, those two groups fighting it out over everything I’ve said here, and only agreeing on the fact that I am a fucking idiot. Which I’m not even denying, but not for the reasons they’ll be arguing. But there needs to be room for honest inquiry. Because science is all about collecting small answers that eventually help us address big questions. Like are we alone in the universe? What’s that I just saw in the sky? And, for the final time, where actually is my snake? I’m seriously, can everyone please look under their chairs? Because I genuinely don’t know where it is. That is our show. Thank you so much for watching. This has been “Last Week Tonight”. I’m John Oliver, and the vape is dragonfruit banana.

[Cheers and applause]

♪ ♪

Good night! Oh, shit, there it is! There it is! I found it! Yeah, that– that’s not actually my snake. That’s a different snake. My snake looks like that but that’s a different snake. This is someone else’s snake.


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