The Art of the Conspiracy Theory

THE ART OF THE CONSPIRACY THEORY

The Art of the Conspiracy Theory
The Art of the Conspiracy Theory by M.A

 

This week social media has been full of conspiracy theories. Actually it's not just this week, conspiracy theories appear every day on social media but I have noticed that this week for some reason here have been a few more than one would usually discover.

I'm a digital artist and one of the subjects that I have always had an interest in creating is ufology. Now before you click away thinking "oh no he's another nut", hold on. I love conspiracy theories but I love conspiracy theorists more. Just as one would a barmy uncle. Some of the stories make me laugh but very few make me wonder.

The issue of course is that there is a diehard group of believers who believe anything and everything. Posts from 2008 are repurposed in 2016 as being something new. NASA admits to alien life, then you read the spiel and figure that one of the heads of NASA has actually said, "I believe that alien life exists, we just haven't found it yet".

These stories are all over the place, they're just like junk food. Filling for five minutes but leave you feeling oh so slightly disappointed at the end, and then you feel guilty for spending twenty minutes reading something that is little more than a rehashed version of a story made up ten years ago. Its little wonder that he subject is seen by the many as being led by a bunch of nuts.

Here's the problem, sites and YouTube channels pop up all over the net claiming that they have the smoking gun of evidence. In 99.9% of cases it's clear that the stories that they publish are completely made up, and the video footage shows something that is actually a planet, or occasionally a test flight of a black project straight out of Area 51.

Pretty much everyone in the countries where there are the most sightings has a phone with a camera. Cameras are pretty decent on phones these days, so why is it that, we still cannot get a decent photograph of the craft from Zeta Reticuli? Those that do show an up close and personal moment a craft fly’s by show enough detail that you can see "made in China" written on the underside. But it's the tiny minority of photographic and video evidence that simply cannot be explained that is interesting.

These so called truth websites are not doing any good at all for the subject of ufology and the case for extraterrestrial life. There are more debunkers than believers, and it seems most of the debunkers are familiar with how Photoshop works and can spot a fake at 50-metres. There are those who also know how Photoshop works that produce the fake images in the first place. I know, I have created UFO's and added them into photographs, the difference is that I don't publish them with a claim that the aliens have landed.

By now you are probably confused, why on earth would a UFO believer also be a debunker? It's simple. For the most part all that the fakes are doing is creating more non-believers and making the subject look completely silly. If the fakers stopped faking we would be able to see the wheat from the chaff. But maybe this is also a part of the master plan.

In the 60's and 70's and even in the 80'e the CIA and other organisations used a tactic that is probably still in use today. Disinformation. This was originally a Cold-War tactic, feed disinformation to the Soviets and their allies, create some panic and make them wonder what on earth we were up to. Of course the Soviets used the exact same tactics and in the end everyone was paranoid. If the Soviets thought we were reverse engineering alien technology we would be ahead of the mind game at least, even if we were nowhere near the reality. It was a useful tactic and as I say, one that is used by all intelligence services even today.

The CIA back in 2013 released a number of previously classified documents regarding Oxcart and the U2 spy plane. They also finally admitted that Area 51 was actually a military base around 90-miles north of Las Vegas despite the fact that we had known Area 51 was a military base for many years. The base is a cog in the mighty military industrial complex and is used as a research, development, and flight test centre mainly for black programs funded out of a budget that we do not know of.

When the U2 started flying, there were many reports of UFO's, never had an aircraft been able to fly so high and so fast, even civilian and military pilots unfamiliar with the new aircraft reported it as a UFO. That of course was welcome news for the CIA. No one would believe they had the capability to fly so high and so fast. This was a Cold-War win for the US, but even after the Cold-War ended, disinformation didn't.

I have been studying the phenomenon for around 20-years, in all that time I have never come across the smoking gun evidence that is all too often touted online. I have stumbled across maybe four cases that cannot be easily explained, and honestly I have no idea if we will ever find out the truth.

For some, the UFO fake phenomenon is a big business. With the new season of the X-Files came about an increase in online UFO and alien activity. When I say big business I mean really big business. YouTube channels can pull in thousands of views generating advertising revenue from traffic, websites offering memberships, souvenirs and DVD's, and of course the conference circuit.

In 2014 the alleged best ever smoking gun proof that aliens had visited earth was to go on display at one of these conferences in Mexico. Some well-established and respected speakers were to turn up, and for over twelve months we were promised that some original Kodak slides would be presented to the audience. Kodak had said that the slides were original, exactly dating them. The problem became apparent the moment that they were released online after the conference. Ever since it has been alleged that the smoking gun was actually a photograph of a mummified body in a museum. I guess no one got their money back from the conference.

These conferences are not cheap either. Guest speakers can command a high rate to present at the events, and generally they are held in very nice conference suites. I imagine that setting a conference such as this up isn't cheap in itself, but without a doubt, a lot of money changes hands. The last conference I attended a few years ago cost around $200 for the ticket, and I spent another $300 on pretty much everything from drinks coasters to tee-shirts and books. Lots of books. I had also spent around £1k in airline tickets and hotel costs, trust me I wasn't the only one to outlay some serious hard cash to attend, over 1000 others had done the same. On the upside, the reception coffee was hot and that's something I have never experienced at any conference in my life.

Will I do it again? Yes, I met some great people but I also met some of those nuts too. It was like there was an invisible line in the dining room at lunch time, the nuts were sat on one side with Go Pro's uploading to YouTube, the serious were sat on the other with folders full of notes collected from many conference visits over many years. Me, well I just sat in the middle. In part because each side had some valid points and in part because that was the only table left, but it was also clear that a few had spent time publishing an update to the web that was their version of what they had just listened too, rather than enjoying the food which by the way was not on par with the coffee.

ROSWELL

As for those theories that may have more substance from all of the theories online, there's no dispute that something happened in Roswell in 1947, but I'm not overly convinced we had a visit. Although initially reported as a flying saucer, that statement was redacted the next day and apparently it was a weather balloon from project Mogul. Now there is a reason that I say we might not have been visited.

For one, Roswell was reported as a UFO and then came the redaction the very next day. Had this have been the totality of what we know about Roswell, I would suggest that it did indeed happen and we were visited by ET. What makes me think that there is little to suggest that it was an alien landing is that it wasn't until many years after when it was once again picked up. The probability of so many people who were involved, managing to keep a secret in the time immediately following the report and when it was once again picked up some years later would be statistically improbable.

There was too much time for something to not be exposed somehow. Equally I don't think it was a weather balloon either. But at times it also makes me think that someone later down the line said something that confirmed the UFO crash and what we have seen since is the remnants of a further cover up. That’s really how a conspiracy works, there are so many theories, but which one is right?

RENDLESHAM

The first of the theories that suggest something has been going on happened in 1980 at RAF Woodbridge in England. A US Airforce base that even had it have been built today would still be in the middle of nowhere.

The Rendlesham Forest incident is this particular case in question. Why don't think there's a little more to it? The answer to that is that it has been constantly discussed, there wasn't a period of time where he information lapsed, but most crucially of all, not only were high ranking and very well trained personnel involved, they have all told a consistent story over the years. It has not once changed, and those people even today tell the same story.

Perhaps adding to this, none of those involved have made the conference circuit a full time career. Yes they have done conferences, but I've yet to find a Jim Penniston or Lieutenant Colonel Halt Tee-Shirt. Yes I have read the book, but there has only been one real book, The Rendlesham Forest Incident. One book does not necessarily a retirement make.

Evidence collected at the scene of the incident showed an increase in radiation levels. According to Jim Penniston and others, there was also a raft of activity at the base with visitors arriving, so sensitive was their work that few people from the actual base knew or engaged with them.

TEHRAN

The Tehran incident where two fighter jets were deployed to intercept an unidentified object but lost power to critical flight and weapon engagement systems is also of worthy note. This event occurred in 1976 when two F4-Phantom II jet interceptors reported losing instrumentation on approach, only for the instruments to be restored on retreat. They also lost access to the weapons systems on-board when preparing to fire at the object.

The incident was recorded in a four-page U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report that was at the very least distributed to the White House, the Secretary of State, Joint Chiefs of Staff, the National Security Agency (NSA), and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Senior Iranian military officers have gone on record over the years stating that their belief was that the object was not of terrestrial origin.

The other side of this conspiracy is that the F4 Phantom II had in general, some issues with electrical systems, and only a month prior to the incident, one of the jets involved had its radar repaired. On the day of the event, September 19th, it was also at the height of two annual meteorite showers, the Gamma Piscids and the Southern Piscids and the tail of the Eta Draconids shower. Could this have been a contributing factor to what was seen?

THE PHOENIX LIGHTS

March 13th 1997, thousands upon thousands of people witnessed an alleged UFO incident in Phoenix, Arizona, and Sonora, Mexico. Between the hours of 19:30 and 22:30 (MST) lights were seen in a space of almost 300 miles.

The Phoenix lights though were actually two incidents, the first was a triangular formation of lights that passed over the state, and a series of stationary lights seen in the Phoenix area. The stationary lights over Phoenix were later to be identified as flares dropped by an A-10 Warthog aircraft on training exercises at the Barry Goldwater Range in southwest Arizona. The U.S. Airforce indicated that the lights were in fact, slow-falling, long-burning LUU-2B/B illumination flares. That seems plausible, flares descend slowly, and their sole remit is being able to light up an area. If they didn’t descend slowly then the area would only be lit for a very short time. The other interesting thing around the use of flares is that they will move with the airflow sometimes creating a zig-zag pattern on descent, and it is this behaviour that makes them seem unnatural.

Flares are also used over the Nellis range including Area 51 in Nevada, and if you take a stroll through any of the desert regions you are likely to find burned metallic objects scattering the desert floor. These objects often get mis-identified for alien craft, and to a lesser extent, black projects operated out of the area.

In the case of the actual sighting of a craft, witnesses claim to have observed a huge V-shaped (several football field sized), coherently-moving dark UFO (stars would disappear behind the object and reappear as it passed by), producing no sound, and containing five spherical lights or possibly light-emitting engines.

Fife Symington, the governor at the time, was one witness to this incident. As governor he ridiculed the idea of alien origin live on national TV, but several years later he called the lights he saw "otherworldly" after admitting he saw a similar UFO.

Whilst there remains a reasonable explanation regarding the static lights being possibly flares, the explanation for the actual V-shaped UFO remains a little harder to explain. Illusory contours has been cited as one possible explanation, a phenomenon that causes the human eye to see unconnected lines or dots forming as a single shape. The interesting part of this case is that there were thousands of witnesses.

There is also a case that if you want to believe, you can and most likely will believe anything that fulfils that need. Being a conspiracy theorist or a ufologist doesn't automatically make you a nut. Open minded perhaps, but certainly not a nut. It is the people who are clearly making a fortune out of applying CGI effects to video, or theorising that just because President Obama was the first President to actually mention Area 51 must mean that either something quite sinister happening or that the moment he said it we were being set up for disclosure. According to the web, 2013, 2014, and 2015 were all the years of full disclosure as to what the government knows. Now it is allegedly 2016, no doubt next year it will be 2017.

CONSPIRACY IN ART

As a digital artist with an interest in ufology, I actually create very few pieces of art featuring UFO’s. I have though recently completed a commission for a book cover for a new work featuring some UFO’s and aliens, this is now one of the few pieces of artwork I have produced featuring UFO’s for commercial use and sale.

I can tell you one thing though, creating a believable alien craft is difficult, and I take my hat off to all of those fake UFO creators who create ships that pass in the night sky for general release to support an alleged conspiracy theory.

Even the fake documentation takes care and skill to produce a realistic effect. Something I tried out last year was to produce a fake document that supported a conspiracy theory. Never the intention to actually use it online to propose evidence of a new theory, but no doubt now it is on this site, it will in a few years most likely end up being used to support a new myth.

The art of creating a document
The art of creating a document! This needs some additional work!

 

 

This document took me a while to create, along with a sample of the video that will be available on my Facebook page: https://facebook.com/beechhousemedia the video took a deal of effort, involved a trip to Lanzarote, and a requirement to actually film it with the iPhone pointed at an iPad screen, adding in various effects using VHS cam, and making it look like it was filmed covertly.

So just what was involved?

Firstly I had to create a back story that was so crazy it could be true. Once I had decided to base the story on a covert mission to Mars in the 80’s, I needed to produce some realistic evidence.

The documentation was perhaps though the hardest part. Firstly finding a realistic font that was sympathetic to the time was a mission in itself. Sure I could have used comic sans, that was around in the first industrial revolution, or it feels as if it was, but my mission was to create an authentic looking document, aged appropriately, and to also make it look like a photocopy of the document had been taken. Too up the odds, do it all using only an iPad.

I had some apps that offered various effects, but many of the built in effects had all been seen before. They would never hold up to any amateur scrutiny, what I needed to do was to produce my own effects, drawn with a Bamboo Fineline stylus, and then processed in a variety of apps.

As I say, the font was mission critical. I have installed fonts in to various writing apps before, but there was nothing worthy of creating a document of historical importance such as this. Then a moment of inspiration came rushing through whilst I was watching an old film using typewriters. My typewriter in the attic was completely out of ink ribbon, so I had to figure something else out. There is little hope of buying a replacement ribbon these days.

In the end I stumbled across the Hanx Writer typewriter app on Apple’s App Store. Using this I was able to create the text, but exporting it for use as an image was problematic. Now bear in mind that what I wanted to do here was to create an aged look, I actually printed out the text and then photographed it using the iPhone 6 camera.

Once the image was cropped and refined, I had at least a reasonable base image to work on. You’ll notice that there is a coffee stain in the left hand lower corner, I figured anyone going through such classified documents would also be a coffee drinker.

For the stamp effect, this was a little more complex, again reverting to another App called Zen Stamp I was able to produce a stamped effect.

The handwriting was next, and researching many unclassified documents many had one thing in common, they had a range of hand-written numbers that made little sense, other than those showing dates. Out came the stylus, and a further layer was created in Procreate, a wonderful digital art app that I use frequently.

Once all of the layers had been completed, a process that by this time had taken me more than a few hours, I had a colourful classified document. Honestly it might have been quicker to break in to the Pentagon and raid their secret vaults. But the documents colour did not look authentic at all. For this next step I used Lightricks Enlight app which is available on both iPhone and iPad.

Utilising the threshold tool within Enlight produced an almost photocopy feel to the document, but it also gave it a look that was far too fresh. More work was needed on the edges of the document, creating some dark space that would indicate it was photocopied in a hurry, and the light of the photocopier missing some of the edges.

Once this part was completed, the document started to take on a real look of a classified document, once again through the threshold tool in Enlight, before working on the folds. As the document was to be viewed on screen, folds were added with the app Fold Defy from http://jixipix.com/mobile/apps.html

The completed document
The final document. Use of threshold tools and many apps.

 

Finally the document was completed, and with a little more aging with various filters from a range of apps, I had finally created a relatively authentic looking classified document that would support a conspiracy theory. All on the iPad.

So creating a conspiracy theory is hard work if you want it to look credible, if you can link it to other conspiracy theories that are popular so much the better. All I am waiting to find out now is just how many times the video gets used in future conspiracy theories. My prediction is that once the video has been quietly waiting online for a few years, at that point someone will introduce it as smoking gun evidence in to a future theory.

WHY?

So why did I decide to create a conspiracy? The answers are many, primarily to raise awareness that there are so many duds out there that really are just a waste of time and an avenue for the fakers to make money. Secondly, the fake theories just diminish the real evidence to a point where nothing is believed, a classic case of the “boy who cried wolf”.

Another reason was that I wanted to see first-hand how much work it would take to make something look as believable as some of the more well-known fake theories, the answer to this is that it takes longer than you think, and I tip my hat to those who are doing this day in, day out.

The final two things I took from this experiment was that it can also cost a lot of money to produce something. In terms of time, just these two pieces of theory content took me in excess of 25-hours. In terms of money, although I already had most of the apps needed, I still managed to spend over £130 to produce the document and video, and that didn’t include the trip to Lanzarote to get footage from a volcanic area of Timanfaya National Park.

Finally I often get asked to produce artwork props for TV and film. Have you ever watched a film and given a thought as to how all of the letters cluttering the detective’s desk actually get there, and what is actually written on them?

In most cases for big budget productions, much of that paperwork is produced specifically for the film. In other instances you might get the occasional glimpse of paperwork that is actually just knocking around the film set, but mostly anything that will make the final cut is bespoke. An artist is usually commissioned to create props such as these, and also to create artwork that hangs on walls. Mostly it will be sympathetic to the time period, no point hanging a Warhol in a scene from Downton Abbey.

Very often we think of props used in TV and film as objects such as cars, costumes, scenery, and common everyday materials. But a thriving industry in making and creating artwork props exist, and it is not always paintings. Letters, computer screens with a display that functions and compliments the theme of the film all have to be created. One of the reasons why I keep paper-stock for years is so that I can produce work on the paper of the day. My collection of paper consists mainly of various aged papers from the late 1970’s, but I have paper that was produced over 100-years ago, still blank, waiting for me to put some ink, paint, or pencil on it.

That has probably done little to dispel the myth that I am a geek and possibly a little sad. I am proud of my paper collection, and to get the desired aged effect, I store it in a filing cabinet just as the original would have been stored, or literally on the window sill, or expose it to various types of light for prolonged period. Once done, it is carefully stored in readiness for the day it will be used!

Logos are increasingly in demand, and creating a logo for a made up company or organisation that will feature in a film can be even more time consuming than many other props, but as an artist, the first time you see the logo you created in a film or TV show is simply amazing. There is though much more work involved than creating a corporate logo, and if the film is successful, the logo will become just as identifiable as even the Nike logo. Who remembers the Mr Fusion logo from Back to the Future Part III, or the Omni Consumer Products logo from Robocop in 1987? Each of these also had a back-story, they were too all intents, real organisations, just without the organisation behind them.

All products, logos, brand names and trademarks that feature prominently in films, need to go through a process of clearance. This usually involves speaking at length to various organisations press offices, and manufacturers, and waiting around to receive clearances can take time.

If you do use logos when filming it is so much easier to use fictional logos. Some organisations will pay for product placement, but if you are running a one day shoot, setting up clearances can wipe out most of the day, if not longer. Some of the clearances can be done in pre-production, (if you have an art department they should have an idea of which products they want to use), but there will always be new products that come up on a daily basis. If the product, logo, brand name or trademark is non-distinctive in the background, you most likely (but not definitely) do not need permission to film it.

THE ARTISTS EXCHANGE

So that’s all for today, this weekend I will be busier than ever attempting to finish off a couple of pieces of art, I said that last week too. Usually March and April are quiet periods for me, but this year it has become extremely busy. I will be popping in to my Facebook group The Artists Exchange to comment on the wonderful art that is being shared by now over 1200 members! If you wish to join, then log in to Facebook and head over to https://www.facebook.com/groups/940723089340284/

Coming up very soon is a pop-up art project that everyone can be involved with. One World, Many Views, Same Time. Details will be posted on the group page. The group is a great place to share the artwork of others, and they in turn sharing your artwork. The group is also a great place to ask for advice or critique.

There will be some exciting community based art projects happening in 2016, and I am hoping that the membership will increase even more. Joining the group is free of charge and is one of the few groups that eliminates spam posts! There’s nothing worse than joining a group only to see that it is dominated by the sales pitch of that one person in the group. So head over to Facebook and join, and I will see you there. For other news and views during the week, please like my Facebook page at https://facebook.com/beechhousemedia and why not stop by my artist page at http://10-mark.taylor.pixels.com and see my latest work on everything from canvases, to posters, to shower curtains, and other homewares.

If you have any tips for creating props and documents, feel free to leave a comment!

 

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