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Why UFO Mogul Tom DeLonge Should Be Careful

I want to begin by simply saying that this article is not about Tom DeLonge. Ok. Maybe a bit. It is more “around” him than “about” him.

The man has taken significant abuse as of late. He has been the topic of much discussion over the last year or so within the UFO community concerning his “Sekret Machines” project. Some are calling him one of the most important contributors to modern Ufology, some calling him a charlatan and a fraud, while others yet consider him a victim of a conspiratorial disinformation campaign. Whatever the case, last week fared no better for him. Promising a huge announcement concerning the UFO phenomenon, Mr. DeLonge stepped onto a stage, and live streamed his plan to essentially crowdfund a three-prong company which will use future technology today to travel the stars. His mission is to better humanity.

A still from the “To the Stars Academy” live stream event.

In a public statement, according to the Stereogum music news website, DeLonge stated,

The public interest in the outer edges of science and the understanding of phenomena has always been suffocated by mainstream ideology and bureaucratic constraint. We believe there are discoveries within our reach that will revolutionize the human experience, but they can only be accomplished through the unrestricted support of breakthrough research and innovation.

In a  Facebook post, DeLonge explained one of his company’s main objectives,

We are aiming to build this ElectroMagnetic Vehicle to Travel instantaneously through Space, Air and Water by engineering the fabric of Space-Time.

Sounds great.

Fancy.  (Image: To the Stars/DeLonge)

I want you to put aside your personal opinions concerning Mr. DeLonge and his band of high ranking spies, scientists, and government officials for a moment. It fundamentally does not matter. The ideological ship has sailed for his “To the Stars Academy”, and it has charted its course. We must wait and see if the wind takes it into far reaches of technological progress, or into the back swell and impending rocks.

Rather, I want to you to think about the UFO community, and the effect Mr. DeLonge has on it.

I’ve written extensively on the UFO community, and its cultural history, ideologies and mythologies. In the book, UFOs: Reframing the Debate, I suggested that the UFO community is disenfranchised from mainstream culture. The men and women who make up the UFO community are lost toys who may moonlight in regular everyday society, but in the bulk of their thoughts and actions regularly challenge its arbitrary authority.

The government and multinational corporations are not to be trusted. There is a UFO truth embargo. Insert whatever ideological nonsense you wish. There is an inherent mistrust within the community of the powerful, and the institutions which assign power. In other words, authority is viewed with disdain.

In reality, this mistrust probably stems from the alienation of the UFO community from ‘normal’ culture. The community deems the UFO phenomenon as being incredibly important, and the established systems which arbitrate knowledge, such as the academia, the sciences, popular media, and various political bodies, won’t give UFOlogy the time of day.

While Mr. DeLonge most likely has honest intentions, we must appreciate that the vast majority of the UFO community is ideologically alienated from the mainstream. Regardless of ‘the truth,’ his position within culture is that of privilege. While we may never know why he was chosen by high ranking government officials to be the torchbearer of alleged UFOlogical truth, one can assume it had to do with his fame and ability to allocate capital to various projects (social capital as well as monetary). Or not. Again, it really does not matter. To the community at large, his wealth and fame tips the ideological balance within UFO discourse.

Due to the very democratic, if not anarchic, nature of the UFO community (in that no one person or organization is UFOlogy), DeLonge’s ability to shift the discourse is threatening. Similar to how Donald Keyhoe and others in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s galvanized the extraterrestrial hypothesis into UFO discourse and popular culture, so too may DeLonge’s particular hypothesis regarding UFOs become how the mainstream interprets the whole of UFOlogy. It is not that DeLonge is right or wrong, it is that there will always be dissent within the UFO community. By its very nature, UFO discourse resigns itself to challenging those who claim to ‘know the truth.’

DeLonge, and his supporters, may consider this jealousy or envy, or some other surface level emotional response to his success. I think this is a dangerous path to tread. The UFO community is a heterogeneous mix of people and ideologies, and DeLonge is simply one voice in a very complex political and nuanced choir. While he may be used to being front man, he surely must know that this is not possible here.

(Image: Paper Magazine)

The proliferation of the extraterrestrial hypothesis kneecapped UFO discourse, and the UFO community. It is one of the key reasons why UFOlogy is considered a fringe pseudo-science. Perhaps the UFO community does not want to walk down that path again? Perhaps it has learned that allowing one ideology to become the ideology stifles debate and creates zealots, instead of promoting critical thought and reasonable discussion. Perhaps the UFO community has seen its fair share of big promises only to be left disappointed time and time again.

Mr. DeLonge is a man of two worlds; pop culture icon and member of the UFO community. It is a curious mix, since neither world can agree with the other. Many in the UFO community view him as an outsider; “he cannot be one of us because of who he is.” In some curious twist of logic, Mr. DeLonge finds himself a bit of an outcast among the social outcasts. Yet, by the same token, the mainstream views his latest announcement with a critical tone, and a few snide remarks just for good measure. The risk he took in this move is significant, and we can only hope that fortune truly does favour the bold.

As Mr. DeLonge continues his project, he must look to the ideological influence he generates. He must also be cautious. Others in the UFOlogical field who were once regarded as heroes were later torn to shreds; puddles of blood and ridicule is all that remains of them. That being said, the UFO community must also look to itself. Those upon the fringes of culture should worry about the hypocrisy of casting a fellow outsider out into the night. Mr. DeLonge is no hayseed, and his expertise of UFO lore is, from what I’m told, impressive.

I am not suggesting that the UFO community drink the Kool-Aid Mr. DeLonge is serving, however, perhaps before attacking the man, it should check to see if he is truly poisoning the cup.