(This was originally written as a guest piece for someone else, but I felt it wasn’t a good fit for them, so I never bothered submitting it. It’s been languishing on my hard drive for a while, so I thought I’d post it up so it wasn’t wasted. I was going to post my happy experiences with Age of Sigmar, but I didn’t want to upset the grognards. Instead, here’s the rather dull truth behind Majestic 12.)
Majestic 12 is one of those wonderful bits of conspiracy theory that just seems so right. It’s up there with Area 51, Roswell and the Men in Black as one of the cornerstones of in popular culture when we think of shadowy government conspiracies involving little grey men from half a galaxy away. A mysterious cabal of politicians, scientists and military officers dealing with aliens and recovered alien technology, exploiting it for nefarious purposes, and directing the course of mankind from their smoky, ill-lit conference room has become something of a cliché in ufology fiction, from the Conspiracy in The X-Files, the Majestic-12 of Delta Green, or a more benign example with the X-COM organisation of the games of the same name (or XCOM, if you want to be picky).
And like all things that seem so right when it comes to conspiracy theories, it’s absolute bollocks.
The story goes that President Harry S. Truman set up Majestic 12 (Or MJ12, or Majik-12) in the early Fifties, to facilitate the recovery and research of alien technology. The “12” comes from the alleged twelve members of the steering committee, all respected and notable in their fields. This all came about after the Roswell Incident, which as far as anyone can really tell, wasn’t an incident at all. The purpose of the committee was to cover up the Roswell Incident, study the recovered UFO, and work out how to deal with further interactions with extra-terrestrials. As the Roswell Incident was in fact just a Project Mogul weather balloon that had crashed (designed to study Soviet atomic weapon tests, so understandably the US government wouldn’t want to talk about it at the start of the Cold War) it does rather shoot a fatal hole in this, but just run with the idea it was actually a UFO full of aliens from Zeta Reticuli (I wonder if they visited LV426 on the way out) for the moment. Well, we could if there was anything else to go on. After that, the “facts” such as they are rather fall apart, and we’re flying blind and left to wade in the seething sea of conspiracy theorist bullshit.
The documents apparently were left to sit for the best part of forty years, only to be discovered in the Eighties by ufologists searching for matter related to the Roswell Incident (which, with the Soviet Union still a thing, the US government was still rather reluctant to admit to). However, it’s become clear beyond any reasonable doubt the Majestic 12 Papers were a forgery, with the FBI investigating the matter only to confirm it was fake. A US Air Force investigation also confirmed the documents were fake, and that no such committee was ever formed, and no “Operation Majestic 12” ever took place. Of course, all the US government investigations in the world can’t convince anyone if they assume the US government is in on it, hiding the truth from the public at large, but as near as anyone can tell, Majestic 12 never existed until the Eighties. Just who or why the papers were planted is something of a mystery, but it’s not too much of a stretch to assume it was the people who “found” it in the first place.
Jaime Shandera is the first of the three. A television producer in Los Angeles, he apparently received a package that contained some film that, when developed, showed a handful of pages from the Majestic 12 documents. Beyond this, there isn’t a huge amount about him online, so as the story moves onto how the full set of documents was found, it makes sense to move onto the other two people who “found” the Majestic 12 papers. Apparently Shandera, Stanton T. Friedman and Bill Moore later received mysterious messages that directed them to another document, the Cutler/Twining Memo. These have been held up to prove the legitimacy of the Majestic 12 papers, but much like the papers themselves, the Cutler/Twining Memo is regarded as a rather shabby fake. So who are the other two?
Stanton T. Friedman is a ufologist, but before that, he was a nuclear physicist who worked in research and development for a list of rather reputable companies. In the Seventies, he jacked that in to become an expert on UFOs and has made a rather nice career out of it, lecturing and consulting on the subject around the globe, even appearing before the United Nations in this capacity twice. He’s also rather defensive about the legitimacy of the Majestic 12 papers, and apparently gets little opposition at his lectures. Of course, I’d argue a lot of this is down to the fact outside of a handful of people who make it their business to debunk wooly thinking, most people don’t read up heavily on subjects they consider to be hogwash. In my own experience dealing with 9/11 “Truthers” I will happily concede they have the edge on me in regards to various aspects of minutiae, but that’s because I don’t spend my life trying to see the holes in the official story. People who aren’t spending their lives immersed in conspiracy theories, who probably find them to be utter bunkum, aren’t going to be able to point out the flaws because they don’t care enough to learn where they are. But I digress.
The third member of this jolly trio was the author Bill Moore, who beyond writing a book on the Roswell Incident, co-authored another on the so-called “Philadelphia Experiment”. In any case, both books were not exactly met with critical acclaim, as even to die-hard believers they were considered pretty awful books. Moore’s reputation isn’t exactly the best, as when the accusing fingers started being pointed about the authenticity of the Majestic 12 papers, they were mainly pointed at him.
A further document came to light in the mid-Nineties, claiming to be an “operations manual”, but it was swiftly debunked. Of course, this isn’t to tar all ufologists with the same brush. There are many out there who freely admit that the Majestic 12 myth is just that, a myth. But there are plenty who cling to the idea, and if you’re of a particularly paranoid frame of mind, you could argue the split caused in the ufology community caused by the reveal and apparent debunking of the papers is part of a shadowy plan to divide and conquer. Of course, that could be exactly what They want you to think. Wheels within wheels, man!
In the end, the Majestic 12 story is an example of a conspiracy theory that seems to have been given a huge amount of life by popular culture, despite the astonishing lack of any hard evidence. Less than two-dozen pages discovered in the mid-Eighties, repeatedly debunked from all angles, and yet it still has life. Like most conspiracy theories, it gives the impression all that is bad and wrong in the world is the fault of someone, that there is a driving intelligence behind everything evil, that there is some grand and malevolent plan. The truth, as near as we can tell, is that there really isn’t, which is probably a lot more terrifying. There was no Roswell UFO to pull apart to get an edge over the wily Soviets, no dead aliens to be dissected under the stern gaze of a very shaky camera, no live ones to be interrogated, and no mysterious committee of twelve overseeing it all for a shadowy purpose. Much like the Illuminati (another conspiracy theory about a mysterious, influential organisation, albeit with slightly more grounding in reality, if only because the Bavarian Illuminati actually existed) they make for great villains and antagonists in fiction, but that’s all they are.