The UFO mythology in the U.S. has a rich history dating back to the infamous Roswell incident of the late ’40s. What the documentary Mirage Men posits is that everything the public believes about UFOs was intentionally fabricated by the government. But why? What would be the purpose of this massive disinformation program? And why are UFO conventions always held in the most depressing hotel function halls? Mirage Men features tons of testimonies from UFO researchers, ex-government workers, and pilots – all focused not on whether UFOs are real or not, but if and why the U.S. government fed believers false information to draw attention away from their actual clandestine operations.
Taken from the 2010 book of the same name by Mark Pilkington, Mirage Men focuses essentially on one major player in the UFO disinformation program and the fallout from his actions: retired officer Richard Doty, who worked for the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI). During the 1970s and 80s, Doty’s job was to deliver false information to UFO researchers and to what is largely referred to as the “UFO community.” He was basically a professional liar. He comes off nowadays like kind of a creep, but a charming one. Talking to the camera, you get the feeling he’s still not telling the truth about much of anything. He eerily refers to himself as a “private citizen” several times in the film.
One of Doty’s most well-known interjection’s into UFO research was through Paul Bennewitz, a WWII vet and electronics genius who lived next to an Air Force base in New Mexico. Doty was assigned to befriend Bennewitz and make him think they were truly performing UFO-related experiments. In reality, Bennewitz was being targeted by the National Security Agency, who were beaming phony messages from aliens into his home. Eventually, Bennewitz went insane and had to be institutionalized.
This is just one of the many examples of shady U.S. government shit discussed in Mirage Men. The film is one big, fascinating tapestry of covert operations designed to confuse the hell outta the American public about UFOs. As one expert in the film points out, the government must be covering something up. If they weren’t, couldn’t they much more easily say “no comment?” – rather then spend who-knows-how-much on all of these disinformation campaigns? It’s pretty terrifying when you think about it for too long.
But we all know the government lies, right? So why the hell are they lying about E.T.s? This question has been circling the UFO community for years and Mirage Men briefly touches on some palpable theories. One idea is the since Doty was active during the Cold War, the misinformation fed to the public could’ve been created to throw the Soviets off our game. Still, if that’s the case, why mess with a poor bastard like Bennewitz, who lost literally everything from his business to his mind.
Doty comes off as very unapologetic about his past and offers no comment on the sad fate of Bennewitz. He now attends UFO conventions and is outspoken about his views on the whole thing. During the final moments of the film, he drops the innocent special agent act and shows himself to be possibly just as crazed as any other UFO conspiracy theorist. I suppose you don’t work for the Air Force’s covert operations for that long without seeing some shit.
Of course, being a documentary about UFOs, Mirage Men never offers any solid evidence. One claim cancels out the next and conspiracies abound until the truth is unrecognizable from the misinformation. Nevertheless, it’s an engrossing documentary that presents some downright scary information at times. It’s a refreshing angle on the subject too and even the most diehard UFO enthusiast may find something new here.