Are humans alone in the universe? Is there intelligent life out among the stars? Have any aliens visited Earth?
We don’t know the definitive answer to these mysteries, but neither do deniers. They sure have questions, though! Case in point is Michael Shellenberger, who's now incorporating aliens into his schtick, which is about as obvious a signal one can receive that he is no longer even remotely credible on more immediately relevant issues like climate change. New groups like the Jordan Peterson-fronted Alliance for Responsible Citizenship would be wise to reconsider Shellenberger's involvement, lest they cement the (accurate) perception of climate deniers as conspiracy theorists who are as mad as (tinfoil) hatters.
Even Shellenberger’s audience is skeptical. One tweeter who claims that they "used to trust" Shellenberger asked if there were "signs of this epistemological vulnerability in his other work."
Short answer? Yes. Long answer? Oh absolutely, and it's hard to miss them!
Ever since the unceremonious parting-of-ways of Shellenberger and the Breakthrough Institute he co-founded, his career has been on a downward spiral with a decidedly rightward trajectory. Though his new group took the name "Environmental Progress," it was always a propaganda ploy in that it deliberately co-opted a "progressive" label despite a mission of thwarting progressive policies— which has now become painfully transparent.
Even the people he got to review his anti-environmental book said he got stuff wrong and the guy who basically replaced him at Breakthrough debunked his disinformation, so Shellenberger appears to have sought out new territory to ply his grift of posing as the reasonable 'man in the middle' who's not a conservative but sounds just like one.
Let’s quickly review Shellenberger’s heinous record. His "California Peace Plan" tried to make "fund the police" happen to address drug and housing issues in California (by lying about progressives). He's glomming on to the transphobic "Wokeism Is A Religion" bandwagon to dehumanize trans kids and attack progressives. He's posing as a journalist using the Twitter Files and testifying against progressives. And now, to seemingly complete his “ascent” into madness, he's beaming up to UFOs, claiming last week in a headline at his totally real journalism Substack "Public" that the "US Has 12 Or More Alien Spacecraft, Say Military and Intelligence Contractors."
As fun as that may be, it's unlikely. In fact, debunking these wild UFO (and ghosts and werewolf) claims from "Skinwalker Ranch" is so easy that in addition to normal rebuttals of these abnormal claims, there's even a right-wing, blame-the-libs narrative that's been published in the New York Post. So, it's possible to virtue signal to Republicans, while being skeptical of outlandish UFO claims! But that is not the route Shellenberger chose.
Instead, it's conspiracy-on-conspiracy, as, according to Shellenberger, the government has in its possession alien spacecraft that it's refusing to release, and we only know about it because of a secretive whistleblower who the mainstream media has supposedly ignored (and not because it's not true).
In fact, weird as it is, this narrative that there's a secret whistleblower fits snugly within the disinformation machine as a tactic to undercut trust in institutions of accountability, whether its ginned-up attacks on disinformation researchers (that Shellenberger uses to generate substack subscribers), or climate researchers, or COVID researchers, or trans people, or teachers who dare to tell students about systemic racism.
By invoking supposed whistleblowers to make allegations of Big Government wrongdoing, those who do have something to hide can do double-duty by attacking their opposition with fake whistleblowers, thereby making the public that much more skeptical of the next, real whistleblower to come forward with evidence that implicates them, their funders, or political party.
The truth is out there, for sure. Odds are, though, as less sensationalist voices point out, it's incredibly boring. But that doesn't sell tickets for Shellenberger's big appearance with Russell Brand in London later this month, as his pinned tweet promotes.
The real problem here is not that a clown is chasing clicks with aliens, but that someone who's reliant on the whims of Twitter's algorithms is finding that peddling tabloid dreck as ridiculous as a dozen UFOs is a viable career fallback after big-dollar backing dries up.