It was the summer of 1998 when the image of the "grey" alien seemed to cross the mass market threshold and could be found appearing on everything from cardboard plates, Bic pens, cups, party hats, napkins, table cloths, gift wrap, lottery tickets, bumper stickers, games, balloons, and lollipops (the dispenser for "Alien Pops" at a corner store is pictured here).
In documenting this phenomenon in an article for SF Weekly.com titled Zap Crackle Pop: Aliens in Pop Culture, I had occasion to interview tonight's guest Michael Lindemann. The image of the grey "has the penetrating simplicity required of all good cultural icons," said Lindemann, who at the time was the editor of the highly respected UFO information source, CNI News.
But was the ubiquity of the alien face more than just that years' "it" graphic design? Were unseen tentacles pulling the strings, preparing us for a great disclosure? "There is no direct proof of an orchestrated public awareness/conditioning campaign," Lindemann told me. "But," he went on to say, "if I were in charge of maintaining public order in the face of possible or impending alien revelations, I would do exactly what I see happening -- create a profusion of somewhat conflicting but mutually reinforcing images --good aliens, bad aliens, silly aliens, scary aliens, serious aliens, scientific aliens, comic-book aliens, conspiracy aliens, etc.--, all aimed at producing a general trend in public awareness that both informs and desensitizes, to the effect: Of course they're here. We already know that. So what?"