MoD documents: an exercise in language

At a conference in Sedona, on May 16th 2014, John F. Burroughs begun talking about “Technical Memorandum 55/2/00″ and suddenly some things started to happen on the internet. Quite a few websites started to get excited by some of the selective quoting that was taking place from this document. The document in question is, to give it its full title :”Unidentified aerial Phenomena in the UK Air Defence Region: Executive Summary. Technical Memorandum 55/2/00”. It is quite often referred to as “The Condign Report”. The report does several things. Firstly it starts to integrate the use of the phrase “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena” (UAP) into MoD terminology to distance itself from the use of “UFO”. Secondly, it suggests that somehow these UAP sightings are caused by a combination of factors including atmospheric phenomena, space weather, plasma but isn’t quite sure how it actually happens. So thirdly, it answers one mystery with another mystery.

However, some people (including Burroughs I suspect) are reading into it, things that aren’t really there. The selective quoting tries to twist the document to say something it doesn’t. Before we get onto the quotes, Burroughs intimates that there is a perception that the MoD handed over all classified UFO documentation over to the National Archives. Perception is hard to measure, but the fact is the MoD handed over pretty much everything loosely connected with the infamous “UFO desk”. At no point has it been intimated that the MoD had a good filing day and cleaned out the cupboards marked “UFO”. The MoD released all the public submitted sightings and anything that passed through the UFO desk, plus a few internal documents and reports. 

Burroughs states that the MoD has admitted there is a real phenomena, rather than a weather-based phenomena, and it admitted it in the Condign Report. He uses the following quote: “That Unidentified Aerial Phenomena exist is indisuptable. Credited with the ability to hover, land, take-off, accelerate to exceptional velocities and vanish, they can reportedly alter their direction of flight suddenly and clearly can exhibit aerodynamic characteristics well beyond those of any known aircraft or missile – either manned or unmanned“. But the MoD are referring to what they believe is causing the sightings. The MoD is admitting to the weather phenomena, not UFOs. Selective quoting can make it seem like something else. That is the joy of the language of such documents, it can easily be twisted to say something else.

Burroughs also makes an interesting claim that several “UFO policy documents” are still being held by the MoD and are still classified. That is probably true, and as I have long stated, there are probably many other documents sat in filing cabinets that would make interesting reading. These documents probably are held in departments we do not even know the name of, so getting some access via the FOIA will be difficult enough. 

Doublespeak, is an essential skill for the MoD/Civil Service, especially when dealing with such sensitive subjects. Lets not add to it, by mis-reading what the document clearly states.

 

 

 

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