IT'S all over the Internet so it must be true aliens will be invading the earth within the next 18 months and they reckon they…

IT'S all over the Internet so it must be true aliens will be invading the earth within the next 18 months and they reckon they can take out the whole planet in three days flat.

There's no need to worry even as we speak a top level international military team is preparing to fight back against the extra terrestrial aggressors and here's how remember the Roswell incident when an alien spaceship crash landed in New Mexico in 1947 but was hushed up the US government? The idea is to refit the craft, take to the skies and blow the invading aliens out of the galaxy.

Such a pathetic a movie plot has just been started up to become Independence Day one of the biggest grossing films in recent cinema history. Millions of Americans are having close encounters of the box office kind to watch some wretched paranormal space opera that has been held partly responsible for the results of a recent Newsweek magazine poll in the US which found that 48 per cent of Americans believe UFOs are real 29 per cent believe that we have made contact with aliens and 49 per cent think there's a government plot to cover the whole thing up.

It gets worse Bill Clinton requested a private preview of Independence Day which heartened UFO cultists everywhere, while over in another part of the White House, Hillary Clinton (Bless her) is doing her bit for all things spooky and mysterious by channelling spirits from the other side so she can chat with Eleanor Roosevelt, among other famous dead people.

All of this is happening in a country where last April, the Governor of Nevada officially renamed State Route 375 as the Extraterrestrial Highway because of the frequency of UFO sightings where the ever growing members of the Centre for the Study of Extraterrestrial Intelligence busy themselves touring the country lecturing people on "other dimensions of existence" but seem unable to answer the simple question "like what?", where major corporations are setting up ESP labs it's called the "JIC" factor ("Just In Case") where new age travel companies are offering "tourism for the soul" which apparently consists of staying at home and doing what is known as brain wave surfing, and where tales of shamanic journeying, channelling voices, telepathy, ESP and psychokinesis have replaced bitching about your colleagues as dinner party conversation topics.

Contemporary philosophers, along with a small army of psychologists, theologians, sociologists and the odd nutter say that the US is experiencing a "major alien moment" that is having a major knock on effect on the "spirituality" index. And as we have learnt to our cost over the years, where the US leads, Europe follows.

For the first time in the history of the planet there is proof positive of an alien invasion it's an invasion of our popular culture. Consider there are II major studio UFO movies scheduled release over the next 12 months, including John Travolta coming over all telekinetic in Phenomenon. The massive success of the X-Files ("the ratings are out there") has spawned a whole series of supernatural soaps, like Nowhere Man, that will be beamed onto a terrestrial TV station near you soon. Two different versions of the X-Files theme music have topped the hit parade and there is a general glut of spooky ambient music filling the shelves in record shops. Books with meaningless titles like Life After Life, Parapsychology A Controversial Science and The Tibetan Book Of Dying are weighing down coffee tables, and even the Walt Disney empire (whose eponymous founder was a pioneer into the mad science of cryogenics) have renamed their Tomorrowland theme park as the Extra TERRORestrial Encounter. Gosh.

What does it all mean? Probably nothing. As fads go it's about as meaningful as the hula hoop. Except it's not a fad the fascination with the paranormal is a fascination with ourselves, who we are, where we're going, what the future holds and other such worthy issues. As a race, we seem to be suffering from a bad case of P.M.T. PreMillennial Tension for which there is no known cure.

THERE has been a dizzying spurt of hyper acceleration over the last few decades in the fields of politics, economics and religion and it is no coincidence that there has been a corresponding boom in all forms of mania and superstition.

Back to the X-Files, which has taken most of the credit/blame for this present bout of fascination with the paranormal. In the television show, there's a UFO poster behind Agent Mulder's desk which bears the words "I want to believe". According to behind the series, Chris Carter, these words say it all about belief in the paranormal. "I read somewhere that there are three million people in the US who believe they've actually been abducted by aliens," says Carter. "So I thought, well, this is interesting, so I took the idea to the studio bosses and said there are people out there taking this stuff seriously and I think that we can make that belief the foundation of the show the show has to be based on science friction in order for us to create our science fiction."

Ironically, most of what is termed "paranormal" in the show is actually a more earthy mix of post cold war, anti-government paranoia coupled with some good ol' fashioned conspiracy theory. There's also enough slyly humorous references to keep its obsessive fans happy on the Internet for hours on end after each programme finishes.

"Did any other Douglas Adams's Hitch hiker's Guide to the Galaxy fans out there notice that Mulder's apartment number is 42? It's the answer to the question of Life, the Universe and Everything," read one recent posting.

Brandon Mikos, one of the better, commentators on popular culture around, says that the X-Files, far from being about things that go bump in the night, is really about presenting storylines that rattle our own psychological cages and push us around the conspiratorial curve. The show plays with the notion that someone our government, our neighbours, even our families is lying to us. "For some people it is less escapist television than `confirmation' television," says Mikos, "it confirms their worst fears about the state of the world. Conspiracy buffs and people who have lost all trust in their government and other authority figures point to the X-Files and say See, it really could happen.

There would be no X-Files without the actions of the US government over the years, and without the reactions of the general US population who have never met a conspiracy they didn't like. From the Roswell incident to JFK's assassination up through Vietnam, Watergate, Iran Contra, Waco, Oklahoma and Whitewater, not to mention the government's self confessed involvement in human radiation experiments, there's a conspiracy standing on every street corner just waiting to tell its story.

"There's a general feeling of distrust among the populace and what these shows do very well is pick up on that underlying feeling," says Ngaire Genge, the author of The Unofficial X-Files Companion. "They feed us just enough factual information so that the public is willing to go the extra step and say Yes, there could be other conspiracies here. While they say that the people and things we have traditionally trusted might not be what we think they are that the government may not be levelling with us they also present the possibility that we can find out what is true and good, that the truth still exists and that is a very hopeful and even old fashioned idea people hold very dear."

The truth, it seems, is not "out there", not out there among the UFO cluttered galaxies and not out there amid the psychic voices and the meditation crystals. In the world of the X-Files, the truth is closer to home, lurking somewhere inside the corridors of power. Why be paranoid all by yourself?