"Society" means the greater human context that we all live in every day. In modern, 21st century societies, the broad aspects of society are mostly represented by organizations of one kind or another. Organizations are built by money, power, and connections. Walk around your city and look at the buildings. Why are they there? Some organizational power built them. Was it a governmental organization, business organization, religious organization, nonprofit organization, or, perhaps, a powerful private individual? What?
Each of these organizational forces has some relationship to UFOs. Let's take a look.
These divide into military and non-military. Military organizations are tasked with maintaining the national security of the U.S. Anything that threatens this must be responded to. Would mysterious things in the sky be a possible threat? Most folks would say "yes." Thus, the military should have a deep relationship with UFOs, and, in fact, it has had throughout the history of the UFO and still does today.
Non-military organizations are the governmental organizations that make laws, enforce laws, take care of societal infrastructure like roads, sewers, etc., take care of the welfare of the middle class and poor, etc. (You are right. We forgot the rich. The government takes care of the rich the best, of course.) Does the UFO affect any of these things? Hardly at all, with maybe one exception: the various non-military governmental intelligence organizations such as the FBI, CIA, NSA, and others, and sometimes the law enforcement organizations at the federal, state, and local levels.
You would naturally expect the national level intelligence organizations to be involved for two reasons: it is their job (1) to keep tabs on threats to the national security (just as the military does) and (2) to monitor how the public is responding to the UFO phenomenon, just like the FBI and CIA monitored (and tried to disrupt sometimes) the various anti-war groups during the Vietnam War era (with their COINTELPRO program).
Why UFOs? If the alien abduction phenomenon is real (and ufologists certainly believe it is), then a federal law is being broken. It is against the law to kidnap people and, in fact, the FBI is charged with investigating kidnappings. However, as a matter of fact, no UFO abductees report their experiences to law enforcement because they hardly understand what has happened to them in the first place. So, ufologists believe that the FBI has never launched an investigation because a UFO abductee has requested it. However, many ufologists believe that the FBI has probably kept tabs on abductees sometimes and has certainly kept tabs on the various UFO groups over the years.
America is all about business. The vast majority of large buildings are devoted to business interests. Something around 200 of the largest corporations control more than half of the U.S. economy. Could businesses be involved with UFOs? By and large, of course, they are not with one large exception. These are the corporations that do black budget research and development for the U.S. They deliver military and aerospace products and services.
The black budget is that part of the total U.S. budget every year that is devoted to completely secret projects of one sort or another. The F-117A Fighter and B-1 Stealth Bomber, for example, were two projects paid for by the black budget. A good introduction to the black budget is Tim Weiner's Blank Check. No one knows for sure, but something like $40 billion a year was spent in the 1980s on the black budget according to Weiner. Even your Senate Intelligence Committee does not know what goes on and how much is spent. See this Slate magazine article for more.
Could corporations working in the black budget area of government be secretly dealing with the UFO situation? Of course they could. And the information about this in the UFO subculture literature runs the gamut from reasonably credible to wildly credulous. There is not much doubt that the black budget secret protectors routinely run disinformation programs in the UFO subculture to keep things stirred up and confused. See Gregory Bishop's Project Beta for documentation of a UFO disinformation campaign waged against a rather credulous, but well-intentioned professional engineer, the late Paul Bennewitz. Some UFO researchers like Tim Good, J. Allen Hynek, and Linda Howe have reported being involved in what later turned out to be government intelligence run disinformation operations.
These are represented in the U.S. mostly by Christian groups of various beliefs and practices. The two primary categories are the Catholics and the many Protestant groups, which divide roughly along liberal and conservative cultural lines. Essentially, the Catholics and mainline Protestant groups of a liberal bent are silent on the UFO. They do not officially or unofficially preach, write, or even think about UFOs. Ufologists believe that there is no material, special involvement in UFOs by this group of Christians. Conservative Christians (mostly fundamentalists and evangelicals—the "born-agains"), on the other hand, have thought about, occasionally preached about, and often written books about UFOs. Something around 50 books entirely about UFOs have been written by conservative Christians. The invariable interpretation of UFOs, of course, is that they are part of the Satanic realm. UFOs are not materially involved with conservative Christians more than with anyone else, ufologists believe.
Other religious groups in America, such as the Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, and Jews, do not think, preach, or write about UFOs with the possible exception of the Tibetan Buddhists. Because their religion is so heavily meditation-based, they may have insights into UFOs that other practitioners do not.
Ufologists have looked at the various UFO-related religious cults over the years, such as the Unarius Society, the Raelians, and the Heavens Gate cult, but none of these cults seems to have any insights into or knowledge of UFOs greater than what ufologists themselves do. The UFO ideas of these cults stem mainly from the channeling (mediumistic) practices that most of these cults engage in. Ufologists do not believe that the channeling phenomenon, whatever its reality status might be, offers any special knowledge of or insights into UFOs.
In the 1950s, various people (George Adamski, Truman Bethurum, Daniel Fry, Dino Kraspedon, and later in the 1970s and 80s, Billy Meier) claimed special face-to-face contact with the "UFO people." Almost all ufologists reject the claims of knowledge and experience of these "contactees." Much of their factual information has turned out to be incorrect and much of the rest of it cannot be verified at all easily.
NPOs (Nonprofit Organizations)
Nonprofit groups are mainly educational, recreational, civic, or charity related. Some examples are the National Rifle Association, the National Grange, the Benevolent & Protective Order of the Elks, the American Red Cross, the Ford Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the American Chamber of Commerce. There are something well over one million nonprofit organizations in America today.
Ufologists have not found that any of the large nonprofits are involved with the UFO in any way, especially any material way. The nonprofits do not study UFOs nor do they distribute money to UFO organizations trying to study UFOs. UFO research and advocacy groups are, of course, organized as nonprofits themselves. MUFON, for example, is a 501(c)(3) organization.
However, it is quite possible that some of the large charitable organizations, such as the Ford Foundation or the Rockefeller Foundation, have secretly funded UFO-related projects, but this is not known to the UFO research community if true.
Considering the mission of educational institutions, this sector of society has been woefully inadequate in the eyes of ufologists, especially the institutions of higher learning—the colleges and universities of the U.S. By rights, there should be free and open study of this widespread phenomenon, but you will look in vain to find any longterm study of UFOs at any of America's colleges or universities. The reasons for this are complex and are addressed elsewhere on this site.
Ufology should be organized as a multi-disciplinary study probably centered in departments of anthropology and archeology since UFOs seem to be deeply involved with humankind, probably since earliest times. Another candidate department might be astronomy/astrobiology. The study must be multi-disciplinary because the UFO has biological, medical, psychological, apparent psychical, physiological, geological, and religious aspects among others. Despite this reality, you cannot major or minor in UFO studies in any accredited institution of higher learning in America.
Much to the detriment of basic human knowledge, the academic establishment has failed miserably to do its duty to intellectual integrity and especially to the tens of thousands of people who are UFO abductees. Ufologists hope, and work everyday toward this, that academics will eventually realize the error of their ways and openly and honestly study the most important subject ever to face humankind.
Interestingly, primary and secondary education does a better job of handling the UFO problem than the institutions of higher learning. UFOs and the world of the paranormal are scary, exciting subjects to many grade schoolers, so you find that there are many juvenile books devoted to the paranormal. UFOs are especially well represented, perhaps because of the relationship of UFOs to outer space and space travel, which many children are interested in. Of the 1500 or so books in English about UFOs, perhaps around 100 are juvenile books. UFOs are not often the subject of study in grade school or secondary school, but occasionally teachers use the subject to entice children into improving their reading skills or, sometimes in a science class, into increasing their investigatory and critical thinking skills.
By and large, educational institutions are silent on UFOs. Perhaps this will change for the better in the near future.
Rich and powerful people occasionally are involved with UFOs, but this is rare. The recently deceased Laurance Rockefeller had quite an interest in the phenomenon in the 1990s and did devote some of his millions to further research. The ufology community thanks Mr. Rockefeller for this. A Las Vegas land developer, Robert Bigelow, has spent some serious money in this field and has encouraged and helped develop some important scientific and scholarly work by funding his National Institute for Discovery Science. This work is now, unfortunately, suspended. Ufology thanks Mr. Bigelow. Joe Firmage, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, spent some money in the 1990s in an effort to alert the world to the alien intelligence phenomenon, which he loosely connected to UFOs. But he basically got ridiculed for his efforts and he is now gone from the field. UFO author Whitley Strieber spent some serious money in the field and still participates to some extent. The ufology community thanks Mr. Strieber for his kind efforts in helping ufology.
Actually, our own government in the past and a number of rich folks recently have spent big money on extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) study, but it has been the wrong kind. This is the ETI figment of the SETI imagination. SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) is the name of a fringe field of scientific study. The problem with SETI is that the only ETs interested in Earth seem to be UFO ETs, and the SETI cultists dismiss UFOs out of hand as products of overheated imaginations. But consider this: no SETI scientist has ever read more than five of the top one hundred UFO books by ufologist scholars and scientists. Their prejudice against UFOs is so great that they haven't even done the first thing that any honest scholar or scientist does when faced with a new area of knowledge: read the relevant literature.
Because SETI scientists use ordinary science and are many times affiliated with academic institutions, they seem like legitimate scientists doing legitimate scientific work—at least to the ignorant rich folks who support them like Paul Allen, Steven Spielberg, David Packard (Hewlett Packard), William Hewlett (Hewlett Packard), Gordon Moore (Intel), and others. SETI efforts have spent millions of dollars over 30 or more years and have nothing to show for it; whereas, in 60 years, ufology has spent, perhaps, a half million dollars from the pockets of people like you and me and has built up a sizable body of knowledge that convinces any reasonable person who peruses it that some UFOs are indeed flying saucers (whatever those are). At the very least, any rational and unprejudiced person would be convinced that UFOs must be studied in academia now and long into the future for the ultimate good of humankind.
This societal force has mostly a cultural interest in UFOs. Some in the serious art world are fascinated by the bizarre and outré, and they fancy that UFOs are part of that. Most of the visual art that is readily available to the public, however, is produced by experiencers themselves or graphic artists who happen to be close to the UFO subculture for some reason. See Jim Nichols and William McDonald. A number of European Renaissance paintings show oddities that can be interpreted as evidence of UFO activity. See Matthew Hurley's The Alien Chronicles. And, additionally, ancient astronaut researchers point out various archeological artifacts that can be interpreted as ET related. See, among many others, the works of Zecharia Sitchin.
Rock and roll musicians have been occasionally attracted to the topic of UFOs and there are many songs featuring UFO/flying saucer lore. See Michael Luckman's Alien Rock.
American society has a sizable contingent of people involved in the world of sport. To be sure, this is mainly dominated by big business interests today, but it still qualifies as a separate part of our society. As you might expect, the sports world has no material relationship to UFOs. Only very rarely are UFOs even mentioned in the sports world. The "UFO people" don't seem to care about sports—American style, anyway! And the world of sports and sports figures don't seem to care about UFOs! But consider this UFO sports oddity: during the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, the grand finale featured a blacked out stadium into which was lowered a model of a flying saucer. This was sponsored by Levi Strauss, the makers of the jeans. Levi Strauss went on to advertise with more alien-themed advertising in the 1980s and 1990s.
This is where all the action is. The great mass of regular people in America and around the world bear the brunt of the UFO phenomenon. The UFO phenomenon happens to them. It is an experience. Many are convinced that it is real. But for many of them (the abductees and some experiencers who generally are especially close to the UFO), just what kind of reality it is, is virtually impossible to get a grip on. Since there is no establishment acknowledgment of the UFO subject, the people are left to deal as best they can with what is happening to them. Luckily, a very small, but very dedicated group of Americans and citizens in other countries around the world (ufologists) have diligently studied UFOs for over 60 years now. Quite a body of good, solid information has been developed despite the severe handicaps of scant time and money. But all ufologists know that much, much more work needs to be done. There are probably generations of work left to be done on understanding just what kind of strange phenomenon UFOs are.
News and Entertainment Media
Another great disappointment to ufologists has been the mainstream news media — print and TV — over the years. The generally poor coverage of the mainstream news media (New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, etc., and ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, etc.) during the last 60 years has been an object of study itself by ufologists. The best study is Terry Hansen's The Missing Times. Essentially, the problem is that the mainstream news media take their cues on how to handle a subject from the various establishment sources of information. If the scientific establishment speaks on UFOs (no matter how ill-informed or downright silly), it is accepted as truth by the news media. If the U.S. Air Force speaks on UFOs (no matter how ill-informed or downright silly), it is accepted as truth.
One must remember also that the news media today are increasingly controlled by big business. Thus, the news media are less and less independent as the years go by. Real investigative reporting takes time and money, and, anyway, the results of the investigative reporting might get you in trouble with the government, or military, or other big businesses. So why rock the boat? Where is the profit in that?
On the other hand, the big media corporations also increasingly control the entertainment media. Here UFOs are safe to treat because the question of their reality is not an important issue. And treat them they do! The public is introduced to all kinds of UFO research information because the public gets to decide for itself by itself whether it is real or not. No one is forcing the public to confront the issue as real or not real as would be the case if Sixty Minutes or the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams treated the subject seriously.
All kinds of UFO alien and science fiction alien-themed shows are launched every year as the big corporations hope to capture your dollars. Some do pretty well like Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Taken TV series. Some don't like Spielberg's Artificial Intelligence: AI. Some ufologists think that a sort of UFO education program is being run on the American people and the people of the world, too, to some extent because a few prominent ufologists were specifically told this by people they had reason to believe were connected to the world of government intelligence agencies. Timothy Good is one such ufologist. For an intriguing look into the possible connections between the world of the intelligence establishment and the entertainment media, see Bruce Rux's Hollywood Vs. the Aliens.
Like it or not, every society is plagued by certain people who want to do harm to people or property. The people who break laws come from all walks of life from the most powerful and educated to those much less fortunate. Ufologists believe that the criminal element is not involved with UFOs to any appreciable extent at all. Usually people break laws to gain some financial reward — at least the rational among them anyway. This is true for the street criminal as well as for the corporate boardroom variety. These people do not care about UFOs and are not materially involved more than any other group of people. Despite this, there are possibly some people who break laws over UFOs. These people work for the intelligence agencies of the U.S. The laws broken are civil rights laws mostly. The reasons, of course, for this criminal behavior are murky at best because intelligence agency operations can always claim motivations based upon national security. The national security excuse has covered a host of sins down through the history of 20th and 21st century America, just like it has for all powerful countries.
Of the eleven areas of society briefly examined above, the government (especially military and intelligence branches), religion, education, the people, and the news and entertainment media are involved with the UFO at some important level. Unfortunately, this is mostly negative because the powerful individuals in these areas of society see the UFO as a problem and not as an opportunity, with the exception of the entertainment industry. This short-sighted attitude has created a big problem for the people in the U.S. and around the world who come into close contact with the UFO phenomenon. UFO experiences are very mind-bending for close encounter experiencers, and they need all the help that an enlightened society can give them to cope effectively with their experiences.
Perhaps in the next fifty years, the U.S. government will come clean with the American people and the ignorant scientific and scholarly establishment will join ufologists in a longterm, serious study of UFOs. But today, we can only hope for a favorable turn of events such as the following. There is an outside chance that the phenomenon itself will inadvertently (or not) force the hand of our various societal establishments, and then we will begin the process of all finally knowing as a society some fundamental truths about the UFO phenomenon and human experience itself.