December 18, 1998 4:00 AM PST
USWeb founder on quest for ET truth
Firmage is in the early stages of a campaign to convince the world not only that aliens exist, but that much of the world's religious traditions and recent technological advancements--from fiber optics to semiconductors--are attributable to extraterrestrial influence.
He is maintaining his position as "chief strategist" of USWeb, the successful Web consulting firm that yesterday took another step forward in its merger with the CKS Group. But his private passion has cast him in a public role as Silicon Valley's version of the X-Files' Fox Mulder--an eccentric who believes that a world-shaking truth is being hidden by a government cover-up.
"The subject of UFOs has been ridiculed with a proactive campaign of government disinformation for decades," the 28-year-old Firmage says.
Close encounters on snooze time A year ago, after more than a decade of studying physics on his own, Firmage says he experienced an epiphany of sorts.
Exhausted by work on the USWeb IPO, he was borrowing a few extra moments of sleep from his alarm's snooze button when a glowing, Jesus-like figure appeared over his bed, he says. After a few moments of conversation about space travel--one of Firmage's pet topics--the visitor disappeared, leaving the CEO inspired by the vision.
That experience catalyzed his current campaign. He's spent a year writing a book called "The Truth," detailing his theories about extraterrestrial influence and the future of humans in space, and is now mounting a major media campaign to publicize it.
He's already spent close to $3 million advertising the book in major national newspapers, and on National Public Radio. He's begun work with several television documentary producers to create shows about the ideas. The campaign has started to drive considerable traffic to his Web site, where he has recently pre-published his book. The book itself will be out in print form early next year.
He expects to catch considerable flack for his ideas, although he says he believes people in Silicon Valley, where he is well-known as a start-up wunderkind, will read the book and do him the credit of trying to understand his ideas.
"I have no economic motive in advancing this hypothesis or these materials. I have every conceivable career disincentive for pursuing this research," he writes on his Web site. "However, this line of discovery in my opinion is more important than any individual's career, and I am putting my money where my mouth is to do this."
The Truth is bigger than you think Much of Firmage's theory is based on documents that purport to be evidence of a government investigation--and cover-up--of spaceship crashes in the US between 1947 and 1953, including the famous Roswell incident.
According to these documents, a group of top level military, political, and scientific figures formed a group called the "Majestic 12" to study the pieces of the alien wreckage and develop a response.
Much of the last few decades' technological advancement, from fiber optics to semiconductors, was boosted by pieces of technology taken from the crashed spacecraft and distributed to labs around the country, he says.
But his theories are much grander. He believes that alien intervention is responsible for starting most of the world's major religious traditions. His book traces the development of these faiths, casting them as extraterrestrials' efforts to lay an ethical groundwork for a future moment--possibly to arrive soon--where humans will learn to control gravity for the purpose of space flight.
Firmage supports the theories by pointing to the Majestic 12 documents, but he says he's also secured outside confirmation.
"The expression of [the theories] are my own," he says. "But much of it is information I have secured from meetings with some of the most senior military figures and senior physicists in the world?This is grounded in externally verified truth."
These corroborating figures are remaining anonymous, in part to protect their own reputations, he says. But he says some of them may step forward with their own information over the next year, as the media buzz around his ideas builds.
Wall Street can handle the Truth Firmage left his position as CEO of US Web in early November, replaced at the company's helm by Robert Shaw, a former Oracle executive. Coincidentally, this was shortly after word of his extracurricular activities started to leak out to the financial world. But the Shaw move was reportedly in the works for some time, according to analysts.
While competitors have taken the opportunity to cast Firmage as an eccentric, financial analysts say his private activities don't cloud the firm's prospects.
Shaw is a "top-notch" operative, and is more than qualified to guide the company, said First Albany analyst Ullas Naik. "He's very well regarded. A lot of any potential negatives were avoided that way," Naik added.
But Firmage's continued position at the company is valuable, Naik said. "He's a brilliant strategist," the analyst said.
For his part, Firmage says his campaign will only gather steam as more media outlets pick up his story. He says that once government and military figures see that the facts have been put in their historical context, other people will likely begin stepping forward to confirm his story.
"Take this seriously," Firmage says. "I'm not going away."