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In American popular culture and UFO conspiracy theories, Men in Black (MIB) are men dressed in black suits who claim to be government agents who harass or threaten UFO witnesses to keep them quiet about what they have seen. It is sometimes implied that they may be aliens themselves. The term is also frequently used to describe mysterious men working for unknown organizations, as well as various branches of government allegedly designed to protect secrets or perform other strange activities. The term is generic, used for any unusual, threatening or strangely behaved individual whose appearance on the scene can be linked in some fashion with a UFO sighting.
Folklorist Peter Rojcewicz noted that many Men in Black accounts parallel tales of people encountering the devil: neither Men in Black nor the devil are quite human, and witnesses often discover this fact midway through an encounter. The term "the black man" was used for centuries in reference to the Devil, up until contemporary times when "black man" was used to replace the term "Negro" and the satanic sense was lost. In an 1837 report in The Morning Chronicle, a man named John Henning, charged with running away with a chest of tea, reportedly defended himself with the claim that "he was ordered to carry it by a gentleman in black" who told him to carry it to Petticoat-lane.
The LORD MAYOR: Pray what sort of gentleman was he?
Prisoner: I can't just tell, please you, my lord; I only know he was in black.
The LORD MAYOR: I am afraid it was the gentleman in black that directed you in this matter. Had he a tail?
Prisoner: A tail! A pig-tail, do you mean, please you, my lord? No, I can't say as he had.
The LORD MAYOR: Did you look at his feet? What sort were they? – like a cow's [a laugh]?
In witchcraft trials "The Black Man" was often reported as meeting with the accused and having sexual intercourse with them. In Washington Irving's story "The Devil and Tom Walker" set in 1727, Irving tells how Tom asks "the black man" who he is. The man says he goes by many names and is called the black miner sometimes or the black woodsman. He says that since the Indians are gone, he presides over the persecutions of various religious sects, supports slave dealers and is the master of the Salem witches. Tom replies that he must be "Old Scratch", which is another name for the devil, and the black man acknowledges that he is Old Scratch. In 1932, H. P. Lovecraft also used the figure of The Black Man in his tale "The Dreams in the Witch-House" as a synonym for the Devil, but he also uses the term and description for Nyarlathotep, a malevolent entity of his own creation. In the Middle Ages the Black Man was not a man with African features, but rather a man colored black and dressed in black.
According to paranormal researcher Jerome Clark, ufologist Bill Moore claimed that "the Men in Black are really government agents in disguise ... members of a rather bizarre unit of Air Force Intelligence known currently as the Air Force Special Activities Center (AFSAC) ... As of 1991, the AFSAC, headquartered in Fort Belvoir, Virginia," and "under the operational authority of Air Force Intelligence Command centered at Kelly Air Force Base in Texas."  Moore claims that AFSAC was inspired by the tales of Men in Black from the 1950s, and had nothing to do with those early accounts. Also according to Clark, Michael D. Swords speculated that the Barker/Bender Men in Black case might have been a psychological warfare experiment. Writer John Keel has suggested similarities between Men in Black and demons.
In his article, "Gray Barker: My Friend, the Myth-Maker," John C. Sherwood[disambiguation needed] claims that at age 18, he cooperated when Gray Barker urged him in the late 1960s to develop a hoax – which Barker subsequently published – about what Barker called "blackmen", three mysterious UFO inhabitants who silenced Sherwood's pseudonymous identity, "Dr. Richard H. Pratt".
Before the popular Men in Black franchise, the first appearance of Men in Black in film was in John Sayles' 1984 film The Brother from Another Planet In this film, John Sayles himself and David Strathairn, both credited as Man In Black, are aliens in search of an escaped alien slave (the titular "Brother").
Men in Black (1997), starring Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith as Agent K and Agent J respectively, was based on Lowell Cunningham's comic book about a secret organization that monitors and regulates alien activity on Earth – The Men in Black from Aircel Comics. The film was followed by Men in Black: The Series and its 2002 sequel Men in Black II. Men in Black 3 was released on May 25, 2012. Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, who published the comic book, took the property to Sony to become a billion-dollar film franchise. Will Smith made a song called "Men in Black", for the movie Men in Black in 1997, and "Black Suits Comin' (Nod Ya Head)" for its sequel in 2002.
In the animated episode "Dreamland" of the British sci-fi show Doctor Who, the Men in Black are presented as androids working for the fictional organization The Alliance of Shades to help cover up the existence of alien life to human society during the 1950s and 60s, eventually becoming defunct in 1972.. The Men in Black appear again in live-action in the show's children spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures in the series four story The Vault of Secrets.
In American Gods, the New Gods are based on Men in Black.
In the science-fiction film Paul two Englishmen who accidentally pick up an alien in California are chased and harassed by Men in Black government agents.
In Doctor Who, an organization called The Silence exists. Their agents are are alien-like humanoids dressed in black business suits. Any person who sees them forgets them right after looking away, leaving only suggestions created by the alien.