Dog Won’t Hunt:
Awaiting a MUFON Renaissance
by Guest Blogger,
Tyler Kokjohn, Ph.D.
The Mutual UFO Network, MUFON (1), has launched a public relations campaign to update its brand and recruit more members (2). Inching toward the 50th anniversary of its founding, this organization is facing significant challenges.
The MUFON core mission is the scientific investigation of UFO reports and reporting of the findings. However, the passage of time, replacement of personnel and technological advancements may cause even the most vibrant organizations to lose momentum and focus. Recognizing the situation, research organizations may undertake periodic reviews to ensure program goals are being achieved and remain relevant. To obtain the most unbiased evaluations possible, review groups typically include scientific community peers drawn from other institutions. Hopefully, the MUFON leaders utilized a similar approach when they assessed the condition of their organization.
It seems the MUFON directors have decided a key selling point of the organization is its scientific approach toward the UFO mystery. A good decision given that competing with Ancient Aliens for a TV audience looks hopeless. How well is the MUFON doing with its brand of science?
I have to wonder how any external scientific reviewers reconciled the information posted on the MUFON website with some statements of Executive Director Jan Harzan (2) “… we are a team of trained and certified investigators, researchers and enthusiasts who share a healthy curiosity and skepticism of the UFO phenomenon.” A well-crafted public relations campaign may arouse interest, but any prospective recruits viewing the current MUFON website will see a picture radically at odds with Director Harzan’s words. A competent and comprehensive evaluation would have alerted the MUFON leadership to the obvious contradictions. Perhaps work to harmonize web page content with the newly crafted brand is in progress.
The dilemma for the MUFON is that even the most artful narrative shaping cannot conceal deep deficiencies in fundamental approaches to research and ethics. Researchers featured prominently at MUFON symposia and honored with lifetime achievement awards spout unsubstantiated, patently pseudo-scientific nonsense (3). Compounding the problem are high-ranking leaders in the organization and/or affiliates unleashing embarrassing, wholly uncorroborated claims such as having served as a “breeder” for aliens (4). Worse, one MUFON region director sells an unproven, alien technology-inspired, medical device to prevent influenza (5). Perhaps the necessity to offer members an opportunity to purchase “support seats” at the 2016 Symposium (1) reflects a free market in which consumers have become more discerning than the mystified meeting organizers.
It is unclear what sort of evaluation process sparked the MUFON leaders to rebrand. However, it will not take long to recognize whether their new narrative is a renaissance or a superficial cover story to stave off collapse. Yes, they can spray paint it gold, drench it with perfume and send it to the finest obedience school, but unless the systemic problems are solved that dog will never hunt.
(2) L. Fullerton. 2016. The ‘Real X-Files’- MUFON – Motivated by Increasing Interest in UFOs, Company Orders Rebrand. The Drum.com, 12 September 2016. http://www.thedrum.com/news/2016/09/12/the-real-x-files-mufon-motivated-increasing-interest-ufos-company-orders-rebrand
(3) J. Brewer. 2015. MUFON, Sham Inquiry and the Woods-Jacobs Scandal. The UFO Trail, 11 August 2015. http://ufotrail.blogspot.com/2015/08/mufon-sham-inquiry-and-woodsjacobs.html
(4) T. Kokjohn. 2014. Try a New Hypothesis, Sherlock. JayVay, 18 February 2014. (https://jayvay.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/try-a-new-hypothesis-sherlock/).
(5) National UFO Center, Filer’s Files #36-2009. http://www.nationalufocenter.com/artman/publish/article_295.php