Dear Ufology: I’m Out

Dear Ufology:

I’ve been meaning to write this for a while but just never got around to it. Then I got an email from someone claiming to be a legitimate UFO documents researcher telling me what a great writer I am and requesting that I write more blog posts poking fun at one of my favorite sham people in this, because he and his colleagues think it’s hysterical. From the totality of his email I gathered that he was one who believed in the stale extraterrestrial hypothesis and hadn’t read anything else on my blog. To him, I am just a a satirist–a noble profession, but for me it comes from a deeper place than parody for parody’s sake, or taking it to con men as a comedic power trip.

At least it should. But does it anymore?

Ufology, it’s not you, it’s me. I’ve changed. I don’t care about pedophile puppet makers and pretend-poor podcasters. Doctors who aren’t doctors and lobbyists who don’t lobby. I’ve done my part in helping expose hypnosis as the wrong tool for memory retrieval and the pseudo therapists taking advantage of people. Done my part in illuminating alternative theories to the extraterrestrial hypothesis. Done my part in helping to foster a legitimate scientific survey of experiencers. Done my part in holding conferences. Done my part in exposing my life of high strangeness for your scrutiny. Done my part in trying to lighten up a dreary field full of self-serious noisemakers, opportunists, and whatever wannabe-famous people from five steps below wishing to be a youtube sensation are.

Whatever positive impact all of that has had on anyone’s life was worth it. But I’m not really angry anymore about the stuff I despise. It’s all vastly, wildly uninteresting. And so maybe I am becoming a parody for parody’s sake kinda guy. The next inevitable step is becoming an unaware parody of myself. Meh. Who wants to be that guy?

I have one more ufological book in me, as promised. A sequel of sorts to, I Know Why The Aliens Don’t Land!. And I’ll keep doing The Experience for as long as experiencers are willing to talk. The occasional Paratopia Oculus? Sure. But really, that’s it, for I have already moved on.

Of all the books I’ve written, perhaps the most useful for readers has been Urgency. And over the years many readers have told me they wished I’d take that part of my life more seriously. I never didn’t take it seriously, personally, but publicly, I tend to be serious in spurts. Mainly, I’ve been a clown show of contradiction. (Is it any wonder that I find Trickster Theory so appealing?)

Well, no more. I’m hunkering down. I’m doing the work. I’m moving on into the serious phase. Not Marky Mark into Mark Wahlberg serious. I mean, I am bringing my sense of humor with me as I go, but it’s not coming from a place of anger, because where I’m going, only those truly, deeply concerned with life the universe and everything will follow. It is the place at the heart of all this Mystery that we claim to care about. It is a place not of debate, self-agrandizement, and fruitless commotion. It is a place of undoing. Our undoing. And I hope to see whomever is ready for the grad school version of Urgency. there.

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Fake News In Perspective

Fake News In Perspective

By Guest Blogger,
Tyler Kokjohn, Ph.D.

image-1What is fake news?  A simple question that is not so easy to answer.  The extreme forms featuring outright fabrications can be identified quickly, but some stories are far more difficult to categorize.  Because true and false information can be blended together easily and harnessed to serve a variety of goals, fake news in one form or another has been around for quite a while.

A recent article featuring thoughts from a writer who reports on such matters suggests “the origins of ‘fake news’ go back to the 1950s when UFO newsletters from organizations like the Aerial Phenomenon Research Organization reported on alien abductions and government coverups.” Jumping from UFO groups to radio programs and beyond produces a simple straight line extrapolation leading to Breitbart News.

The UFO community has experienced quite directly the negative impacts of fake news.  Charlatans and hoaxers have prospered on fertile grounds while poisoning progress toward meaningful comprehension of the phenomena.  Misinformation and deliberate disinformation have agitated leaders and the rank-and-file alike.  Unable to establish much of anything in the way of reliable, agreed-on fact, the community has devolved into small profit center fiefdoms.

Ufology has been plagued by fake news from without and within, but that device certainly did not originate in UFO interest group newsletters.  To make such a claim is to ignore a great body of history that reveals forms of fake news have been with us for centuries.  ‘Yellow’ journalism helped drive the United States into war with Spain over a century ago as publishers William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer tried to out sensationalize each other’s news stories.  Edward Bernays wrote the book on the dark aspects of propaganda – ‘engineering public consent’- nearly 25 years before Coral and Jim Lorenzen founded APRO.  Thomas Paine’s pamphlet Common Sense, published in 1776, pushed the American colonies on the path to independence.

Fake news may be purpose built, but it can also come about through journalistic carelessness.  Experts consenting to interviews must take care to provide informed perspectives and interviewers/authors may wish to vet the assertions carefully.  It seems possible that Long John Nebel might have influenced Art Bell, but what evidence is there that chain extends forward through persons like Rush Limbaugh and beyond?  Maybe it is just as valid to postulate later day radio personalities were influenced by Harry Emerson Fosdick and the many evangelists of the airwaves who followed him.  Lacking corroboration these statements seem more akin to a conspiracy theory than an evidenced explanation of the history of fake news.

The take home lesson is clear; fake news is pervasive, some of it may not be intentional.  Manage it by honing your critical thinking skills.

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You Can Do Better: Break a Ufology Futile Cycle

You Can Do Better: 
Break a Ufology Futile Cycle

by Guest Blogger,

Tyler Kokjohn, Ph.D.

Futile cycleThe host of a radio program covering paranormal topics recently published a newsletter discussing a wide mix of interesting ideas.  One theme will seem familiar because it has been a core complaint for years; mainstream press coverage does not do justice to paranormal topics such as UFOs.  It is about entertainment, trivialization, deliberate misrepresentations, hidden agenda and etc.

The behavior of the mainstream media can be infuriating and outraged stories of journalistic misdeeds play well.  However, this action-reaction process has become so habitual that we may be overlooking something; these complaints are now classic tales of victimization being told over and over again through the years.

After decades of mistreatment by the news media, what facts do we have about its impact?  It certainly seems logical that derisive coverage must hurt ufology by discouraging others to come forward with their experiences.  However, media exposure confirms others have seen or experienced the inexplicable.  Perhaps press coverage creates a social validation that induces people to seek out UFO organizations or encourages them to talk openly about their experiences.  Maybe media exposure actually facilitates interest and unintentionally drives UFO phenomena dynamics.

Unfortunately, ufology has short-circuited the critical thinking processes essential for informed debate because the arguments begin and end at the complaint stage.  Investigators and opinion leaders fail to recognize the research opportunity in front of them and the potential importance of the findings.  However, they have only had about 7 decades to do something productive.

Do your own study and investigate the hypothesis that mainstream media coverage influences UFO experiencers.  Is the impact positive or negative?  Does it influence the dynamics of the event itself?  Ask yourself and acquaintances with an interest in the topic how news stories developed or suppressed their interest in UFOs.  Discover for yourself how mainstream news media coverage influences UFO phenomena dynamics.

Imagine the implications.  Say your information suggests news media coverage discourages others from revealing their experiences.  Visualize being interviewed by the media pundits and turning the tables with a question or two of your own.  How do you justify broadcasting reports that suppress an interesting news story?  How does that serve the public interest?  Perhaps your inquiries will suggest that media attention generally increases follow-on reports.  Then you have learned something important about process dynamics.  The key point is that by taking matters into your own hands you gain a firmer, data-based understanding of the impacts news media reporting exert on UFO phenomena and the public perception of them.

It is often quipped that knowledge is power.  It is also damn good leverage in a debate.  What percentage of the general public believes UFOs might represent more than misidentified aerial phenomena?  What percentage of scientists feel intelligent life is or has been present in our galaxy?  Now do this math – if they are a contemptible joke why do news media report on UFOs at all?  People find UFOs interesting and journalists who belittle experiencers and interfere with serious investigations of events are skating on thin ice.  Get the data to sink them.

Break this futile cycle of victimization.  Empower yourself to improve our understanding of the phenomena and epi-phenomena of UFOs and the paranormal.  You can do a better job than the so-called leaders of ufology.

 

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