|41st U.S. President George H.W. Bush,|
who did not attend an Orlando fundraiser
and did not discuss UFOs at it
Paranormal-themed blogs, news sites, discussion forums and similar venues began carrying reports late last year of George H.W. Bush fueling the conspiracy fires while attending an event held in Orlando. It was allegedly a fundraiser for the attempted presidential run of his son, Jeb. As the story went, Papa Bush was asked about UFO disclosure, and he responded that we can't handle the truth.
Those who picked up the story included George Filer of Filer's Files, a writer and monthly column long highlighted by such organizations as the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) and the National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC). Filer was a speaker at the 2012 MUFON Symposium in spite of such questionable circumstances as selling lights he claimed cured the flu.
Filer became one of many repeating the Bush story when he did so in Filer's Files #52, published in December, 2015. He credited Your News Wire as his source for the info.
Suffice it to say it did not take a seasoned detective to identify the story as false. No more was required than a laptop, a few minutes to conduct some searches, and a willingness to ask a few questions.
Where did Your News Wire get the story? Where, exactly, did this event occur? Can the people in question be confirmed to have actually been there? Such are the basics - who, what, where and all that stuff - we might initially ask about any story. If writers appear to conceal and obscure such details, or simply fail to report them, we should question why.
A simple internet search quickly revealed yournewswire.com published the story October 5, 2015. Prominently and clearly credited as its source was World News Daily Report (WNDR), an infamously inaccurate "satire" site. Its disclaimer states:
WNDR assumes however all responsibility for the satirical nature of its articles and for the fictional nature of their content. All characters appearing in the articles in this website – even those based on real people – are entirely fictional and any resemblance between them and any persons, living, dead, or undead is purely a miracle.
That's it. That's the source of the story, a website that openly states its content is fictional and suggests any resemblance to actuality is miraculous.
The WNDR article did not have a date, but comments posted suggest it ran in October or thereabouts, obviously prior to the Your News Wire article that linked to it. None of the versions of the story included any details about the supposed venue hosting the alleged fundraiser. Furthermore, if Filer or other writers who ran with the story - with or without knowledge of WNDR as the source of the Bush quote - had so much as briefly checked what the Bushes were doing during the time in question, they would have easily discovered conflicting information.
A Florida Politics post, dated September 12, 2015, reported upcoming fundraisers involving the Bush family. Former First Lady Barbara Bush was scheduled to be at an event in Greater Orlando on Oct. 8, for instance, and former President George W. Bush was raising funds in New York, Texas and Arkansas. An Oct. 25 event in Houston was scheduled to include George W. and his father, George H.W. Bush. No mention whatsoever was made of an Orlando event involving Jeb and/or Bush Senior.
I'm not convinced WNDR is the most negligent party in such chains of events. Sure, it's a click bait site and, no, I don't condone the venture, but it is legal and appears to be the prerogative of such sites. We might not agree with the ethics and intentions, but maybe we should hold our community members to the same standards we would so quickly impose on a website like WNDR - that openly admits its stories are false if we bother to read what it posts about itself.
I'm much more concerned with self-described investigators who selectively parrot what they hear and subsequently contribute to the manipulation of the UFO community. Am I to think this is the extent they vet their often celebrated witnesses? ...and why shouldn't I suspect swallowing such stories hook, line and sinker is indicative of gullibility, lack of critical thinking and poor research skills? Isn't that a reasonable opinion to surmise?
What's more, once the damage is done, i.e., people have read, absorbed and become attached to a story, it stands to effect them at deep emotional levels long after they may be informed it's false. Research shows people tend to resist opposition even harder when presented with facts that conflict with their belief. From How facts backfire, originally published in 2010 in The Boston Globe:
Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.
It is challenging to express the extent I think this applies to ufology. The harm, as I see it, is the wholesale exploitation of a demographic of people: those willing to be open-minded enough to explore reports of UFOs and related phenomena. It is perpetrated all too often by the very organizations and investigators claiming to advocate for them.
When unverified story is piled on top of unverified story year after year after year, it becomes extremely difficult to resist the resulting conditioning. Such resistance is now required, however, in order to look at reports with fresh eyes and explore them without biased, preconceived conclusions. The damage has long been done and there are many who fail to see anything wrong with it or even identify it as damage. I would argue that if we don't make an intentional effort to prioritize actuality, we never even give ourselves a chance to understand what takes place.
I invite consideration of subjecting our community members to the same criticisms when warranted as we would satire sites. Failing to do so has resulted in decades of detrimental conditioning, the likes of which have solidified passionate beliefs built upon the shifting sands of quantity prioritized over quality.