Thursday, June 25, 2015

UFO Community Members Weigh in on Dubious MUFON Speakers

"We hope to bridge the gap between science and ufology. They're one in the same."
- MUFON International Director Jan Harzan, 'Las Vegas Sun'

Concerns were expressed in the wake of the Roswell Slides debacle about organizations such as the Mutual UFO Network continuing to promote those who supported and enabled the empty claims surrounding the alleged slides. Don Schmitt was quickly back in the spotlight at a recent MUFON PA event, for instance, and beWITNESS promoter Jaime Maussan was invited to speak at the upcoming 2015 MUFON Symposium. MUFON WI Assistant State Director and Chief Investigator Mark O'Connell subsequently urged the organization to remove Maussan from the list of speakers. He also requested MUFON ban Maussan and Schmitt from future events, along with their slides colleagues Tom Carey, Richard Dolan and Anthony Bragalia. It seems Adam Dew has relatively removed himself from ufology, at least as compared to his beWITNESS associates and for the time being. 

Further consideration reveals the challenges to be common and merely among the latest of what is relatively standard operating procedure concerning the low quality of speakers and information typically offered. MUFON and the North American UFO community in particular have systemic problems of credibility and poor quality of information circulated, as observable in not only the invitation extended to Jaime Maussan to speak at the annual MUFON conference, but the additional inclusion of such questionable figures as Paul Hellyer. Many people particularly object to the circumstances in light of the organization's claim to be dedicated to the scientific study of UFOs, an assertion now so widely taken for granted as false that it no longer even generates significant discussion.

The late alien abduction guru & MUFON frequent flyer Budd Hopkins, 
probably not bridging the gap between science and ufology 
during a meeting with an alleged alien abductee

Adding insult to injury is an upcoming MUFON PA event in which the keynote speaker is yet another dubious figure, Dr. David Jacobs, who, as of this blog post, quite questionably continues to claim to be a "strong advocate of strict scientific and ethical research methodology." Trouble is that if those claims were to be taken any more seriously than the underachieved MUFON mission statement, Jacobs has been repeatedly shown to fail miserably at actually implementing such purported advocacy into his own work. The retired historian's so-called investigations were conclusively demonstrated to be extremely ethically questionable and completely absent scientific merit. Nonetheless, MUFON is opting to roll out the red carpet and present him with a lifetime achievement award, as if it had no knowledge of either the actual definition of science or Jacobs' confirmed actions, detrimental to both his research subjects and the quality of the genre's collective body of information. 

Several members of the UFO community were recently contacted and asked to submit comment on the above circumstances for inclusion in this blog post. Following are their most appreciated contributions.

Nigel Watson

Writer and researcher Nigel Watson is the author of 'UFO Investigations Manual', 'UFOs of the First World War' and many more books and articles. He was recently a speaker at the Inhabited Sky Conference in Spain, where he presented research along with colleagues Theo Paijmans, Jacques Vallee and Chris Aubeck. Mr. Watson wrote in response to request for comment:
My first reaction is 'string them all up from the highest yardarm', let them never cast a shadow over ufology ever again.
We can see that the whole ‘Roswell’ slides saga was a publicity seeking enterprise that highlighted the gullibility of so-called UFO experts, and played on the wish-to-believe in the existence of aliens who are prone to crashing to the surface of our planet and end up being mummified and whisked away to Area 51.
Without years of expert analysis, the ‘alien’ looks like a mummy and is obviously in some type of exhibition case. Plus, you only have to use Google to see the person promoting it has been involved with lots of other UFO claims and ‘evidence’ that had no basis in fact.
The slides are genuine images of a museum exhibit that have been erroneously linked to Roswell and aliens. It is a shame this has tarnished the reputation of all the so-called experts who attended this event. 
This must be considered the lowest point UFO research has ever descended to, but it won't stop UFO believers saying:
1. These images are of an alien and need further investigation before we dismiss it.
2. If a fake or hoax, it was deliberately staged and organised to undermine ufology.
It would be harsh to ban everyone involved with this episode or other equally dodgy cases, and they would easily find supporters and a platform elsewhere. Plus, some were passengers on this circus train whilst others were actively steering and driving it towards ufological obliteration.
What annoys me with this saga is that no opposing views or different viewpoints were considered or allowed. Even now some supporters of this sorry episode say we should consider 'all the evidence' before we write it off.
As ufologists we shouldn’t be close minded, we hear lots of very bizarre stories, but we should also have a sense of perspective and be aware when we are being taken for a ride.

William Grabowski

William Grabowski maintains the blog 'The Night Run' and is the author of 'Black Light: Perspectives on Mysterious Phenomena', 'Traces of Oblivion' and other works. He explained:
When I first heard about the so-called Roswell Slides, my curiosity was piqued. Revisiting Kevin D. Randle's website (where I'd gotten the news), I soon learned many others had known about the (in)famous images for quite a while. As a full-time writer/editor, I have very little "spare" time to read for enjoyment, so I spend my lunch-hour perusing various 'sites—Randle's among them. Right away, as most following The UFO Trail know, Randle's 'site became a virtual battleground hosting Roswell Slides Skeptics, Believers, and Agnostics. I lurked around for several months, right up until the "reveal" on May 5th (three days before my birthday), curious as hell to find out exactly how many ufological casualties might result from the certain catastrophic failure...and wasn't disappointed.
"They benefited personally and financially, and ought to suffer the consequences of malpractice."
In the six weeks following, I have been mostly shocked by the statements and behavior of Maussan, Carey, Schmitt, Dolan, and Bragalia—even mystified. So have you. Mark O'Connell, MUFON Wisconsin Assistant State Director and Chief Investigator, calls for banning the Slides promoters from future MUFON events—I support this sanction, though with some empathy for the five in question. I take no pleasure seeing anyone in so-called ufology/anomalies investigation being pilloried for questionable activities and distortions (remember Philip Imbrogno?). I feel the same about David Jacobs, whose (literal) exploits can be examined on this very website. Regarding MUFON's apparent failure to respect and adhere to its Mission Statement by inviting Jacobs to events...this is why I'm not a joiner.
Like most everyone else who paid attention to this fustercluck, I sensed disaster in the making. Though genuinely tempted to chime in on Randle's website, I chose to stay out. What good would come of threading another voice into the tangle of comments?
In a nut, all those in question billed themselves as experts backed by integrity and truth. They benefited personally and financially, and ought to suffer the consequences of malpractice.

Richard Dolan, beWITNESS participant who inexplicably expressed in statements published May 6,
"I know Jaime [Maussan] and have seen him at work first-hand. I know he cares about the truth."

Frank Warren

Long time researcher/investigator and publisher of 'The UFO Chronicles' Frank Warren identified the proverbial elephant in the room as "the systemic failure of Ufology in general and MUFON specifically." He wrote:
The recent Roswell Slides fiasco which actually is still being pushed by and or living on, in the fanciful minds of some, is but a symptom of the disease endemic to TODAY’s Ufology.
Setting aside, for a moment, the apex or culmination of the Slides imbroglio which took place in Mexico City, on May 5th (2015), what we have is a substandard, maladroit exemplar of UFO research/investigation. The notion that this comedy of errors; connection of nonexistent dots and proclaiming speculation as fact—got as far as it did boggles the brain.
This of course leads us to the question of incompetence beyond measure or Machiavellian intent on some or perhaps all the Roswell Slide Promoters. No doubt—that debate will forever be melded in the annals of Ufology. The notion of fraud or ill intent wouldn’t be in play . . . that is, if money weren’t involved.
This brings us to the grand pay-per-view event and climax of the so-called investigation of the (then) Roswell Alien Slides; the really big show and smoking gun of extraterrestrial visitation and as billed by UFO showman, Jaime Maussan. Had this circus show not been part of the equation; if money wasn’t involved, then in my view we’re just left with ineptitude.
In the end, whether there was any malfeasance or no, what we have in the wake of the Roswell Slides Fiasco is the worst, self-inflicted damage done to Ufology in recent memory; it is our Piltdown Man and the irony is—no one seems to care! This in itself is a barometer of the sad-shape and disorder of TODAY’s Ufology. 
"In the real world, participants in this hokum would have been run out of town on a rail and never heard from again..."
In the real world, participants in this hokum would have been run out of town on a rail and never heard from again; however, not unlike a defrocked televangelist, one merely has to wait a bit and open another church; the difference in TODAY’s Ufology is—there’s no waiting period!
The elephant in the room is the systemic failure of Ufology in general and MUFON specifically. The idea that the "scientific study of UFOs" is demonstrated seemingly, by self-aggrandizing ideologues, making unfounded, fallacious proclamations at carnival-like conferences where unvetted, fringe elements of all stripes are welcome is simply mind-bending! Not to mention corresponding, bunkum, promoting so-called docu-drama television shows. Mixing sober researchers with soothsayers, psychics, astrologers and other like ilk denigrates any notion of proper research and simply adds fuel to the giggle factor imposed on Ufology by the mainstream media and scientific community.
Ufology is broken and there is no fix in sight!

Dr. Michael S. Heiser

Dr. Michael S. Heiser is a scholar in the fields of biblical studies and the ancient Near East. His diverse talents include authoring several books, conducting podcasts and maintaining multiple blogs on subjects ranging from objective examination of the topic of alleged ancient aliens to facilitating professional analysis of the infamous MJ-12 documents. 

Addressing the UFO research community, Dr. Heiser suggested something needs to be done to foster accountability, for the sake of both the subject matter and enthusiasts. He explained 
In the wake of something as egregiously inept (and apparently, at least with respect to some parties, deliberately false) as the Roswell Slides, a ban merits some consideration. That said, I think the end goal of filtering out contrived, deceptive, and unscientific "contributions" to UFO research and public events could just as well be accomplished through a thoughtful and serious vetting process. That is, no speaker gets in because they have a name, a book, a blog, or a list of guest appearances on popular shows. 
"The dirty little secret is that the best research in ufology happens on a handful of lesser-known blogs and podcasts."
For example, MUFON could select a panel of presentation reviewers for blind review of speaking proposals for at least national events, though the same process could be used for local chapters. This is the norm for academic conferences I attend. Review committees (usually created around content domains and manned by content experts) vet speaking proposals in a timely fashion. Given the propensity for lack of substance at UFO events, I personally think presenters ought to submit their entire presentation (outlines, slides, videos, notes, paper, etc.) for review. The purpose would be to detect unsubstantiated claims, shoddy use of evidence, and showmanship over substance—not whether reviewers agree with conclusions. It would also serve to filter out presenters with shady ethics. Reviewers should insist that a speaker's presentation focus on some topic to date—as opposed to providing a platform for teasing an audience. Ideally, preference should be given to those presentations that actually advance a discussion on some case or topic. If speakers swap in an alternative presentation after having a presentation proposal approved by a vetting process, they could be banned for a year from MUFON events as a penalty. If care was taken up front, MUFON could then publish volumes of the proceedings. Presenters should not be remunerated for such publications—conference volumes would be a means of generating some financial support for MUFON or defray event costs.
If MUFON is serious about its reason for being, then quality needs to trump popularity. You're either serious about the subject matter or you're okay with giving stage time to investigative parodies. I can already hear the objection that these suggestions would eliminate familiar, popular speakers. So be it. I'm not worried. The dirty little secret is that the best research in ufology happens on a handful of lesser-known blogs and podcasts. Maybe it's time to cultivate a new crop of presenters.

Dr. Tyler Kokjohn

"Mark O’Connell has called for certain UFO researchers and personalities to be banned from MUFON events," Dr. Tyler Kokjohn observed. "I believe the only mistake Mr. O’Connell made was to place so few persons on his list."

Dr. Kokjohn, a Professor of Microbiology, popular podcast guest and member of Project Core, continued:
Scientists develop hypotheses and subject them to rigorous testing to drive understanding forward where facts are in dispute or nonexistent.  Hypotheses which cannot be confirmed through observation or experiment must be modified accordingly or abandoned.  These activities constitute the heart of the scientific method.  Sponsoring events that appear to be more about entertainment than meaningful scientific exchanges, MUFON groups feature and sometimes bestow honors on investigators producing work that clearly does not meet minimal scientific standards.
Nowhere is MUFON’s collective failure to act as a scientific gatekeeper more glaring than in the area of alien abductions.  By consistently failing to challenge blatantly obscurantist methodology and remaining silent as uncorroborated hypotheses bloat to byzantine proportions, MUFON fosters the propagation of alien abduction myths masquerading as scientific investigations.  Genetic analysis technologies, now routine in scientific research and medicine, have advanced to a point where some astonishing claims can be subjected to definitive tests.  MUFON leaders should be well aware of the potential.  Bill Chalker published an article in The MUFON UFO Journal describing an investigation using one of them years ago.

The first investigator to secure genetic proof human-alien hybrids exist will probably claim a Nobel Prize and more.  However, none of the abduction investigators have reported any genetic test results.  Such disinterest in genetic testing is extraordinary given that one MUFON leader claimed on a Future Theater episode (aired live 18 May 2013) to have been used as a 'breeder' and would therefore seem to be an ideal source of material.  Appearing with her on that show was the co-author of the book about her experiences they were promoting, a noted abduction researcher and also a MUFON leader as well.  Any mainstream scientists that close to a possible Nobel Prize award would move heaven and Earth to complete the tests necessary to prove their hypotheses – quickly - fearing someone else might beat them to it.  Over two years later and where do these leading investigators and the entire abduction field sit?  Securely in the same safe refuge from scientific progress they have been permitted to occupy for decades.  Apparently no one on the MUFON-Pa lifetime achievement award committee raised the issue.

In my opinion, the MUFON organization has collectively nurtured pathological science.  Indulging abduction researchers inside and outside the organization with the latitude to produce entertaining performances unencumbered by the evidentiary standards and practices of mainstream scientists, the organization provides a license to peddle hyped and unsubstantiated modern day fables in the guise of science.

Will these special dispensations and awards be prelude to Nobel Prizes and stand as testament to the bold scientific astuteness of MUFON?  Or will they come to represent systemic and self-inflicted disaster?  The genetic data will expose all.

David Jacobs, who suggested during a 2012 interview that forensic evidence 
could not be obtained of ET-human hybrids allegedly regularly terrorizing "Elizabeth" 
due to curtains over the windows of her home

Jeff Ritzmann

Jeff Ritzmann's long list of contributions to the UFO community include spearheading Project Core, conducting film analysis and publishing salient podcasts. Learn more about his latest undertakings at 'Paranormal Waypoint'. He wrote:
For decades now, UFO studies have been sorely lacking in a few things. Not the least of which is accountability. The recent debacle of the Roswell Slides offers a unique opportunity  - the chance to finally make a real difference, not one towards the UFO issue directly, but that on which all work has always been balanced: the accountability of the people disseminating the 'data'. 
UFO research has sadly degraded into a popularity contest. It's not what you say, it's about how well you can deliver it to an eager conference or radio audience. It's not about the real facts, it's about how one can weave half-truths and innuendo into a good narrative. It's become about believing, rather than working to know.
It's become about perpetuating the mystery - instead of asking better questions towards potential answers.
As a long time opponent of 'regression hypnotherapy' and trying to show its ill-conceived uses in the abduction field, I was shocked when one woman decided to speak out about blatant mistreatment by a prominent abduction researcher - not by what she related, but in the response from the public. Despite overwhelming evidence of her mistreatment, that same researcher is to present day, invited to speak on the topic in public outlets. He is due to be presented with a 'lifetime achievement award'. 
Some members of the interested public resorted to personal attacks on the woman, even going so far as to make absurdly foolish and uneducated psychological 'diagnoses' to protect their UFOlogical hero, and their belief system built upon that hero's narrative.
As far as I know the 'researcher' is not a psychiatric professional, not a counselor, and for that matter not even a formally trained hypnotherapist. And this is who we consider 'researcher' when we look at the contact experience.
I have often said, you either care about this study or you don't. We all determine the value of work presented, and thereby who is considered worthy of our consideration. It's time we all care enough to send a clear message - to turn our collective backs to opportunists, who would sell us their 'truth'. To bring pressure to bear by refusing to attend functions that allow these people to have a platform. It's time to stop giving in to excuses and clever posturing after the fact. Stand strong on the self-evident truth and hold those accountable, or don't. This phenomena moves on with or without us.

Curtis Collins

Long time UFO community member Curtis Collins maintains the blog 'Blue Blurry Lines' and participated in the Roswell Slides Research Group, which played a key role in bringing the reality of the fuzzy images into much sharper focus. He responded:

Richard Dolan has said that researchers should be allowed to make mistakes. I agree, and in his case, he’s faced facts and acknowledged the truth in light of better information. Don Schmitt seemed to have also done so, but later made statements that show he’s still standing with Tom Carey and Jaime Maussan in defending the presentation of the Slides as alien, or non-human in BeWitness. 
The telltale placard
It’s baffling. The evidence for the slides was no more than circumstantial, and the placard shown within them undermined any claims of anything alien. Since then, there has been overwhelming evidence presented in additional National Park Service documents and additional photographs. Before this, my opinion was that yes, mistakes could be forgiven, and this incident should not reflect on their entire careers. Now this continuing failure of judgment causes me to reconsider that, and I’d suggest that their previous work be examined for similar flawed practices.
Ban them from conferences? Maybe, but the choice is up to the individual in what kind of ufology they want to support. I can’t see a good reason to attend one where any of the promoters are featured.

Robert Sheaffer

Writer and researcher Robert Sheaffer has published numerous books and articles on UFOs and related issues, including his work as a columnist at 'The Skeptical Inquirer' for over 30 years. He maintains the blog 'Bad UFOs' and was a founding member of the UFO Subcommittee of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. He invited consideration that perhaps MUFON should simply admit it provides people exciting UFO stories with minimal concern for whether those stories are true:

Beyond any doubt MUFON's credibility suffers when it sponsors lectures by people like Maussan, whose credibility, all serious researchers agree, is essentially zero. But given the success of MUFON's HANGAR 1, a preposterously bad TV show given to fantasy and even fabrication, it seems that when forced to choose between ratings and reputation, MUFON has decided not to worry about its reputation. Actually, HANGAR 1 was not the first time MUFON made such a decision in favor of sensationalism. Back in the 1980s, MUFON's Walt Andrus decided to strongly promote the ridiculous hoax UFO photos of Ed Walters in Gulf Breeze, even though many of his own top investigators proclaimed them bogus. Apparently the publicity and excitement of the Gulf Breeze circus brought more people into MUFON, so Andrus decided it was worth the cost in MUFON's reputation.
Besides, MUFON would be on a true slippery slope if they attempted to exclude people as speakers based on preposterous things they may have said in the past. Even some UFOlogists considered as 'serious' or 'moderate' have made preposterous claims, such as a "secret space program" (Richard Dolan) or an imminent 'alien invasion' (Nick Pope). And if MUFON were to exclude people like this for being too flaky, who would be left? Perhaps MUFON should simply admit that it is in the business of providing people with titillating and exciting UFO stories, without worrying about whether they are true.

Not the Roswell Slides

Lance Moody 

Lance Moody is well known around the ufology blogosphere for his skeptical points of view, as well as his recent contributions to the Roswell Slides Research Group. He explained that the slides debacle only stands apart from any number of similar questionably promoted and celebrated cases in that "the denouement was so definitive":

Thanks for attempting to insert thoughtful discourse into this topic. 
From all appearances, the train left the station long ago.
From my perspective, MUFON is what it is. It has nothing to do with scientific study of anything. And it probably never did. 
The embarrassing and infantile missteps are perhaps becoming more frequent but the organization has always been the realm of amateur UFO enthusiasts whose unscientific religious belief in flying saucers clouds their judgement in a profound way.
When considering celebrated UFO cases, the slides debacle is only unusual in that the denouement was so definitive. Usually there is so little evidence available that the "investigator" can really go to town on offering his speculation about the case. 
And there is no doubt that many (possibly most) UFO cases rest on the same kind of faulty foundation: narratives composed by inept experimenter bias, willful belief and a certain measure of prideful stupidity. 
From my perspective, what UFO organizations do is pretend to be interested in scientific modes of inquiry while either not understanding such methodology, or actually abhorring it. And even worse they often erect a false veneer of sciencey double speak and ponderous but meaningless "data" that seems to wow the rubes.
But MUFON has now dropped so low in its search for splashy speakers and TV fame that the false scientific shell has possibly become only vestigial. 
Unfortunately every UFO group does the same thing and it's hard to decide what's worse: promoting something obviously silly like Bigfoot's connection to UFOs or the pretend science in the white papers of organizations like NARCAP.
It all comes from the same place.

Sue Johnson

Sue Johnson's artistic and insightful endeavors include the blog, 'The Superplex'. She has contributed thoughtful and salient comments to 'The UFO Trail' on multiple occasions. In response to request for comment to be included in this post, she replied:

"Boundary work" is the name given by social scientists to activities scientists undertake to demarcate and defend what counts as science -- for example, establishing a credentialing system, presenting one’s ongoing research for collegial critique at lunchtime symposia, or in extreme cases calling for retractions of papers from journals.  Since its beginnings in the US, ufology qua science has been intermixed with ufology qua spirituality, the paranormal, hoaxes, disinformation campaigns, popular culture and self-delusion.  Ufology as a whole has never been successful in doing the boundary work necessary to distinguish between either good vs. poor science or science and non-science.  Even major organizations like APRO and NICAP each adopted their own guidelines for what counted as legitimate UAP phenomena (occupants/no occupants, for example).  The most salient boundaries when it comes to studying UAPs have been those imposed by outside, by government bodies and/or academic disdain for and impatience with such a chaotic field.
"If MUFON can’t do this, others will continue to open such conversations elsewhere and MUFON cannot legitimately claim to be the voice of science..."
Hence, it’s still possible for sideshow-style exhibits that almost everyone outside of ufology would recognize as such to be proffered by well-known UFO researchers as evidence in ufological claims-making.  It’s true the high strange aspect of much UAP and related phenomena requires that the bizarre and quixotic not be automatically dismissed from consideration.  However, the Roswell Slides had hoax, not high strange, written all over it just based on common sense considerations.
It seems incredible, then, that given its mission statement MUFON would continue to include the people involved in the Roswell Slides in its promotions and events.  If an organization claiming to be a legitimate voice of ufology can’t make credible distinctions between scientific and non-scientific facets of its own history, how can it be trusted to make authoritative contributions to future science for the benefit of humanity?
In the case of the Roswell Slides, the appropriate boundary work was carried out in short course by an ad hoc group of knowledgeable and interested outsiders.  This suggests that there are aspects of the MUFON approach to UFOs that actively work against doing the necessary scientific boundary work.  The best thing MUFON could do is institutionalize a space in which difficult conversations about boundary work can take place.  If MUFON can’t do this, others will continue to open such conversations elsewhere and MUFON cannot legitimately claim to be the voice of science when it comes to UFO/UAPs.   

James Carrion

James Carrion authors the blogs 'Follow the Magic Thread' and 'The Rosetta Deception', and conducts extensive research into the relations between the Cold War era intelligence community and public perception of UFOs. As a former MUFON International Director, he can offer specific insight into the parade of low quality speakers. Mr. Carrion explained:

As a former International Director of MUFON, I can provide a unique perspective on the antithetical-to-its-mission-statement decision making for which MUFON is currently being criticized. It can be summed up in two words: Sex sells.
Since I resigned from MUFON in 2010, MUFON has been on a re-branding mission in an attempt to make itself a sexy alternative to the current public love affair with all things paranormal that includes ghost hunting, Bigfoot tracking, and ancient astronaut theorizing. There's a plethora of these shows on cable for a reason - the public loves them - and that means advertising dollars. Taking lessons from the oldest profession in the world - MUFON needs the money and sex sells - so mission statement be damned, the truth can wait. Here are some of the relevant facts which make this a no-brainer decision for MUFON:
Fact number one - MUFON is a nonprofit organization that survives on membership dues, donations, merchandise sales, annual Symposium attendance, and extraneous revenue streams like what it squeezes out of the History Channel.
Fact number two - MUFON is run by a Business Board of "believers" who pay lip service to scientific principles, from board member Clifford Clift who believes in alien bases on the moon to Jan Harzan whose personal UFO sighting as a child drives his willingness to believe.
Fact number three - MUFON is a data collector with no clear vision on how to convert that data into scientifically sound analysis. After over forty years of existence, MUFON can't even state what it knows to be true about the phenomenon.
When I was Director, the pressure to sell its image at any cost was a discussion at every board meeting - how do we get more members and sponsors, how do we sell more merchandise, how do we get more symposium attendees? Resisting the pressures to sacrifice truth for cold hard cash is what lead to my resignation.
Until MUFON decides to get off of its street corner turning tricks and into the lab doing real research, it will be justifiably criticized for its current ridiculous actions of promoting UFO myths on its Hangar 1 show and for hosting known UFO hoaxers, myth makers, regurgitators and outright liars at its annual Symposium. I am not holding my breath that will happen anytime soon under its current leadership.

Vendors at UFO conferences typically offer such goods & services as stones alleged to have metaphysical properties, psychic readings and photographing you with your aura, 
even when the event is advertised as science-based

The contributions of all are most appreciated, as is the investment of valuable time and attention. Thank you. Relevant and interesting points were indeed addressed. 

There is no doubt that claims asserted by some ufology figures and endorsed by the organizations that promote them are extremely detrimental to compiling a body of accurate information. It is clearly a given that those claiming to be in positions to provide information do not always 
prioritize accuracy in their reporting or deserve the trust they are granted. Organizations, including the Mutual UFO Network, that provide publicity to dubious speakers, particularly while claiming to conduct scientific study, should be called on such misrepresentations.

Perhaps the best way to hold them accountable is to simply not support them. We might choose to continue to withhold our attendance, membership and financial support from organizations and events which are poorly operated and do not serve the best interests of their patrons. Perhaps MUFON leadership generates enough revenue from television deals and similar sources to not care if the org has members or not. Either way, we have the ability to implement our own ban for all practical purposes and as matters of principle. Such a boycott certainly appears to be warranted, if not relatively forced upon us by the perpetrators.

While refraining from supporting individuals and organizations that engage in false claims of promoting scientific study, we might simultaneously take a positive approach, making specific efforts to turn our attention to and endorse those we identify as worthy. Let writers and researchers you appreciate know it. Encourage them. Purchase their products, and morally and publicly support their websites and appearances.

MUFON directors and conference organizers are indeed responsible for the poor shape of the org and the low quality of its events. We, as consumers, are responsible for what we choose to support or oppose. Let's keep demanding better quality, applying consequences when it is not provided, and granting support when it is, wherever that valuable support may best be offered.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

MUFON Chief Investigator Requests Ban on Roswell Slides Promoters

MUFON Wisconsin Assistant State Director and Chief Investigator Mark O'Connell published a blog post Tuesday in which he requested the organization remove Roswell Slides promoter Jaime Maussan from its list of speakers for its upcoming annual symposium. O'Connell, who is currently composing a book on the life of the late ufology icon J. Allen Hynek, additionally requested that MUFON ban Maussan and his beWITNESS colleagues Tom Carey, Don Schmitt, Richard Dolan and Anthony Bragalia from its future events. 

"There is no place for these people at any gathering that is meant to further the cause of serious UFO study," O'Connell wrote in a message to MUFON International Director Jan Harzan published in the Tuesday blog post.

MUFON has long been under fire from a wide range of sources for what many interpret to be a blatant disregard of its mission statement, "The scientific study of UFOs for the benefit of humanity." More discerning members of the UFO community have frequently voiced strong objections to the organization's choices of speakers given the claimed mission, and the latest decision to offer Maussan a platform is bound to draw more criticism. The theme of the 2015 MUFON Symposium is billed as, "Expanding Ufology: Opening NEW Doors in Academia, Industry and Media." 

"Maybe we need to shut a few doors while we're at it," O'Connell wrote in response to the theme.

This writer appreciates O'Connell's initiative. Let MUFON and O'Connell know what you think about his request and the related issues by posting your comments at his recent post, 'Eradicating the UFO Pestilence'.      

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Roswell Slides: It's All Over but the Accountability

At this point it doesn't look like there is much left to be learned about the child mummy depicted in the so-called Roswell Slides other than perhaps who knew it and when. Even so, many have convincingly argued that regardless of whether or not those in Adam Dew's inner circle knew the specific identification of the mummy, it is beyond conception that the image should have ever been suspected of depicting an extraterrestrial, much less for such dubious reasons as were so heartily served up. The saga and its piece meal trickle of suppositions and unconfirmed claims indeed stretches one's capacity for giving benefit of the doubt.

The Roswell Slides Research Group (RSRG) quickly put the long touted absurdities to rest when they deciphered the infamous placard within a couple days following the May 5 beWITNESS event. The placard indicated the mummy was a two year old boy and involved in the saga was an S.L. Palmer Jr. Existing doubt then increased of the sincerity of Dew's group, consisting of Tom Carey, Don Schmitt and Anthony Bragalia, due to their ongoing assertions the placard simply could not be read, as well as the fact they literally had years to try to do what it took other researchers just hours to accomplish.

Mummy of two year old boy promoted as an extraterrestrial

Further doubt was cast when Frank Warren of 'The UFO Chronicles' reported Tom Carey and Adam Dew denied Warren access to images of the alleged slides, purposes of which were to attempt to decipher the placard, during the days leading up to beWITNESS. Carey and Dew reportedly opted not to allow Warren opportunities to decipher the placard, even though images were previously provided for analysis to David Rudiak, who recommended in vain that Warren be consulted. Warren would later be among the many researchers who independently confirmed the accuracy of the analysis of the placard as conducted by the RSRG. 

More aspects of the mummy saga quickly fell into place, but beWITNESS promoter Jaime Maussan rejected the data at every turn. Don Schmitt published an apology for his participation in the event, but abruptly retracted it and continued promoting the story of the slides at events such as a MUFON conference in Pittsburgh. Tom Carey similarly rejected the mounting and conclusive evidence of the origin of the mummy, and he and partner Schmitt were enabled to continue spreading their unsupported story at such venues as Jimmy Church's Fade to Black, where they were largely interpreted to have obscured facts and evaded relevant issues. Maussan offered a 5,000 USD cash bounty amid the nonsense for more photos of the mummy in question, which the floundering researchers continued to promote as an alien in spite of no proof whatsoever to support arriving at such an extreme conclusion.

Jorge Peredo seems to have been the first to locate an independent photo of the mummy when he did so about June 9. The image found below was reportedly obtained by Peredo from Picasa, a photo hosting website, and taken in approximately 1957 at a museum. One of the two placards specifically mentions the involvement of S.L. Palmer, directly linking it to the image published by Dew and deciphered by the RSRG.

Image located by Jorge Peredo

Soon afterward, on June 12, researcher Shepherd Johnson obtained copies of numerous documentsincluding a photo of the mummy, from the National Park Service (NPS) via the Freedom of Information Act. The documents also contained an accounting of history of the mummy and its specific relation to S.L. Palmer Jr., as was first indicated in the placard deciphered from the images of the alleged Roswell Slides. 

Those following the saga were not surprised when Maussan once again rejected the evidence presented. He argued the images looked different in appearance while all but completely disregarding the supporting data supplied by the NPS and contained on the placards. 

Image obtained from the National Park Service
by Shepherd Johnson

Anthony Bragalia issued an apology - to the mummy - shortly following the deciphering of the placard. Soon afterward he went to laying the blame of the entire obfuscation of data surrounding the alleged slides at the feet of Adam Dew. Bragalia used the comments section of Kevin Randle's blog to argue his minimal responsibility in the matter while leveling charges against Dew of intentionally misleading him and circulating doctored images.

Some voiced objections to Bragalia's actions, viewing them as attempts to shirk accountability, as he was the most vocal and adamant of his fellow slides promoters throughout the saga. It was not well received in light of the facts that for months Bragalia passionately insisted he be believed that the slides and much of the related circumstances were vetted, and that due diligence had been carried out, yet it is now abundantly clear that obviously could not possibly have been the case. Moreover, after having repeatedly reported that he viewed and examined images himself, and after having demanded that we accept his extraordinary interpretations of the story, a great deal of which continues to remain unsubstantiated, Bragalia proclaimed he was duped. He asserted that the very parties he promoted and demanded we trust were who successfully deceived him. To add insult to injury, Bragalia provided no more evidence for his current assertions about Dew and associates than he did his former, he apparently just desired to be unconditionally believed.

Some, including this writer, argued that Bragalia appeared unable to understand the mistakes he had made in failing to accurately differentiate between fact and supposition. It was also argued that he failed to understand why people object. It could be added that he is highly unlikely to find sympathy, even if he is now correct, among those who warned him all along that he was jumping to premature and irrational conclusions, yet he met those warnings with extremely questionable tactics and digging his heels in even deeper. 

There are indeed a number of questions yet to be conclusively answered about whether the advocates of the Roswell Slides could have possibly been as incompetent and gullible as they appeared, including Richard Dolan, who participated in beWITNESS and incredibly vouched for the integrity of Maussan. It is arguably very doubtful that the saga could have progressed as far as it did without blatant collusion. It is extremely difficult to accept anyone could view those images, with or without documents from the NPS, and not consider the most likely explanation to be a mummy in a museum setting, or, at the least, realize there is no reason whatsoever to assume an alien. 

It is possible that some of the group, such as Bragalia, may have been so gullible they became the victims of a scam themselves. Even if so, they are highly unlikely to find a sympathetic ear among a UFO community that warned them all along to suspend judgment pending verifiable evidence, and they chose to reject those warnings with aggressive and self-righteous contempt. If the rest of us can be expected to figure out how to avoid jumping to unfounded and, in all honesty, idiotic conclusions, so can they.

Monday, June 1, 2015

UFO Mystery Mongering Uses Satire Sites as News Sources

Scott Waring of 'UFO Sightings Daily', a website very supportive of the possibility of an alien presence, was among the latest to promote fictional material originating from an entertainment-based website as news. Such sites have become widely known as satire sites and exist for various purposes, all of which pretty much involve drawing site visitors and routing web traffic.    

Last July 'The UFO Trail' published a post on former UFO community regulars Dr. Rima Laibow and her husband, Ret. Gen. Bert Stubblebine, who are currently making all the noise they can in the anti-vax movement. The post last year explored Laibow's citation of a source, the Wyoming Institute of Technology (WIT), for rather extraordinary information contained in an article she published July 7. WIT, as its acronym suggests, turned out to be a satirical website. The story Laibow cited was clickbait for all practical purposes, but its author no doubt appreciated the shout out.

1867 edition of 'Punch', a groundbreaking
satirical publication
In a similar turn of events, just last weekend a FIFA official charged with corruption took to the Internet to plead his case - and cited as supporting evidence a piece from 'The Onion', a well known satirical website. Jack Warner, one of 14 officials charged by the Justice Department, waved a printed copy of an article from 'The Onion' while proclaiming his innocence in a video. The article cast the U.S. and its international football interests in questionable and unbecoming contexts, thus Warner printed and presented the otherwise dubious information.

Back in ufology, Scott Waring published a May 25 post at 'UFO Sightings Daily' in which he cited a report of an anonymous pilot allegedly snapping a photo of what was represented as a UFO "sucking" water from a California lake. The report kicked up a discussion at UFO Casebook forum, where member SysConfig aptly pointed out some vetting was in order of the original source, a supposed newspaper titled the 'Nevada County Scooper', cited by Waring for the sensational tale. Yep, it was the 'Scooper' that broke the story.

A few clicks of the mouse later, a page was located containing the 'Scooper' terms and conditions, which included the following clarification:
This website is humorous in scope and intent. It provides fake news in a comedy setting. If you are offended, go away you worthless cretin and consider doing something else with your time rather than looking at the Internet.
Other not so subtle clues to the satirical nature of the 'Scooper' was its description of a managerLouis "Lou" LaPlante. He helps keep the team "from spending all the profits on booze." 

Satire was also apparent in the website's guidelines for acceptable use, located on the same page as the terms and conditions. The guidelines included, "Don't stalk people unless you like restraining orders," "Use good manners or we'll delete your stupid comment and ridicule your upbringing," and "Inane, obscure and/or irrelevant comments are all OK as long as you follow these rules."

As of this post, current items on the main page of the 'Scooper' include a chemtrail forecast. Also offered for reading pleasure are 'New DMV Photo System Promises Faster/More Hideous Pictures' and 'How to Roast a F------ Whole Chicken'.

When pushed on the satire issue by a reader, Waring rather incredibly replied on May 28 he was "finding a little proof of made up stories" at the 'Scooper' and he was "still looking into it." This wasn't the toughest, most time consuming investigation to conduct, folks.

Waring had submitted comments to the 'Scooper', inquiring about more details of the alleged sighting. The webmaster responded there were additional witnesses and such, and to please share the article, all of which Waring quoted in an update. This writer then submitted comments to Waring and 'UFO Sightings Daily', informing his readers the 'Scooper' was a satirical website. A link to the terms and conditions as cited above was included. The comments never appeared, but Waring did mention that the "NSA often leave comments" at his website and he will delete them when he sees them.

Apparently knowing a good thing when they see it, the 'Scooper' doubled down and published another fictional article May 27 about a pilot photographing a UFO. Waring ran with that article as well.

"The site itself does have some satire," Waring wrote, "so caution is noted here."

Good to see 'UFO Sightings Daily' practicing due caution in curating material. That's satirical.