Friday, October 26, 2012

"U.S. News" Proclaims UFOs a "Danger to Aviation"

The next time you get on a plane, don't worry about the terrorist who might have smuggled explosives on board inside his rectum. Instead, you should be worrying about UFOs, according to this story by Michael Morella  in the News section of U.S. News and World Report (October 19, 2012):
UFO Sightings Pose Danger to Aviation
Flying saucers and other unidentified flying objects can distract pilots and cause accidents
the illustration from the U.S. News article
Before you get too concerned, remember that the number of fatalities in airline accidents caused by UFOs equals the number of motorists killed in vehicle collisions with unicorns (although the private pilot Fredrick Valentich appears to have perished in a graveyard spiral while distracted by what he thought was a UFO).

Following this bit of remarkable stupidity, the rest of the article is basically a completely uncritical review of Leslie Kean's book UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go On the Record. She presents supposedly "unexplained" UFO cases involving either a pilot, a general, or a bureaucrat. But as I showed in my review of this book, her cases are only "unexplained" if one ignores all explanations. Philip J. Klass and others have published thousands of words explaining most if not all of Kean's supposed "unexplained" cases. She pretends that other interpretations don't exist, and thus ensnares too-trusting reporters into her UFO net. Good reporters, recognizing that controversial stories have two sides, would interview a knowledgeable expert with a different view, and present both sides. He might have even uncovered the ridiculous story of Leslie Kean and the Fly, and asked her to explain that. Unfortunately, good reporting is quite rare. The piece is rounded off with more UFO advocacy by Richard Haines and John Alexander, with just the briefest objection presented by Seth Shostak.

Morella had previously written "Mysteries of Space" for a special issue of U.S. News (April, 2012). A cover teaser promised to explain "Why UFOs are dangerous," but the text didn't deliver on that promise.

This is not the first time that U.S. News and World Report has embarrassed itself by publishing UFO stories that turned out to be simply foolish.

“Before the year is out, the Government perhaps the President—is expected to make what are described as 'unsettling disclosures' about UFOs” - U.S. News & World Report, April 18, 1977.
There were no "unsettling disclosures," and still have not been, thirty-five years later. Presidential candidate Jimmy Carter famously promised to release all of that UFO files, if elected. This set up something like a Millennial frenzy among UFO believers, expecting the official announcement of alien visitations to come at any time. After Carter was elected, he probably found out that the Blue Book files had already been declassified and released; Phil Klass and I had already been reading them in the National Archives before Carter took office.

Then there is this doozy:
 “FLYING SAUCERS—THE REAL STORY: U.S. BUILT FIRST ONE IN 1942. Jet-propelled disks can outfly other planes ... By choosing which [jet] noz­zles to turn on or off and the angle of tilt, the pilot could make the saucer rise or descend vertically, hover, or fly straight ahead, or make sharp turns… a big advance in the science of flying... No official announcements are being made yet, but about the only big secret left is "who makes them." Evidence points to Navy experiments... ” - News “scoop” in U.S. News & World Report, April 7, 1950.

It would seem that about every thirty-five years, U.S. News is determined to publish something monumentally stupid about UFOs, something that is a profound and lasting embarrassment to any professional journalist. Like clockwork, they've done it again.


  1. wow, and people sometimes question why I am so interested in UFOs. Look at who believes in them! I can't believe a news magazine would publish something so silly and fear mongering. My step brother works for the TSA (yes I know evil people).. but he doesn't pat down, he does security training for threats. Bob says "Ummm, no we are not seeing UFOs as any security threat, and there is no training going on for pilots and crew." Well, he could be lying...

  2. Nice work! As soon as I saw the story, I immediately thought of their earlier saucer stories and was pleased to see you referenced them. How did these earlier saucer stories get into print- was Walter Haut passing them memos?

  3. Too bad that US News would go to this level but one has to remember, they need people to buy their magazine. I saw one individual state that this story is a sign that UFO disclosure may be about to occur! We have been hearing that story since the 1950s.

  4. ||UFO Sightings Pose Danger to Aviation||

    Irrationally assuming the answer... Always!

    ||Flying saucers and other unidentified flying objects....||
    [with graphic of unambiguous "flying saucer"]

    But not one bit of the article even begins to support the belief that there are real "UFOs" of any kind--much less "flying saucers" from another world--it only makes the same old phony appeals, same old nonevents. Anything to sell a magazine, no matter how stupid.

    Invaluable old-time debunking paid believers in the "UFO" myth and collective delusion the compliment of rational opposition; Scientific realists know they're not even wrong.

  5. "Flying saucers and other unidentified flying objects can distract pilots and cause accidents"

    But... but... how could trained, professional observers such as pilots (and police officers and 'the military' and cattle ranchers) possibly become distracted? It's what they're trained to do! And it would mean that they, somehow, failed to professionally observe their flight instruments, or the ground approaching upside down.

    I'm so confused right now...


Keep your comments relevant, and keep them civil! That means no personal attacks will be allowed, by anyone, on anyone. Commenters are welcome to disagree with me, or with other comments, but state your arguments using logic, and with a civil tone. Comments in violation of these rules will be deleted, and offenders banned.

Comments should be in English, although quotes from foreign-language sources are fine as long as they're relevant, and you explain them. Anonymous postings are not permitted. If you don't want to use your real name, then make up a name for yourself, and use it consistently.