From the Urban Dictionary:
To jump the shark: The precise moment when you know a program, band, actor, politician, or other public figure has taken a turn for the worse, gone downhill, become irreversibly bad, is unredeemable, etc.; the moment you realize decay has set in.
MUFON, the largest UFO organization in the United States, presents itself as being dedicated to the scientific investigation of UFOs. Its website describes "MUFON's Use of the Scientific Method":
In the reporting and investigation of UFO sightings, MUFON strives to use the scientific method....In order to augment scientific research into the study of the UFO phenomenon, MUFON created a Science Review Board (SRB) in 2012. The SRB consists of 8-9 scientists with backgrounds in electrical engineering, physics, chemistry, geology, biology, computer science, and astronomy.
MUFON has just debuted a TV series on the cable channel H2 (History Channel #2, placing it in the august company of shows like Ancient Aliens and The UFO Hunters), and in it the Scientific Method is nowhere to be seen. The series is called Hangar 1 the UFO Files, where "Hangar 1" is supposed to be the place MUFON's supposedly vast collection of UFO data (or UFO stories) is kept. Since MUFON does not exactly own buildings or anything, and its headquarters keep moving as its directors change, some folks are quite skeptical that there even is such a place as "Hangar 1" (think of that huge storage building at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.)
And what exactly does MUFON serve up from its precious archives? Some of the most preposterous, unsubstantiated stories in the UFO literature. I was going to write up a long review of all of the nonsense in just the first episode of this clunker, but there is no need to. UFO blogger Jason Colavito has described the absurdities and fabrications quite nicely. Some highlights:
Seriously: This is the absolute worst H2 “documentary” I have yet seen. It actually makes America Unearthed look responsible and Ancient Aliens seem accurate. Hangar 1 S01E01 “Presidential Encounters” opens with a note that the “following incidents are taken from real case files.” This reminds me of the opening the Texas Chain Saw Massacre, which claimed to be based on true events; however, I have no doubt that “these are actual UFO investigations” as the next slide informs us. That doesn’t make them true, of course... It seems, too, that this show has its own catchphrase: “MUFON files suggest…” This is almost as good as “ancient astronaut theorists believe…” from Ancient Aliens, but not quite...
The dateline is February 20, 1954: Palm Springs, California. Dwight Eisenhower vacations in Palm Springs “for no reason,” according to MUFON official John Ventre. Apparently MUFON official is this show’s version of “ancient astronaut theorist” on Ancient Aliens. A UFO historian tells us that Eisenhower “disappeared” for twelve hours during which time he allegedly met with aliens at Edwards Air Force Base. Dwight Equitz does not believe the official story, given out the next morning, that the president had emergency dental surgery even though the dentist himself made an appearance. Equitz has a self-satisfied smirk when he reports that the Air Force base was shut down to outsiders during Eisenhower’s trip to Palm Springs. He does not present the obvious: that it was shut down because of the President’s trip, perhaps as a secure retreat zone for the presidential party, or to house the presidential aircraft. Instead, he insinuates that the shutdown was to allow for aliens to land...
Here’s the MAJESTIC-12 language attributed to “Chapter 5: Extraterrestrial Biological Entities” of the Group Special Operations Manual dated April 1954, reformatted on this show to fabricate a “1 March 1954” memo, by computer, in Times New Roman. I quote from Stanton Friedman’s Top Secret/Majic, an unimpeachably pro-UFO source: “Any encounter with entities known to be of extraterrestrial origin is to be considered to be a matter of national security and therefore classified TOP SECRET. Under no circumstances is the general public or public press to learn of the existence of these entities. The official government policy is that such creatures do not exist, and that no agency of the federal government is not engaged in any study of extraterrestrials or their artifacts. Any deviation from this sated policy is absolutely forbidden.” This is the same text Hangar 1 uses, but they excerpt only some sentences from the MJ-12 manual in crafting their own fake memo. The whole thing we see on screen appears to be a complete fabrication from this passage of the fictional MJ-12 documents, and no one on this show acknowledges or addresses the deception involved in creating this fake document as an “illustration.” I’m sure as far as the show is concerned, it’s just another “reconstruction” like reenactments featured during the show, but they present it as though it were true, quote from the fake document as real, and give a fake date not supported by the “actual” files in the MUFON archive.
Read that carefully: MUFON has fabricated documents to look like genuine secret government UFO documents, and presented them in Hangar 1 as if they were authentic, with no explanation or disclaimer. If that isn't downright dishonesty, I don't know what else to call it.
In a sense this is nothing new. When the notorious Gulf Breeze UFO hoax photos first surfaced in 1987, MUFON's director Walt Andrus embraced them wholeheartedly, resulting in the resignation of some of MUFON's best-known investigators. Andrus was so protective of that hoax that when some of MUFON's most respected investigators checked it out it first-hand and declared it a hoax, Andrus' reaction was to fire the investigators, and keep the hoax (see my book Psychic Vibrations, p. 60, also see "Gulf Breeze" in index). And the reason was obvious: these dramatic but hokey photos were enormously popular with MUFON's subscribers, who wanted to see more "red meat" in UFOlogy. And propelled by the momentum of the Gulf Breeze hoax, MUFON grew significantly.
|Curt Collins' take on Hangar 1|
Unfortunately, given the success of such trashy cable TV shows like Ancient Aliens, Hangar 1 probably will be a commercial success. It gives viewers what they want - exciting stories about alien encounters that sound credible because they are presented in an extremely biased and inaccurate way. And it probably will be successful in bringing new members to MUFON, who will demand more UFOlogical "read meat" lest their attention wander. So look for plenty more such absurdities to follow. Such is the dynamic at work in "Retail UFOlogy": Numerous, uncritical followers gather around a person or organization that gives them the UFOlogical "red meat" that they crave. (See, for example, Steven Greer, or Whitley Strieber.) More cautious organizations, for example, MUFON under James Carrion, do not excite and retain their followers nearly as well, and tend to lose membership. They don't want to hear about caveats and uncertainty. But when the organization follows the spotlight and ignores proper skepticism, it defines itself as fringe, "crackpot" organizations, and is laughed at by anyone who understands science.
What is really interesting is that the people who seem to be the most upset about the absurdities of Hangar 1 are not skeptics, who expect pro-UFO organizations to act irresponsibly, but instead the group I call skeptical believers: those who believe that some UFO incidents might represent genuine mysteries beyond science, but who recognize that the great bulk of UFOlogy consists of error, exaggeration, and humbug. And the "skeptical believer" is just as ready to denounce humbug as is any skeptic. After all, the only way to convince science that the UFO phenomenon is worth studying would be to toss aside all of the accumulated humbug, and accentuate the (hopefully) solid cases. So when MUFON gives itself over to humbug without reservation, it destroys all hope of presenting a convincing pro-UFO case to the skeptical scientific world. So much for the "scientific method!" In a very real sense, the skeptical believers, along with skeptics, are allies who can be characterized as realists - those who care very much what the facts are about UFO cases and try to stick to the facts as best possible - as opposed to unrealists who are ready to embrace any absurd UFO tale if it is exciting, and ignore all facts to the contrary.
There are still some fine investigators in MUFON, who do not make claims beyond what the data will allow, and who are ready to denounce hoaxes and humbug wherever encountered. People like these cannot possibly be happy about MUFON's plunge into tabloid sensationalism, and can scarcely afford to have their names associated with such trash.
And finally, we learn from John Ventre, a MUFON state director and one of the "stars" of Hangar 1, that the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was abducted by extraterrestrials. What is MUFON coming to?