Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The "History" Channel Mangles Project Blue Book - Episode 1


So on January 8 we finally saw the much-awaited first episode of Project Blue Book on the Channel that once showed History. It was expected to be sensationalized, and poorly-acted. Those things it was.  Where it exceeded expectations, however, was in the degree that it distorted the facts of what was, in fact, a historical incident, freely mixing sensational but fictional elements with a classic UFO incident. Public discussions of this case will now be hopelessly polluted by the made-up elements that people will now firmly believe to be part of the actual story.


The first episode is titled "The Fuller Dogfight," an obvious reference to the "classic" UFO case of the Gorman "dogfight" of 1948. (In fact, statements made at the end of the program confirm this.) This refers to a famous case in the Blue Book files occurring near Fargo, ND in which an experienced WWII pilot reported what seemed like a "dogfight" with a lighted object. Serious UFOlogists generally accept that the pilot George Gorman, while an experienced combat pilot, became disoriented while attempting to approach a lighted object at night, and reported it as performing impossible feats. The object was apparently a lighted weather balloon that had been recently launched in that area. Some will argue that it is not plausible for an experienced pilot to become so disoriented, and imagine a slowly-moving object making incredible maneuvres. They forget that J. Allen Hynek himself wrote,  "Surprisingly, commercial and military pilots appear to make relatively poor witnesses" ( The Hynek UFO Report, 1977, p. 271).

This ought to bring into mind another "classic" UFO case, this one tragic - the death of the young pilot Frederick Valentich in Australia in 1978. His attention fixed on some unidentified object - very likely Venus, that he believed to be orbiting his position - Valentich apparently became disoriented, fell into a 'graveyard spiral,' and crashed into the ocean. This chilling video from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, 178 Seconds to Live, warns about the dangers of pilots becoming disoriented when flying at night or in times of poor visibility. It is relevant to investigations of both the Gorman and the Valentich cases (and probably to the crash killing JFK Jr. as well).

Here is an off-the-top-of-my-head list of falsehoods shown or implied in "The Fuller Dogfight":
  • Gorman shot at the object. False.
  • Gorman was sent to the infirmary for an extended period of time with psychological problems. False.
  • Gorman collided with the object, which damaged his plane. False.
  • The UFO took control of Gorman's plane. False.
  • Gorman somehow anomalously hears a radio station during the incident, and became obsessed with the song. False.
  • Hynek traveled to Fargo to investigate this case on-site. False. Indeed, Mark O'Connel, author of the first biography of J. Allen Hynek, noted on Facebook that in the episode "Hynek drove from Fargo, ND to Columbus, OH seemingly in a matter of minutes. It's a 15 hour drive today, but back then there were no interstates."
  • Hynek and his Air Force "handler," a pilot, went up in a plane to try to duplicate the encounter. The plane crashed, but both survived. This is beyond ridiculous.
  • A "Man in Black" was watching the investigation, uselessly, from a distance. The stories about the Men In Black originated with  Albert K. Bender in 1953.
And even as we read this, more absurdities and anachronisms in the program are being spotted, and posted on the Internet. In a few days the list will no doubt be much longer. Even "Disclosure" champion Stephen Bassett is concerned about this, gently but firmly noting that
it is important to publicly point out the simple fact there is quite a gap between the theatrical presentation of Hynek's life and the real life. It would be helpful if a fact vs. fiction page of quality was developed and updated as the series moves forward. Researchers and others might prepare for how they will respond to questions from the more confused viewers who watch and then Google.
And if a UFO program is bad enough to worry Stephen Bassett, it has got to be really bad! If the story were entirely fiction, there would be no problem. The problem occurs, however, because "Project Blue Book" references real people, real organizations, real incidents, but in a grossly distorted and misleading way. 

The UFO panel at the 1984 CSICOP Conference, Stanford, CA. From left: J. Allen Hynek, yours truly,
astronomer Andrew Fraknoi, Philip J. Klass, physicist Roger Culver. Photo by Gary Posner.
Let me also say, as someone who has spent a lot of time listening to Hynek speak in person, that Aidan Gillen is not convincing as J. Allen Hynek. He does not look like Hynek, he does not sound like Hynek, he does not act like Hynek. And he doesn't even have Hynek's trademark goatee. I think Gillen ought to listen to some of the many YouTube videos showing Hynek's TV appearances, to practice and make his act more convincing.





19 comments:

  1. And on top of that, they took away his omnipresent pipe.

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    1. Captain Quinn--who seems to be channeling Rod Serling--smokes enough for the entire cast and crew! Aidan Gillen's adequately professorial Hynek seems too smart and clean to be a smoker. And the hat and glasses seem to be enough, but we will see.

      What do you want to bet our mysterious Man in Black will turn out to be a "Smoking Man?" We had just about every sci-fi TV trope introduced in this very first episode--right down to the chase into an abandoned amusement park! I saw that device in practically every TV sci-fi and noir crime drama I saw as a kid--including "the Invaders."

      Good set-up episode; it's got whole "UFO" thing going on--now the conspiracy continues!

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    2. We had just about every sci-fi TV trope introduced in this very first episode--right down to the chase into an abandoned amusement park!

      Shaggy and Scoobs will meddle enough to catch the 'Martian' in a net in the last episode. The 'reveal' will be it's Travis Walton in a mask.

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  2. 'Live Science' described the program with some significant factual issues which ar being seriously debated in their comment section.

    https://www.livescience.com/64443-project-blue-book-ufos-history-channel.html
    “Other unnerving encounters with UFOs were directly observed midair by pilots, who are trained to recognize unexpected sights that may appear during challenging flight conditions. This makes their descriptions of UFOs harder to dismiss as delusional…”

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  3. More reasons to skip the how, but humorously written: https://www.thedailybeast.com/project-blue-book-inside-the-us-governments-top-secret-ufo-research?ref=scroll

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  4. Robert,

    Once again–you're being too kind!

    You wrote:

    "... we finally saw the much-awaited [my emphasis] first episode of Project Blue Book on the Channel that once showed History."

    I would substitute much awaited for much dreaded!

    You also wrote:

    Public discussions of this case will now be hopelessly polluted by the made-up elements that people will now firmly believe to be part of the actual story.

    And then some!!!

    Cheers,
    Frank

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  5. Don't miss the coverage on 'Live Science' by a professional science writer.

    “Other unnerving encounters with UFOs were directly observed midair by pilots, who are trained to recognize unexpected sights that may appear during challenging flight conditions. This makes their descriptions of UFOs harder to dismiss as delusional…”

    https://www.livescience.com/64443-project-blue-book-ufos...Don't miss the coverage on 'Live Science' by a professional science writer.

    “Other unnerving encounters with UFOs were directly observed midair by pilots, who are trained to recognize unexpected sights that may appear during challenging flight conditions. This makes their descriptions of UFOs harder to dismiss as delusional…”

    https://www.livescience.com/64443-project-blue-book-ufos-history-channel.html

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  6. An insignificant and forgotten non "UFO" event that is poorly fictionalized, but everyone involved laughs all the way to the bank and back! Typical Hollywood (or media generally) meets ufoolery, a long-standing, most profitable mutual symbiotic relationship. Maybe we should appreciate this silly confused "fiction as fact" series as another example of the moderrn dissolution of the "myth as fact." Hmmm? �� It gives new meaning to the slogan "Make ufoolery History!" ��

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  7. Bob - I'm in agreement with you and the other commenters regarding this series. Very disappointed!!! The "artistic license" taken with the story is basically overwhelming! I've followed the UFO phenomena since my early teens (I'm now 67) and have keep about 125 books on the UFO phenomena, including all of the Lorenzens/APRO books, works by Gray Barker, Otto Binder and others, have paperback editions of the Condon Report and the refutation that came out later, plus bought the paperback edition of Ruppelt's "Project Bluebook" at my high school bookstore in 1965. I may continue to watch this series, but only for laughs!!

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  8. Spoiler Alert!: IT'S JUST A TV SHOW. IT'S NOT MEANT TO BE HISTORICALLY ACCURATE.

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    1. And there are two basic kinds of acting: Presentational and Representational. In most modern acting it's not necessary for one to become an outward imitation of an historical person, but merely to internalize the character and express something, the various aspects, of the actor's understanding of that historical person or fictional character. Most actors just "play themselves as if...."

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    2. The History Channel doesn't have a remit to present accurate history? Whatever next? The Man In The High Castle as a 'real' history of the Third Reich?

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    3. If it was just a TV show 'based on' real history they should have used fictional names for the characters. To use genuine names and then fictionalize their actions and comments isn't 'literary license', it's deliberate fraud. There's no evading their intent to deceive, not merely entertain.

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  9. Well, first, re "Commenters are welcome to disagree with me, or with other comments, but state your arguments using logic, and with a civil tone," perhaps due to the format on this page, I wasn't exactly sure with whom I was being welcomed to disagree. I'm assuming for now it's Robert Sheaffer, someone from whom I often feel I have actually been cloned. But in any case, I have not so much a disagreement, but rather merely just a softer heart for a show I had THOUGHT (caps merely for accent; not anger at all) clearly indicated at its very outset that it was only a FICTIONAL SERIES loosely based on underlying real events. Further, near the end of the show as I recall, I saw some text like "If you want to read about the actual true event behind this episode, please go to history.com/(whatever)." I DID go there and read the article, and so learned about nearly ALL of the "falsehoods" mentioned by Dr. Sheaffer. To me, they were very much the kinds of romantic "falsehoods" I would expect in a fictional series loosely based on, or "inspired by," real events. In fact, compared to what Hollywood by contrast usually does to underlying historical events in movies, etc., I felt like the opener of this series unfolded practically like a documentary--Ha!--but that's not saying much, when remembering typical Hollywood of course. Regarding your "Public discussions of this case will now be hopelessly polluted by the made-up elements that people will now firmly believe to be part of the actual story," I suppose that's inevitably somewhat true, but I had hoped most viewers would pay attention to the disclaimers that did the job for me at (perhaps I'm too naive there) and take the show as fiction, perhaps sufficiently well-done to motivate them, as it did me, to read up on the original underlying event. If the disclaimers didn't do the job, I was hoping the amusement park scene alone should have done it. Oh well...maybe my heart is just too soft.

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  10. The stories that inspired Project Blue Book and the X-Files . . .
    Did you know Tesla believed he had intercepted radio signals from Mars in 1899? How do you tell the difference between real UFOs and the ones that are just rumor and legend? Why do people assume "UFO" always means "alien spaceship"? How did one of the least convincing UFO cases ever--Roswell--become the first one most people think of when they hear the phrase "UFO"?
    If these questions interest you, check out Mystery in the Skies--free for Kindle U. Keep looking up!
    https://www.amazon.com/Mystery-Skies-UFOs-Fiction-Folklore-ebook/dp/B07GJS1DV7/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1539264523&sr=8-1&keywords=mystery+in+the+skies+david+rogers

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  11. Jumpin' Jupiter!

    What a mangling mashup we have now: Flat Woods; Kecksburg; Cash-Landrum; Mothman; Roswell; and people falling out of windows too. Geesh! (Did I miss one?) Plus the furtherance of the conspiratorial bifurcation of the ET flying-saucer reality, the truth, and the official UFO "mass delusion" coverup.

    We've got a real honest-to-god recovered flying saucer under a black tarp in a hanger. Whoa! Yes, Sir! There's nothing better than turning reality on its head to spin a good "UFO" yarn. We also further develop the MIB presence and Russian-spy angle, and the rest of the colorful cold-war styles (plus a trip to a gay, beatnik, jazz club) and paranoid unhinging of the American-family soap opera.

    And the money angle too! There's money in the "UFO" business. I'll give the filmmakers some credit for that inclusion. No, not the idea that our good scientist, dear Dr Hynek, is being paid off, that would require his knowledge. And not that he's an unwitting dupe--what a lovely jab at scientists. But the subtle hint that the entire "UFO" myth and delusion is inextricably wedded to the financial gain to be had in the "flying saucer" business for over a century. This Series Included!

    These Hollywood producers aren't complete ufools! And Spielbergians that they are, they have a sense of humor about it all.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jumpin%27_Jupiter

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    1. Having watched the Porky Pig & Sylvester cartoon that's the subject of your link, I was struck by the good fortune of the Jovian language being identical in spelling, grammar and syntax to 'American English'; thereby, precluding the need to push a small yellow fish into our ears upon contact.

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  12. If it was just 'based on' real history they should have used fictional names for the characters. To use genuine names and then fictionalize their actions and comments isn't 'literary license', it's deliberate fraud. There's no evading their intent to deceive, not merely entertain.

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  13. No need to get all steamed up... casting Aidan Gillen has ensured that the show will never be taken completely seriously, as the man is somewhat of a legendary internet joke for his performance in the first Batman movie.

    Instead of people arguing that details from the show really happened, what you'll see is lots of pictures of Bane photoshopped onto a gray alien body with the text YOU'RE A BIG ET and FOR U overlaid.

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