Monday, May 10, 2021

The New Yorker's Credulous Article on Pentagon UFOs - Part 2

(Continued from Part 1.)

Having given us a crash course in UFO history,  author Lewis-Kraus returns to his Hagiography of Leslie Kean:

Once it was clear that U.F.O.s were going to be her life’s work, Kean resolved to ally herself with the research tradition that Hynek had pioneered. Ufologists liked to dwell on certain historic encounters, like Roswell, where any solid evidence that might once have existed had become hopelessly entangled with mythology. Kean chose to focus on “the really good cases” that had been reported since the close of Blue Book, including those that involved professional observers, such as pilots, and ideally multiple witnesses; those that had been substantiated with photos or radar tracks; and especially those in which experts had eliminated other interpretations.
The first such "really good" case mentioned is the famous Rendlesham case in Suffolk, UK, December 1980  (which the late James Moseley always referred to as "Rendle-sham"). 
The details of the incident as it is described in Kean’s book are sensational, to say the least. Another witness, Sergeant James Penniston, said that he got close enough to a silent triangular craft to feel its electric charge and to note the hieroglyphic-like designs etched into its surface.
The claims associated with Rendle-sham may well be "sensational," but the facts dedidedly less so. I have already described some of the many absurdities claimed about this case. As for Penniston, he claims that he touched the landed UFO, and received a message from it in the form of a "binary code," which he subsequently wrote down. However, he did not tell anyone about it for thirty years. (Highly-publicized UFO cases, like fine wines, often improve with age.)  Penniston now says that the binary data from the Rendle-sham UFO was sent by Time Travelers. Remember, this is a "really good case," unlike all those flakey ones.
Part of Penniston's telepathically-received  'UFO Binary Code,' miraculously turning up in his notebook thirty years after the fact. It reveals the UFO to have been sent by Time Travelers from the year 8100. 

Later on, Lewis-Kraus tells us,
One dogged British researcher has convincingly shown that the Rendlesham case, or Britain’s Roswell, probably consisted of a concatenation of a meteor, a lighthouse perceived through woods and fog, and the uncanny sounds made by a muntjac deer. Eyewitness reports are subject to considerable embroidery over time, and strings of improbable coincidences can easily be rendered into an occult pattern by a human mind prone to misapprehension and eager for meaning. The researcher had exhaustively demystified the case, and I was perturbed to learn that Kean seemed unfazed by his verdict. When I asked her about it, she did little more than shrug, as though to suggest that such fluky accounts violated Occam’s razor. 

He doesn't want to tell us the British researcher's name - it is Ian Ridpath. Nor does he give us the URL that "exhaustively demystified the case" - it is here. Mustn't give skepticism too much of a boost. Or upset Leslie! So much for "journalistic objectivity!" Obviously wavering in The Faith, at least a little, he asked Leslie about it.

Even if Rendlesham was “complex,” she said, it was still “one of the top ten U.F.O. encounters of all time.” And, besides, there were always other cases. Hynek, in “The UFO Experience,” had contended that U.F.O. sightings represented a phenomenon that had to be taken in aggregate—hundreds upon hundreds of incredible stories told by credible people.
So even if the Rendle-sham case has a logical explanation, it is nonetheless a "top ten" UFO case, a Golden Oldie, so that counts for something, I guess. And here she repeats Hynek's "bundle of sticks" analogy, which I heard him make many times: any one stick might be broken, but taken together they are too strong to break. To which the obvious reply is: If each case is a zero, the sum of any number of zeroes is zero.
For another "really good" case,
Kean selected an incident that occurred in Kecksburg, Pennsylvania, a rural hamlet southeast of Pittsburgh, on December 9, 1965, in which an object the size of a Volkswagen Beetle allegedly hurtled from the sky. According to multiple witnesses, the acorn-shaped bulk had been removed from the woods on a flatbed truck as service members guarded the area with guns. 
Allegedly. The problem is, we know exactly what people saw in the sky near Kecksburg, and indeed across the entire region. It was the Great Lakes Fireball of December 9, 1965, well documented in Sky and Telescope magazine (February, 1966) and other astronomical publications. This has been pointed out repeatedly by skeptics for decades, but somehow the word doesn't seem to have reached Kean. She lives in a bubble of overwhelmingly pro-UFO information, and apparently thinks that there is nothing of value outside it. As for the claims about soldiers in the woods recovering a crashed UFO, as I said about Rendle-sham, highly-publicized UFO cases, like fine wines, often improve with age. 

from Chamberlain, Von Del, 1968: Meteorites of Michigan, Geological Survey Bulletin 5, East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan Department of Conservation, Geological Survey Division, pp. 1-5.


Lewis-Kraus Continues,

Kean’s book, which was praised by the theoretical physicist Michio Kaku as “the gold standard for U.F.O. research,” and to which John Podesta had contributed a foreword, enhanced and expanded her influence. In June of 2011, Podesta invited Kean to make a confidential presentation at a think tank he founded, the Center for American Progress... In August, 2014, Kean visited the West Wing to meet again with Podesta, who was by then an adviser to President Obama. She had scaled down her request, proposing that a single individual in the Office of Science and Technology Policy be assigned to handle the issue. Nothing came of it.
What we are not told is that Michio Kaku is a UFO believer, who has warned about possible alien invasions and such. His book, Physics of the Impossible, deals with the supposed physics of "phasers, force fields, teleportation, and time travel." The great majority of Kaku's colleagues in physics would dismiss this as nonsense.

Now we come to - The Fly! Lewis-Kraus somewhat apologetically writes that Kean
had a cordial relationship with the Chilean government’s Comité de Estudios de Fenómenos Aéreos Anómalos (cefaa). She had begun breaking stories from its case files with an atypical recklessness. Kean’s work from this period, mostly published on the Huffington Post, shows signs of agitation and evangelism. In March of 2012, she wrote an article called “UFO Caught on Tape Over Santiago Air Base,” which referred to a video provided by cefaa. Kean described the video as showing “a dome-shaped, flat-bottomed object with no visible means of propulsion . . . flying at velocities too high to be man-made.” She asked, “Is this the case UFO skeptics have been dreading?”
However, the CEFAA video was widely panned - and not just by skeptics - as simply showing a fly buzzing around. (Note that the Huffington Post article, co-authored by Ralph Blumenthal, Kean's co-author of her New York Times articles about AATIP and Pentagon UFOs, was updated in 2017, undoubtedly to make it less embarrassing. I was not able to find the original article in the Internet Archive, or anywhere else.)  Lewis-Kraus does mention my debunking of the Chilean Fly UFO video, again without giving anyone the URL to enable them to check it themselves.
When Kean wrote about the cefaa video, debunkers leaped at the chance to point out that the object in the case they had been dreading was in all probability a housefly or a beetle buzzing around the camera lens. Robert Sheaffer, the proprietor of a blog called Bad UFOs, wrote in his column in the Skeptical Inquirer, “Indeed, the very fact that a video of a fly doing loops is being cited by some of the world’s top UFOlogists as among the best UFO images of all time reveals how utterly lightweight even the best UFO photos and videos are.” Kean consulted with four entomologists, who mostly declined to issue a categorical judgment on the matter, and urged patience with cefaa’s ongoing investigation.
Kean still has not admitted that she was fooled by a fly buzzing around. She posted some completely irrelevant pictures of beetles, then tried to pass the buck to certain "entomologists," as if even they could identify the species of an insect buzzing around and flying rapid loops in front of the camera.


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