Monday, May 24, 2021

UFOs Explode in the Credulous Media

May 14, 2021.

Unless you have been hiding under a rock for the past month, you have no doubt noticed that the major media have been filled with gushing, uncritical articles proclaiming the glorious new reality of UFOs. On the right, we have Tucker Carlson on Fox News, and the New York Post. On the left, we have the Washington Post and the New York Times.  Plus many others of all stripes. I have written in detail about the New Yorker's absurdly credulous UFO story by Gideon Lewis-Kraus on April 30, with its Hagiography of UFO and ghost promoter Leslie Kean.

What they all have in common is a congenital lack of journalistic skepticism or curiosity, and a lust for sensationalism and ratings. Golly Gee Whiz, Mr. Elizondo, UFOs really are real! Tell me more! (Do you have any proof of what you are saying, Mr. Elizondo? Oh, never mind.)

May 23, 2021

Finally, after a little time, a few publications have dared to depart from the default path of journalistic laziness. Jason Colavito, whose Blog contains a wealth of useful information and analysis, writes in The Atlantic (May 21):

But the real story isn’t disclosure, and it’s stranger than any UFO sighting. Behind the creamy pages of high-end magazines and the marble columns of the Capitol, the media elite and Congress are being played by a small, loosely connected group of people with bizarre ideas about science. It’s easy to dismiss UFOs as a fantasy or a fad, but the money, the connections, and the power wielded by a group of UFO believers—embedded in the defense industry and bent on supplanting material science with a pseudoscientific mysticism straight from the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens—poses a danger to America more real than a flying saucer [emphasis added].
Published by Dutton, 1975.

Colavito reviews in some detail the decades-long history of the UFO controversy, and the role of certain people he calls the "invisible college" (using Hynek and Vallee's term), who promote and investigate weird things. He tells us about the mystical beliefs shared by Hynek and Vallee (both found value in Rosicrucianism). There is Hal Puthoff and Russ Targ, believers in the magic powers of Uri Geller. Robert Bigelow, Bob Lazar, NIDS. And many others. Using rather colorful language (which I think is appropriate here, though others disagree), he writes:
NIDS primarily researched—and failed to prove—the supposed paranormal mysteries of a patch of desert in Utah called Skinwalker Ranch. Puthoff and the NIDS team believed it to be a supernatural gateway to the space ghost dimension. (The ranch is now the set of a paranormal reality TV program.) Remarkably, they managed to convince a visiting Defense Intelligence Agency scientist, and the DIA partnered with Bigelow to investigate space ghosts... The only public accounting of the program’s research was a list of its theoretical papers on stargates, wormholes, and other sci-fi topics that “invisible college” members like Puthoff obsessed over, as well as a proprietary 494-page 2009 “ten-month report” from Bigelow’s team in which Puthoff, Vallée, and others wrote about UFOs, “interdimensional phenomena” at Skinwalker Ranch, and alleged technology aliens implanted in a UFO abductee. Pentagon officials quickly concluded that releasing such an absurd report “would be a disaster,” as one unnamed official told The New Yorker. Eventually, Team Space Ghost developed a bizarre mythology, imagining that an organized cabal in the Pentagon actively suppressed UFO work because it feared UFOs were demons and that researching them might provoke Satan.
In conclusion, Colavito argues

More writing about Space Ghosts, 1975.
we shouldn’t let enthusiasts of space ghosts have the run of Washington to steer money and policy in the direction they want. If they insist UFOs are a national security threat, then the national media must take them at their word. No more chuckles. No more rhapsodies about mystery. We must hold Team Space Poltergeist to the levels of skepticism, seriousness, and scrutiny it pretends to demand. Quite literally, the future depends on it.

This is similar to the concluding summary I wrote at the end of my three-part article on the recent credulous New Yorker story (minus the term "Space Ghosts"). This story is all being driven by a few well-connected UFO enthusiasts:

the Pentagon's AATIP program came into existence not because "the Pentagon" or "the Navy" was concerned about UFOs (or "UAPs", as they prefer). It happened because of Robert Bigelow and Senator Harry Reid (D-NV, who was then the Majority Leader in the U.S. Senate). Reid arranged a "sweetheart" $22 million government contract for his major campaign contributor Robert Bigelow. Leslie Kean found out about it, and co-authored several articles about Pentagon UFOs in the New York Times. The rest, as they say, is History. Drunk History, actually.

Over in the National Review, Andrew Follett writes on May 21, "Calm Down, Everyone: The ‘UFOs’ Aren’t Aliens... The videos disclosed so far all have obvious potential terrestrial explanations."

What much of the recent news coverage fails to mention is that “Unidentified Flying Object” does not mean either “alien spacecraft” or even “extremely advanced drone.” And the videos disclosed so far all have obvious potential terrestrial explanations.... Carlson’s coverage of the “GoFast” video expressly claims it shows “technologies that are far beyond our current understanding of aerodynamics” and reveals “things that are maneuvering in ways that no aircraft that we are currently aware of have the capability to.” He adds that the UFOs “have no flight surfaces, no wing or anything approaching a wing . . . and no propulsion, so infrared doesn’t pick up any jet trail or rocket exhaust.” The video shows a small object apparently moving low across the water. However, the UFO was almost certainly a seabird or balloon distorted by parallax. Parallax is an effect that makes an object close to an observer, but filmed against a more distant background, seem to speed up as the camera moves. Data from the Navy camera clearly indicates the unidentified object had a wingspan of about four to seven feet in diameter, roughly the wingspan of a Canadian Goose, and flew at an altitude of 8,000 feet, well below the 29,000 feet maximum altitude of the bird. Alternatively, the Department of Defense description of the object expressly mentions a balloon (perhaps a weather balloon) as a possible explanation in the paperwork that accompanied the release of the video.

If it flies like a duck, is the size of a duck, and quacks like a duck . . . it probably isn’t an alien spaceship or ultra-advanced drone from a foreign power. But headlines such as “U.S. Navy Pilot Spots UFO” generate more clicks than “Pilot Sees Goose on Infrared Camera.”

On CNN, Chris Cuomo, after taking an irrelevant swipe at former president Trump, got down to interviewing Mick West about these "Pentagon UFO" videos. West explained the arguments against the Go Fast, the Gimble, and the Triangle UFO videos. Afterward, when an internet UFO fan boy insisted "He debunked nothing. All these cases are still unexplained. Explaining bits of the videos is not equal to identifying what was filmed," West replied

What I debunked was specific claims people were making about the videos - like GoFast going fast, Triangle being a triangle, and Gimbal being a flying saucer (and not a glare + gimbal lock artifact).

Which is exactly correct. If the object in the "Go Fast" video does not actually "go fast," and if the objects in the "Triangle UFO" video are not in fact triangular, then why should we care about these videos at all? (Except as a demonstration of the spectacular incompetence of the Pentagon's 'UAP task force.')

May 21, 2021.

Keith Kloor summed up the best explanation for what is happening: "Why UFOs Will Never, Ever Go Away.
Hint: It's not because of Hollywood, the History Channel or sci-fi shows." He writes,

As I have written elsewhere, it’s “the news media that keeps the specter of extraterrestrials alight in our skies and minds.” Yes, Hollywood movies like Independence Day and Men in Black tap into an ingrained pop culture motif, but it’s because of bad journalism that UFOs truly never, ever go away. [emphasis added].


  1. I wondered whether the US gov't is letting this run because they fear the public mood somewhat? After the threat to invade Area 51 a while back and a general acceptance of UFO\UAP conspiracy, is the US gov't throwing the "ufos are aliens" believing public a bone to keep them happy?

    1. I don't think they are fearful, and there wasn't really a serious movement to break into Area 51, nor are people more predisposed to believe in extraterrestrial visitations (if anything I'd say they're less predisposed these days). Perhaps this is simply a case of some clever 'insiders' knowing exactly what files they can access to boost their UFO promotion without getting in legal trouble?

  2. Maybe a good place to repost my cautionary assessment from last year:

    The '5 observables' allegedly demonstrated by the bizarre events reported by Navy pilots are NOT ‘observations’, they are INTERPRETATIONS of what the raw observations might mean. What IS ‘observable’ is that the author of the list knows less than zero about the proper function of a military intelligence officer or any investigator of unknown causes of eyewitness perceptions, which is to observe and record, NOT to interpret or explain. To jump to such interpretations preemptively is a notorious intellectual fallacy that REAL investigators have learned must be avoided because once formulated, an explanatory theory can subconsciously flavor the interpretation of new evidence, and even skew the direction of follow-on research, and through lines of questioning, even skew the memories of direct witnesses. As NTSB accident investigators know, pilots are among the MOST susceptible witnesses to memory editing, probably because of their entirely proper professional instinct to reach fast assessments of unusual observations in terms of potential hazard to themselves. This is a very valuable bias in terms of flight safety, at the cost of dispassionate intellectual curiosity.

    So what was really observed?

    Anti-gravity lift. [objects] have been sighted overcoming the earth’s gravity with no visible means of propulsion.

    This would be ‘observable’ only through its effect on the motion of the object, or more precisely, on changes in its measured azimuth/elevation relative to Earth horizon [not to a viewscreen]. With objects of unknown size, any eyeball estimate of range is worthless.

    Sudden and instantaneous acceleration. The objects may accelerate or change direction so quickly that no human pilot could survive the g-forces

    Effective acceleration determination requires knowledge of a time history of the object’s angular rate, observer-to-object range rate, and accurate range value. There seems to be no description of reliable capture of any of these parameters, so ‘acceleration’ CANNOT be observed.

    Hypersonic velocities without signatures. If an aircraft travels faster than the speed of sound, it typically leaves "signatures," like vapor trails and sonic booms

    Determination of raw velocity requires these same parameters, so without them the ‘velocity’ is not observable.

    Low observability, or cloaking. Even when objects are observed, getting a clear and detailed view of them—either through pilot sightings, radar or other means—remains difficult.

    ‘Observability’ can be observed qualitatively but needs more details about which sensors are involved, from human eyeball [under what attenuation/illumination conditions] to visual sensors [visible light, IR, etc] to ground or airborne skin-track radar, lidar, or other technology. Without time history of quantifiable measurements in an environment of potentially rapidly changing range and aspect angle, the ‘observation’ observability is a dubious characteristic.

    Trans-medium travel. Some UAP have been seen moving easily in and between different environments, such as space, the earth’s atmosphere and even water.

    This is yet another INTERPRETATION of low-observable imagery, involving a target of unknown size and range.

    Some of these interpretations may well be validated by investigation of the actual raw observables, but beginning an investigation based on pre-existing conclusions [and then selecting the evidence that fits] is a recipe for confusion and frustration and dead-ended detours. It demonstrates the sad unsuitability of such sloppy methodology to attempting to make sense of these undeniably interesting reports.

  3. Politics aside, I don't know if I would consider Carlson a credible news source. He's been pedaling some pretty goofy conspiracy and counter-science stuff lately. He's likely just in it for ratings bumps and social media clicks.

    1. "He's likely just in it for ratings bumps and social media clicks." -- s opposed to, uh, who, would you suggest?

  4. Pathetically, Vallée has recently coauthored a book ("Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret") claiming that there was a flying saucer recovery by the Army in the 1940s. Not the Roswell crash, of course, but a "real" one this time. Promise! And where did it happen? Why, only 20 miles from White Sands, of course! And why did this "interdimensional" craft (he stopped supporting the extraterrestrial hypothesis for flying saucers decades ago) appear there? Why, because of the atomic bomb, of course! The blurb on Amazon says "Over several site investigation surveys Harris and Vallée reconstructed the historic observations by three witnesses, two of whom are still living..." Through their "investigation", the authors uncovered that "Fearing retaliation, they [the "witnesses"] remained silent for some 60 years about what they had seen and done over those nine days at the site while the recovery was proceeding."

    In other words: the Roswell incident rinsed and repeated, complete with "witnesses" coming out decades after the "events", but with an interdimensional craft instead of an interstellar one.

    What makes this so egregiously disgusting is that a big part of Vallée's take up until now has been that the government doesn't really know what's going on (he assumes, of course, that something IS going on vis-à-vis extraordinary craft/phenomena) any more than the public does, and that in a way this is what constitutes the "real" cover-up. In his books, he's expressed deep skepticism about Roswell and recovered alien craft, MJ-12, Lazar's fraudulent story, etc. etc. and has warned about the dangers of UFO cults and extremism (such as in his book "Dimensions"). Now he's cashing in on the recovered craft trope and fanning extremist wet dreams about government cover-ups??! I suppose it's not that surprising; for a while now, he's been hawking "recovered fragments" that have supposedly been submitted for "analysis", so I suppose that this, in conjunction with the latest media craze surrounding AATIP and the Navy, may well have tipped his hand in favor of a Roswell-style craft recovery fable. Perhaps Vallée is also giving his buddy Bigelow or other friends at the woo academies he's been involved with a helping hand by suddenly "revealing" an amazing new story to help the narrative along.

  5. What's a big concern is when a former president like Barack Obama goes on national TV to explain there are things our government can't identify. Skeptics aren't commenting on the gravity of such an error or what that means. In fact, skeptics seem to be getting no attention and I see more and more of the general public think the skeptics are the ones with the problem.

    As someone who love science, I've read many books on the history of scientific discovery. A Danish Draper went to the British Royal Society with his papers on "animalcules" in pond water. And they laughed, participated in efforts to condemn him, gaslit him, and he died without any respect. A century later, someone with "respectable" scientific prowess happened to find moving objects in pond water, using the same type of glass that could see things small.

    Then it was celebratory and huge congratulations for the British Royal Society and their wonderful, amazing discovery of amoebas and tiny things, moving on to cells and well, the rest is history.

    Properly educated scientists have always been right. Right?

    In fact no, we see the opposite. We see discoveries often by accident or from people who had to fight, as a nurse, I know well about Florence Nightingale and her graphs, and how she had to convince people who looked down on her, that washing your hands before surgery will improve the outcomes. She fought against a terror.

    She fought against a religion of sorts, of men with privilege demented with positivity bias. "Of course, chuckle, we lads know everything. Here, this degree proves it."

  6. I can't believe that the UFO myth is connected to the arrival of the Antichrist in the future.


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