R-E-S-P-E-C-T, it's what UFOs in the UK need

Posted on January 15, 2009 by

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Respectability. Reputation. Legitimacy.

For those researching strange phenomenon, establishing and maintaining a good reputation, a measure of respect, and the legitimacy of their studies is always an uphill battle. Mainstream journalist and pundits usually scoff, when they bother to pay attention at all. Hoaxers and scam artists garner big notice in the press. But researchers who are respected in their particular cloistered field, and who have called a hoax a hoax from the outset, are relegated to a footnote in the mainstream news reports. That is, they are relegated to a footnote if they are lucky enough to be noticed at all.

In the world of conspiracy theory, ufology, cryptozoology, and fringe science, your damned when you speak out, and damned when you don’t.

So, given all of this, what does respectability even mean to these fields? Enthusiasm and interest ebbs and flows, as it does for anything, and people choose to construct a world-view that best suits them. If that means that all bigfoot reports are hoaxes so that they aren’t afraid to go into the woods at night, or that ghosts are real because nothing else explains the creepy feeling they get in the third floor guest room where Uncle Jim died, then that is what people choose to believe.

With incidents like the recent pseudocide of 9-11 Truther Ace Baker, blogged on here by SMiles Lewis, and the Georgia bigfoot body hoax pulled off by a police officer and former prison guard (professions comprised of individuals normally accepted as paramounts of honesty and respectability) in August of last year, it seems valid that we pause and ask ourselves some questions.

How important is reputation in these fields? Jacques Vallee is educated, well written and spoken, not prone to jumping to conclusions, and yet he would be lumped in with the “saucer nuts” by most mainstream journalists. The same could be said for hominid researchers such as Jeff Meldrum, who like Vallee has an academic reputation to maintain outside of his personal studies.  Yet while the Meldrums and Vallees of this world suffer under the derision and constant scrutiny of colleagues and the media, or keep their private pursuits to themselves; known hucksters and hoaxers like Tom Biscardi continue to benefit from the flippant attitude toward the subjects and lack of background research undertaken by various local media outlets. Biscardi is a known and proven hoaxer, yet he can pull into any small town and have the cameras on his crew in a matter of hours.

Perhaps, as guest blogger Oliver Hallen muses in the post below concerning UFO reports by police officers in the UK, respect and reputation are concepts as culturally and contextually loaded, and therefore as ephemeral, as the UFOs and beasties we endeavor to understand.

(The views expressed by Oliver Hallen are his own and do not reflect the opinions or views of AnomalyMagazine.com, its editorial staff, or myself. — Jeremy D. Wells)

A mark of respect

by Oliver Hallen

A problem I’ve come across many times in the subject of ufology is complaints regarding the disparaging nature with which it’s treated. Although very easy to attack and a lot of the criticism being justified, it rarely gets sensibly acknowledged by the majority of the fields populace which should really address this. It doesn’t come as much of a surprise though when familiar with the general thinking that so many researchers subscribe to. Most people within the scene appear to have an inability to skeptically assess matters on a fundamental level. This has been a major issue that’s dogged the field and is as noticeable now as decades ago.

One area I wanted to touch on with relation to this is a word that seems to bring with it much attention both good and bad: respectability. The desire for this is almost always wanted in what ever people have been devoted to, ufology being no exception. It’s a sensitive issue which many investigators battle for, although it’s usually not fully defined as to what region this is directed towards. Is it sought from the scientific community, peers, for quality of research conducted, dedication to one of the many ‘causes’ or another reason? This is a single example of many regarding the ambiguity that’s rampant throughout the subject.

Another section its present in is concerning that of witnesses. Of course, reports coming from sources like active or former military personnel, pilots and other professionals will nearly always be treated more seriously, but holding such a position in no way means you are beyond fallible. One specific group I’m going to concentrate on is police officers, who are expected and trained in their job to provide accurate reporting, investigative skills as well as an approach of impartiality. The following three referenced reports, all from separate decades, come from the Police Reporting UFO Sightings (PRUFOS) database which has ample incidents catalogued spanning different locations and dates.

The initial one occurred in 1972, in Banbury, Oxfordshire. Officers PC Perry Jackson and PC William Bryne observed a yellow coloured cigar shaped vehicle. According to Bryne, it “…travelled along slowly for a few seconds, then shot off into the night at a fantastic speed. We didn’t know what it was, nor had we ever seen anything like it but many reports have been made at the police station of strange lights and objects”.

The next took place on the 16th August, 1988, in Toomebridge, Northern Ireland. A Constable sighted an unidentified silver coloured object from the police station in this vicinity. Watching the UFO for an hour including with binoculars, several other Constables in separate locations close by saw it too.

The last comes from out in Gravesend, Kent, in October, 1993. On visiting an address, PC Tony Francis sighted an abnormal craft which public witnesses had reported. Even though unable to elucidate what it could actually be, he didn’t doubt the integrity of both the male and female observers’ report he answered. Supposedly, it had the ability to alter its shape from a bell to an ellipse with spikes coming out of it.

Its strange how both unsolved crimes from past years and ones committed today can be resolved via the investigative means we have at our disposal yet, even with the so-called best cases, the most that’s accomplished from a ufological view in regards to an answer is simply: we don’t know. Even with these witnesses and descriptions, there’s still nothing at all here that could bolster the above incidents as connected to a paranormal explanation. It’s important to state that an apparent answer or viewpoint on a certain case can be based massively off the bias of either an investigating or witnessing party, though this is not always present. Assumptions are made however with not even a scrap of supporting evidence, with one person’s interpretation being very different to another’s.

A question to ask is how respectability exists at all in an unpredictable climate like this. Well, as I’ve said before, a lot of the blame rests squarely with ufologists.

(The PRUFOS website can be found at – www.prufospolicedatabase.co.uk)

Oliver Hallen – 8th November, 2008

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