Did You Hear? UFOlogy is Dying. Again.



New York Magazine spends the slow weeks of midsummer declaring "The End of UFOs!" The title is a major misnomer, as the article in question is actually about the latest death of UFOlogy (or UFOOLogy, as it's alternately known). UFOlogy has died so many times I've lost count. I wrote about this boom and bust cycle two a half years ago myself.

Every 10 years or so a new wave of enthusiasts gets all excited about UFOs. It's often preceded or accompanied by a hit movie or TV show, which in turn inspires a clutch of imitators. That brings outs out a new wave of UFOlogists, and rekindles interest in the works of elder statesmen in the field. The topic gets a lot of play in the media, there are a lot of sightings and rumors of sightings and all kinds of expectations arise and all sorts of prophecies are made. 
The problem is that the UFOs themselves never seem to care much. The flaps die down. Sometimes there are major hoaxes or accusations of hoaxes and nothing ever seems to go anywhere. Then all of the new, young UFOlogists turn around and declare UFOlogy 'dead' and competition breaks out to see who be the most militant born-again debunker or have the most dramatic skeptical conversion epiphany.

In the past, Keel wrote of UFOlogy's death in the late 50s following the Contactee nonsense and NICAP scandals, only to have it come charging back in 1966 with Interrupted Journey and the 1966 UFO wave. Similarly, Vallee wrote of how the field seemed all but dead in the wake of 1969's Condon Report, only to be reborn with the '73 flap, which became the '74 and '75 flaps.

It would simmer down yet again, only to get a boost with Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Jimmy Carter's inauguration in 1977. Carter not only reported a UFO sighting, he unleashed a torrent of secret UFO documents under the Freedom of Information Act, a move that kept UFOlogy busy for much of the Eighties.

Just as the lustre from those revelations began to fade, Whitley Strieber unleashed Communion, with its iconic Grey book cover, setting in motion a tidal wave of a movement that researchers such as Budd Hopkins, John Mack and David Jacobs were only too happy to surf. Old time UFOlogists for the most part cast a jaundiced eye in the abductees direction, arguing they were attempting to construct a science, and the religious- and often mystical, usually Christian ("Communion") tone of the abductee material was undermining what they saw as the rigorous work of soil sampling, number crunching and radar analysis.

But UFOlogy has always been a fringe movement, even if major media productions like Close Encounters dragged in the curious. I'd say more often than not most people's first UFO convention was their last (I've never attended one myself) since hard facts and physical evidence has always been the movement's Achilles Heel. And anyone who spends even a few hours poking around UFOlogy sites will see a lot of rancor and infighting. At the height of his celebrity, Strieber was quoted as saying that "so-called UFOlogists are probably the cruelest, nastiest and craziest people I have ever encountered."

Such is the cyclical nature of UFOlogy that Keel himself wrote in the 1996 edition of Operation Trojan Horse, at what many would see as the apex of 90s UFOmania, "The UFO cults would diminish in size in the early 1970s until no one was left except for a very small group who built their dark, paranoid personal worlds around the semi-religious concepts of the contactees of the 1950s and, later, the abductees of the 1980s." Bear in mind, that "UFO Cults" is Keel's term for UFOlogists, not Heaven's Gate or Raelians. 

He adds that surviving "hard-core UFO cultists (there are fewer than 1,000 in the U.S.) responded by simply ignoring this vast literature and making fools of themselves on the tabloid television shows by promoting their now­ archaic extraterrestrial theologies."

You'll find the same kind of bitterness among a lot of old UFOlogists today, many of whom are now mea culpa flagellants, confessing to the sin of flying saucers. They can't quit it, they can't walk away, they still talk about them endlessly, but now they sit and lament what fools they were. Those damned Reticulans never came and took them away from all their troubles! Oh, cruel stars!

What I think it really comes down to is that there's no money in UFOlogy. There was for a while when Laurence Rockefeller was interested and now Bigelow Airspace seems to be running their own privatized UFOlogy (the story goes that the FAA and the like refer all sightings now to Bigelow) for reasons we can only guess at, but they certainly have no interest in sharing the wealth. They have their own UFOlogists, thank you.

This is no small thing because this speaks to a larger story, the expansion of government secrecy, the privatization of National Security, and the increasingly opaque nature of the intelligence apparatus even in the wake of the Snowden and Wikileaks revelations. The fact of the matter is that most of what we know about UFOs and the government dates back to those Carter-era document dumps, and very little has come to light since. Nothing much of substance either for or against has come to light since 9/11.

And the other story here- of course- is the Internet.

The Internet has ravaged the entire book publishing industry, it's all but destroyed the newspaper industry and magazines are barely hanging on by a thread. UFOlogy is filled with older men trying to sell books speculating about what those lights in the sky mean. But there's an entirely new UFOlogy on the Internet where people are taking pictures and videos of their own and posting their own speculations about what those lights in the sky mean, thank you very much.

The New York piece makes this very important observation:
None of this, however, was a reason to close the books on flying saucers. This would be impossible, since if you happened to have laid eyes on something you sincerely believed to be a UFO, it tends to stick. 
I will never be free of that cold winter’s night in 1989 when, along with my wife, I saw a saucer-shaped object fly down the East River and soar beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. The way the craft seemed to coquettishly blink its lights as if to say, "even here, I appear, and then disappear" told me, that against all rationality, this particular interface with the ineffable was meant for me.

And so it has been since human beings first looked up in the skies. UFOlogy is just a passing phase, a Cold War relic. A fleeting attempt to tame the ineffable with the hopelessly inadequate tools of the Enlightenment. An attempt to trace a fractal with a t-square. It won't be missed.

On a purely symbolical level, the UFO has been an agent for massive cultural change, as Jung wrote about, as Vallee wrote about. That's during a time of peace and prosperity.  As the American Empire cracks up before our eyes, as both unimaginable intranational and international conflagration loom on the horizon, we can only guess at what role it will play.

UPDATE: Gee, funny how this all tends to be coordinated, isn't it? Pilkington's decidedly not-new Mirage Men gets featured in The Guardian. Strangely enough the reviewer is skeptical. Good on him.
By the way, Richard Doty told a number of stories about being involved with The X-Files that are all total nonsense. So why believe anything he says about anything?

UPDATE: The always-unforgivably-brilliant Gordon White has been working this same vein from the other side of the pond. If you don't have Rune Soup bookmarked/newsfed, you are starving your mind.

UPDATE: "UFOLogy is dying," the media tells us. Yet MUFON reports a record number of sightings in 2012 and 2013,  Hangar 1 gets a second season, Giorgio Tsoukalos's haircut gets its own show, Ancient Aliens is now in its seventh season (and is on H2 seemingly around the clock), there are about a hundred UFO docs on Netflix and Chris Carter has a new Area 51-themed show coming out on AMC.

How exactly does the media define dead? Interesting to note that the writers chosen for this latest round of media inoculation weren't really willing to go along with the program, either. Strange times we live in.


29 comments:

  1. Well said. It was here on the Sun that I first encountered UFO's as other than "ET Spaceships". I was awed by your posts about how sightings seem to more closely resemble Faerie and even surveillance programs that spacecraft. I'm trying to follow where that evidence leads. Those kind of questions keep me interested.

    With military surveillance moving to satellites in the 1980's, I think that was the end of flaps that were probable sightings of U-2s, SR-71s, and MIRVs. I wonder if drone/RPV recon will lead to another flap?

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    1. If you haven't read it I recommend you read Passport to Magonia by Jacques Vallee. The interesting thing is that there are more sightings than ever before, the media simply ignores them now.

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    2. I'd like to read it, even a used paperback is going for over $50 bucks right now. I'm going to try inter-library loan. Do you know if Valley's other book are good?

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    3. Here you go: http://www.scribd.com/doc/96346027/Jacques-Vallee-Passport-to-Magonia

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  2. My first UFO book was John Mack's "Abduction" back in the mid 90’s- It was also my last- Mack was a big wig at Harvard med of all places so I assumed his was the most plausible work out there- Expensive labels can be irresistible- It was clear from my knee jerk reaction, then, that UFOlogy had refit the old religious canard of the union of man and the divine with a technocratic veneer in order to make room for "science"- As well, the book was a huge green agenda screed what with all the “man must make peace to save the planet and join the sequoia tall albino hunks sheathed in silver lame’ at the grand intergalactic food trough” pleas- This is great work you’re doing Mr. CLK- I try and let people be aware of your site as I make my rounds on the internets- Your analysis of this UFO culture is far more interesting than the subject itself- Like a talk show host who is far more interesting than his guests-

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    1. High praise indeed! Thank you! I'm not as familiar with Dr. Mack's work as I should be. I'm familiar with his own story but his actual case studies and such, not as much.

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  3. First, it's great to see you posting again – you have a vital perspective that really resonates with me.

    I'm intrigued by your concluding paragraphs. Since Enlightenment tools haven't yielded much, where do you see UFO culture going? Maybe toward more mystical, occult and psychedelic inquiries?

    I very much feel your last point about imperial crackup and global conflagration. The UFO that is haunting my dreams is a "black sun" – perhaps a herald of war and apocalyptic events. I've been having visions of doom and darkness for about 6 years now; I'd be curious if anyone has had a similar experience.

    Anyway, I look forward to more dispatches from the Secret Sun...

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  4. Well, I think you know my stance on the topic. I think nuts n bolts has been a temporary blip in a very long continuum to the contrary. I grok your dreams- I had very similar dreams for a very long time. I'm working on a piece that will probably go up next week entitled "What if the 2012 Crowd Were Right After All?" It's certainly starting to feel that way. I very much wonder if future historians will point to late 2012 and see the seeds of all these apocalyptic sprouts that seem to be blooming all around us- war, plague, riots, genocide. Those feelings are very hard to shake- I don't think you are alone by any stretch of the imagination. Let's hope there's a dawn looming after all the darkness.

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    1. Yes! In my crazier moments, I was telling people that the New Agers had it backwards and 12/21/12 was going to be the dawn of an "Age of Endarkenment" and the Aeon of the Black Sun. People laughed at me, but it's looking pretty accurate to me. In general, I just feel a strange spiritual inversion going on, inside myself and in the world at large, which I symbolize by the Black Sun. Interesting, but disturbing...

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  5. You know those posts on FB; the captioned photos that some love, some hate, others love to hate, and we all occasionally post?

    What has been seen, cannot be unseen. What has been heard, cannot be unheard. What has been said, cannot be unsaid. What has been learned, cannot be unlearned. Etc, etc, etc.

    This post was perfection.

    UFOs will never die. They've been immortalized for all time in various ways, in various forms of documentation; factual accounts; "official accounts"; descriptive, experiential accounts... your blogs, and the blogs of others.

    Didn't you hear the Breaking News? I've been watching it all day. Weird shit going down. A hooded figure sighted in a graveyard on the evening of the full moon in my hometown. The Priest they interviewed called it Satanism. I wondered if they secretly called him in case the reporter at the cite had become accidentally possessed.

    That was "news" here. Oh, and a bunch of local shootings in which SWAT always seems to be on the scene.

    As for UFO's: I recall one night my cousin and I were kicking back out in their back yard looking up at the stars. We saw something way up; when I think on it now, my rational mind wants to keep saying, "It was a satellite. You know that. It was regular and slow. You've seen them before." My logical mind goes, "Nope, you know what you saw." My skeptical mind wonders if perhaps I dreamt it all.

    And then I have to admit to myself, "Nah, due to the conversation, you saw something unexplained that night."

    So, nope. UFO's be alive and well here. I think they're keeping it on the down-low, though.

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    1. There seems to be a weird campaign to convince us they're not there- now we have the Guardian reviewing Mark Pilkington's very not-new Mirage Men movie as well. I've been predicting we're on the cusp of a major new flap- perhaps we're being inoculated to believe the mainstream media and not our own lying eyes.

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    2. Do you have links on those stories, BTW?

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  6. http://krqe.com/2014/08/13/grim-reaper-sighting-stumps-cemeterys-pastor/

    http://krqe.com/2014/08/12/grim-reaper-visits-albuquerque-cemetery/

    https://www.facebook.com/ioburque Scroll down this one and you'll see all the references.

    As for shootings; check out the same news page, or koat.com and kob.com as well. Now, if you want more specific links regarding the same type of stuff going on currently in Ferguson, I can give you those as well. Nasty stuff. I'll give you one, you can find more if you'd like.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjQumiKbaTw

    The rest, with DOJ documentation and records of other shootings and protests are on a FB page. Not pretty at all.

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    1. This is what we call in the symbols biz "yucky omens."

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  7. Oh, and BTW, major new flap - perhaps part of that flap is we're back in Iraq. Well, kinda... for now. WWIII, baby. When I talked about the "Sacred feminine", I wasn't joking... on all levels.

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    1. I'm horrified by that entire situation. Not the least of which because it all feels so engineered.

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    2. It seems to me that situation is the result of too many cooks in the kitchen. USUK spooks, Isrealis, Saudis and Turks all with competing endgame schemes sought to pull down Assad quickly following the Colored Revolution template, but Assad had actual popular support and Russian support so the whole thing has turned into a big bowl of wrong.

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  8. Personally, I tend towards this being a more problematic area myself, seeing as how we have all kinds of missile silos with equipment from the '60's all around this area...

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/07/14/parts-of-yellowstone-national-park-closed-after-massive-supervolcano-beneath-it-melts-roads/

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    1. You took the words right out of my mouth- both these stories are featured in my aforementioned piece. Bad tidings.

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    2. Indeed; all the way around. I have some thoughts on how to counter it, but, well... At least I got something done today. I pushed this energy out into a new blog post. ;)

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  9. By the way, we've been discussing mumbly MI6 men and fantasy-prone Air Force personnel on the Facebook group and I offered that UFO disinfo is by no means a thing of the past (see Knowles' Second Law). We know from the Snowden material that the plague of trolls aren't all just basement dwelling neckbeards, and I think it's obvious that a good number of these faked UFO videos on YouTube aren't just mischievous Michael Bay wannabes futzing around with AfterEffects.

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  10. Thanks for the link to Rune Soup...nice to find another outpost of Secret Sun quality in the High Weirdness Highway

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    1. +1. Rune Soup is awesome! I can feel my mind expanding. :)

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  11. I was thinking: why is there so much "noise" against those of us that are into weird things? If I spend *my* time or money enjoying looking into UFOs, or "conspiracy", or Forteana, why does anyone else complain or even care? Like the trolls that try to bully Bronies on MLP videos on youTube? *Why* do you care? Are the skepdicks, trolls, and bullies just jealous? There's a line of dialogue I love from my favorite anime, "Macross Frontier": "When everyone turns to the right, it's my nature to take another look from the left". I love that, because that is my nature, too. Smoke, meet Fire? Anyway, I'm going to keep looking.

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  12. A lot of it is not just angry guys looking to pick fights on the internet. A lot of it is people paid to do so. Food for thought...

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    1. And that is what leads me to believe we are all on to something. I've always been sensitive to patterns, and I've always had an instinct for B.S. I'm going to keep looking, and trolls, bullies, shills, and propaganda can't stop me.

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  13. Me too giving thanks on the Rune Soup tip- Can't get enough of post Strunk and White meanderings that not only stay coherent but read almost musically-

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  14. "Carter not only reported a UFO sighting, he unleashed a torrent of secret UFO documents under the Freedom of Information Act, a move that kept UFOlogy busy for much of the Eighties."

    This is not correct. Carter didn't release anything that hadn't already been released. What he said was that he WOULD release all the UFO documents if he was elected. What he did not know was that the Blue Book files had already been released before his election.

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