Sunday, July 29, 2012

CSI Skeptic Robert Sheaffer Doubts the U.S. Government Uses the Media to Debunk UFOs

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By Robert Hastings
www.ufohastings.com
7-28-12
     In a recent blog post, Robert Sheaffer, a leading spokesman for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), apparently dismisses the idea that the U.S. government might be using the media to help debunk UFOs. However, those who have actually studied the facts say that the evidence to support the charge is clear and convincing. Anyone wishing to have an informed view about all of this should read the definitive exposé on the subject, journalist Terry Hansen’s The Missing Times: News Media Complicity in the UFO Cover-up, which has just been republished as an e-book.

While the CIA’s infiltration of mainstream news organizations, to serve its own purposes, was first divulged during the U.S. Senate’s Church Committee hearings in 1975, and further exposed by The Washington Post’s Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein two years later, Hansen credibly documents decades-long efforts by the intelligence community and the Pentagon to spin or suppress objective media coverage—in both news and entertainment programming—directly relating to the UFO phenomenon.

Significantly, Hansen discusses in detail information suggesting a government infiltration of Sheaffer’s own group by persons whose motives have more to do with disinformation than their publicly-stated skepticism of UFOs. CSI (formerly known as the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, or CSICOP) has a well-established track record of attempting to influence media coverage of the phenomenon, ostensibly for “rational” and “scientific” reasons. Hansen proposes that this is merely a smokescreen and writes:

“CSICOP is an organization of people who oppose what they contend is pseudo-science...CSICOP, contrary to its impressive-sounding title, does not sponsor scientific research. On the contrary, its main function has been to oppose scientific research, especially in areas such as psychic phenomena and UFOs, two topics that, coincidentally or not, have been of demonstrated interest to the U.S. intelligence community over the decades. Instead, CSICOP devotes nearly all of its resources to influencing the American public via the mass media.”

Hansen continues, “CSICOP can accurately be described as a propaganda organization because it does not take anything approaching an objective position regarding UFOs. The organization’s stance is militantly anti-UFO research and it works hard to see that the news media broadcast its views whenever possible. When the subject of UFOs surfaces, either in the news media or any other public forum, CSICOP members turn out rapidly to add their own spin to whatever is being said. Through its ‘Council for Media Integrity’ CSICOP maintains close ties with the editorial staffs of such influential science publications as Scientific American, Nature, and New Scientist. Consequently, it’s not too hard to understand why balanced UFO articles seldom appear in those [magazines].”

He adds, “If the [CIA] had wanted to set up a front organization to debunk the UFO phenomenon, it could have hardly done a better job than to infiltrate CSICOP and encourage its media management activities.”

After Hansen first published his book in 2000, I contacted him regarding my own very interesting and incriminating findings about CSICOP/CSI. I research ongoing UFO incursions at nuclear weapons sites, as confirmed in declassified U.S. government documents and the testimony of military veterans. My September 27, 2010 press conference in Washington D.C., during which seven of those veterans discussed dramatic UFO encounters at ICBM sites and nuclear weapons depots, was streamed live by CNN and the full-length video may be viewed here:



My own exposé of Sheaffer’s “skeptical” organization’s intriguing but almost completely unpublicized links to the U.S. government’s nuclear weapons program—as well as behind-the-scenes efforts by leading members of the group to intimidate one former USAF officer who had revealed a still-classified, nukes-related UFO incident—may now be found online as well as in my book UFOs and Nukes.

The Chasing UFOs Disaster

Sheaffer’s aforementioned blog post noted my recent, scathing assessment of the Nat Geo network’s ridiculous Chasing UFOs series, currently airing on Friday evenings. Sheaffer wrote: “...some UFO proponents think that because the show is so bad, it must be a government plot to embarrass UFO researchers! Hard-core UFO proponent Robert Hastings...says that...‘if the show’s producers are not secretly in cahoots with some intelligence agency to make legitimate UFO research look bad, by association, they have certainly achieved that outcome inadvertently.’”

Although conveniently not mentioned by Sheaffer, I also wrote, “During a recent radio interview I was asked, in effect, whether I thought that Chasing UFOs was a CIA ploy, considering how dreadful it is and how it will undoubtedly impact, in a very negative manner, public and scientific perceptions about the legitimacy of studying the phenomenon.

My answer was, basically, ‘Who knows?’ I then said that it was more likely that the show’s producers were merely doing a job, pumping out product, and hoping to capitalize on the popularity of another mostly-abysmal ‘reality’ series on the History Channel, UFO Hunters. The dumbing-down of ufological research, as presented on TV, certainly can not be laid on Nat Geo’s doorstep alone…”

So, intentionally or not, Sheaffer essentially misrepresented my bottom-line take on the motives of those who produce the Chasing UFOs series. Regarding his characterization of me as a “hard-core UFO proponent”, I will first note my surprise at not being called a hard-core UFO “believer”, the derogatory and condescending term typically used by Sheaffer and other members of CSICOP/CSI over the years to describe persons such as myself.

I will also note that other hard-core UFO proponents include the former director of CIA, Vice Admiral Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter, who told The New York Times, on February 28, 1960, “It is time for the truth to be brought out in open Congressional hearings...Behind the scenes, high-ranking Air Force officers are soberly concerned about the UFOs, but through official secrecy and ridicule, many citizens are led to believe the unknown flying objects are nonsense. To hide the facts, the Air Force has silenced its personnel.”

(This startling interview is a rare example of candid, objective coverage of the UFO phenomenon in that eminent “newspaper of record”, as it is often touted. But such hype falls flat as regards the Times' treatment of the UFO topic over the years. While its coverage was in fact reasonably objective prior to 1953, the year the CIA’s Robertson Panel secretly recommended that the media be used to debunk UFOs—a fact not publicly known until decades later, when the panel’s report was declassified—it degenerated into nearly universal dismissal and near-contempt thereafter. Interestingly, The New York Times was one of three news organizations named by the Senate’s Church Committee as having been infiltrated by CIA, together with TIME Inc. and the CBS television network.)

Another noteworthy “hard-core UFO proponent”, the late physicist Dr. James E. McDonald—who, unlike virtually every member of CSICOP/CSI, actually studied the UFO phenomenon before making pronouncements about it—advocated a renewed scientific examination of the phenomenon decades ago.

After several authorized visits to the U.S. Air Force’s UFO Project Blue Book to review its sighting reports, McDonald told the Tucson Daily Citizen, on March 1, 1967, “There are hundreds of good cases in the Air Force files that should have led to top-level scientific scrutiny of the problem years ago, yet these cases have been swept under the rug in a most disturbing way by Project Blue Book investigators and their consultants.”

In a prepared statement delivered to the U.S. Congress’ House Committee on Science and Astronautics, on July 29, 1968, McDonald said, “My own present opinion, based on two years of careful study, is that UFOs are probably extraterrestrial devices engaged in something that might very tentatively be termed ‘surveillance.’”

I wonder why we never find anything objectively written about Dr. McDonald’s important research findings or Admiral Hillenkoetter’s candid public statements about UFOs in the pages of CSI’s in-house publication, Skeptical Inquirer magazine, or in the blog posts of the organization’s leading members, including Robert Sheaffer?

To answer my own question, I will paraphrase a comment I made in my Chasing UFOs critique and say that if CSI’s “skeptics” are not actually working for/with the CIA, they are at least making the agency very happy by continually publishing their poorly researched, extremely biased, essentially propagandistic views on the UFO subject.

~~BOOK SALE~~

7 comments :

  1. Hastings very ably demonstrates the paranoid style of conspiracy buffs.

    His scattershot methodology (the above piece is a tour de force of disconnected rambling) still, no doubt, impresses his intended audience.

    Sadly, I suspect that this audience may be growing.

    Of course we all get a check from the CIA. We can't possibly be skeptics because we hate stupidity. We can't possibly be concerned that the fuzzy thinking of conspiracy nuts lowers the intelligence level of public discourse and leads to idiotic movements (like the 9/11 Truthers and Birthers).

    In the world of Hastings (and the world of the paranormal in general), there can be no honest argument with his (unsupported, hysterical and demonstrably wrong) positions.

    Skeptics cannot exist.

    You are either with him or you are a tool of the government.

    Lance Moody

    ReplyDelete
  2. Perhaps Robert Hastings should read Scheaffer's most recent posting regarding MUFON's recent event held in Los Angeles. Combining podiatrists removing alien implants from unsuspecting abduction victims with NatGeo's "Chasing UFOs", one is left with the impression that Hastings' long standing angst directed towards CSICOP should be the least of his worries.

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  3. Tim,

    "Chasing UFOs" is an abomination; MUFON is a laughing stock, and Ufology as a whole is looked at as entertainment at best these days.

    What I took away from Robert's (Sheaffer) critique of "Chasing UFO's" is that hell froze over, pigs flew and (so-called) Ufologists and (so-called) skeptics agreed on something. ;>)

    Cheers,
    Frank

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  4. Lance,

    Thanks for taking time to make comment, such that it is.

    In reading your commentary, I kept asking myself if your remarks were attached to the correct article, or if you gave it more then a cursory glance?

    You wrote:

    Hastings very ably demonstrates the paranoid style of conspiracy buffs.

    His scattershot methodology (the above piece is a tour de force of disconnected rambling) . . .


    To the contrary–Robert Hastings, as usual was clear and concise; he presented his arguments; offered examples, including direct quotes; he cited factual, documented information, as well as detailed research performed and published by other noted authors, scientists, newspapers–along with the results of a Congressional investigation etc.

    You wrote:

    still, no doubt, impresses his intended audience.

    Sadly, I suspect that this audience may be growing.


    Please enlighten us; what "intended audience" are you referring to?

    You wrote:

    Of course we all get a check from the CIA. We can't possibly be skeptics because we hate stupidity. We can't possibly be concerned that the fuzzy thinking of conspiracy nuts lowers the intelligence level of public discourse and leads to idiotic movements (like the 9/11 Truthers and Birthers).

    Hastings mentioned "Robert Sheaffer" by name, the "Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI)" and the former's affiliation with the organization; no where in his article did he mention you. Just in case I wasn't aware of it, I double-checked CSI's website where they list the names of their staff and "CSI Fellows" and your name wasn't listed.

    Again, I find it curious that you're commentary was made in a "first-person narrative" when the article has nothing to do you with you.

    You wrote:

    In the world of Hastings (and the world of the paranormal in general), there can be no honest argument with his (unsupported, hysterical and demonstrably wrong) positions.

    Skeptics cannot exist.

    You are either with him or you are a tool of the government.


    Hastings' article was a critique of CSI; as mentioned above he supported his arguments by citation and links to:

    • Documentary evidence via Congressional Hearings.

    • Terry Hansen’s The Missing Times: News Media Complicity in the UFO Cover-up (with entensive source/endnotes).

    • Carl Bernstein/ The Washington Post.

    • Declassified U.S. government documents.

    • Affidavits of military veterans.

    • Ancillary articles by same author (Hastings).

    New York Times article re former director of CIA, Vice Admiral Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter's call for Conressional hearings on UFOs.

    • The work of physicist Dr. James E. McDonald on UFOs.

    • McDonald's paper on UFOs presented to U.S. Congress’ House Committee on Science and Astronautics.

    Now Lance, you may disagree with Robert Hastings' conclusions as presented in his piece but to say, his arguments are "unsupported, hysterical and demonstrably wrong" is erroneous to be polite.

    Finally, with great irony–I would argue that your retort is exemplar of the very accusations you aim at Hastings, for example: you criticize his piece with sarcasm and innuendo, yet offer no "specifics" for your flak. Some might see your generalized rant as "hysterical." Robert made his argument and "demonstrated" it with the evidence cited above, something you've failed to do, which seems somewhat
    sanctimonious in my view.

    Respectfully,
    Frank

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  5. Yes, Lance, in the period following my “UFOs and Nukes” press conference, I have indeed noted a growing interest in my material by scientists, journalists and the public at large, which is why I include the video of the press event in each of my articles, to maximize its exposure.

    You will never get this but I am merely the messenger for the intriguing and very important information these veterans are attempting to disseminate. They are very satisfied with my performance which is all that matters to me. Two new documentary films currently in production will further acquaint people everywhere with the facts.

    Tim, the question being asked here is whether or not CSICOP/CSI has had within its ranks a few persons who have a hidden agenda on UFOs, which has nothing to do with genuine scientific skepticism. Given the extreme, *unscientific* anti-UFO track-record of the organization, I think it needs to be asked. Regardless, whatever these debunkers’ affiliations and motives may be, the reader doesn’t need what they have to offer unless, of course, you actually enjoy being misled by pseudoscientific propaganda, government-inspired or not.

    It goes without saying that the statements above do not apply to the CSICOP/CSI membership in general. It’s only natural and to be expected that an organization which bills itself as “skeptical” in orientation will attract persons with a similar philosophical outlook. CSICOP/CSI counts among its membership many world-renowned scientists and other respected intellectuals. There is no question that a great many of these persons share a sincerely incredulous outlook on various subjects classified as “paranormal”, including UFOs.

    Therefore, the fact that many of CSICOP’s members have rejected the validity of the UFO phenomenon—a subject about which they know little or nothing, and are not qualified to discuss authoritatively—certainly does not mean that they are secretly working for the CIA. Bias and presumption, rather than ulterior motives, account for these self-appointed UFO experts’ flawed perspective on the phenomenon. Consequently, if they have been misled by CSICOP’s (now CSI’s) top UFO debunkers, they have no one to blame but themselves.

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  6. Frank,

    Using pedantic non-discussion is, of course, one way of arguing. So bravo on that front.

    The article, of course, does not refer to me directly but (as I took it) to skeptics in general. As a skeptic (and former member of a CSI affiliated organization: my local skeptics group) I did see this as directed towards people like me as well.

    Of course, this doesn't matter one whit in regards to my comments. But maybe you can rest easy now?

    You seem not to understand that a string of quotes (even if accurately attributed) does not instantly build a case. This is a regular fallacy amongst conspiracy buffs.

    What did Carl Bernstein have to say about CSI exactly and their role as CIA agents exactly?

    There is (or was) a UFO subcommittee at CSICOP/CSI that included individuals quite familiar with UFO's--Hastings implies that no one there knows anything about them. He may not agree with their findings and papers but the assertion is plain wrong. Not everyone there is concerned with UFOs, that is true. Skeptics have to deal with silly claims in many arenas.

    The statements of MacDonald are well known. He thought there was something worth studying in UFO's. Other scientists (for instance, Carl Sagan) vehemently disagree.

    So?

    How does that even fit in as an argument at all?

    This is what I meant by a scattershot methodology. We see it all the time in conspiracy writing: a quote is proffered, that while interesting, has little or no evidential value.

    Same for the Hillenkoetter (1960!) quote. How does this support the idea that CSI is controlled by the CIA?

    The silly self-reference to his own "work" doesn't work at all for me but I know your mileage my vary. Suffice it to say that Hastings' main stories about imaginary nuclear UFO connections have met with serious counter arguments that I have yet to see Hastings face.

    Here's just one example for you to ignore:

    http://timhebert.blogspot.com/2012/07/oscar-flight-mystery-tree-falling-in.html?showComment=1342344412736#c8452459577455920684

    Lastly, his assessment that the idiotic Chasing UFO show might be a CIA effort is mind-blowingly uninformed about the industry and how these shows come about. Actually working in that industry, this is something that I do know about first hand.

    It all starts with a horrible hack talentless production company who has an idea for how to make a show for the lowest common denominator TV audience. Having virtually no ethics they proceed to make a terrible show for money without regard to truth of reality. There are so many of these companies that the budget of the CIA would be quite stretched to guess which of them might actually sell a show (except in the fevered imagination of the conspiracy buff, of course where everything works just as they imagine it does).

    That is it.

    It isn't the various poorly done shows on UFOs and the press reports that make the subject worthy of derision. It's the crap evidence--something I think you and other UFO enthusiasts are unwilling to own.

    Hopefully I responded to your concerns.

    Lance

    P.S. Unrelated to the above, Frank. 5+ years ago Paul Kimball discussed the discredited Aztec witness, Fred Reed, with you at his site. You said you would look into his assertions. I never saw your response. Now the Ramsey book has been published with the Reed story in it unchallenged and your name on the cover.

    Can you now comment on how this kind of thing occurs, your take on it, and how all these great UFO researchers like yourself don't get the fair shake they deserve?

    ReplyDelete
  7. > Hansen discusses in detail information suggesting a government infiltration of Sheaffer’s own group

    Hansen does not. He offers no evidence of any kind that this ever happened. Hansen instead uses cheap innuendo to smear CSICOP, stating that the group acted like something the CIA would set up.

    "If the [CIA] had wanted to set up a front organization to debunk the UFO phenomenon, it could have hardly done a better job than to infiltrate CSICOP and encourage its media management activities."

    Mr. Hastings has quoted this very passage yet cannot comprehend it. Plain and simple, the passage does not say what Hastings thinks it says.

    Facts are important.

    ReplyDelete

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