Thursday, July 12, 2012

Nat Geo’s Chasing UFOs:
Investigation as Farce


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By Robert Hastings
www.ufohastings.com
7-10-12
     Despite countless claims to the contrary by debunkers, there really is persuasive evidence—both empirical and anecdotal—to confirm the anomalous nature of the UFO phenomenon. Admittedly, one would never know that by watching the Nat Geo network’s new reality series Chasing UFOs, whose entertainment-based formula may best be described as Blair Witch Project meets Inspector Clouseau. 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.

But before I further discuss this farce, let’s look at the other end of the spectrum. One of the very few scientists to have studied the UFO phenomenon, the late physicist James E. McDonald, repeatedly urged other scientists and the public at large to refrain from uninformed and biased assumptions about UFOs and, instead, investigate the facts:

“One of the principal results of my own recent intensive study of the UFO enigma is this: I have become convinced that the scientific community, not only in this country but throughout the world, has been casually ignoring as nonsense a matter of extraordinary scientific importance.”

Dr. James E. McDonald
Senior Physicist
Institute of Atmospheric Physics
University of Arizona

“As a result of several trips to [the U.S. Air Force’s UFO] Project Blue Book, I’ve had an opportunity to examine quite carefully and in detail the types of reports that are made by Blue Book personnel…There are hundreds of good cases in the Air Force files that should have led to top-level scientific scrutiny of [UFOs] years ago, yet these cases have been swept under the rug in a most disturbing way by Project Blue Book investigators and their consultants.”

Dr. James E. McDonald
Tucson Daily Citizen
March 1, 1967

“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.’”

Dr. James E. McDonald
Testimony before Congress
July 29, 1968

On June 22, 2012, I delivered a short presentation at the Society for Scientific Exploration’s 31st annual conference in Boulder, Colorado, titled “Unexplained Aerial Incursions at Nuclear Weapons Sites Demand a Renewed Scientific Interest in the UFO Phenomenon”, which examined declassified U.S. government documents confirming ongoing UFO activity at American nukes-related facilities since 1948.

Those documents, coupled with the testimony of U.S. military veterans—I have interviewed more than 130 since 1973—establish beyond a reasonable doubt the reality of UFO incidents at nuclear missile launch sites, nukes storage depots, fissile material production plants, and weapons test ranges. Seven of those veterans participated in my September 27, 2010 press conference in Washington D.C., which CNN streamed live:


In the video, one may watch former U.S. Air Force ICBM launch and targeting officers discussing incidents during which large numbers of Minuteman missiles simultaneously malfunctioned, just as security personnel were reporting glowing, disc-shaped craft hovering near them. Furthermore, other Air Force veterans, interviewed for my book UFOs and Nukes, unequivocally confirm a UFO-involvement in other missile-shutdown incidents at various USAF bases over the years.

If this were not enough, declassified Soviet government documents and the testimony ex-Soviet Army personnel—which became available after the collapse of the U.S.S.R. in 1991—confirm that ongoing UFO activity, including missile tampering, was also occurring at nuclear weapons sites in that country during the Cold War era.

In short, the documents and witness statements—from both sides of the ocean—collectively confirm that an as-yet unidentified third party, possessing technology vastly superior to that utilized by the U.S. and U.S.S.R., monitored and occasionally disrupted the superpowers’ nukes with impunity for decades.

While this information can not be considered scientific data per se, it nevertheless begs for scientific scrutiny—not arbitrary, smug dismissal by those who consider an investigation of UFOs to be beneath their dignity. As Dr. McDonald said, “There are hundreds of good cases in the Air Force files that should have led to top-level scientific scrutiny of [UFOs] years ago.”

In other words, although the military cases in and of themselves do not scientifically establish the reality of UFOs, they are certainly credible enough to warrant serious, unbiased study of the phenomenon by physicists, astronomers, and others in academia.

5% Fact, 95% Fluff

Unfortunately, any scientist—or lay UFO skeptic—who watched one or more of the utterly embarrassing Chasing UFOs episodes that recently aired on the Nat Geo channel, will now be even more convinced that the phenomenon is bunk and those who “investigate” the subject are clueless clowns.

Notable, on-target reviews of the programs’ format and content, by television critics and others, include the following:

TV Skeptic: 'Chasing UFOs' too much Mulder not enough Scully

Chasing UFOs - The Review

I have no idea what I saw

A few excerpts:

Chasing UFOs can be boiled down to one word: Childish.”

“The series, which claims to use science to investigate reports of sightings of unidentified flying objects (UFOs), is the latest entry in a genre of unscripted TV that follows a formula that can be best described as: Easily frightened people searching in the dark for things that frighten them and getting frightened on camera.”

“The core of the show is three adults play-acting out spooky adventures in a manner similar to how children might play cops and robbers…”

“The idea seems to be that should anyone encounter an actual UFO (Bigfoot, ghost, alien, etc.), it’s more important to record the face of the investigator as they see the paranormal event, rather than to record the event itself.”

“Our team goes searching for soil samples and bits of residue, or debris, or radiation—at night.”

“I can't really see how running around in the dark poorly imitating the idea of geological or archaeological research is public educational outreach.”

You get the idea. Sad to say, one of those chasing UFOs on the program, filmmaker James Fox, has an established track record of credibly presenting civilian and military sighting reports, in his two excellent documentaries, Out of the Blue and I Know What I Saw, which I have promoted for years during my lectures at colleges and universities.

In October 2011, Fox approached me and former USAF Captain Robert Salas—who co-sponsored the “UFOs and Nukes” press conference mentioned above—and asked us to participate in some unspecified UFO “documentary” being produced by Nat Geo. Salas and I immediately declined, as we were painfully aware of the network’s long track record of generally debunking the phenomenon. Indeed, over the years I had told several people, only half-jokingly, that if the Nat Geo scripts were not actually written at CIA headquarters, the network was at least making the agency very happy by broadcasting its poorly researched, extremely biased, essentially propagandistic shows on the UFO subject.

The most recent example, The Truth Behind UFOs: Popped, was aired by the network the night before the premier of Chasing UFOs, and claimed that half of all UFO sightings in the United States during the late 1950s and throughout the ‘60s were due to test flights of the then still-classified U-2 and SR-71 spy planes. This absurd opinion was first publicly touted by the CIA itself, in 1994, after a supposedly comprehensive review of the agency’s interest in UFOs by its in-house historian, Gerald K. Haines.

Anyone even remotely familiar with the facts knows that thousands—if not tens of thousands—of UFO sightings by Americans during that era involved observations of disc, cigar, spherical and triangular-shaped craft, often hovering at low altitude, that could not possibly be explained away as ultra-secret surveillance aircraft, which flew at extremely high altitudes and, despite their advanced technology, could not hang stationary in the sky. Only a fraction of those bona fide UFO sightings were reported to the U.S. Air Force’s Project Blue Book; a great many more were featured in newspapers, magazines and on local radio and television broadcasts.

Did sightings of the U-2 and SR-71 also number in the many thousands and, therefore, conceivably account for 50% of all UFO reports during those years, as CIA officials claimed? No, of course not, but when the Haines report was published, the agency was obviously counting on the much more influential national media’s pervasive sloth and customary disinterest toward investigating the UFO phenomenon and, consequently, knew that it could get away with such tripe because almost no one in the elite journalism crowd would double-check the facts. So, score a win for those who think that we should all be kept in the dark on the UFO topic indefinitely.

(An excellent overview of this situation, journalist Terry Hansen’s book The Missing Times: News Media Complicity in the UFO Cover-up, has just been republished as an e-book and is available at Amazon. It has long been on my personal list of must-reads for anyone wishing to learn how the reality of the UFO phenomenon could have been so successfully suppressed for decades.)

Interestingly, CIA higher-ups forgot to give their historian Haines access to files relating to the agency’s confiscation of important UFO evidence—films and radar tapes—pertaining to the nukes-related Big Sur Incident and the Alaskan UFO Encounter—when he was compiling his allegedly comprehensive history of the CIA’s interest in UFOs. These two cases of evidence-suppression by the agency were divulged by retired USAF Major Florenze Mansmann and retired FAA Administrator John Callahan, respectively.

For whatever reason, Nat Geo’s The Truth Behind UFOs: Popped slavishly follows the CIA’s party line, claiming that sightings of secret spy planes, coupled with Cold War-era hysteria, had caused millions of Americans to imagine that they were seeing disc-shaped craft in the sky on a semi-regular basis.

Of course, if one looks beyond this blatant smoke screen and actually reviews even a small cross-section of declassified UFO documents, one will find CIA, FBI and U.S. Air Force reports concerning ongoing UFO activity at nuclear weapons sites, numerous radar trackings of the objects—as they flew at speeds and performed maneuvers far beyond the capability of any manmade aircraft—and unsuccessful intercept attempts of the unknown intruders by military jet fighters, to mention but a few of the topics covered in the now-public but still largely-unread files.

To date, millions of Americans who incessantly blog about UFOs, from whatever point-of-view, have not spent even one day reviewing the dramatic disclosures contained in these files, even though they are easily accessible on the Internet.

Hooray, another win for the intelligence community UFO censors and their counterparts at the Pentagon, who badly want to keep us all ignorant of the facts!

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 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. (Don’t get me started on the other “UFO documentary” series currently appearing on the History-2 channel, Ancient Aliens. That travesty makes Chasing UFOs seem scholarly by comparison.)

In the first Chasing UFOs episode, our intrepid trio of “investigators” (Fox, Erin Ryder, Ben McGee) focused on the many sighting reports made by folks living in and near Stephenville, Texas, in January 2008. While the show’s town hall meeting segment—during which the witnesses discussed their observations—was valid, did the program’s producers ever consider including a mention of the far more convincing FAA radar data, forcibly released via the Freedom of Information Act? Those confirm the presence of multiple, unknown objects during the same period of time that some of the sightings occurred. Radar data, which are empirical, not anecdotal in nature, would have convincingly reinforced the reality of the accounts being discussed at the public meeting.

A recently-published animated display of those radar data is now available, thanks to British programmer Rob Freeman:


This oversight is but one example of Chasing UFOs’ misplaced focus and apparent obliviousness regarding missed opportunities. During the same town hall segment, one person presented a video that he had recorded during the midst of the sighting wave, showing a string of lights in the sky. Did the program’s producers devote even one minute to a technical analysis of the footage? No, of course not. During other segments in the same episode, two different videos of UFOs were also presented. Rather than spending any time on analyzing those, the producers chose to cut back to the faces of the chasers as they watched the tapes, to record their wonder and/or fear.

This article would have to be several pages longer if I were to summarize all of the breathless hoo-ha passed off as investigation and analysis by the show—in just the first three episodes. (Dear God, there are five more waiting in the wings!)

I like James Fox and respect his earlier, valuable work on the UFO topic. If I seem to him too harsh in my assessment of his current caper, perhaps he will at least briefly consider the merits of my criticism and give more thought to his future projects. It will come as no surprise to him that most of the leading ufologists, who are our mutual acquaintances, consider Chasing UFOs an unfortunate development, to say the least. Hopefully, it represents only a temporary departure from James’ otherwise respected work.
~~BOOK SALE~~

5 comments :

  1. Robert,
    I don't think James' "temporary departure" can be understated as temporary. He's doing the program, which I'm sure wasn't a hasty decision on his part. This was well thought out and planned. It's not like anyone dragged him kicking and screaming. This is a conscious deliberate decision is it not?

    Some time ago I was tapped by History to present data I collected from the O'Hare case. In short I refused because they wanted me to make statements that were inconsistent with what my research data concluded at the time, but did fit the mold of the sensationalism television demands. I was asked many times to say the words they wanted me to in varying ways.

    My answer was flatly no. I remarked that the real story was far more interesting and compelling than what they were requesting I say. They were not interested.

    In the end, (and I've said this til I'm blue in the face) you either care about this subject or you don't. It's either serious to you and you treat it as such, or it's entertainment and nothing more.

    I think Fox has shown exactly where he stands.

    -Jeff Ritzmann

    ReplyDelete
  2. NatGeo are producing yet another short series, this one based on European incidents. Due to the lack of European radar specialists in the UFO field I was approached to be a possible debunker (my description - and, btw, I'm not an expert). The show was "looking for an expert in radar with gravitas to talk about plausible explanations for some of the sightings". One day the MSM will drop its standard UFO documentary format requiring 'dismissal by speculation' (inherited from Blue Book), but I sincerely hope that it isn't replaced by Reality TV.
    R.Freeman
    http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9AH-4a1B2uSOWQFDkumgEg

    ReplyDelete
  3. I believe talking to James Fox before crucifying him would be a more mature approach. He's stated on other long interviews (Paracast and Ground zero Live...both available for download), that he agrees the show is a bit over the top, and that he has pushed back on the producers for a more serious approach for next season. Chasing UFOs is just following the formula of the other flashy reality science(?) shows on Discovery, History, the Travel Channel, Animal Planet, and National Geographic. A serious UFO show is not going to get ratings because the American public doesn't have the attention span. This show is for the bump in the night crowd, with maybe some dashes of true nuggets of UFO research.

    A serious show is not what is needed. A two week symposium at a university with all the witnesses and all the evidence, military and civilian, needs to be presented. Another UFO show (serious or infotainment), or National Press Club event isn't the answer for getting anywhere. The answer is a serious get together broadcast 10 hours a day 5 days a week for two weeks, on a cable channel--like the Iran-Contra hearings. Just keep the US government out of it because they had their chance...just present the evidence. The public will then finally get the info they need to wake up.

    ReplyDelete
  4. There's an old saying 'If you want to destroy and idea, defend it badly'. Searching for UFOs I found to be so bad I actually went to the NatGeo web site and left a comment saying how I felt. However, I think Ancient Aliens has at least one saving grace, in many episodes it does present information on places, artifacts and ideas that are little known to many with only a casual interest in UFOs. Unlike Searching for UFOs which only finds dog toys and cows.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Unknown,

    Thanks for taking time to make comment.

    You wrote:

    I believe talking to James Fox before crucifying him would be a more mature approach. He's stated on other long interviews (Paracast and Ground zero Live...both available for download), that he agrees the show is a bit over the top, and that he has pushed back on the producers for a more serious approach for next season.

    James (whom I consider to be friend) made a conscious decision long ago to put himself in the public domain, to be a public personality if you will, once you've crossed that line then you "open the door" for both praise and criticism. Injecting "maturity" into the equation is nonsensical. For the record, as a courtesy, Robert sent James a draft of the article prior to publication.

    Saying that Chasing UFOs is a "bit over the top" is akin to saying a hurricane is a mild weather disturbance! This show and its ilk do immeasurable harm to Ufology, and doubly so when someone like James reverses course and participates in such nonsense. I might add that one of the reasons there is such an uproar over this cockamamie show is because of the caliber of James' previous work. As I have stated earlier, "it's like losing one of our best Lieutenants to the enemy."

    You wrote:

    Chasing UFOs is just following the formula of the other flashy reality science(?) shows on Discovery, History, the Travel Channel, Animal Planet, and National Geographic.

    Therein lies the problem!

    You wrote:

    A serious UFO show is not going to get ratings because the American public doesn't have the attention span.

    No offense, but that's utter nonsense. Although sober UFO documentaries are a rarity (particularity these days) they have always done well in the ratings; Leslie's doc is an example of that (in recent times).

    You wrote:

    This show is for the bump in the night crowd, with maybe some dashes of true nuggets of UFO research.

    Again, therein lies the problem.

    You wrote:

    A serious show is not what is needed.

    If a show is to be done, then that is exactly what is needed.

    You wrote:

    A two week symposium at a university with all the witnesses and all the evidence, military and civilian, needs to be presented.

    Lumping everyone under the circus tent has its own set of problems and isn't prudent in my view.

    You wrote:

    Another UFO show (serious or infotainment), or National Press Club event isn't the answer for getting anywhere.

    I suppose that depends on the question. There are and have been benefits to sober UFO documentaries, and like press conferences.

    You wrote:

    The answer is a serious get together broadcast 10 hours a day 5 days a week for two weeks, on a cable channel--like the Iran-Contra hearings.

    Here I would remind you of your comment above re "the public's attention span."

    You wrote:

    Just keep the US government out of it because they had their chance...just present the evidence. The public will then finally get the info they need to wake up.

    Unfortunately, the US government will never be out of it . . ..

    Cheers,
    Frank

    ReplyDelete

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