Saturday, March 12, 2016

‘Largest UFO Convention … Chock Full O’ Space Alien Booths, Blowup Dolls, Little Green Men Sculptures’

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‘Largest UFO Convention … Chock Full O’ Space Alien Booths, Blowup Dolls, Little Green Men Sculptures’

Fish in a barrel again

     Last week, The O’Reilly Factor made room for a five-minute clip of something called “Watters World.” (See below) Relatively unfamiliar with the Fox News culture, De Void had never heard of Jesse Watters. His forte, as subsequent research suggests, involves sticking a microphone in strangers’ faces and letting them make idiots of themselves, which is almost as easy as squashing caterpillars.

This installment finds the Ed Helms wannabe shooting fish in a barrel in Scottsdale, Ariz., where the International UFO Congress went down last month. Up and running for 25 years and billing itself as “The

By Billy Cox
De Void
Guinness World Record holding largest UFO convention,” the IUC is what you’d call a target-rich environment. Chock full o’ space alien booths, blowup dolls, Little Green Men sculptures, and visually conspicuous abductees eager to share their adventures, the lobby is jammed with sideshow cash cows that help pay the rent. Like, who else is going to help pay the rent at a UFO convention? Apple? General Dynamics? Taco Bell? The predictable result, of course, is that few journalists, particularly the standup blow-drys, can make it past the eye candy and into the lecture halls for the meat ‘n taters.

One could argue that mainstream media coverage of the IUC serves as a template for America’s broader relationship with The Great Taboo, where clichés, sound bites, and sideways glances are plenty sufficient for diversionary weekend fare. Miss something that truly freaked out officialdom? Never mind, we got a 20-second seg from a dude who got butt-probed by Reptoids and has the illustrations to prove it. In fact, a Phoenix station’s treatment of the IUC gathering in 2014 so perfectly mirrored the current state of inquiry, De Void invented the Jessica Flores Disembodied Head Award for UFO Journalism in tribute. Unfortunately, Jesse Watters is ineligible because the equally clueless Jessica Flores actually thought she was doing real reporting.

Watters certainly isn’t that naïve. He walks into the joint with the mischievous twinkle-eyed certitude of a guy who knows he’s the first man on Earth who ever thought of doing a number on goofy looking UFO devotees. If he’d bothered to stick his head into the auditorium, he might’ve come away with a story about truly mystifying UFO footage captured by federal border patrol agents and the FOIA clampdown on radar records. That angle certainly would’ve been news to Fox viewers. But Watters knows his audience and goes for the obvious instead. He interviews two Donald Trump-supporting abductees, one of whom is tie-dyed and pink-haired, and the other claims she was whisked off to the moon, where she confronted a body snatcher that looks like a giant praying mantis. In case his viewers don’t get the satire – it’s Fox, after all – Watters punches it up with sight gags from “Dr. Strangelove,” “Mars Attacks,” “The Honeymooners,” etc., along with Trump himself proclaiming “I love the poorly educated!” And as Watters informs another Trump-supporter — famous “Fire in the Sky” abductee Travis Walton — “I think the aliens want Hillary. That’s why they sent James Carville down to Earth.” In other words, it’s one knee-slapper after another.

De Void would like to think, given recent efforts by Clinton campaign advisor John Podesta to reframe The Great Taboo as the government transparency and accountability issue it’s been all along, that “Watters World” stunts might someday evolve into something a tad more original and enterprising. The odds are against it, but who knows? Once upon a time the Berlin Wall was as immutable as a geological formation.

Ohio State political science professor Alexander Wendt, co-author of an academic analysis of the sociological pressures arrayed against authentic inquiry into the mystery, thinks Podesta’s initiative might pay off in the long run.

“To me,” he writes in an email to De Void, “it exemplifies the power of human agency against even the strongest societal discourses, like the UFO taboo, and I hope it succeeds. That said, I’m doubtful that even full disclosure will reveal anything more than the depth of the government’s ignorance about what UFOs are, and as such it won’t resolve the question in favor of the ET hypothesis by any means.

“But still, even if Podesta’s focus on disclosure is a strategic dead-end, it will help ‘normalize’ the issue, making it possible for reporters and politicians to talk about UFOs in a non-sneering way, just like they would about any other topic, and that’s all to the good insofar as it helps change the broader culture surrounding this issue.”

Well, Fox News is Fox News. But maybe some of the others could get there if the lobbies of UFO conferences weren’t so much damned fun.

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