Saturday, March 02, 2013

UFOs In the Desert (pt 1) | UFO CONGRESS 2013

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UFO Congress 2013

By Robert Sheaffer
     For the second year in a row, I find myself at the International UFO Congress near Phoenix, Arizona. Last year I wrote a detailed five-part account of the conference. I told myself I wouldn't write as much this year, but it looks like this resolution may be broken.

When I arrived Tuesday evening, February 26, I ran into Lee Speigel in the restaurant, the 'weird news' reporter for AOL/Huffington post, who is the Host of this Conference, and who I have known for years. I would call Speigel a "skeptical believer," meaning that while he thinks some UFO cases may be beyond our present knowledge, he realizes that the great majority of UFO claims are frankly not worth much. Speigel was with Ben Hansen of Fact or Faked on the SyFy Channel, who was the first speaker Wednesday morning, and who takes a similar position.

The next morning, after Speigel's introduction, Ben Hansen spoke on "Profiling the Hoaxers." He explained that his background in law enforcement prepares him well for forensic evidence of UFO and other 'paranormal' evidence. He describes himself as neither a believer or skeptic, but a "verifier." He explains that hoaxes abound in UFOlogy, and that there can be big money in making bogus ET claims, although he will not name any names. He set forth the following "Hoaxer Subtypes," based on his experience in law enforcement and with paranormal claims:
1. Clinical Con Artist. Charismatic, lacks conscience. Claims of persecution by federal agencies - a red flag, there is so much red tape for intelligence actions that these claims are not at all credible. Some of these people have Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The mentally disordered tend to gravitate to "our field," i.e. UFOlogy.

2. Legendizers, seeking fame and/or financial gain. May have had a legitimate experience, but you can only tell the same story so many times, so they add more and more 'excitement' each time it is told.

3. Commercial Campaigners. Publicity stunts. They are not in it for the long-haul, the hoax usually only lasts a few weeks. This damages the credibility of the UFO field, it makes people dismiss legitimate cases.

4. Self-amused pranksters. Motivated by the challenge of pulling it off.

5. Disinformation agents, the rarest type. The government changed its story on Roswell, repeatedly. The 1956 documentary movie UFO was part of a debunking contingency plan. (This category sounds dubious to me).

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