Friday, May 23, 2014

Morgan Spurlock’s Take on UFOs: CNN’s Most Recent Effort to Confront The Great Taboo

Making Larry King look good

By Billy Cox
De Void

     In order to be disappointed, there has to be some level of expectation, like the aroma of popcorn luring you into a hidden platter of Brussel sprouts. Pull this switcheroo enough times and after awhile it all starts to smell like Brussel sprouts, although — unlike Morgan Spurlock’s take on UFOs last night — at least Brussel sprouts have redeeming nutritional value.

So perhaps it’s only fitting, in the aftermath of CNN’s most recent effort to confront The Great Taboo, that De Void attempt to muster one final bit of enthusiasm for this cored-out husk of a blog. After all, in a world of epidemic disappointments, De Void — like corporate-media UFO coverage — is a place where lowered standards are the norm, where your brain can languish without guilt or regret, precisely because there are no expectations anymore.

And here’s the thing: De Void actually likes Spurlock’s work. Here’s a documentary filmmaker who takes serious chances with his own well being in first-person projects like “Super Size Me” and “Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden?” He’s a bright, affable guy. His “Inside Man” series for CNN is informed and entertaining. But when CNN started promoting his upcoming UFO segment several weeks ago, De Void could already smell the melting wax and burning feathers of Spurlock's high-flying Icarus act because, well, that's just the effect UFOs have on mainstream journos when they get too close.

To his credit, Spurlock did attempt one unpredictable thing, i.e., sample the cinematically arid rigors of MUFON field investigator training in Arizona. These guys do thankless work, and they’re worth a nod. But then Spurlock bails and goes all fast food by traveling to Sedona to chat it up with an alien abductee who claims to have been spirited to Zeta Reticuli hundreds of times and spawned seven hybrid children in the process. He spends one whole entire night or at least an hour on a skywatch, hoping UFOs will show up like catfish on bread crumbs, before re-emerging in Georgia to interview eyewitnesses who’ve filed reports with MUFON. The returns are proportionate to the investment: a MUFON imaging analyst ascribes Spurlock’s witness photos to a mylar kite, “insufficient data,” and satellite activity.

So the guy winds up in California’s Bay Area, where he might’ve given his audience a glimpse of UFO data they’ve never seen or heard of on CNN before. He might’ve chosen to do a spot on Richard Haines, retired NASA Ames Research Center scientist and founder of the 15-year-old National Aviation Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena. With 3,400 aviation-related cases in its database, NARCAP’s analyses are multi-disciplinary and international in scope.

Instead, Spurlock sticks to the drive-thru formula and winds up in a dry salt pond with Ames planetary scientist Chris McKay, talking about the potential for life evolving in harsh off-world conditions far, far away. Nobody's ever heard that one before. Then he heads north for the barren fields of the SETI Institute, whose radiotelescopes have found nary a shred of evidence to support its $30 million theory that ET wants to reach us via radiowaves.

And then, at the end of it all, Spurlock digs deep and tells it like it is: “The one thing that we know is that we don’t know.”

Now that’s my kind of wow! signal, man. And the good thing is? De Void’s not even disappointed, not anymore. When it comes to disappointment, De Void is damn near bulletproof.

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