Saturday, July 05, 2014

“If Only The UFO Debate Had More Guys Like Terry Hansen”

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Terry Hansen
"Journalists who think they're too intelligent to be fooled are, in fact, the most susceptible to being fooled" – Terry Hansen

The debate IQ goes down

By Billy Cox
De Void

    If only the UFO debate had more guys like Terry Hansen.

Author of The Missing Times: News Media and Complicity in the UFO Cover-up, Hansen took an academician’s long view of the Fourth Estate’s mangled relationship with The Great Taboo. His book was a revelation when it was published in 2000, at least for me. When he passed away suddenly last month — lucky enough, in the words of Kenny Rogers, to “break even” by dying in his sleep — it made me wish we'd had at least a few more chats.

With degrees in biology and science journalism, Hansen filed his first take on UFOs with Minnesota Public Radio in 1980 and stayed focused ever since. The Missing Times was his calling card, and it was an eye-opener, its premise rooted primarily in World War II. That’s when, facing an existential threat, Uncle Sam recruited talent like Byron Price, executive editor of the Associated Press, to head the War Department’s Office of Censorship. Before you could say boo, reports of U-boat havoc to U.S. shipping lanes off the Eastern Seaboard were being suppressed to keep Americans from getting too demoralized, if not outright panicky. And that was for starters.

The Missing Times argued that Big Media’s collusion with the feds on distorting UFO coverage was a top-down process emanating from those cozy wartime relationships. Hansen’s case was largely inferential, but his research on moguls from the Washington Post’s Katherine Graham and The New York Times’ Arthur Sulzberger and on into the margins with The National Enquirer’s Generoso Pope evoked some chilling perspectives. Hansen gave smaller news outlets high marks for local UFO coverage in the early postwar days. But he accused the big boys of complying with the 1953 CIA Robertson Panel’s recommendations to end “the cultivation of a morbid national psychology” allegedly perpetrated by UFOs, by “strip(ing them) of the special status they have been given and the aura of mystery they have unfortunately acquired.” He touted depressing correspondences suggesting that even The Most Trusted Man In America — Walter Cronkite — may have fallen under the propaganda spell in his 1966 UFO debunking report for CBS.

De Void had several lively chats with Hansen over the years. I contended the erosion of centralized media in the digital culture pretty much laid to waste whatever was left of the alleged WWII cocoon. This was shortly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq; Hansen countered that the alacrity with which corporate media parroted the myriad government lies for attacking Baghdad was proof that the newsies — at least, at top management levels — remained in dependency mode, on multiple issues. He mentioned, for instance, how uncritically The New York Times swallowed and regurgitated the 2007 CIA report stating that more than half of all UFO reports in the late 1950s and early ‘60s were due to mistaken identity of spyplanes. Yet, an independent cross-check of the actual Project Blue Book records indicates few — if any — spyplane cases had ever fallen into the UFO category.

“When it comes to the media disseminating government propaganda,” Hansen said, “that relationship exists and is still in place. I don’t think it’s changed; if anything, it might’ve gotten worse.”

Per UFOs, that’s difficult for De Void to square. More than 25 years of reporting on the fringe — for Gannett, the New York Times Regional Newspaper Group, now Halifax Media — and never a discouraging word, other than a few rolled eyes from managers. Maybe that’s an indicator of what a lightweight De Void is; De Void, after all, has meager resources. What we agreed on is that, when it comes to The Great Taboo, there don’t have to be any top-down edicts anymore. Reporters police themselves nowadays.

“It’s a conditioned response,” Hansen said. “Someday I’d love to see a poll on media attitudes and how much they really know about this subject.”

Me too. But the only surprise would be the margins.

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