Tuesday, August 1, 2017

MUFON Unravels

A few years ago, MUFON - the largest UFO group in the U.S., and probably the world - seemed to be riding high. Its motto is, "The scientific study of UFOs for the benefit of humanity."  Its TV show Hangar 1 on the "History" Channel was attracting attention and new members, in spite of being soundly denounced for its sensationalism by practically every serious student of UFOlogy. Today, MUFON has hit a very rough patch, and seems to be skidding out of control.
This year's problems began with a big controversy over John Ventre, MUFON's Pennsylvania State Director. Ventre already had a reputation for not being the sharpest blade in the drawer, for example suggesting that Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 disappeared because it was abducted by extraterrestrials. In May Ventre posted some racist comments on social media, and when challenged on them, he did not back down. He instead went on a bizarre rant about how UFOs are actually "demonic" and claimed that the people who came out against his racist rant were in fact a conspiracy of atheists and ancient astronaut theorists who have been deceived into worshiping demons. At first MUFON director Jan Harzan disavowed all responsibility or concern for Ventre's postings on social media, despite the general consternation about them. Finally, Harzan wrote,
After discussion with MUFON Leadership it has been determined that it is in the best interest of both MUFON and Mr. Ventre that he be removed as State Director of Pennsylvania. This is effective immediately. MUFON does not condone racial discrimination in any form and has always provided equal opportunity to all regardless of race, religion, sex, age or national origin and will proudly continue to do so.
Ramtha, a  35,000 Year old Lemurian Warrior, is a MUFON Insider.
But Ventre still apparently remains as a member of MUFON's Inner Circle, another MUFON absurdity that has received absolutely no attention until just now.
The Inner Circle status is attained with a donation of $5,000 or more.  Whether you have had a UFO sighting or are just interested in UFOs, you are welcome to join. With your donation comes all of the perks and benefits offered by the title.

Inner Circle members provide advisory guidance to MUFON and are included in annual conference calls, attend private functions during the Symposium, and afforded reserved seating at MUFON events, and much more!

So that's it: all it takes to become a member of MUFON's Inner Circle is to contribute at least $5,000 a year. In addition to Harzan and Ventre, J. Z. Knight - famous for her supposed "channeling" of a  35,000 year old warrior from Lemuria named "Ramtha" - is also a member of MUFON's Inner Circle, and presumably provides "advisory guidance" to the organization. Knight has been accused of unleashing  "drunken racist homophobic rants" to her large following.

Another bone of contention was the blatantly unscientific and irrational content announced for MUFON's 2017 Symposium in Las Vegas, the "Case for a Secret Space Program." In the weeks leading up to the Symposium, rumors were flying about a supposed "disclosure announcement" that was supposed to occur in conjunction with the Symposium. Of course, nothing of the kind occurred.


Among the speakers was Bill Tompkins, who claims to have designed giant secret space ships that we have launched to defend against hostile Reptoid aliens; Corey Goode and Andrew Basiago, who claim to have been teleported to Mars; and Michael Salla who spoke about Nazi saucer bases in Antarctica. No halfway rational person could possibly take any of this seriously. Richard Dolan posted to Facebook a long and very diplomatic apologia for appearing on the same panel and stage with such obvious crackpots:
I want to make this point as clear as I can. My opinions (and yours, for that matter) don’t mean very much. What matters is the evidence that can be brought forward for these stories. I hold it as possible that there is something in these accounts that is true. After all, I believe that radical technology is being withheld from us. I believe the ARV [Alien Reproduction Vehicle] story and more. But if a story gives me no chance to confirm or deny its basic claims, then it’s essentially useless to me as a researcher.
(Yet Dolan had no reservations about participating in Jaime Maussan's absurd extravaganza promoting the Roswell Slides in 2015.)

This is from the website of Michael Salla, one of the speakers at this year's MUFON Symposium.
Rich Hoffman was MUFON's State Director for Alabama and Assistant Director for Mississippi. He has been a member of MUFON since the organization began in 1969. Without making any public statements, he resigned from those positions, as well as his staff-level position as MUFON's Director of Strategic Projects. When I asked him for his reasons, he cited the blatantly unscientific nature of this year's Symposium, and his concern that MUFON keeps moving farther away from genuine scientific investigations. MUFON should be concentrating on investigating fewer but better cases, he suggested, instead of casting a bigger net to drag in larger numbers of sightings of lights in the sky and other low-grade cases. Hoffman has a "real job" working for a defense contractor, and while he sometimes finds it difficult to justify his leadership position in an organization that investigates UFOs, he found it impossible to defend belonging to an organization suggesting that there is a "secret space program," and that people are being teleported to Mars.

James Clarkson, MUFON's Washington State Director,  wrote "With Regret - Why I Must Leave MUFON Completely." He cited MUFON's unwillingness to deal decisively with John Ventre's racist rant, the absurdity of having J.Z. Knight as a "MUFON Insider," and
long-term burnout and a growing sense that MUFON as a serious UFO investigative organization no longer exists. I suspect that I am not the only State Director suffering from a deep malaise while watching MUFON become an income-generating enterprise. The triggering event for me was the lack of an immediate dismissal of John Ventre from his State Directorship after his racist outburst on Facebook, or at least an immediate statement that Ventre’s comments were not acceptable coming from a leader of MUFON.
Robert Powell, MUFON's Director of "Scientific Research," while making no public statement, suddenly notified MUFON of his resignation just as this year's farcical Symposium was about to begin.  Powell's most recent major case was the promotion of an infrared video taken from an aircraft in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico in 2013. It now appears quite likely that the airborne objects caught on the IR video were hot air wedding lanterns. However, Powell and his colleagues dispute this identification.

Researcher Nick Redfern was labeled a "hater" by Harzan for objecting to Ventre's rant; Redfern then severed all ties with MUFON. Following all this, UFO researcher and filmmaker Paul Kimball wrote on his blog of the "complete implosion of MUFON."

When Harzan was interviewed on Kevin Randle's podcast,  he spoke of the need to balance the needs of the organization with fidelity to sources and scientific accuracy. In other words, MUFON's membership doesn't want to hear caveats and uncertainties - they want exciting stories about aliens, and they will drift away if they don't get them.

Actually, MUFON's problems go back quite a bit farther.  There is the matter concerning John Carpenter, a licensed clinical social worker who was MUFON's chief investigator of "UFO abductees,"performing hypnotic regressions of supposed abductees. The deal apparently involved Carpenter giving or "selling" his files on "abductees" he had hypnotized to multimillionaire investor Robert Bigelow in the late 1990s, files that were supposed to remain confidential. This generated much controversy when it was revealed. In 2008 and 2009,  Bigelow gave MUFON  about $345,000 to finance its "Star Team," intended to be a rapid-response team to travel to UFO "hotspots" as sightings break out, and hopefully capture UFOs in the act.  (Apparently Bigelow thought that information in MUFON's files would be helpful in his venture Bigelow Aerospace. Bigelow "told Coast to Coast years ago that he hoped to imitate UFO propulsion systems in his own spacecraft.")  The deal quickly turned sour, although neither party has said much publicly about just what happened.  Researcher Norio Hayakawa has compiled a "look at the organization," questioning just what has become of all that (and other) money.

It is difficult to predict what the future holds for MUFON. Harzan is a businessman, and will do what he must to increase revenues. I suspect that we will see a lot more "retail UFOlogy" (bread and circuses for the crowd), and less "serious investigation" - of which there has been precious little of late.

6 comments:

  1. That's Moon Base Alpha from Space:1999 (Except for the swastika and Mars) on Salla's photo. http://catacombs.space1999.net/main/images/spacehd/b/spb2646.jpg

    ReplyDelete
  2. Indeed it is. Interesting to see that 'Ditzy Knight' and 'Rambothar' as they were called in a 1990s book took the monkey out of the New Age...

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  3. If MUFON ever conducted actual scientific investigations, it must have been in one of those alternate universes or dimensions the paranormal community loves.

    I don't believe MUFON has changed. Instead, its decades worth of dirty laundry is finally being aired in public.

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  4. > But if a story gives me no chance to confirm or deny its basic claims, then it’s essentially useless to me as a researcher.

    A shockingly sound and proper position from Dolan.

    What next? Jacobs submitting alleged hybrids to DNA tests?

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  5. I think the 80-20 rule applies to MUFON. 20% are serious researchers, 80% are not.

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  6. In five years, the "History" Channel will be running commercials for a MUFON Disclosure Theme Park financed largely through millions of dollars in tax breaks from Chaves County, New Mexico, proposed in an Ark park template prospectus entitled *Good Enough for Kentucky, Good Enough for Roswell*.

    ReplyDelete

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