Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Branching Out

Our research interests may change as our horizons widen. This may ironically come about through honing in on specific aspects of reported UFOs and related phenomena such as alleged alien abduction. Focusing on finer points can result in studying potentially important yet often overlooked subject matter. In my experience, a working knowledge of some of the following topics is essential to understanding various theories and explanations offered. Whether or not we choose to pursue such theories, we simply will not understand them if we remain uninformed.

Psychological Trauma

This is square one. It may very well be among the most significant and least understood aspects of the UFO community. In my admittedly professionally unqualified opinion, symptoms of psychological trauma and the related emotional distress account for the vast majority of reports of alien abduction, high strangeness, military abductees (MILABS), targeted individuals (TIs) and similar titles applied. I have come to the conclusion we must accept that to be the case in order to proceed rationally and credibly. 

That stated, I do not consider myself entitled to tell people what did or did not happen to them. People may interpret experiences as they choose and discuss them as they see fit. Psychological and physiological conditions, relevant as they may be, do not account for all reports. As researchers, we are best served to proceed cautiously, professionally, and respectfully.

Hypnotist Barbara Lamb, who "helps" people learn they
are ET-human hybrids and presents them at conferences
Challenges arise when self-described investigators put forth witness testimonies as supportive of a preferred hypothesis, such as alleged alien abduction and/or military abduction, while refusing to entertain alternative, more likely possibilities. Similar challenges arise when organizations, such as the Mutual UFO Network and the International UFO Congress, offer such researchers (or the human subjects of their research) platforms to promote their interpretations while claiming to be dedicated to scientific study. Doing so tends to take the witness narration more into public scrutiny, as it arguably should at that point. At the least, the professional research process requires questioning the methodologies of the "researchers" involved once they play the science card. That bleeds into issues of ethics and integrity as have been explored on this blog at length, and I'm sure we will consider them more in the future. 

My current point, please, is that if we do not make intentional efforts to adequately understand such inherently human conditions as emotional trauma and false memories, and how they pertain to ufology, we are left with substantially incomplete renderings of the very topic we claim to pursue. It is a given that many reports involve incorrect interpretations, so it is only reasonable to acknowledge that to be the case while taking the responsibility to learn more about how they manifest and encouraging others to do the same.   

Additional reading:

Coping with Emotional and Psychological Trauma,

How childhood trauma could affect your life expectancy, relationships and mental health, Independent

Ethics of Exploring the Fringe, Part One: Sharon Weinberger and Nigel Watson on Responsible Reporting, The UFO Trail

Ethics of Exploring the Fringe, Part Two: Mark Pilkington on Deception Operations, Witness Claims and More, The UFO Trail 

False Memories 

I recently browsed some UFO discussion forums and discovered participants who remain terribly under informed about topics such as memory functions and dynamics surrounding hypnosis. If you're considering reasons ufology gains no traction, this is a huge one.

Witness testimony is the least reliable form of evidence. I'm more than willing to reiterate it's not my place to accept and reject claims of personal experiences, but if we want to present testimonies as indicative of a preferred hypothesis, collaborating evidence is extremely helpful.

The work of such experts as Loftus, Shaw, Morgan, and what has now become the accepted paradigm of the entire scientific community demonstrates memories are riddled with inaccuracies. It's a characteristic of human memory. It's also been demonstrated again and again how easily people can be led to form memories of events that never happened. 

Point for emphasis: A hypnosis subject does not have to be intentionally led in order to produce false memories. It can occur during a biased, ill advised hypnotic search for memories of aliens. Actually, it's extremely likely. That's a big part of the point. The same can be said for (non-hypnosis) interviews conducted by overeager "investigators."

Additional reading:

Memory Distortion and False Memory Creation, Elizabeth Loftus, PhD 

People Can Be Convinced They Committed a Crime That Never Happened, Association for Psychological Science   

Most of us recall events that never happened, Unexplained Mysteries

Classified Flying Objects

We've heard UFO witnesses explain, "It wasn't any kind of craft like I've ever seen. It couldn't have been one of ours."

Aerial refueling
It should be apparent that unless a person is up on classified aircraft and related advancements, they're not in a position to offer such an assessment. There have been fascinating developments in manned and unmanned aerial vehicles over the years, and our eyes might play tricks on us when we see things we're not used to seeing, such as planes refueling during flight. Did you know, for instance, NOVA reported in 2013 about an airplane wing that changes shape as it flies? 

At the risk of sounding cynical, this point has long perplexed me. I find it difficult to identify anything other than cultural conditioning (scifi, movies, questionable talk radio, etc.) as a primary reason one would suspect a flying object not to be made by humans. 

To try to offer some context, isn't it kind of like not knowing the make and model of an automobile that drives past and then jumping to the conclusion it must have been manufactured by non-human beings? What would lead a person to think such a thing about aircraft? The answer to that question would be movies like Star Wars and stories like Lonnie Zamora, but I think my point is valid: If it's flying around and it's a physical craft, one should suppose it's made by humans until substantial reasons arise to think differently.

Additional reading:

One Nation Under DronesThe UFO Trail

Thought Drones Were New to the Skies? Think AgainThe UFO Trail

One of Those Posts About Validated Conspiracy TheoriesThe UFO Trail

Intelligence Community

The problem with discussing the influence of the intelligence community in ufology is that many people who would challenge its significance do not have a working knowledge of its history and circumstances. While it is admittedly difficult to identify cause and effect in the often nebulous and confusing intersections of the intel and UFO communities, that doesn't change the fact many interested in the latter know nearly nothing about the former, and it doesn't change the fact those intersections are indeed easy to demonstrate.

What's more, the lack of knowledge of or interest in the IC is found throughout both demographics of what we might term believers and skeptics. It's okay if they're not interested, but it's unbecoming to attempt to argue about topics that they are obviously unequipped to meaningfully discuss in the first place.

In order to add constructively to such discussions, one should not only make efforts to understand specific points presented by others, but activities and context of the applicable era as well. Recent developments in the U.S. intelligence community serve as excellent examples of ways volatile and dramatic situations may arise, as well as the importance of understanding their significance when exploring events that surround them.

Additional reading:

Influence of the Intelligence Community in Ufology, The UFO Trail

Psy Ops and Mind Control: Then, Now and the UFO Community, The UFO Trail

In closing, I'd like to add that the same dynamics could be applied virtually across the board to UFO research: If it's not something you're interested in, and you haven't spent time researching it, perhaps you shouldn't try to explain it to others.

For example, my interest in UFOs - literal reports of unidentified flying objects - has admittedly decreased significantly in recent years. I have come to be much more intrigued by cultural aspects of ufology. You therefore won't find me going on at length about something I choose not to pursue and I recognize as an area in which others develop a substantial knowledge base.

I identify the differences between things I suspect and things which can be demonstrated to be factual. I'm willing to change my mind when facts dictate. I most respect the work and actions of others who show abilities to do the same, and those are the people I'm most willing to learn from and with. Partisan arguing is unbecoming and unproductive on either side of the aisle. Most importantly, it's not on the path to truth.     

Monday, December 5, 2016

It's About Time

"The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history."
- George Orwell, 1984

Ghost rocket era photo
released by Swedish army
70 years. That's how long it's been since intelligence analysts coined the term "ghost rockets" for select reports of aerial phenomena. Some UFO researchers eventually attributed the sightings to extraterrestrial visitation, a remarkably unsupported conclusion.

69 years. That's the amount of time since Kenneth Arnold reported seeing multiple unidentified flying objects while involved in an investigation of what turned out to be an extremely suspicious UFO case.

69 years is also the time since Project Seal, which had actually been discontinued, was misrepresented to the press as an ongoing top secret operation involving an airborne super weapon on the scale of the atomic bomb. Articles about the Arnold sighting and what would later prove to be the false weapons development story were in at least one instance published on the same newspaper page.

It's also been 69 years since the Roswell Army Air Field issued a press release stating the 509th Operations Group recovered a "flying disc," quickly followed by a second statement advising a "weather balloon" was retrieved. The story went on to - oh, never mind. Let's just say decades of unreliable research and unverified claims were followed by a hair brained mummy story and an unpublished debate.

Allen Dulles
63 years. That's how long since DCI Allen Dulles formally green lighted MKULTRA, a behavior modification project consisting of torture, drugs, hypnosis and involuntary human experimentation. It's been 53 years since the creation of the KUBARK interrogation manual which contained techniques for use on uncooperative detainees. It was 14 years since the Bush administration began using Guantanamo Bay as a prison, and seven years since ex-Bush official Lawrence B. Wilkerson told the AP most detainees were innocent and there was no meaningful attempt to discriminate who was transported to Cuba for interrogation. Two years is how long since the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released its 500-page summary of the still classified 6,000-page CIA torture report, and it's been a little over a year since publication of the Hoffman Report, a document calling into serious question the relationship between the CIA and American Psychological Association. It was about a year ago the ACLU filed a lawsuit against two psychologists who developed "enhanced interrogation techniques" for the Agency, and it's been a few days since writer and researcher Joseph Hickman, who served in the 629th Military Intelligence Battalion at Guantanamo Bay, stated in an interview that ideas about operations and techniques used at Gitmo came from the MKULTRA program. For more info see the work of Jeffrey Kaye, the reporting of Jason Leopold, and the Seton Hall Law Center paper, Guantanamo: America's Battle Lab, among other sources.

60 years is the length of time it's been since the FBI launched Counterintelligence Program, or COINTELPRO. It was a brutal effort, later acknowledged by the FBI to be "rightfully criticized," to "expose, disrupt and otherwise neutralize" targeted organizations. About a month is how long it's been since the FBI director questionably chose to formally announce an investigation of a presidential candidate while failing to disclose the Bureau's quite likely investigation of a rival candidate

David Jacobs
Over half a century. It's now been 53 years since Dr. Benjamin Simon employed hypnosis with Betty and Barney Hill. In spite of all the material now published by qualified experts establishing hypnosis as extremely ineffective as a memory enhancer - and the fact Dr. Simon was reportedly treating trauma, not conducting a UFO investigation - a segment of the UFO community continues to promote hypnosis-induced testimonies as accurate interpretations of objective reality. It's been some 40 years since Leo Sprinkle influenced the genre with his hypnotic regressions, 35 years since Budd Hopkins employed hypnosis to establish himself as a supposed UFO expert, and 20+ years since former MUFON Director of Abduction Research John Carpenter covertly provided Robert Bigelow with data, including recordings of hypnosis sessions, from case files of alleged alien abductees in exchange for cash. It was six years ago the story broke that amateur hypnotist David Jacobs instructed Emma Woods during telephone hypnosis sessions to tell people she suffers from multiple personality disorder, consider wearing a chastity belt - that he could send her - as a strategy for dealing with alleged ET-human hybrids, and mail him her unwashed underpants without thinking about it afterwards. Jacobs rather incredibly described himself as an advocate of scientific methodology. 

27 years ago Bill Moore, while delivering his keynote speech at the annual MUFON con, told attendees he collaborated with Richard Doty and additional undisclosed members of the intelligence community to publish disinformation directed at Paul Bennewitz and the collective UFO community.

Vance Davis of the GB6
26 years ago half a dozen NSA intel analysts deserted their posts in West Germany and lit out for Florida to protect the world from the Antichrist. Claiming to be under the direction of aliens and Mother Mary, the group, dubbed the Gulf Breeze Six, was eventually taken into custody - under arguably unusual circumstances - literally down the street from where the annual MUFON con had just wrapped up. The late Philip Coppens reported that when the case was declassified, 1400 of its 1600 pages were withheld.    

20 years is how long we've been tolerating fantastic stories of Skinwalker Ranch since an article ran in the Eugene Register-Guard. The article stated property owner Robert Bigelow declined an interview, while CIA consultant and non-lethal weapons expert John Alexander told the newspaper details of how or why research was being conducted would not be provided. Former ranch owner Terry Sherman said Bigelow had him sign a nondisclosure agreement. It was five years ago James Carrion wrote he and an accompanying scientist were denied access to the ranch, and Bigelow, during dealings with MUFON, moved funds on behalf of an undisclosed financial sponsor, the identity of which was revealed only to John Schuessler, but not to the rest of the MUFON board of directors.

It's been over three years since UFO disclosure activist Steve Bassett stated, "The goal of the Citizen Hearing on Disclosure is the end of the truth embargo in 2013," and two years since he announced a "concentrated three-month effort" which, if followed by Congressional hearings, would make it "quite likely the truth embargo will collapse." It's been six months since Bassett declared, "We are going to get disclosure this year," adding that he was 85 percent sure Obama would make an announcement before leaving office.

Atacama humanoid, featured in Stephen Greer film 
Two years ago Stephen Greer, who considers himself the father of the disclosure movement, released a crowdfunded film that would once and for all blow the lid off UFO secrecy. A year ago he initiated crowdfunding for a film that would once and for all blow the lid off UFO secrecy.

Last week Gene Steinberg, a podcaster who's perpetually spinning one suspicious story or other about why everyone should send him their money, wrote his e-list that he's falling behind on rent for a residence he urged them to send him cash to obtain in the first place about two months ago. 

You were right if you chose less than a week on the over/under on how long it would take the new International Association of UAP Researchers (IAUAPR) to stumble into public relations problems. Just a few days after issuing a release about its intentions to up ufology's game via such activities as accepting and reviewing research papers, the group's organizer became entangled in social media flame-throwing about proper protocol for conducting professional research.

Right now - as Van Halen put it - Tom DeLonge is promoting work which includes an upcoming film framing the U.S. intelligence community as heroic for its cover-up of alleged aliens. He says he has high level sources in his disclosure camp. Good thing, 'cause we're obviously an extremely discriminating bunch about where we get our information.